This, no honest men will deny: Man has failed the world or the world has failed mankind … Then question further: What faiths and realms of values have controlled our earth till now! – W. Soyinka.
When nations begin to slide into darkness the indicators can be recognized by a few discerning people. Practically and visibly authorities meant to supply electricity fail in their duties but resort to fraudulent billing system, amidst many excuses. Public water taps are dry while vandalisation of public facilities are frequent occurrences; the use of dogs, horses and cattle feature as innovation in electoral and political processes, demanding huge expenditure to feed and colonise them.
In a state of helplessness and as insecurity and crime waves become unbearable, the masses can rise to protect themselves or attack those they suspect to be responsible for their agonies. That was what happened in Owerri, capital of Imo State on Tuesday, September 24, 1996, when a group of irate youths numbering over 50,000 took to the streets. They burnt down and destroyed property belonging to people suspected to be ritual killers and rich criminals.
There were claims that dried headless human body was found in one of the houses destroyed, 16 graves of other decomposing bodies and a “pot of human-flesh pepper soup” in a place of worship. After that display of fury and the “Otokoto saga”, sanity returned to Imo State, with regards to ritual killing and the display of obscene wealth in public. Prophets rose up here and there to declare the coming of a theocracy or a government set up by God.
A sad aspect of media evangelism and proselylisation of the coming of a theocracy was the media announcements of “a man of God coming to town in his private jet”, so that souls in agony could come for salvation. At the end of such salvation crusades emphasis would be placed on the fact that “God loves cheerful givers”, with some business tycoons and politicians “sowing seeds” with their cars and houses. So began the born-again phenomenon and dreams of a theocracy after the end of the Nigerian Civil War.
Commonest means of building up private empires and enormous wealth include politics, business and religion. Wealth made through business is usually invested in the acquisition of political power and “sowing of seeds” in churches, for more of God’s blessings. And wealth made through politics is recycled and invested in the consolidation of business, political and religious empires.
Gradual drift into a state of darkness is usually accompanied by great expectation, euphoria, glamourisation of wealth and dreams of a new dawn. However, what is lacking in such dreams is the fact that artificial changes is usually short-lived. With a continued distortion and perversion of democracy, Oligarchy steps in, which is characterized by an accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few powerful people. The masses languish in poverty, hunger and squalour. Intimidation follows.
Where there is a perversion of justice and the undermining of the rule of law, there is a loss of confidence in social institutions and their ability to protect the rights of the masses. Usually in such a state, the common opium of the masses comes into service, with dreams of intervention and salvation from Above. With an erosion of cherished human values, family relationships, discipline and politeness diminish. People become quite obtuse, gross and conceited such that it become quite difficult to pick out decent people, fit to handle public affairs. Public services are managed by clever schemers.
Those who manage public affairs spend more time learning the art of defending and protecting the statuesque and myopic policies than they do in ministering to the well-being of the masses. Like the legendary Ali Baba and his forty thieves, public finances and resources are shared rather than managed with prudence and justice.
The phenomenon of corruption and other social vices are the advanced stage of the state of darkness such that spurious projects and ideas can be floated for the purpose of perfecting some dark deals.
Dreams of change in an existing sad state of affairs and culminating in a theocracy or millennium, are quite legitimate aspirations. What should be borne in mind is the fact that no one is allowed to climb to a higher step when there are duties and responsibilities left undone on the current or previous steps. Unbridled dreams of a utopia without doing aright what should be done often lead to militancy and violence in the pursuit of hollow reformation, a theocracy or messianic agenda that hardly hold any water.
Pursuit of messianic agenda by bigots and militants usually plunge nations into greater darkness and bloodshed.
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer, Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.