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A love note for Christmas

By   /  January 29, 2014  /  No Comments

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Anytime I contemplate the crisis in Rivers State, I inescapably see the impish finger of love. In the miniature crisis of that oil-rich state, I see the vaster arc of the story of love not only in our history but the history of the world. A nation is nothing without the roles of its romances, especially among its political and military elite.
The bedroom, in its sultry and solitary silences of moaning and pillow talks, determines the public square whether it is a matter of poverty and wealth, war and peace, gods and bigotry. From the martial age of the gladiators to the digital ardour of the computer, we are bound by love. But this is not always sweet savour. Love stories, in their best, can be tragedies.
Perhaps that is why poet Geoffrey Chaucer crooned: “who is so foolish as a man in love?” Shakespeare calls it “wolvish-ravening lamb” in the saddest of all love stories, Romeo and Juliet.
In all our history, we see love stories if we peer deeper. We just witnessed the death of a failed romance with the passing of Nelson Mandela. The Madiba, who conquered the great army of prejudice and cruised into a history as a star among the pantheons, could not conquer the very person who kept his spirit alive in 27 years of captivity: Winnie, his love.
He came out, emboldened a race to freedom, taught a world the power of forgiveness, tore down walls of hate and fear, but it was sad to read his confession a few years after Robben Island that Winnie did not spent a night in his bedroom.
Yet, before he died, he did not blame the woman he divorced. They were physically apart, but he never knew the joy of life the way other men embraced it. His romance, purely political, belonged to the world and it had no blood or flesh in its content. Not that the love for Winnie was all sexual. He might have surmounted that. But its content was more vigorous, ineluctable and infinite. He could not grasp it with all the might of a lion that had become the Madiba.
So it is with all Nigerian stories. If Dame Jonathan did not have roots in Rivers State, and has not exhibited a proprietary attachment to Okrika, maybe Jonathan should not have fought so hard against the spirited Governor Rotimi Amaechi. Maybe if President Goodluck did not love his wife so much, he might not have allowed the gangster rage in the state. Also, some say maybe Timipre Sylva will be governor of his home state Bayelsa today, if Dame Jonathan did not show so much umbrage against the man.
We have seen Dame Jonathan speak with so coarse and authoritarian a pitch that few persons with an office backed by the constitution can. But with whose backing has she carried such reckless men as Wike and Bipi, if not with the understanding connivance of the man at the top? Take way the romance between them and peace will probably have found a way. Probably.
We cannot even forget that the name Nigeria was borne out of the romance between Flora Shaw and the first governor general of Nigeria, Lord Lugard. The lady, a fierce and influential columnist with The Times of London, suggested the name. That might not have happened in the board room of colonial power if she did not share the bedroom with the helmsman of the protectorates that became Nigeria.
We have read so much of the Nigeria civil war, and all we encounter are the gory passages of blood, bullets, ogbunigwe, hate and all the fierce follies of human ogre. Yet we can say that it all began with the crisis of the western region that pitted the grand, rimmed-spectacled Awo with the barb-tongued wit known as Akintola. While historians have besotted their tales with the ideological and ego dimensions of the male hubris, they leave aside the juicy interstices of romance. Few have documented the role of Faderera Akintola in prodding the premier to defy the party leader, Awolowo. Many stories have made the legend, including the one when she yanked the phone from her husband and spoke defiantly to Awolowo. She announced to the sage that they were in charge of the region and he should not hand orders to the premier her husband.
We know the western region crisis, with its ensuing state of emergency, snowballed to a national crisis. That propelled the five majors coup with its ethnic reverberation and its inexorable push into our war of brothers. Further back into history, was it not the love of Bayajida, the eponymous northern figure, that birthed some of the major cities of the north like Kano, Kaduna, Zaria, etc., the Hausa Bakwai and Banza Bakwai. One man’s romance sired a race.
When IBB was head of state, he created Delta State as a homage to his beautiful wife, Mariam. Even though Warri was a natural choice for capital, he chose his wife’s hometown Asaba. Interestingly, as narrated in Emma Okocha’s book, Blood on the Niger, Mariam’s father was killed by the federal troops in the pogrom of Igbos in the Midwest. IBB reportedly met her in those days.
If not for that romance, the role of first ladies may not have been elevated to what it is today with some doing well and others turning it into a platform for Jezebel’s acts. Major Debo Bashorun’s recent book, Honour For Sale, unearths how the first lady wielded powers that the husband in all his military majesty could not rein in.
And it is not in Nigeria alone that we have witnessed this as Mandela’s tale proves. Winston Churchill exploited his mother’s American roots to persuade the United States to help it out of the enveloping genius of Hitler’s army in the Second World War. “I have a latch key to the American heart,” growled Churchill. In that same war, the British royalty suffered a moral setback when one of their own, King Edward, confessed to Nazism and was forced to abdicate his throne.
We cannot forget as well that we might not have the Anglican Church today if King Henry did not want to divorce his wife for a Boleyn sister. England had to cut away from Rome, and all the stories of heroes and villains of that era with Thomas More, Cardinal Wolsey, etc., would not have happened. Plays like the Bolt’s A Man for all Seasons and the recent Booker Prize winning series by Hilary Mantel show how love stories never die. Mantel’s latest release, Bring Up the Bones, has come across as one of the best novels in recent times. Paris bred its own warm narrative with emperor Napoleon and his wife Josephine. Everyone except Napoleon thought she was beautiful, and he changed policies for her and even crowned her an empress.
In a multi-ethnic state like Nigeria, this tale is even more potent. The President, a Bayelsan, is married to a Riverian, and we see its consequence. It shows that love knows no boundary, and if it can help solder different peoples and states, it can also breed soldiers of hate. It is an asset we can use. If we look across the country today, a number of governors have such interconnected romances, either directly or not. Governor Suswan of Benue State has boasted about his Yoruba wife. Rotimi Amaechi has shown that his wife is from across the Niger. The ebullient Godswill Akpabio often reminds all that his wife is from Enugu State. The governor of example, Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, has often spoken of his wife’s Urhobo connection and an Igbo nephew. The urbane Delta State Governor Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan is Itsekiri with strong Edo and Urhobo pedigrees. Asiwaju Tinubu’s wife, Senator Remi Tinubu, is Itsekiri and Sylva’s wife Alayingi hails from Ibibio. Tatalo Alamu explained that part of Akintola so-called quisling attidue may come from a romance of his parents to have northern blood. So the western crisis may have partial roots in romances between the families of those who went to war.
All these are products of romances in quiet disinterested pasts. That is why all those who champion ethnic causes in this country should note that when they birth a boy or girl they are not sure whether they will be a Suswan with a Yoruba wife, or an Akintola with roots that reach far into the north. A child born is a gift to the world, and you cannot guarantee what winds of romance will catch them. This is a love not, readers, for the yuletide. Merry Christmas.

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  • Published: 5 years ago on January 29, 2014
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  • Last Modified: January 29, 2014 @ 10:08 am
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