I woke up this morning from my shelter-in-place in the US with two bad news. I heard the bad news that the Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Alhaji Abba Kyari is dead. The terse announcement I read from the Presidency said he died from Corona 19 virus. This is the enemy we the two billion people on earth are hunkering down from and trembling, lest its rapacious hands pierce through concrete and metal walls to grab at our throats.
Death by COVID-19 is a horrible death. It violently grabs you by the throat and chokes you and then your lungs, now emptied of oxygen, are filled up with waste products that throw you thrashing on your back with great pain as the internal organs are arrested and start to bleed and go comatose. Agonizing death follows with astonishing brutality. Covid19 kills you far away from your loved ones. They are prevented from holding your hands and listening to your last wishes and wiping the sweat of agony from your face. And nobody is to touch your corpse or breathe near it for fear of contagion. Death from coronavirus is brutal, wicked, violent and lonely. It is not the kind of death we to wish on our worst enemies.
The second bad news that grabbed me is the senseless gloating over the demise of one of us for whom the bell has tolled by some Nigerians. Yes, Abba Kyari is dead and if in life he was odious, wicked, malicious and had usurped our prerogatives; how does his dying ennoble the chaffers, scoffers and gloaters? This wickedness has crept over us and seems now to define who we are. We grovel, prostrate, and worship those who have mere passing power while secretly, we wish they were dead or incarcerated. And when they die of illness which we had no control over we let loose and dance and clap. This was how we worshipped Abacha, and groveled before Yar Adua and those others who occupy temporary power now. And when those leaders died we cavorted and danced toasting palm wine, champagne and what else?
My heartfelt sympathy goes to Abba Kyari’s family and to President Buhari for losing a most trusted relative and confidant of many years. Mr. President, I feel your pains and sorrow with you at this loss. I did not know Abba Kyari well. I knew mostly that he was hated. This hatred was visceral in some people. But I also know that the next chief of staff will also be hated. Hatred comes with the job description of the office he occupied. If you are chief of staff to the president or a governor and do not want to be hated, then you do not know your job. My perception of Kyari is that he was a brilliant mind who understood the nuances of power and welded power with ruthless efficiency according to the doctrines of President Buhari. But this does not matter now. Abba Kyari is best left with his maker who will give him a just recompense for his service on earth. May God be merciful.
It is midnight for Abba Kyari the late Chief of Staff. It is all over. Neither the sirens of unelected bureaucratic power, the fatness of bank accounts nor mounting estates and dynasties nor absence of these; matter anymore. This is life. It is short and a joke taken too far. It is vain. Yes it is mid-night, so we bid Abba Kyari a long midnight that shall see no dawn. But his mid-night bell is also timeously tolling for Nigeria because this is our midnight hour. We have wasted and plundered our country. We have refused to give our nation a vision for the midnight that passes on to dawn. We have built a country where inequality grows every day. We disdain the poor hapless citizens that prostrate and worship us the elite. We are pitiless thieves who see politics merely as the cash cow for more unearned wealth.
The famous Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard said: “ There comes a midnight hour when every one has to throw away his mask”. We have a military-contractor-political complex eating up Nigeria and masking as retired generals, businessmen and democrats in the day time. At night the masks are removed and all we see are desperate crooks. This is exactly what the Nigerian elite is. White washed sepulchers. They cover their rottenness with noise and flourish. They lie gratuitously. They smile without feeling and ruthlessly destroy our common patrimony to impoverish, miseducate, un-educate, and infect us to die. But they too die and all we have is a legacy of tribalism, corruption, bigotry and anomie.
No person knows his midnight hour more than President Mohammadu Buhari. In two of his recent Presidential addresses,on March 29th. and April,13th, the president overreached himself in being serious, concerned, compassionate and downright presidential. He warned us that the COVID-19 was “Not a joke. It is a matter of life and death.” This was five days before the death of his Chief of staff. In the 60 paragraph speech, President Buhari is another person. On paragraph 54, he said, “ As a result of this pandemic the world as we know it has changed. The way we interact with each other, conduct our business and trade, travel, educate our children and earn our livelihood will be different.” This is an Aha moment, for President Buhari. And I say Amen to that. But we need to also add: the way we treat our sick will also be different.
If the President is aware that this is Nigeria’s Midnight hour, then he should know that it is not just the world as we know it that has changed. Nigeria as he knew it and as we knew it has changed. The politicians whose power depended on hordes of applauses and cheerleaders had to hide from these crowds to survive. They were thinking. They are thinking: I hope, on the purpose of life and the nature of power and the meaningless of living on the acquisition of materials that will not be buried with us. Yes the president is right. The world as we know it is gone. When the pandemic is gone as surely it should; those that survive will see a new dawn after midnight. But we can only survive if we are prepared to throw away the masks of tribalism, corruption, insincerity, arrogance and inhumanity we have masked ourselves with as we hold the destiny of Nigerians in our hands. Let us be plain, deal honestly with love and compassion with each other. Living is a matter of life and death.
For President Buhari the mask has been ripped off. There is no longer Abba Kyari to blame!! Nigeria may no longer tolerate a president who outsources his presidential power to minions. Nigerians may not be docile and accept an erosion of our democracy which is nothing more than a thuggish contraption to win elections at all costs and then enter into bazaars where lawyers and judges auction power and become billionaires by inflicting on the populace criminals as their rulers. Nigerians will not accept a president who is merely aloof, a king whose lineage must be worshipped in order to garner the crumbs of deserved respect and rights of citizenships. We are not a monarchy. We are a republic. We are not conquered people we are all free citizens and deserve rights hallowed by the constitution.
Whether we agree with the president or not, a new world is emerging before our eyes. The old after birth may still cling to some nations, and other nations may refuse to get out of the womb incubated by the corona19 reality. For some nations, it might even be still birth. But the change we have been mocking in our political rallies has arrived. It is cataclysmic change. Globally the doomsday clock is set. If the world is not destroyed by nature like global warming, it could be destroyed by man made virus or by chemical warfare or radiation from nuclear wars or sheer negligent activity from those nations that harbor these weapons.
The time has come for the president and Nigerians all over the world to prepare for a new world order and a proper podium for Nigeria to stand in that order. We have been slaves of the world for too long. The epidemic maybe signaling the end to capitalism and the end to the western civilization as we know it. Epidemics end empires. Viruses change the course of human history and civilizations. It happened in the time of the Roman Empire. Black death of 1346-1353 AD changed the course of Europe with a mighty scourge. As a child I watched smallpox ravage my community. It was during the British colonial Nigeria. All the school children in Nigeria were vaccinated. We were British protected children. All of us over sixty can show you the scars on our left shoulders to see how we survived the deadly smallpox through government intervention. A public health policy that works with Nigerian scientists is the only option to stave the pandemics of the future when we have overcome COVID-19.
Smallpox changed the course of human history. It ravaged the American Indians who were infected by Europeans. The great Inca civilization in Mexico was obliterated. Smallpox was a bigger pandemic than ebola, and corona. It killed over 300 million people world wide. But it was overcome. The time has come to look beyond tribe and religion and our pockets, to build a truly inclusive diverse Nigeria before the midnight hour chimes. The time has come to examine more critically the western models that have left our citizens to the fury of market forces and to mercy of our greedy elite. The time has come to reject impunity from all the institutions that have failed to make Nigeria greater.
I sympathize with Mr. president on the death of his Chief of Staff and stand with him and all Nigerians to declare that at the stroke of midnight when the world is dreaming of change Nigerians should wake from slumber, unite and save the country. Intellectuals, the military, Christians, Moslems, Animists, herdsmen and farmers, politicians, and we the people; let us all arise to embrace our Nigerianess without shame and obliterate our petty divisions. We should uproot those that seek to enslave us and no longer take dictations from those who have fashioned their worlds to suit them. We will unfurl and uplift our banner with pride and stand firm solemn and proud while the minute hand is slowly ticking to midnight.