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Patriot games

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patriot-games

Olatunji Ololade

For the love of country” becomes our sexiest lie. The buxomly plague of Nigerian politics; everybody cops a feel.

Government and the governed; oppressor and the oppressed; oligarchs and long-suffering proletariat; old and young; the gbenudake and the soro soke generations all partake in the morbid ritual.

However, politics fades to melodrama, where the citizen misappropriates the role of a revolutionary and considers himself greater than the state. In his struggle to usurp privileges and power, he inflicts misery on ordinary citizens, those whose predicament supposedly triggered his trueness.

“For the love of country” becomes his arrant lie, the falsity that becomes his slogan. Thus, this minute, Nigeria pulses to duplicitous love.

For instance, having lost or seen their favourite candidate lose at the last general elections, cliques and criminal masterminds among the nation’s elite went for broke. Shady clerics, political and business leaders, and failed aspirants resorted to spite; couching their dissonant vibes in patriot lingo, they condemned President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight.

On the flipside, President Buhari presents with shortcomings. He is not a saint. He is not a perfect president. And his anti-corruption fight unfurls ethically-knocked. Yet he is something, everything or nothing of the spurious labels attached to him.

Buhari is a president with flaws but somehow, in his warped politics, he has an undying love for Nigeria perhaps. He is simply too hobbled by innate flaws and inherited demons of public office.

Too much of such duplicity is discernible in the exploits of many whose ‘hardcore’ agitation had been seen to extinguish soon after they attained power, or got ‘settled’ by the ruling class or power brokers aligned to the former.

Ferocity manifests as crucial aspects of their passion; the clique culture, authoritarianism, and sense of entitlement characteristic of the ruling class actually manifest across class divides. It’s a precursor to rite of Nigeria’s rape cycle.

The contemporary patriot is morally ambivalent. He pays lip-service to patriotism even as his provocative ‘purity’ incites filth in its wake. Stripped of his slogan, his passion betrays neither breadth nor depth. It is barely individuated from the insensitivity and grotesqueness resonant of the primeval gladiator arena.

His passion connotes moral emptiness. What Paglia would liken to the still heart of a geode, rimmed with crystalline teeth. His platitudinous chant is disguised as a series of soothing gestures, like rubbing a lantern to make a genie appear.

In truth, he weaponises a dark sentiment, luring the masses into a dark cycle of sadomasochism. His exaggerated gestures and confessions of love, are an assertion of savage lust. He moots no selflessness or sacrifice, only refinements of domination.

Beneath the glitter and ire of his platitudinous chants subsist a frantic hankering for privileges and spoils of power.

For instance, some of the celebrities that led the #EndSARS protests: musicians, religious leaders, motivational speakers, social influencers hardly represent the country’s finest moral compass despite their declarations otherwise. It was ironic though that they became faces of the #EndSARS protests.

This contradicts the truth about them; in their private lives, some are unrepentant monsters. Random encounters with their aides and underlings may convince you – the latter allege that they have to endure unprecedented savagery to earn their keep. Yet these superstars barged on to the #EndSARS stage through the trapdoor, flaunting their poker faces, and chanting for the underdog.

Some made videos; that was their in, into the fast-galvanising protests. They saw a window of opportunity as the protests dragged on. Of course, they latched on to the flailing bandwagon, chanting creeds and popular slogans as a necessary performance of will.

Their intent was to align with the movement just before it overwhelmed the incumbent ruling class. Afterward, they hoped to get invited and “wooed” to seek public office by an army of concerned youth-patriots who would identify them as the real leadership material that Nigeria deserves. Of course, the ill-fated end of the protests put paid to their fantasies.

#EndSARS failed because it worked out a systematic philosophy of revolution and succession. The agitation was mostly of a visceral type reminiscent of Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin’s idealised revolt “against any kind of oppression and injustice, rejection of any palliatives or halfway measures.”

But Bakunin, however inchoate his own ideas were about the new society, was at the same time remarkably prescient about Marxism. Bakunin warned that it would lead to a centralized and oppressive state. He foresaw what would happen to workers once their self-identified representatives in the revolutionary vanguard took power, notes Hedges.

“Those previous workers having just become rulers or representatives of the people will cease being workers; they will look at the workers from their heights, they will represent not the people but themselves.… He who doubts it does not know human nature,” he said.

The Russian anarchist Alexander Herzen, although he did not embrace Bakunin’s lusty calls for action, violence, and sometimes terrorism, also detested Marx. But Herzen, like Bakunin, offered little more than hazy notions of volunteerism and autonomous collectives, and communes to replace the state. The anarchists proved more adept at understanding autocratic power and challenging it than at constructing a governing system to replace it.

Of course, the #EndSARS protesters share kindred spirits with the incumbent oligarchs from whose oppressive leadership they seek escape. And like the protesters, the current government is peopled by characters who proved quite adept at challenging former President Goodluck Jonathan’s ‘uninformed’ leadership than at constructing a humane and efficient government as a replacement.

Due to their inefficiencies, Nigeria’s youth marched on the streets to demand better leadership and a higher quality of governance until constraints of savage origins were hatched into their midst – courtesy the demons outside and within.

The gale of revolutions that erupted in 1989 with the collapse of the Soviet Union was the last revolutionary wave before the Arab uprisings in 2010. From the 14 Soviet republics that broke away to form independent states in 1989 to the ill-fated Arab springs, a common strain was the loss of faith among large segments of the citizenry in the ideological constructs of power, just as previous generations outgrew the belief in the divine right of kings.

These populations argue Chris Hedges, turned against a corrupt ruling elite. They lost hope for a better future unless those in power were replaced. And they seized in a revolutionary moment upon an ideal—one that was often more emotional than intellectual—that allowed them to defy established power. This revolutionary sentiment, as much a mood as an idea, is again on the march.

In a 2011 New York Times article titled “As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around the Globe,” Nicholas Kulish made this point: Their complaints range from corruption to lack of affordable housing and joblessness, common grievances the world over. But from South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over. They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box.

May we never get to that stage when Nigerians choose bullets over the ballot box.

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