Democracy: When?

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Time may heal wounds, but only if the scabs are not reopened and rubbed raw anew. We may overlook, even forgive, for the sake of the future, and on certain implicit conditions, but this has never implied the embrace of amnesia.

[International: Africa]

Like millions of other Nigerians - though that is neither excuse nor consolation - I was caught flat-footed.

It simply had not occurred to many of us that any regime would seek to perpetuate a symbol of deception, of betrayal, of hypocrisy and lust for power.  Indeed, many of us had simply ignored the egregious expression of personal ego that sought to enshrine a date of the assumption of power, the progression towards which was barely tolerated by the electorate on account of its fraudulent nature.

Those who insist on perceiving that 1999 electoral exercise as an expression of popular will are urged to turn the pages of the media and re-educate themselves through the confessional statements of participants in that charade, after the falling out among thieves.

The nation may forgive much; it should not permit itself to forget. We had indeed completely shrouded that date on our political calendar, had persuaded ourselves to believe that any regime that succeeded the last, struggling for legitimacy after its own tarnished ascendancy, would not take on such unnecessary baggage of egotistical symbolism, that it would not abuse such concepts and practices as are known all over the world as 'Democracy', that the least it could do was to exploit any opportunity to dissociate itself from an antecedence that has violated all principles associated with free choice and electoral integrity.

This did not require action but inactions.  All that this regime had to do was to ignore the fictitious date, let it sink into the cesspit of an individual's obsession and proceed with its own program of service to the nation.

It took a chance telephone conversation, all the way from India, to inform one that the present regime had indeed decided to continue the political insult to the Nigerian people by promoting May 29 the Nigerian Democracy Day.

No doubt, nations such as Cambodia will also declare Pol Pot's birthday that nation's Democracy day, Robert Mugabe's Wedding Anniversary will also signify Zimbabwe's Democracy Day, and Idi Amin's seizure of power as enthroning Uganda's Democracy Day.  Nor must we forget Charles Taylor who, after all, did come to power through the ballot box. Indeed, the day on which Charles

Taylor took the oath of office should be declared the Democracy Day for entire African continent, since it took the intervention of African leaders to persuade him to leave office and take refuge in our own nation where, presumably, he planted the seed of democracy that we supposedly enjoy in our own benighted nation.

To fling political slop at a people's faces is one thing, to proceed to rub those faces in the very garbage heap of their discarded past is surely going too far, an avoidable provocation that must be taken into account when the pluses and minuses of governance are reckoned.

For those who prefer to forget, May 29, 1999 was the inauguration date of hopes and rightful expectations, urged on by promises that were no sooner pronounced as sacred undertaking than they were progressively abandoned. May 29 not only marked the inauguration of missed opportunities, it was a day that launched an era of cynically mocked, degraded, and finally openly jettisoned opportunities. May 29 was inauguration date of the era of darkness, both metaphysical and palpable that has seen a  nation of envied material and human endowments groping its way through the twilight of marginal vision into the dark of resignation. It marked the descent into the graveyard of energy and light, aborting productivity at birth, and turning a once vibrant, pulsating nation into yet another Black Hole on the nightly geography of the globe.

May 29 marked the inauguration of a spate of political assassinations, the like of which the nation had never known, most notoriously that of a Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, while the prominent accused was escorted triumphantly into legislative chambers and elevated to a position that was created and kept for him by the ruling party, against minimal decorum and public sensibilities, against all electoral laws and procedures. May 29 inaugurated the state approved slaughters of communities in Odi, Zaki Biam, inaugurated the policy of deception and breach of faith that have exacerbated the unrest in the nation's oil-producing region.

May 29 inaugurated the game of offering with one hand, then taking back with both, as anti-corruption agencies were set up to  public acclaim, then robbed of fully earned credibility by interference and manipulation.  May 29 marked the inauguration of a cynical, desperate and sustained effort, backed by open bribery, to subvert the nation's constitution, such as it is, and ensure the perpetuation of one individual in power, that date marked the hunting down of opponents of that diabolical effort, the one-man campaign of vengeance that led to the total collapse of all further  democratic pretences in the 2007 elections, May 29 marked the inauguration of the era of executive contempt for, and defiance of the judiciary that endured all of eight years.

It marked the blatant cooption of the police for unlawful acts, both of commission and omission, such as the takeover and torching of Anambra State under the very supervision of the law enforcing agency.

May 29 launched the spectacle of executive extortionism on a grand scale, unique in the nation, offered the shaming spectacle of states, parastatals, manufacturers and commercial moguls being lined up as sheep to the slaughter, forced to 'volunteer' millions for the feeding of an individual's delusion of grandeur that could only be assuaged by a so-called 'presidential library'. It is a date that consolidated cronyism on an unprecedented scale, with cronies elevated, then brought down unceremoniously once they had served their purpose.

May 29 inaugurated the handing over of entire states to the rule of self-confessed, self-celebrating, violent prone and-proud thugs in defiance of the most minimal pretence of order, indeed, inaugurated an era where self-promoting barons of violence were welcomed into the hallowed precincts of a ruler's home, on horseback, by a dancing and jubilating host, the supposed custodian of the corporate integrity and dignity of a nation.

May 29 marked the degradation of all symbols of authority, a descent into a state of political anomie that will haunt the nation for decades to come.

A minor sampling, for more remains to be read in this catalogue of social reverses, not accidental, not the consequences of blind Nature forces such as the cyclone of Myammar or the earthquake of China, but of the choice, the man-generated Tsunami of one who, to add insult to injury, has striven to obliterate the day of the expression of a people's resolute will, manifested North to South and East to West, for the peaceful determination of their own destiny. That date was June 12, and the claims of that date, the true story of the undeserving beneficiaries of that date,  are all in the public domain despite all attempts, symbolic or hyperactive, to rewrite that history.

We remember those who joined hands with others in aborting the true democratic moment of a nation's resolve, those who claimed that the Messiah was not yet, as if the people ever claimed that a Messiah could be produced from the ballot box. We know the sordid details of the hidden history of the collaborators in that inglorious deed that plunged the nation into years of terror, insecurity and social retrogression.

Time may heal wounds, but only if the scabs are not reopened and rubbed raw anew. We may overlook, even forgive, for the sake of the future, and on certain implicit conditions, but this has never implied the embrace of amnesia.

The national provocation has gone far enough, but evidently, the culture of appropriate response has yet to learn how  far it must go.  Let those who insist on foisting this degradation on the nation understand that,  wherever and whenever symbols of cooption for the perpetuation of a lie are hoisted, they constitute an invitation to tear down the flags.

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