The Myopic Vision of a Rapist Dressed in Messiah’s Garb – One Youth’s Account
by ‘biodun Okunola
The year 2011 was a significant one in Nigeria: it was the year President Yar’Adua’s tenure ended availing Nigerians the opportunity to again decide who should occupy the Rock. And it was in the scramble for this that Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was given the presidential ticket of the (then) Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). For us in the South-West, 2011 was the year the ACN a predominantly South-Western political party again took hold of the South-West, after eight years of the opposition’s rule. And for the youths of the South-West, it seemed that was all that we could change; after all, nothing changes at the Centre. Well, that was until Ribadu was for President.
As well as many other Nigerian youths, I was inspired that 2011 was perhaps the year Nigeria would leave the Land of Backwardness; for in Mr Ribadu we saw a distinguished fellow, an anti-corruption tsar, a refined and reformed mind, a transformative leader and a Mosaic messiah destined to preside over the affairs of our beloved country and change the history of the nation for good, forever, and in our time.
So, my colleagues and I quickly gathered as a political group comprising of like minds, idealistic youths, male and female, who believed in charting a new course for Nigeria and agreeing to support the candidacy of Mr Ribadu. We were mainly university students, and in different levels of different courses of study; I, for one, was in final year. Yet so common and unifying was our conviction, and so wilful our spirit, that we gladly skipped lectures and missed several tests and practical sessions, to campaign for our prospective leader – our Ghandi, the nation’s Mandela: our symbol of change and national development.
We found and quickly affiliated with TEAM RIBADU, a pro-Ribadu group set up by a youth of Yoruba extraction, which we considered a platform from which we could operate effectively. No, it wasn’t business as usual: Many of us did not receive any favours, monetary or otherwise, for our effort; I never did, and neither did (m)any of my friends. We never sought to meet Mr Ribadu in person for him to acknowledge the sacrifice we were bearing for him. We never cared if he was aware of us or not. We were fuelled by passion and propelled by the ideals we saw in Mr Ribadu, ideals that I suspect are now amiss; nevertheless, ideals that made us, even as students, to contribute money to hire busses and travel several kilometres to campaign for our aspiring President, a man who would uplift Nigeria like Deng Xiaoping did to China, taking our nation from the rear to the fore.
I must, at this juncture, admit that it was not all rosy, and confess that we were harassed more often that this account can dare to contain. And suffice it to say that more often than not, we travelled the length and breadth of Ogun State, our home State, arrived in the loudly quiet dead of the night, only to be told of tests missed and exams imminent, so that we had to study despite our aching bodies and tired brains, while our parents back home imagined their children in school doing well. And all these for Mr. Ribadu, our Moses, a man who never knew us but in whose ideology we believed to change the nation.
As youths we understood the enormity of the problems in which Nigeria had found herself and we were ready to make our own sacrifices however small, or intense, to remedy the nation. Our efforts may not compare favourably with those of Walter, Oliver, McKathy and their master Dalinbunga; but we were ready to sacrifice our token nevertheless. A journey of a thousand miles of course began with a step, and maybe our efforts would not be in vain if Nigeria voted Ribadu and not Jonathan, and if Nigeria improved.
So domineering was my belief in Mr Ribadu that I gave my mother a list of the people to vote for. Knowing that I was more politically aware than she was, she accepted to vote all my candidates except one – my presidential candidate. Mum being a good Christian had been swept away because he, the other candidate, had knelt down at a popular prayer camp for her Pastor to pray for him. Mum had concluded beyond persuasion or counter-conviction that this other man was a saint who was not capable of hurting flies.
However, that was one conviction that was not to last. Jonathan, and not Ribadu, won that election. And Mum was fulfilled, for as long as it would last: The first day of 2012, her ‘messiah’ decided to give Nigerians as a new year gift an increase in the pump price of petrol. Mum was stunned, and I was glad to say, ‘I told you, mum’. Yes, I was still pro-Ribadu, even in defeat. She thereafter took succour in her messiah’s promise to use the funds from the subsidy for a reinvestment programme, only to be more disappointed when the subsidy thieves were not prosecuted and there was no proof of the reinvestment programme.
Fast-forward two and a half years…
When I read about Mr Ribadu’s defection on a friend’s page on Twitter, I considered it a political propaganda and an impractical joke. I did not believe that a presidential candidate of one party would suppress his dignity and snuff out the life in his conscience just to contest for a governorship position of his State under the aegis of the other party, the ruling party, and all so he could join the power-drunk leadership at all cost. I did not believe he would abandon his disciples and his expanded national vision. The Mr Ribadu that I knew would never do that, I reassured myself; he was well schooled and would never insult his intelligence that cheaply. Only to be proven wrong when he went ahead anyway to pick the nomination ticket for that seat under the same party he had campaigned against nationally.
Despite my disappointments, I am almost certain that in whatever capacity Mr Ribadu serves this nation, he will do well. And, as Section 40 of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution (as amended) gives every Nigerian citizen the right of association, Mr Ribadu is free to associate with whomever he wants. His fundamental human right should not be violated or limited because he is a politician. Yet, that was not to be all. The political constitution dictates that when you become friends with those you had spoken against, not only must you swallow your words and recant your stance, you must extol such ones. But even at that, one’s conscience must not be buried beneath the rubble of presidential ambitions shattered by a governorship present.
My intellect was therefore raped, and my convictions violated, when Mr Ribadu said that the incumbent president had surpassed his own vision for Nigeria! Is this the same Ribadu of three years ago? How will a man I had thought would change Nigeria like Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai and Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore repudiate his vision with such a reductionist sentence? Is Mr Ribadu telling us in essence that had he won the 2011 presidential election, Nigeria would have retrogressed more than this? That impunity in this nation would be more rampant and the poverty level would soar much higher? That the recent five billion naira said to be recovered from the over 3.4 trillion naira fuel subsidy scam would not have been recovered? That more than 250 girls would have been kidnapped (and) without him being perturbed?
Is Mr Ribadu saying that if he were the President of Nigeria, the economy would have fallen through the zeroth line, and that corruption would have been the slogan of his administration? Is he saying that we would have been in more debt and he would have become Pol Pot, Leopold II or Hideki Tojo since we already have an Adolf Hitler? Please, someone should answer me. Is Mr Ribadu telling us that had he won the presidential seat, he would have taken Nigeria 75 years backward? These are the questions begging for answers in my head and causing me this bout of sleeplessness. How do I tell my mother that my candidate has finally accepted that her own candidate was better, despite the latter’s numerous transgressions?
Yes, the many youths who supported Mr Ribadu one way or the other deserve an unreserved apology for violating our collective intelligence and for leading us into an empty room where he raped us and now leaves us to rot. We toiled for him, slaved for him, endured with him, and now he abandons the lonely, narrow, high path he had mapped for Nigeria only to take the common, wide, low path that the Holy Book says leads to destruction? He should tell us how he has lost his spine and cannot feel his feet; and why.
‘It Is Possible’ was the motto we adopted for Mr Ribadu but now have I concluded that it is not possible for him inasmuch as the truth-seeking youths of this country are concerned, and insofar as the future of this nation is involved. If he was indeed, and there’s much reason to doubt, our Moses, this is not the part where he runs to the wilderness for forty years; this is indeed the part where he is forgotten on the Mount. I have therefore burnt my own shirt today which I had kept since 2011, but not before I wiped with it the tears I shed for feeling so used by Mr Ribadu and the blood from my raped virgin political mind.
Let Mr Ribadu inhale the smoke from the ashes and let him know that not only has he let us down, he has shown us that there are only two political parties in Nigeria – the Oppressors and the Oppressed: The Politicians and The People. And he is a politician after all. This belief shall remain until I’m proven otherwise by a more dignified personality, or perhaps the former Mr Ribadu if he ever finds his feet again.
Best wishes to Mr Ribadu; and I wish his new Party the very best of luck.
‘biodun Okunola (c/o Ayk-EDIT) – @authorao2