Then a year opens with sobriety, it sometimes portends a glum ending. But what a better way to start than with humour, and we had that with two important events. The first was the appointment of board chairpersons and members. Those who flayed Buhari for being mister Go-slow had to shut their lips. The man delivered with over a thousand names. They shut their lips with a sort of laughter leaking out like fart of the corner of their mouths.
The critics had nothing to say except to thank him for also humouring them with significant features. One was good news. Some persons became chairpersons of more than one board or even members of more than one board. This differentiates this government from that of Jonathan a few years ago. When Jonathan opened the year with double fuel price increase, some hailed it as double portion. It was snide humour. They rang up the Christian lingo. Everyting na double-double. No one was laughing, except the marketers and insiders of the government on the take in the new largesse.
It was back-handed humour, devastating, anti-democratic, cynical. Now, it is a different kind of double-double. This time the people were spared that back-handed odium. The double portion belongs to a few, those on the board. The rest of us are not on board yet. Even though in democracy, all should benefit, at least some people are getting their double, double. The rest of us are awaiting the double, double, although we are seeing such in the cost of living.
The other beneficiaries are the dead. Democracy is not only about the living. It is for everyone, whether alive or not, so we can embrace the dead as bosses. When Jesus was buried, some women went to the grave to look for him on the third day, and the angel appeared and asked: “why seek you the living among the dead?”
Usually, no one goes to the cemetery to wake up the dead, but to bury them. Except of course, we want to do some miracles. So, it has happened, we have not sought the dead among the living. We have actually woken them up. Senegalese Poet Leopold Senghor would be ashamed of his line, “O dead who have always refused to die.” In this case, they died and were spirited them out of their graves.
The dead are always with us. The past is not past. This is a new version of zombie. Not the one Fela bequeathed. The Abami eda gave us a foolish, sheepish toady, following after every instruction. These ones heard the voice and they were going to be ogas.
We should not pretend we have not had zombies in office. They are sometimes called ghosts, or ghost workers. They occupy positions and only appear at the end of the month or other special occasions where largesse flows. They get salaries, allowances, even travel to the United States, even though no immigration documents embrace them. How can you document a ghost on an aeroplane. The government pays for the airfares and hotels, but that is it.
It was so in Lagos until Asiwaju Bola Tinubu became governor and audited the system. When the government called for all the ghosts who did not come physically to get their salaries, the ghosts or the dead shrank back to their cemeteries. So the living were found among the dead until the audit. Hence Buhari was angry and he wants the dead to be sent back to their graves. They have been in limbo.
The last feature was an act of generosity. While party faithful were waiting to be appointed, the list contained some PDP chieftains and sympathisers. Loyalty is sometimes not as important as perfidy, especially if you like one or two of the outsiders. If you do good to those that are good to you, you don’t show love, said Jesus. Maybe that is why those who suffered for the party should take a back seat and let the enemies enjoy a little. That is the quality of mercy, which as Shakespeare said, “droppeth like a gentle rain upon the place beneath.”
The other new year gift was the president’s speech. It said many things, but we must say from the tone that it appears he just was elected six months ago. I make that deduction from the way he started listing plans about railways and power and agriculture, etc. But the most important part was that we should focus on process rather than structure. I blame the speechwriters only a little. No one should be too worried about those lines.
The speechwriters who wrote against restructuring did not understand the history of structure in politics and governance. So, I say, Nigerians should forgive the writers for they know not what they write.
The idea of structure in political iconology became serious in middle 20th century with a term called structuralism, when French philosophers defined it as “structure is more important than function.” With Claude Levi- Straus leading the way, it became championed by what historians call the gang of four, Jacques Derida, Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes. They showed so much fidelity to structure that they exposed the imperfection. A new movement called Post-structuralism followed and it showed that even within a function – like a process – is a structure. That is, there are many structures as there are functions. A structure is not dead. A process is a function, so there can be many processes. Those familiar with Hegelian dialectics understand why even sociologists and political scientists believe that structuralism is now an intellectual dinosaur and anachronism. So, if the speechwriters called for process then it means they are asking us to interrogate the structure.
To call for process in that speech is to commit a contradiction of questioning the present structure. A process is dynamic. That means the structure is also dynamic. Structuralism has been sentenced to death by intellectuals as rigid and ahistorical. Hence another French philosopher Jean Piaget said: “there exists no structure without construction.” Any structure that is experiencing construction is going through function or processes and is therefore, being restructured. Without knowing it, the speech writers made the president to call for restructuring. Chikena.