Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Insane

By E.C. Ejiogu, Sahara Reporters

The first time I visited London, some of the several aspects of the city that caught my attention were the statutes of mostly those historical personalities who were involved in empire-building adventures abroad placed in the public squares. I even noticed that virtually all of them showed gaunt-looking individuals. This is particularly true about those of them from humble origins. I found that observation quite thought-provoking. This was to the degree that sent me on a foray to the library when I returned. It wasn’t long after that when I came across a book entitled Durable Inequalities (1998) by the historical sociologist Charles Tilly, who died a few years ago, which opened my eyes to the extensive scarcity of nourishments in that clime in the era toward 1800. I learnt from this book that even the English aristocracy and their French counterparts were not immune to the afflictions from the scarcity of nourishments that prevailed in English society and France during the era. One of the conclusions that I drew from all that is that hunger was one of the primary inducements of the quest by the British and French during the era in question for colonies in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere.

Wherever I go, I hardly take observations that I make each day of the goings-on around me for granted at all. Things just don’t happen. They have causal links. Since the early 1990s when the political circumstances tenable in the geographical space that became a country called Nigeria by the doing of British men who were induced by hunger to embark on empire-building adventures in the Niger basin, compelled me to leave its shores, I have been privileged to travel some beyond the US where I first landed. Each place and everywhere that I have been, I encounter individuals from all the nationalities in Nigeria except the Hausa-Fulani: On Oxford Street in London, there’s hardly a time when I uttered a word of Igbo or Yoruba loudly that I didn’t see many faces turn in my direction. In down-town Jo’burg, South Africa, it’s the same. On the two different times that I wandered the malls in Canberra and Brisbane, Australia lonely, the rare black faces that I ran into turned into Igbomen, one of whom even happened to have studied at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka just like me. Why doesn’t whatever it is that drive people from other nationalities out of Nigeria in stupendous numbers do the same to the Hausa-Fulani—the nationality that claims the largest share of Nigeria’s estimated population of 150 million people plus?

Sequel to General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s criminal annulment of MKO Abiola’s June 12 victory at the polls in 1993, the mobilization that it triggered world-wide amongst people from the space called Nigeria was devoid of them, I mean the Hausa-Fulani. The few of them who were in the US on all-expense paid scholarship were quickly corralled into what they called the Zumunta Group by the Nigerian Embassy as irritants to that mobilization here.

One is not bothered by why the Hausa-Fulani are not in the crisis-induced exodus from the geo-political space that the British made them share with the rest of the nationalities that call the Niger basin home. The reason for that is not even hidden from an observant child who is privy to what Nigeria is. The concern is rather about why educated people from nationalities in the lower Niger—the Igbo, Yoruba, the Bini Commonwealth, the Niger Delta peoples, et al have refused to re-calibrate their attitude towards the Nigeria project and even their understanding of what can be done to face it down and impose the right solution on it. I wasn’t there at the just-concluded second session of the shadow Parliament convened in New York last week by individuals from the space that exists as Nigeria, but a prominent participant confirmed to me yesterday that he couldn’t think of any Hausa-Fulani participant. Where is the logic in your continuing identification with Nigeria? Is there anything wrong with staking out your definitive claims in this Nigeria beyond the mantra of political correctness, which blindly accepts Nigeria as a given? What is wrong with changing tact to make the quest for justice for all as the corner stone of a Nigeria? Why would the inhabitants of the Niger Delta whose homeland is completely devastated by reckless hydrocarbon extraction be content with pay-offs by people who reside far away from that devastation? Would the world come to an end today if Nigeria is sorted out to reflect the nationalities that constitute it?

Someone defined insanity to me the other day as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome each time. In the epigram to his memoirs that he aptly titled, My Family and Other Animals, the late naturalist, Gerald Durrell opined that: “There is joy in madness which only but madmen know.” Clinging to Nigeria this way might be joyful, but it seems like madness to me all the same.

E.C. Ejiogu, PhD, is a political sociologist.

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