By Sunny Awhefeada
I am not in a position to know or understand why music maestro, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, sang “double wahala for dead body”. Most Nigerians who listened to the song when it first hit the airwaves must have enjoyed its aesthetic enchantment as depicted in the words, rhythm and overall sound effect. The satirical import would have also elicited nods and put smiles on the faces of the listeners as Fela hollered with the saxophone blaring away. The remarkable and unforgettable track certainly enriched the repertoire of yabis which is the street code for satirical barbs. As the song rolls on one hears two striking and shocking lines “dead body get accident” and “double wahala for dead body and the owner of dead body”. Wahala means trouble and “dead body” refers to a corpse and one wonders how a corpse lying lifeless and unconscious of the world around it would be troubled or how an immobile lifeless corpse would “get accident”. But that was Fela, master of metaphor and symbolism whose music not only approximates all of Nigeria’s post-Civil War history, but also serves as the barometer to gauge the moral status of our private and public lives. Fela was not just a musician. He was a poet, prophet, philosopher and more. His courage was contagious. He spoke truth to power and never hesitated to point fingers at the king when he farted. He was a gadfly who prevented the oppressors from sleeping. Ask Obasanjo. Ask Danjuma. But Fela paid dearly. He captured the price he paid in “dem kill my mama” after Danjuma’s soldiers killed his mother.
What Fela envisaged and encapsulated in his song decades ago played out last week when a corpse being conveyed in an ambulance from Lagos to Enugu was attacked by kidnappers in Benin! The younger brother of the deceased was abducted, the driver of another vehicle was killed, the ambulance driver managed to escape after the vehicle fell into a ditch. What can better explain the scenario if not Fela’s lyrical lines “double wahala for dead body and the owner of dead body” and “dead body get accident”? The soulless kidnappers went on to ask the family to pay a ransom of five million naira for the abducted brother. When I first saw the pictures and the story in the social media I glossed over it thinking that it was one of those salacious and poorly imagined stories. Then the story made it into newspapers and my eyes dilated as I read through and asking “can this be true”? As I dropped the paper and heaved it dawned on me that ours has become a nation without a soul!
Yes, we have degenerated into a soulless, callous and unfeeling nation. We have lost the essence of our humanity and rationality has taken flight. The marauders seem not to be satisfied with killing the living. They are now adding the dead to the list of those to be attacked and “killed”. A case of “killing the dead”. It is almost unthinking that such a sacrilege would happen, but Fela, the visionary, saw it long long ago. What happened was tantamount to an absurdity of the most sacrilegious type. What could have been responsible for such an inhuman action? Are the kidnappers human beings? Do they think or feel? Do they have families? Do they subscribe to any creed or religion? The queries are legion! How did Nigeria come to this sorry pass worse than Thomas Hobbes’ “short, nasty and brutish” state of nature? Corpses had been hijacked in the past for ostensible reasons, but not attacking it and abducting the mourner who is conveying it and then demanding for ransom from a grieving family. Will the burial still hold as scheduled? What about the preparations, guests and other things lined up? What about the matter of the deceased resting in peace and the family coming to closure after the burial? What about the safety of the abducted? What about the other driver that was shot dead by the kidnappers? Everything must now be in abeyance.
What we are experiencing reads like the revenge of the poor against the state. Unfortunately, those perpetrating the onslaught do not differentiate between their oppressors and their own fellow victims. They are just desperate to strike and get even with society. The ruling class programmed Nigeria to fail. And what we are suffering at the moment is the sum total of the consequences of that failure. Every day brings us stories of gruesome deaths orchestrated by the failure of the state. Everybody is a casualty, the rich and the poor; the powerful and the powerless; as well as the young and the old. J. P. Clark was right, “we are all casualties”.
The contortion of the Nigerian soul reflects an acute failure of leadership which has been the bane of Nigeria. The ruling class, ever selfish, greedy and divisive, undid itself thinking that impoverishing the people was the only way to hold them down. The ruling class invested in itself and allowed the nation to drift. They transferred our commonwealth to build other places to which they run and luxuriate, while leaving our fatherland as a festering squalor without opportunities for the people. They abandoned the education sector and killed our industries. They degraded our rural communities and turned our urban centres into hovels. Those children that had no schools to attend, the lucky ones that went to school, but now had no jobs or opportunities for self-fulfillment now constitute the army of outlaws wrecking Nigeria.
So much has been said about insecurity and the Fulani/Herdsmen terrorists. So much has been said about Boko Haram, bandits, cultists and other criminal gangs. They are thriving and holding the nation to ransom because of the failure of state. Government is negligent and it has embraced the tendency to live in self-denial. Government and its agencies have been badly compromised to the point of irreversibility. Government and the security agencies have recorded too many failures, but have resorted to telling lies about “technically degrading” Boko Haram and other criminal elements. The truth is that Nigeria has been captured by bandits. And the bandits manifest in different ways. The three arms of government namely; the executhieves, legislooters and judisharing, have among them pen-bandits who are daily looting our heirloom and laying our country to waste. The bandits are not only the aforementioned. The doctors, lawyers, professors, teachers, civil servants, contractors and others who extort, receive bribes, engage in batter or pilfer or make life difficult for others number among the bandits and they are very many.
Another disturbing news item about a human milk factory in Abuja just popped up. Teenage girls were abducted, raped, impregnated, delivered of their babies and their breast milk was extracted for industrial and commercial purpose with all the stages captured on video! How wicked and soulless! And what will the Nigerian state do to the perpetrators of this evil? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Money will change hands between the perpetrators and security agents, a fat envelope will also be sent to the judge or magistrate and the matter will die a natural death unlike the “dead body”. Then the evil men and women will carry on with business as usual. And Nigeria’s soul continues to suffer further attenuation. Nigeria does not punish infraction. That is why all around us is chaos and anarchy.