By Akin Fadeyi
Each time we mouth the cliche “our heroes past”, I wonder if we dig enough into the enormity of sacrifices made and how some of those heroes moved against established norms of debauchery for which they paid dearly – the supreme price.
Each time I introspect on the events of the 1970s, I shudder at the brutal murder of General Murtala Ramat Mohammed.
Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman, a historian of repute, in his seminal 1979 book For The Liberation of Nigeria had this to say: “Muritala was casual about his security”. “He distanced himself from imperial grandeur and did not move into the official residence of the Head of State in Dodan Barracks”.
But the one that piqued me most is premised on my discovery that Murtala “came to understand the essential features of Nigerian society especially the public institutions, and acted on this understanding to change them and make them serve the common people”.
Muritala thus constructed a model of contemporary Nigeria and mustered the courage to attempt to change it. General Mohammed established a link between the accumulation of wealth and public service. He was murdered while attempting to break that linkage, having realised that “abuse of public office was central to the chaos, indiscipline, confusion and whole underdevelopment of Nigeria”.
Simply put, AN ATTEMPT TO FIGHT CORRUPTION KILLED MURTALA MOHAMMED.
Muritala wasn’t perfect. He had his issues, ranging from hot temper to risk taking in a bizarrely daring manner. He was tough and described as erratic. But seriously, it is only a positively crazy man that can rule Nigeria. For this I’m at home with these weaknesses, and they cannot blight my admiration of him as a genuine Hero.
Fast forward to our era. I can’t help being bemused each time I hear Goodluck Jonathan say no Nigerian president can match his achievements. Then I’ll check what time of the day it is and wonder if it’s a weed smoking time. What achievements? Achievement of soiled hands? Achievement of looking the other way while the treasury was being looted? Achievement of alleged exploitation of Nigeria’s dire security situation to “clean out” the arms deal budget? There’s no other definition for blood money!
Jonathan is one peculiarly fortunate individual who sprang from obscurity and poverty and leapt into the rare ascendancy of a most coveted office. Despite being a minority, he beat the odds and became president. (Whatever “minority” means in a supposed state with equality).
One would therefore have expected him to practically “kill” himself in pursuit of a well-designed ambitious growth agenda, raise the quality of life of the people, confront corruption, and etch his name in gold. I dare say, he would have won his reelection without rigour. Instead, today, he has not just been sent out office, he’s struggling in defence of a very dark impression that he allegedly helped himself to some of Nigeria’s cookie jars.
Worse still, it’s obvious he fell for the sidekick tricks of his “domestic appendage”, a civil servant who today is shamefully laying claim to multi million dollars without answering the germane question of what manner of business brought such “blessings”.
So why is this man always throwing himself into space to defend such an administration full of heaving and sighing?
If you’re good, you’re good and your work will speak for you. The only thing speaking for the past administration are eye popping tales of unprecedented sleaze. Changing this narrative is a tall order.
Because of the circumstances surrounding our ethnic sensibilities, GEJ is already “granted immunity”. He therefore ought to maintain a stoic silence to earn some respect, not throwing himself in the ring every time to advertise a continuum of sheer chicanery.
GEJ put Nigeria in a quandary. And when the various chapters of the story of “our heroes past” are being written, to deserve a place at all, he will require unheard-of historical benevolence.
Akin Fadeyi is the Convener of the Corruption Not In My Country Project.