“If you tremble with indignation at every injustice then you are comrade of mine” — Ernesto Che Guevara
Easily the oldest and most active elder statesman in Nigeria today is the 1927-born Edwin Clark. He will be 95 this year! Forty-seven years ago, Chief Clark was the Minister of Information and has remained active in the political space for close to six decades. He should be an oracle of sorts and his views should be treated with hallowed regard.
There must be a reason God has to keep him for this time in sound body and mind. Ahead of 2023, this nonagenarian has been consistent in his advisory on how to achieve political stability. If the words of our elders are the words of wisdom, as the saying goes, why should Nigeria ignore his voice of wisdom? American fantasy writer Patricia Briggs writes, “The elders were closer to the maker of all things and should be deferred to whenever they made their will known.” Just as it is in families, so it’s in a nation. If you are lucky to have elders around, cherish them the way you cherish old books.
They have what you will not find in this scientific age and possibly at no cost. Whatever becomes of Nigeria post-2023 will not be due to ignorance of the consequences of our actions and inactions. Ndigbo say, “Ngbada okpoko gburu…” (which translates as “anyone killed by the predatory bird with all the noise it makes while hunting must be as deaf as a post”). Before us daily are weighty, wise voices of reason warning of what might befall Nigeria by looking away and pretending not to hear the consistent cry for justice.
It is already an over-flogged issue that a society that thrives on injustice will hardly reach its desired goal. In the sixty-one-plus years as an independent nation, Nigeria has been coxswaining and meddling with injustice and of course living with its upshots. Several efforts have been made to make all the leaders know that no society grows where injustice is being manured and topdressed. If justice is the right one struggles for while seeking fairness, it beats one’s imagination why no one pays heed. This is the indifference we show when we are not directly affected by injustice.
No wonder then American polymath and political philosopher, Benjamin Franklin, asserts, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Franklin’s view is akin to the story of a man who had the opportunity of averting robbery in the neighbourhood but failed because he is not affected. Nonetheless, when the robbers finished with the neighbour, he became the next victim. That is the core of injustice in our clime. Those less affected are apathetic. It’s their wahala, it is often said, let them carry it. To the South East, the politicians say that power is not given, it is taken.
You must negotiate, you must beg, you must fight etc. In the face of all our duplicities and dou-ble standards, 94-year-old former Minister of Information, Chief Clark, has been consistent in his call for the next President after Muhammadu Buhari to come from the South-East or be an ethnic Igbo. Clark has been vehement that doing so is the only pliable road to justice and which will significantly address injustice as well as establish equitable and stable polity. There are so many reasons why Clark’s voice should not be ignored or be allowed to drown.
He is seeking fairness, he trembles with indignation at what is not fair. He is not selfish; he is an ethnic Ijaw. So it is not a case of fighting for his own. His analysis in defence of his position is experiential and invulnerable. Because Clark’s fight is just and fair, it has been infectious. Credible voices have already joined his own. The pan-Yoruba group the Afenifere led by Pa Ayo Adebanjo, the Middle Belt Forum led by Dr Pogu Bitrus, and the pan-Niger Delta Forum under Clark’s command but led by Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien have also been on this same page, clamouring for what is proper.
Not to talk of the Ndigbo umbrella body, Ohanaeze which has remained staunch on the 2023 presidency being ceded to Ndigbo. Even from the pulpit, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, the Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, said in October that an Igbo becoming Nigeria’s leader in 2023 would amount to equity and justice. Other zones, he continued, have occupied the number one position except for the South East. He was speaking to a congregation of church women in Lagos. The respected clergyman is not driven by any particular interest of religion or tribe. After all, propelled Yoruba. Rather, he is propelled by truth, fairness, and the common good which enhances harmonious living.
Even the clerics are tired of our politicking when we ought to play the statesman and anxious to engender a new thinking and a new direction. To keep making justice infertile in our society in the name of politics is to keep breeding trouble and expecting to still sleep with two eyes closed. This is a huge burden that even the moral crusaders like the church are carrying and refusing to keep quiet when the truth is trampled upon. On several occasions, Nigeria has come close to political morass and in all, reason and fairness helped us to wriggle out of it.
The two latest of such challenges in this dispensation was in 1999 when the military rulers were at the crossroads over how to heal the political wound arising from the annulment of the June 1993 presidential elections. The leadership teleguided two main political parties to pick their candidates from the ethnic Yoruba, perceived rightly then to have been the most injured. Hence the settling for Olusegun Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Olu Falae of the then All Peoples Party, APP. The second occasion was when the sudden death in office of President Umaru Yar’Adua created a serious political logjam because of the drama of his death. As a way out of the deadlock, the doctrine of necessity was invented and entered into our political lexicon to be able to move the country forward. This bolekaja called Nigeria needs outof- the-box thinking, extraordinary thinking.
It needs an energetic and knowledgeable driver to move to the next destination. If justice and fairness are not guiding our principle in recruiting this driver, we might have to say adieu to the bolekaja and its destination. If the two main political parties, the ruling APC and the main opposition PDP pick their flag-bearers from the South East, the parties and the country will just be expressing a desire to have a harmonious and stress-free progressive Nigeria ready and willing to forge ahead. The peace and harmony that will greet the polity in such circumstances will be enduring.
The condition will be like what happens when things change inside you, it is bound to change around you also. After eight years of Buhari in the saddle, we don’t need any prophetic pronouncements to see that our land is troubled and need to come off it. Nigeria needs God’s grace to escape hitting the dyke. The bad blood is in the air for all to see, the discontent among the people, the depressed economy and the security necessities that right decisions are taken to be able to sustain our nationhood. This land desires peace and progress and the great mind Albert Einstein says, “Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.”
We cannot find this most cherished peace by living in denial that nothing will happen by keeping South East perpetually in subjugation probably because it is perceived as a dot in the circle that can do nothing. But elders always admonish us never to tell somebody that he can do nothing. That notion might be wrong. Great Mahatma Gandhi warns all of the consequences of an eye for an eye, it only makes the world blind. Let Nigeria listen to the cry of this old man called Clark and to the other voices of reason. The country might just be better off by doing so. May God help us.