Ahmed Yahaya -Joe
“Avoid the crowd. Do your own thinking independently. Be the chess player, not the chess piece.” – Ralph Charell
The haunting image of Boko Haram insurgents casually inspecting a reportedly captured Nigerian Army armoured vehicle is in sharp contrast to the Biafra produced military hardware on display at the National War Museum at Umuahia. It is a national paradox.
Therefore, between the ongoing “Trials” of Sheikh Pantami and the recent “Metamorphosis” of Father Mbaka the best way to keep your head while others around you are losing theirs is by constantly reviewing issues within the overall context of elite dynamics.
In 1964, Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka published “Trials of Brother Jero” about the antics of a phony spellbinding preacher “who proselytizes by deceiving his followers”. By 1967, the award-winning playwright expanded the narrative on religious charlatanism with “Jero’s Metamorphosis.” Both plays “expose the contradictions in blind faith and following” while exploring the social and political imbalances of Nigeria in the early 60s.
We must therefore in this present generation navigate through conflicting narratives with the same kind of critical mindset Mr. Soyinka adopted back in the day to interpret the prevailing issues of our time.
On December 9, 2014, then First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan drove into the Catholic Prayer Adoration Ground in a sleek convoy to secure the blessings of Reverend Father Camillus Ejike Mbaka on behalf of her husband for the 2015 presidential elections just two months away. The cleric did not disappoint his esteemed guest particularly when he announced “there was no threat” to her husband’s continued stay in power.
For effect, the fiery priest, “also had harsh words for those tasking (her husband) to bring back the Chibok girls, asking whether it was the president that was keeping the girls hostage?”
Little wonder, “Mama Peace” was beside herself with joy describing her encounter with Mbaka as “a spiritual rebirth” as he had previously released some birds which, he said, would “go and fight for the Jonathans.”
By December 31, 2014, Mbaka metamorphosized in his New Year homily entitled, “From Good Luck to Bad Luck.” The rest as they say is now history up to quite recently Mbaka vituperated against his adopted political hero;
“Let me tell you; if it is in a civilized country, by now, President Buhari would have resigned with what is happening. Nigerians are crying because there’s no security in the country, the House of Representatives should impeach the president if he doesn’t want to resign. A good coach cannot watch his players be defeated when he has players sitting down on the bench. It is either Buhari resigns by himself or he will be impeached.”
But didn’t ahead of the 2019 presidential election the same Mbaka implore Nigerians;
“A President that is fighting corruption needs to be supported. We pray for President Muhammadu Buhari; he is a man who understands the situation. Since Nigeria started, we have never experienced a President that has agricultural programs like him.
For 16 years, the road from Anambra to Enugu was overgrown with weeds but within four years, the road is being reconstructed and the same way they are doing it to Umuahia. This one that remembered us, may God bless him.
Four years doesn’t mean eight years; he has finished his four years. I pray for peaceful transition that he may complete his remaining four years. He will hand over to a better person, may the Lord keep him. When he was sick, he was almost dead and we said prayer and God granted him healing. God knows the purpose for allowing him to be alive; if God doesn’t want him, he could have died.”
In yet another “Metamorphosis” Mbaka recently concluded with what might massively impact the conundrum in the South East with huge implications for national integration, “I do not know Nnamdi Kanu, I have never seen him face to face. But I want to tell you something: wherever he is, may God bless him.” Asking rhetorically, “If somebody has risen up to shout that his brothers and sisters are suffering, is it a crime?”
Meanwhile, prior to the ongoing “Trials” of Pantami in May, 2020;
“Nigerians on social networking platform, Twitter, are recounting how Isa Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, blocked them for questioning him about his silence on the attacks by armed bandits in Zamfara and Katsina states.
While in the opposition in 2012, Pantami heavily criticised the handling of insurgency in Nigeria’s North-East by former President, Goodluck Jonathan.
He also said in an opinion piece published on an online news platform that “leadership in Nigeria has failed” and called on Nigerians to “rise up” and change the situation.
An audio where he incited Nigerians against Jonathan over his handling of security in the country has also been making the rounds on Twitter, with many accusing him of hypocrisy now that the party he belongs to, the All-Progressives Congress, was in government.
One Twitter user with the handle @mbbhuarii, questioned why he was telling Nigerians on his page not to criticise him publicly.
@mbbhuarii said, “Exactly one year since Sheikh Dr. Isa Ali Pantami blocked me. I didn’t abuse or disrespect him. I only amplified the voices of those who felt that he cannot speak truth to power anymore.”
Pantami in his response said, “In Islam, we admonish in public when we have no direct access. Even in the previous administration, the last time I mentioned anything in public was in 2011, not 2015.” The minister subsequently blocked @mbbhuarii shortly afterwards.
Reacting to Pantami’s quelling of dissenting opinions, @Uncle_Faruk said, “If Pantami wasn’t critical of the former government, trust me no one will pressure him now.
“He unfairly condemned and pressurised GEJ administration for a reason best known to him. Now he is in government and you want us to keep mute? You’re stupid my brother.”
Another user @jrnaib2 said, “Pantami isn’t God. Pantami isn’t a prophet, Pantami isn’t a saint. He’s just an influencer who uses his influence and did campaign for APC at the same time hold PDP responsible for bringing Boko Haram and now the narrative is still the same. So, we must blame him.”
In the final analysis, Nigeria is a power struggle chessboard. The pieces are political, religious, and ethnic.
Nigeria has effectively reached a stage of “elite overproduction” – a situation whereby our nation is producing far too many potential elite-members relative to the systemic ability to absorb them into the grossly overstretched power structure.
With an avalanche of aggrieved parties many unwilling to commit class suicide, socioeconomic and political instability is inevitable on an industrial scale on various fronts. The lack of a thriving Middle Class further exacerbates the prevailing pressure cooker tensions.
I rest my case.