King castle

King Herod and the Nigerian State

Lasisi Olagunju

By Lasisi Olagunju

In a month, it will be over for the year 2021; a new year will be born. The Bantu say that the road does not tell the traveler what to expect. Is this also true here? I do not think so. We have walked this winding road long enough to know its offerings. Politicians whose soft terms end in 2023 are already struggling with the hands of the clock. They think the days are not as long as they used to be. They have the impression that time is passing a little too quickly; they ask the day to slow down a bit. Those in power want to “keep” their privileges forever, even if the birds no longer chirp like birds. The sit-tight stragglers are in charge. Deadly kidnappings can continue to corrupt everywhere; banditry on the Kaduna-Abuja road can be routine as we saw last week; gasoline per liter can sell for a million naira; a bowl of garri can cost a gold bar. We do not care? The only song in power circles is about the upcoming elections, around 2023 and its allure of juicy autocracy. Who runs, who wins, who eats what and to what extent? It is the conception of democracy by our elites.
Thomas Jefferson, author of America’s Declaration of Independence, has a nice definition of what government is all about. He declared that “the concern for human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government”. Experience, he warned, “has shown that even under the best forms of government, those to whom power has been vested, with time and by slow operations, have perverted it into tyranny.” Now what is life? What is happiness? When does democracy become tyranny, and why would the air become so poisonous for the people? You heard them last week; the price of gasoline could increase in 2022. In its place, 40 million poor people will receive 5,000 naira per month. Nothing more. It is the value of every soul cataloged as miserable. What about the remaining 60 million poor? Or, hasn’t our president told us repeatedly that he would lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty? Why is it difficult for those who govern us to know that the ordinary man deserves life and happiness in their ordinary sense? Or, rather, why would a group of politicians be the only one to define what happiness means and the extent of that happiness that the people should enjoy?

This year, like last year, has very ironic smiles for the poor; next year may be drier. Even the rich poor who thought they were on a solid footing are faltering. Those who toil day and night die in misery as if they only breathed indolence (Sisé sisé dàbí le). And there is a power regime that benefits from it. It’s painful. How long should a bad government last? In a monarchy, long live the king; democracy sings just the opposite of Kabiyesi’s words. Keeping the thrones is why politicians wanted our democracy to be a monarchy with no end of term. And they work very hard to make and burn the effigy of freedom. They will fail. Our crossroads are not afraid of sacrifices. We will strengthen the light and fight the darkness. We know that today’s “Democrats” see role models in Untitled Kings. They want to rule forever even though their reigns are a curse on their people. There are countless kings of this color in history. One of them is Herod, king of Judea. Some historians consider him to be Herod the Great; all Abrahamic religions recognize him as King Herod who lived between 74 and 4 BC. After struggling in vain to be king until eternity, Herod saw his reign, in its austere ugliness, come to an end. He didn’t like what was about to happen but he was the king, he could always find a way around anything bad. He knew that the people hated and despised him and that he would dance on his grave. It must not happen. He thought of imprisoning and killing all the elites in all the villages. He felt that this would save him from the vile verdict of the people who awaited him at his death. He gathered all the great men all over Judea and locked them up. Then he said to his sister Salome: “I know that the Jews will welcome my death with foolish rejoicing; but I can be… sure of a magnificent funeral if you do as I tell you. These men in guard – as soon as I die kill them all… ”The lady nodded. But when he died, his sister abandoned him and his orders; she freed the prisoners as her own positive contribution to history. First, the people rejoice at the death of the king; then revolts and rebellions followed. This is the account of the ancient historian, Josephus, who lived between 37 and 100 AD.
Like Herod, politicians who build infrastructures of violence and suffering for their people have a date with history. Today’s men of power mutilate, imprison and even kill “enemies” and air the air to say that no one is dead. They have so much to learn from Herod and his post-power. I quoted Thomas Jefferson above. The well-being and well-being of people is the reason governments exist. Building golden castles and elephantine fantasies while bandits rule and people starve cannot be good governance. Nigerian politicians are plunging the nation into debt to build temples for their temptations; they borrow and spend the money of tomorrow for the madness of today. They build fancy hills and mountains out of nothing to the applause of the people. But it doesn’t work like that. As king of Judea, Herod also invested heavily in building and rebuilding the cities under him. History says he built a lot of great things but neglected the human content of politics and politics. He erected buildings while his people were bleeding. Geza Vermes, former professor emeritus of Jewish studies at the University of Oxford, wrote in his “The True Herod” that “Without a doubt, Herod was the greatest builder of the Holy Land, planning and overseeing the execution of palaces, fortresses, theaters, amphitheatres, ports and the whole city of Caesarea, and to crown them all, he organized the rebuilding of the Temple of Jerusalem… ”If he was the king of Nigeria today, liars would celebrate Herod online and offline as the architect of modern Nigeria. But history has its own standards, and they are pro-life and pro-people. And so, Herod is recorded as a wicked; he was a murderer who violently suppressed dissent, ordered and supervised the murder of many, including his own wife and children – all because he had power and wanted to permanently retain his throne of privilege.
Democracy kills, especially the Kabiyesi model that we practice. A beauty pageant for monkeys is an insult to elegance. That’s what liars do to us for this ugliness regime. We are told that this ugly titular monkey is more handsome than the rest. There is so much suffering in the city, but the Herods in government say they have done well and we should be proud of their achievement. They are Kabiyesi, they are above all questions; they only listen to the lies and the liars in their life. They are lost; the wisdom in people’s voices of silence makes no sense to them. If the world is cheating on you, never get it wrong. There is a Canute King in English folklore whose history teaches the powerful of today to “repent in dust and ashes” and embrace the truth. By cut and paste, I reproduce here the story as told by folklorist James Baldwin in his ‘Fifty Famous Stories Retold’. It was first published in 1896. The fascinating story of this king is here:
The great men and officers who surrounded King Canute always praised him.
“You are the greatest man who ever lived,” one would say.
Then another would say: “O king! there can never be another man as powerful as you.
And another would say, “Canine, there is nothing in the world that dares to disobey you.”
The king was a man of good sense, and he was very tired of hearing such foolish speeches.
One day he was by the sea and his officers were with him. They praised him, as they used to do. He thought that now he was going to teach them a lesson, so he ordered them to put their chairs down on the beach near the water’s edge.
“Am I the tallest man in the world? ” He asked.
“O king! They cried, “there is no one as powerful as you.”
“Do all things obey me? ” He asked.
“There is nothing that dares to disobey you, O king! ” they said. “The world bow down to you and honor you. “
“Will the sea obey me?” He asked; and he watched the little waves licking the sand at his feet.
The foolish officers were puzzled, but they did not dare to say “No”.
“Command it, O king! and he will obey, said one.
“Sea,” cried Canute, “I order you not to go any further! Waves, stop rolling, and dare not touch my feet!
But the tide is rising, as it always has. The water rose higher and higher. He climbed around the king’s chair and wet not only his feet, but also his robe. His officers stood around him, alarmed and wondering if he wasn’t mad.
So Canute took off his crown and threw it on the sand.
“I will never wear it again,” he said. “And you, my men, learn a lesson from what you have seen. There is only one King who is almighty; and it is he who dominates the sea, and holds the ocean in the hollow of his hand. It is he whom you must praise and serve above all others. End of the story.
Herod worked hard but he was not a Canute who knew he was not God. This is the reason for Herod’s entry into the balance sheet of history. The wisdom of the above story is also lacking in Nigeria. People are hungry, they are angry, they are sad and tired of everything. Those with wings to fly jump from Nigeria; those who can’t run are evaluating all kinds of desperate options. But dark-hearted and drunken courtiers everywhere declare our President, Governors and Governments, and the ruling parties as the best since 1914. Liars know the truth but they must eat. They know the truth never feeds the Nigerian king’s court. Liars dress naked sovereigns in the velvet of lies. Sometimes they win; always the king loses.
******
A MONDAY LINES book, the first in a series of ten essay books, should be ready this week. It is to mark the first ten years of this column. My editors are working hard to get past the November 30 deadline we agreed to. There will be updates on this. I thank everyone for the encouragement and love.
* Lasisi Olagunju an Editoe with Tribune wrote this originally for the medium.