This paper attempts reading Ola Rotimi’s The Gods are not to blame against the backdrop of the Nigerian dilemma in the contemporary times. The play first performed in the year 1968, in the heat of the Nigerian civil war is still relevant today. Many scholars viewed the work as a transplantation of Sophocle’s Oedipus Rex and underplay its powerful political message to the nascent Nigerian political class then and now. The paper examined the role of Odewale in the shaping of the Destiny of his society and how albeit with stint of tyranny champions the welfare of the state, taking blames for the decadence and the breakdown of law and cosmic order when found culpable. On the other hand, the contemporary Nigerian leaders are antithetical of Odewale, blame-games and outright refusal to be accountable, or step-down when found wanting; misappropriation,mismanagement of state and human resources are institutionalized on local and national scale. The paper above all, adumbrated some of the conundrums of Nigeria and proffered a number of useful ways by which the Odewale examples could be integrated into the Nigerian political morality, and the pitfalls to be avoided in a bid to move ahead into the state dreamt of on the 1st of October, 1960.
Key Words: Conundrum, Nigeria, image, leadership, responsibility
Introduction/Background to the Study
The function of the writer in a postcolonial society has been debated by many African and non African scholars and critics. The writer’s function is however, established by Chinua Achebe in a number of scholarly articles. Before his demise in 2013, he wrote a controversial book, which was his last titled: There was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra. He chronicled the history of the emergence of African literature and the contribution of the writers of his age to the birth of a kind of literature that is different from other kinds in syntax, semantics, narrative structure and thematic thrust. The writer to him is the conscience of his society. He assumes the role of a teacher, who always reminds his society where the rain began to beat them. Aside from fighting against colonialism, the writer has to fight all neocolonial and postcolonial inanities that characterized the Nigerian world.
The list of the trouble with Nigeria keeps inflating on a daily basis. Right now, Boko Haram and militancy are amongst the major challenges bedeviling Nigeria. So far, the ruling class is searching for solution to the debacle. The late Nigerian President, Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua was able to ameliorate the Niger-Delta militancy by the introduction of amnesty. The militants took up arms against the state because they felt their lands were being plundered without appropriate compensation. The region produces the wealth of the nation but it wallows in abject social and mental poverty. Chris Ajaero and Godfrey Azubike in their reportage: “Is the JTF Losing the Niger-Delta War,” captured the carnages left behind by the dreaded Niger Delta militants: “the militants appear to have upper hand,” (14) because they are familiar with the creeks and the meshy terrains of the Delta area. Since their grievance against the state is fueled by their disillusionment, they fight without taking note of the damages being done against their own people and society.
Corruption in Nigeria cannot be codified because it manifests itself in diverse forms. The creation of EFCC, ICPC and other anti-graft agencies by the government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who ruled from 1999 – 2007 helped in giving Nigerians a hazy picture of corruption and corrupt political officials. A keen look at the headlines of the Nigerian dailies reveals that the Nigerian media is a media of lamentation because the corrupt nature of the ruling class and state officials makes the media which is the voice of the people to keep lamenting on a daily basis. Some headlines of Newswatch reads: “War over #13 Billion Police Fund,” (0ctober 1, 2007), “Sam Edeh in Fresh #500 million Scandal,” (August 25, 2008), “Try OBJ for Graft – Ojukwu,” (July 30, 2007), “Fire-for-fire: Militant Dare JTF,” (September 29, 2008), “ Dirty Deal: Reps Gun for Bankole over #2.4 Billion Car Scam,” (September 22, 2008), “Bad Times for Ex-Governors,” (July 28, 2008), “The Plot to Bomb Nigeria, Fact or Fiction,” (April 20, 2009), “Jos Killing: The Forces Behind the Crisis,” (December 15, 2008), “Theft of NERC Billions: Exclusive Details,” (March 16, 2009). These headlines, from 2008 – 2009 as seen above show how government officials steal and loot the state treasury and the resultant rise in terrorism and militancy. The trend continues to this day. To this end, Nigeria means nothing to many Nigerians, especially the ruling class. Many see it as a benevolent cake so they aspire to have their own share of it and nothing else. Okey Ndibe captures this sentiment in his article: “Biafra, The Ostrich Mentality and Nigeria’s Tragedy,” thus:
It is no surprise that the metaphor of the “national cake” was a central, if not dominant, part of the Nigerian discourse. In the literature, journalism and politics of the country, each group exhibited an obsession with cornering its own “share of the national cake.” Nigeria made sense to Nigerians only as a banquet, a delectable dish, as something to be consumed.
The desire for materialism and the national cake plunges the country into a situation where those trusted with the leadership of the country remained uninspiring and cogs in the wheels of the nation’s development leading to disillusionment, anger and a sense of hopelessness on the side of the followers. In this light, Ndibe further reiterate succinctly that:
Life in Nigeria was marked by strife and disillusionment and mutual distrust and—above all—a pathological brand of competitiveness. Forced to belong within a space that had no spirit-lifting narrative, no pathos or inspiring ideal to impart, Nigerians became fascinated with “eating” the flesh of their hollow bequest unto death.
The specter of disillusionment looms over the country. Those who have been indicted in one way or another remained freemen. The absence of justice and punishment traumatizes the psyche of intellectuals as well as rational Nigerians. For instance, the former Senator, Demije Bankole was indicted in the 2.4 billion naira car scandal. He was detained and impeached but to this day, Nigerians do not know what happened to the loot or the looter. Nuhu Ribadu once says that: “more than 380 billion has either been stolen or wasted by Nigerian government since independence in 1960.” (BBC) Some Nigerian leaders indicted of corrupt practices while in office include “Alamieseyeigha, Ibori,Turaki, Nnamani, Bafarawa, Igbenedion, Kalu, Odili, and Fayose” (12 – 17). The money looted by these state officials is in the billions. James Ibori is renowned for looting 9.2 billion naira, others include: Peter Odili, Orji Uzor Kalu, looted 5 billion naira, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, 12 billion USD, Saminu Turaki, 36 billion naira, Sani Abacha, billions of naira, Tony Ananih, Chimaroke Nnamani, 5.3 billion naira, Ayo Fayose, 1.2 billion naira, etc.
Lack of justice in the judiciary makes these corrupt state officials freemen today and perhaps forever. This trend leads to social degeneration, moral degradation, terrorism, religious fanaticism and violence. Okpanachi Anthony observes in his “Terrorists’ Activities in Nigeria and National Development” that:
One of the causes of terrorism is the prevalence of corruption. Corruption causes the leakages of power, undermines security, and weakens leadership at all levels of human administration. As corruption increases, insecurity will become worse. (89)
Nigeria is seen by Nigerians and non Nigerians as a country richly endowed with human and natural resources. Ojukwu in an interview observes that: “Nigeria is a country blessed by the almighty with so many assets,” but the major deficiency is parochialism “God did entrust with Nigeria is shortsightedness, short vision.” (23) Nigerian leaders to him lack the vision to inspire, motivate and lead the country to its nirvana. There is thus, a gradual decline in the condition of health of the state as a result of the poverty bedeviling the populace. Bala Abu did says that:
We are a nation of poor people. Our roads are in terrible conditions; our educational system has virtually collapsed due to many years of neglect; industries are dying and un-employment has reached intolerable levels. Politically, we are still in the laboratory trying our hands on an experiment. Elections are still a constant source of conflict and their results, in most cases, contradict the wishes of voters as expressed through the ballots. The problems are legion and it is sad. (12)
Our leaders are the cause of our plights and problems as a country. They encourage and fan the flames of anarchy, tribal bigotry and religious fanaticism to suit certain political and selfish ends. But the irony of the whole thing is that they keep looking elsewhere, that is, outside without looking inward. Nevertheless, the way forward, however, is expedient at this juncture. In this light, the text, The Gods are not to Blame is examined and the Odewale methods through which he solved his state’s predicaments.