NADECO: The Real Zeroes
Real heroes do not sing their song. Or do they? Those who make history do not waste their time writing it. Why should they? Performers do not tell. When they do so they considered liars. Readers, welcome to another paradox of Nigerian politics today.
We expected it. While the martyrs of a struggle (Abacha (!) and Abiola, Kudirat and Rewane) are sleeping quietly in their graves (I suppose) and the injured are healing their wounds, those who escaped for whatever reason are quickly filling the wavelengths of the political band with all sorts of claims to ‘heroship’.
NADECO and Afenifere have demanded praises from other Nigerians for their ‘roles’ in the restoration of democracy. When they failed to get enough of it, they resorted to blowing their trumpet. They are presently recording the ‘history’ of their ‘struggle’. I often ask, what struggle? Well before we come to that, allow me to announce that their house is divided on the question of ‘real heroes’. I am sure they will end up tearing the word HERO, with every member carrying home whatever part of it he is able to snatch out of the wrestling. Only then will our ears have some peace. Fortunately, the cleaving has already started.
According to Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, the megaphone of ‘the struggle’, they are lucky to have the opportunity to write their history. But even in this immodest adventure and despite being part of the exercise, his assessment already is that it has proved to be an act of sheer mediocrity. His words: “Nigerians have embarked in (on?) re-writing of history even before the history has been written.” What do we take this history to be? He said: “in the highly doctored accounts that are floating around, fiction is being peddled as facts, reasoning is floated without logic..” The coffin has been nailed even without the arrival its the corpse.
People should know that history should be left to later generations or independent observers to write. There is no problem with autobiographies. If what they have done is worth accounting for, historians will do it to the best of their ability, regardless of how long it takes. To do it presently is to invite trouble from those who would feel that they are inadequately represented. The public will be confused as to which version is correct. For example, Akinyemi acknowledged that “as at the last count there are five lists”. Of course each is containing its different set of ‘heroes’.
Critical presentation and analysis of facts would not also be possible under such circumstances without shattering asunder the unity of ‘the struggle’. For example, Akinyemi could not help being indignant with the Afenifere list, perhaps because he did not feature in it prominently. To him, “the list and some of the actions of that group not only defy logic but also defy human understanding.” Hmm. His logic is simple: “Do you get released from detention to compile a list of who did what, when you don’t even know what and when, not to talk about who?” No, sir.
Professor Akinyemi undoubtedly sees himself, not the Afenifere or anybody in NADECO, as being at the center of gravity of the struggle. With this confidence, he told his readers the aim of his article in THISDAY of October 24, 1999 titled NADECO and the Real Heroes of the Struggle. He said: “What I am going to do in the next few sentences is lift the veil a little bit on some of those who contributed in a unique and honorable way to this struggle.” Very good! Who are they?
It started with the mention of some 46 passengers aboard a plane flying from Dakar to Brussels via Lagos. He described them as the “most honorable men in this country and they will never know how much they held in their hands the success or failure of the struggle.” What did they do to qualify for this elevation? They simply did not disclose Akinyemi and his friend Dan Suleiman to Nigerian Authorities.
But who told Akinyemi that all the passengers aboard the flight were interested in knowing his identity? Was Akinyemi not simply alarmist, inundated by the feeling that circumfuses criminals, making them feel that everybody is watching them? Why should the passengers feel compelled to inform the Nigerian authorities, even if they knew Akinyemi and Suleiman? Nigerians do not behave that way. It was an affair between Akinyemi and Abacha. And why should this single event be counted as the most important in the history of democracy in Nigeria? Because Akinyemi was involved!
The other ‘heroes’ mentioned by Akinyemi were himself (wow!), General Akinrinade and one other person whom he did not mention by name. What was heroic about them? Well, they escaped being caught (according to them) by Col. Muhammad Sabo at a hotel in Cotonou. “The plan worked beautifully.” If they were so adept, why didn’t they save Abiola, the bird that foolishly returned to the same branch to be pelted to death after having earlier used the proverbial wisdom of escaping it without even notifying its companions?
We patiently went further awaiting the emergence of some tangible heroes in the article. Nothing! Towards the end of the article, Akinyemi challenged those who claim to know so much about ‘the struggle’ to give answers to some five questions. And what were they? Nothing more than Radio Freedom: its designer and sponsor, location and where it was tested, its courier and operators. Then, as if referring to himself, he lastly asked, “who are the twins, and what was their assignment?”
Finally, Akinyemi was disappointed even with the ‘historians’ in his camp like Dan Suleiman who acknowledged the contribution of Lt. General T. Y. Danjuma to NADECO. He therefore educated his twin brother (?) through a list of “first financial contributors (‘heroes’?) to NADECO abroad.” And whom did they include? Our man from Chicago, Chief Bola Tinubu WASC (GCI (?), B.Sc. Economics (Chicago (?), B.Sc. Business Amin. (Chicago (?), CPA (?) NYSC (Lagos (?). (All certificates are lost and no photocopies were ever made. GCI Ibadan is also out of reach. Life between 1973 and 1975 cannot also be accounted for.) To us the revelation of the contributions of Danjuma to NADECO is important because it will help to draw a parallel between NADECO and C & C and whatever sanctity they are enjoying from the present regime.
“The overriding lesson in all these”, Akinyemi wrote in his last paragraph to school the Afenifere and people like Dan Suleiman, “is (that?) while recognizing the contribution of some, don’t do so at the expense of the contribution of others.” THE END!
The Verdict of History
History is really difficult to write. But Professor Akinyemi should not bother. Historians will definitely find a space for him and other ‘heroes’. There is always plenty of it. I am only afraid that theirs will be a filthy corner. No one should be surprised therefore if historians reject all this garbage, protesting, as Akinyemi called the Afenifere effort, that they are “highly doctored, fiction being peddled as facts and reasoning without logic.”
The history of ‘the struggle’ has not started with today. It started with Chief Awolowo, who was tried and found guilty of attempting to topple a democratically elected government during the First Republic through a coup. Facts are also coming out now on how he possibly connived with Babangida to successfully topple the Second Republic.
History will also record those who participated in the worse military regimes in the country between 1985 to 1998. This will definitely include those who wept out of joy, not because they led a struggle to restore democracy during Babangida, but because he appointed them as ministers of foreign affairs, something they never dreamt of in their lives. History will also put on record those who perpetrated the worse form of economic sabotage, introduction of SAP. The same people opened the gateway for annulment of elections. That was when they appealed to Babangida to annul the primaries which Yar’adua and Adamu Ciroma won. Later, when that of their kinsman, Chief Abiola was annulled, they had not the stomach to accept it. They resorted to burning down refineries, as it is gradually being discovered now (thanks to their wide mouth!), and subjected Nigerians to the worst hardship since the civil war.
History will also have space for those who connived to bring Abacha to power. They scrambled for his ministerial appointments and other cabinet positions. When his policies started to consume them, they fled the country, abandoning the hero of their ‘struggle’ to languish in jail while they enjoyed the warm shelters of imperialist countries. Some were even to be detained for failing banks or mismanaging government parastatals. These people fled not because of ‘the struggle’ but in order to avoid arrest. Some were simply cowards, they could not tread along the path of people like Gani who remained here with other Nigerians and felt the full brute of dictatorship. Some were jobless boys of the military even if they will claim to be professors. From their comfortable and safe seats in the UK, France or US, amidst the whisky and other luxuries, they planned which refinery was to be burnt down or pipeline to be blown, which place to bomb and what blackmail to be printed. History will remember others as consistent advocates of violence and as founders of cultism in our universities more than being heroes of democracy. While they remain there, we do not know what price would Nigeria pay for their accommodation.
At last their friend Abacha died (naturally?). Suddenly they agreed to get rid of their hero, Abiola (if their claim of ‘conspiracy’ is true), to manoeuvre themselves as leaders of a ‘national government.’ Abubakar invited them back. They were reluctant until the hosts started to threaten their deportation. Those with cases to answer, and they were many, demanded an assurance that the Failed Banks Tribunal will not unearth their skeletons.
If they were confident of the relevance and acceptability of their struggle to the restoration of democracy in Nigeria, they could have contested elections. But they failed to do so. Even when they attempted, they had no better candidates than people with forged certificates. When we called for the heads of such ‘419s’ they suddenly revealed the selfish logic on which their entire struggle was founded: “dogs do not eat dogs.” Some even went to Gani’s office pleading in tears. Could such people ever be heroes of any struggle?
Rather they preferred to resort to singing their praises, claiming to be heroes and trying to force history down our throat. We will refuse to swallow it.
I remember an old song by the late Mamman Shata back in 1969 called Sgt. Maj. Adamun Pankshin, one of the silent heroes of the civil war. In it, Shata cited the cases of two people. One of them he termed the real soldier. Whenever he gets a pass from the warfront to visit his family, he will quietly come home, see all his relations and friends and go back to the front immediately without raising much dust.
But the picture of the other contrasted sharply. Whenever he comes home, he will gather some kids under a tree, claiming, “it is we that captured Ankpa, destroyed Enugu, ravaged Onitsha..” Shata said, “he is a liar. If you will investigate, you will find out that he was a mere food peddler.” Shata’s reason was simple: “Mai yi, bai bada labari,” that a performer does not blow his trumpet.
The verdict of history, we believe, will not be different: those ‘real heroes’ were real zeroes.
I am grateful to Radio Nigeria Kaduna for making available to me a copy of the song on Adamun Pankshin. We sincerely hope that they will continue to keep a good custody this invaluable heritage of ours.
November 8, 1999