“Their men, young and old, I took as prisoners. Of them I cut off the feet and hands; of others I cut off the noses, ears and lips; of the young men’s ears I made a heap; of the old men’s heads I made a minaret.”
That quote is one horrible monument to the memory of an Assyrian empire called Nineveh and its rulers. Nineveh, at the height of its glory, was the greatest empire on earth. It built a huge reputation for savage acts because it was powerful. To the Jews, it was “the bloody city, full of lies and robbery.”
Nineveh was destroyed in 612 BC by a coalition of victim-nations. A commentator (on how the empire blossomed and fell) notes that when you rule with wickedness and savagery, “your enemies are not likely to forget how they were treated.” When the enemies came in 612 BC, they destroyed everything, including the empire’s ‘everlasting god’, Ashur.
I was at a Christian burial service last Friday where the priest invoked what he called ‘the writing on the wall’ against leaders ruining Nigeria and its future. Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin, he chanted repeatedly in revulsion at the mess the country had become. That is a biblical statement interpreted to mean: “God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it.”
It points at why an empire called Babylon had to be destroyed and parceled out. A key member of the coalition that destroyed Nineveh in 612 BC was Babylon. Babylon also had to be destroyed in 539 BC by Medes and Persia, two of its allies in the war against Nineveh. Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin is a Biblical sign of the end of Babylon. What does it mean to say the days of Babylon are numbered? It means no empire lasts forever. What remains after the fall of every potentate is history of his behaviour in power. If Babylon is destroyed and shared by the allied forces of Medes and Persia, what does that tell us about contemporary powers and power relations? The APC is in power today. Before this ruling party, there was the PDP which prided itself as the biggest and largest party in Africa. A coalition of friends and foes in 2015 put a halt to the pillaging moves of the PDP. Are we not likely to see Medes and Persia in 2019?
History can be very mocking of powers and principalities. Nineveh fell. Babylon fell. Before the fall of Babylon, there was Medes which ruled over the Persians; then they flipped roles: “Under a brilliant young general named Cyrus, the Persians quickly supplanted the Medes and would go on to accomplish things never seen previously in history. After bringing the Medes to heel, they looked outward to foreign lands.” With Medes as a junior coalition partner, Persia was to add the powerful Babylon to the list of its victims.
Babylon became great and forgot its beginning. It became a habitation of evil and a cage for hateful birds. The priest at the burial believed our leaders had done what Babylon did to warrant the fate that befell it. His invocation of history as prayer pointed at the need to end Nigeria’s dynasty of corruption and ineffectual power and create an oasis of peace and prosperity.
The priest’s invocation was not as shocking as the scary chorus of ‘Amen!’ that followed it. Have things gone this bad? Obviously, they have; but the naked king thinks he is still clothed in the velvet of his coronation. But there is a problem. How will ending dynasties and calving powers be applicable as solution to the problems here? I found it very difficult to understand why the congregation chorusing ‘Aamen!’ did not go further to ask the priest what would follow the end of Babylon? If you take power from the current lords of nepotism, who is that saint that will collect it and won’t replace corruptive cronyism with kidnapping and robbery?
History has not been kind in its account of what follows every dynastic change. Nineveh was destroyed by Babylon and its allies because it was an empire of wickedness. Babylon too was destroyed by Persia and its ally because of the horrid iniquities it institutionalized. The PDP was degraded in the last elections to cure the nation of corruptive afflictions. Now, APC/Buhari’s Nigeria last week scored a miserable 27 per cent for its efforts at killing corruption. That was the verdict of Transparency International which was a darling of the APC and Buhari in the years of their enemies. What was the average score before Buhari? Less than 28 per cent! Corruption is the family house of all infractions. It includes nepotism which you commit when you use your powers to give undue favours to your family members. It includes cronyism – which means what? When you tilt advantages unfairly in favour of your associates and friends, you are guilty of cronyism.
Of course, there is bribery; there is embezzlement; there is graft and there is influence peddling. Use of public power for private gain is the official definition of corruption. Does that not smell like nepotism, cronyism, clannishness and favouritism which are the rainbow colours of the Buhari government? Even when Olusegun Obasanjo, the navigator of the process that birthed the Buhari government, spoke about these infractions, what defence did the government put forward? None. Instead, it gave a long list of ‘achievements’, including generating 7,000 megawatts of electricity which has not translated to a sack of darkness at night.
Corruption has gone worse under the APC government, according to Transparency International. Buhari and his government say that cannot be true: What else are we supposed to do that we haven’t done? We have used the past two years and nine months naming and shaming thieves. We have touched the untouchables and shamed the saintly crooks. We have recovered billions in local and foreign currencies and kept the loots for public good. We have stormed privileged homes at midnight and put fearful judges in handcuffs. We have seized powerful generals, air marshals and naval admirals and put them on trial for stealing billions to fund their greed. We have done more than has ever been done in this land flowing with loose Naira and careless dollars. Now this Transparency report has awarded a miserable 27 per cent to Nigeria for 2017. What marking scheme did they use? Who used them? What has gone wrong or what went wrong?
Really, what marking scheme did the examiners use? Does Buhari know that his government has been very transparent in its misbehaviour? How did we know that we have a multibillion naira State House clinic without paracetamol? Rodents chasing out big men out of Villa offices despite billions in maintenance contracts; snakes of the devil swallowing millions; monkeys invading farmhouses to mine senatorial millions; secret recruitments of nephews, nieces and children of mistresses and concubines to fill elite spaces; NNPC contracts without due process; reinstatement and promotion of associates caught pants down. The government did all these and exhibited them for all to see. Transparency International saw them too and was not amused.
Nineveh was destroyed because it was evil. Babylon which destroyed Nineveh was sacked because it became a city of foul spirits and of wicked use of power. Persia which sacked Babylon became history because it refused to learn and change from the evil acts of the past. When you remove dynasties and retain a nation’s character of evil, you have changed nothing. That is what I took from Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai. He talks anticorruption but demolished his enemy’s building last week and took over the land. That site will soon become a park to fulfill the vow of the powers of today. El-Rufai has also reportedly forwarded a N30 million bill to the same enemy-Senator as ground rent on another property. If the enemy does not pay N30 million in 30 days time, the building will also go down. That governor may be short in stature, but he has a very robust sense of (in)justice. There is methodology in whatever the petite governor does, including in his demolition ways.
Now, how much support does this governor’s (mis) behaviour enjoy from Abuja? We may not know because that power locus does not speak and does not act against wicked allies. What, therefore, is the difference between what the kings of Nineveh and Babylon did and what happened last week in Kaduna? The government there demolished a building because its enemies turned it to their office. The mind that did that obviously had no sense of history. That history-less mind has a script such as: If you dream of contesting against me in the next elections, I will demolish your house. If you don’t have a house, I will go after your father’s house. If your father has/had been too careless not to own a house, I will gun for your grandfather’s grave.
The kings of Babylon did similar things. Today, history remembers them and what remains of their empire: “A large tell of broken mud-brick buildings and debris” 85 kilometers south of present day Iraq. No power (and empire) lasts forever.