Nigeria: When the Powerhouse Withholds Power

[Article by Ayokunle Adeleye]

Yesterday saw me downcast, frustrated, tired of a duty I once
dutifully performed, and cherished. Behind my open heart is a swollen
hurt: I might have been wrong, but it is also wrong to state that I
was wrong without also stating that I was wronged. I am forced to ask
myself, Who decides right or wrong? Fundamental that it is, this is
one question that has boggled the hearts of man since he was created
(or came into existence, as my evolutionist friends would prefer that
I say). (Indeed, the major religions tell of the disobedience of the
first humans to a Creator, the Judge of right and wrong.)

A leader often has to decide who or what is right or wrong; yet, there
is often the question of whether the leader is right or wrong, in
essence or/and in judgement. Government systems have long been centred
about who deserves to decide right and wrong. Aristocracy,
bureaucracy, gerontocracy, plutocracy, technocracy, democracy; mankind
searched for the Responsible One. Who deserves to rule? the noble? the
chosen? the elderly? the rich? the learned? or the people? Democracy
is, in theory, ‘a government of the people, by the people and for the
people’; and is advocated in modern times for it supposedly gives ‘the
people’ a voice. But while modern tendencies favour democracy and its
‘the people’, they lack universality for the people are rarely one:
The majority prevails while the minority may, well, revolt. More often
than not, a minority is ‘the majority’; the closer one is to the
powerhouse, like the law of diffusion dictates, the more power one

The revolt. In recent past, the militias of the Niger Delta felt
distant from the powerhouse, neglected and marginalised. In response,
they abducted, killed and maimed. In recent times, the Boko Haram of
the North feel distant from the powerhouse. Only this time, they also
feel they have God’s backing. They seek attention, they seek audience,
only they terrorise a nation to be heard.

Granted, they have a plight, they have a right to be heard. The
problem however consists in their methodology. As the Yorubas say, It
is the finger that defaults that the king chops off. Bearing that in
mind, one is prompted to ask, Are the 935 persons killed before
January 20 the defaulters? Or, are the 186 killed during multiple bomb
attacks in Kano State on the said date the ‘powerhouse’ with whom the
Boko Haram have a reckoning? No! They are mostly the harmless
civilians who had no ties whatsoever to the powerhouse. Their killers
may feel strong indeed, but ‘to exert strength over the weak is
weakness in itself.’

The Boko Haram forget that the guillotine, while it might have been P.
G. Wodehouse’s cure for grey hair, is never the cure for the aching
head. (“There is only one cure for grey hair. It was invented by a
Frenchman. It is called the guillotine.” The Old Reliable, by P. G.
Wodehouse) They complain of unemployment like the rest of us are
employed. They complain of poverty like the rest of us are rich. If
Lagos State in the South-West is enviable and Delta State in the
South-South is admirable, it is not because they are close to ‘the
powerhouse,’ nay, it is because of their state governments. After all,
Aso Rock is in the North. I suppose the state and local governments in
the North are to be asked, as well as their people, for history tells
of how our Northern friends once rejected western education and such
modern advancements as vaccination. (The name ‘Boko Haram’ itself
literarily means ‘western education is forbidden.’) If knowledge is
power and yet they rejected knowledge; is it then any wonder that they
feel powerless in the westernised world that ours has become?

My revolt. As he is an unfair judge who denounces the one and ignores
the other, I shall not spare ‘the powerhouse.’ Dear Powerhouse, if
your power is seen to be withheld, it is definitely your fault. If, in
a democracy as we have, power is perceived to be concentrated at one
point than at the other, it is your flaw. If your subjects have to
resort to violence to get your attention, it is your blunder. What is
worse? Nigeria is in agony, and the naira, in shambles (even if you
don’t agree).

It is pitiable how many Nigerian graduates cannot defend their
certificates. It is it is deplorable how many Nigerian youths cannot
express themselves in our lingua franca passably, if not fluently. Our
educational system deteriorates by the year. (I wrote a tougher JAMB
exam in 2005 without a calculator and managed to score 288 unaided.
JAMB exams are simpler today and calculators are used, but today’s
student rarely scores as high. Not that I am a standard anyway.) Our
matriculation examination system is questionable, hence the need for
universities’ post-JAMB assessments. Our university accreditation
criteria remain ancient and ASUU (Academic Staff Union of
Universities) is yet on strike. It however is said that you have
continental ambitions; yet, charity begins at home. He is not a true
democrat who is ‘a ready statesman of the world, a friend of every
nation but his own.’ Alas, a man whose house is on fire does not chase

In line with the fairness I extolled at the outset, the Boko Haram may
be wrong, but they have also been wronged. To my agonised friends and
countrypeople I therefore say: Civilisation brought faster transport
and speedier communication, undoubtedly things we all desire. But it
also brought enlightenment. Enlightenment that a sect should not
terrorise a nation. Enlightenment that a sect must not enforce its
beliefs and convictions on another. Enlightenment that violence is
retrogressive, in the least. As a part does not truly hate that which
makes it whole, we love you. We feel your pains, we agonise with you;
we are not in a different Nigeria after all. Please drop your arms,
and harm us no longer; this is the voice of reason, to maintain your
poise is treason.

But. A student of forensic psychology (in the context of the relevance
of yesterday’s actions to today’s and tomorrow’s), I know that there
is more to the picture. Yes, they want attention; who doesn’t? But
when a group of individuals decide to terrorise a nation and threaten
its integrity, there is a lot unsaid; the flower dancing atop the
river has its drummer beneath the waters. The question therefore
remains, What really are they up to?

Religious sects have often been seen to play God, purportedly because
of their proclaimed proximity to Him. Hitler’s clergy declared his
rightness, but so did the Allied’s. Who then was right? In the fight
between the Ptolemaic heliocentric system of planetary motion and the
(Catholic) Church’s geocentric system for correctness, the famous
scientist, Galileo Galilei, eventually lost his life, placed under
house arrest (in consideration of his old age, he would have been
killed or so) for his staunch support for the former. It was a
question of who was right, and the Church subjugated him for it was
yet in power. Man has been to space and, even long before then, has
seen for himself that the sun is indeed at the centre of our solar
system; Galileo had been right. The lesson? Religion is not always
right; fanaticism is never right. It is indeed weakness to exert
strength over the weak (and the aged).

In light of that, if they are right who say the Boko Haram intend to
eliminate ‘the transgressors,’ ‘anyone not under what Allah has
willed,’ (the Boko Haram’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna
Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, meaning, People Committed to the Prophet’s
Teachings and Jihad) then the Boko Haram are in error for God Himself
would that men live in peace and harmony. In the spirit of the Civil
War days (which I undoubtedly missed), I urge, ‘the fight to keep
Nigeria one is one that must be won.’ Let us live together. Together,
we, the collective people of Nigeria, shall overcome. As our motto
reads on our coat of arms, ‘Unity and Faith Peace and Progress’; in
unity and faith shall we have peace and progress.

I remain yours, Ayk Midas Afowoolukoyasire, fellow Nigerian, author,
poet and student of The FOUR Generations: Why You Do the Things YOU
Do! from Author House UK Publishers and University Press Plc., Ibadan,
urging, they can’t kill us all for they won’t dare govern themselves
(they are not just civilised enough, you know).


Ayokunle Adeleye currently lives in Sagamu, Nigeria. His recent book, The Four Generations, is currently available for purchase on

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