“Chi” in Igbo is a person’s personal God or Spirit. It is believed, in Igboland, that when a person desires something, he goes for it and his Chi ensures his success in getting that thing. It is also believed that a person cannot challenge his personal Chi. Okonkwo, the tragic hero in Chinua Achebe’s evergreen epic, “Things Fall Apart,” made it clear that no one can challenge his Chi to a wrestling contest, or to a personal duel. It is self-devouring.
One of the major themes that runs though the entire gamut of “Things Fall Apart” is the masculinity of the average Umuofia man (like Okonkwo), who, as a born warrior, must never display traits of an “efulefu” (“yeye” man, or a nobody), or of an “agbala” (woman). It is believed that a person’s Chi controls his destiny, whether bad or good fortune. Thus, the Igbo concept of “Chi”, “Chineke” and “Chukwu”, respectively, mean “spirit”, “belief in supreme beneficent source of creation”, and “belief in a supreme spirit or world over-soul”. Literally, “Chukwu” or “Chi-Ukwu” means “Great Chi”. It was because of Okonkwo’s great abhorrence for dying without honours like Unoka, his father (a very lazy and weak man), that he killed himself by committing suicide. He could not tolerate the infiltration of his once peaceful community by the Christian white man. Thereafter, the centre could no longer hold as “things fell apart”. Okonkwu’s tragedy (committing suicide and being taken to the evil forest for burial), reminds one of great tragedies of history. Remember the “Bacchae” by Euripedes (5th century BC); “Hamlet”, “Julius Caesar”, “Romeo and Juliet, “Macbeth”, “King Lear” and “Othelo”, all by legendary William Shakespeare? Don’t forget “Oedipus Rex” (The Theban plays), by Sophocles. “The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald; “Antigone,” by Sophocles, “Samson Aginistes,” by John Milton; and, coming nearer home, Ola Rotimi’s “The Gods Are Not to Blame”.
The “Chi” in Chibok and Dapchi
There is a curious similitude and parallelism between a “Chi” controlling the life of a person, and the “Chi” that appears in Bok and Dap, in Chibok and Dapchi. They both speak of destiny, of fate – the inexorable development of events outside a person’s control, usually regarded as pre-determined by a super-natural power. This is also called “Deux ex machina” (god in the machine); meaning, a contrivance or divine intervention. This is the scenario that has just played out in Dapchi. The “Chi” in Chibok and the “Chi” in Dapchi have something in common – abduction of innocent schoolgirls by Boko Haram. From their schools. In the night. In the North East.
In his response, President Muhammadu Buhari described the incident as a “national disaster”, promising that his government would do its best to ensure that every missing girl is found.
But in a series of tweets, Isha Sesay, a CNN journalist, who had reported extensively on the 2014 Chibok girls abduction, disagreed. She said Buhari’s description was an “understatement”.
“Nigeria’s President Buhari calls abduction of Dapchi Girls “a national disaster.” That’s an understatement – it’s a national disgrace. More girls taken – again??”
Sesay continued her tweets:
“I want to live in a world where the lives of the Dapchi Girls are held to be just as important as those of kids in other places. A world where everyone is talking about schoolgirls being stolen by terrorists. Is that too much to ask? Nigeria Yobe Chibok Girls.”
Chibok and Dapchi: Six and half a dozen
Chibok and Dapchi appear to be the same six and half a dozen; the same Hamlet and the Prince of Denmark.
Let us look at the scenario of how history just repeated itself in the Dapchi incident. What goes around, it is said, comes around. On the night of 14th – 15th April, 2014, 276 girls were abducted by Boko Haram from Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State. Over 100 have not been found till date. Some have since become mothers. The whereabout of others, unknown. The abduction occurred exactly one year to the 2015 presidential election. The issue was used strindently by the then APC opposition party to caricature, ridicule and trounce GEJ and PDP at the polls. Four years later, the same Boko Haram, which was said to have been so “degraded” and so “technically defeated” by December 2016, that only a “mop-up operation” for the remnants of the dregs was necessary, has now daringly reenacted history. They have abducted at least 100 schoolgirls yet from another Government Girls Secondary School, this time in Dapchi, Bursari LGA, Yobe State.
Both the Chibok and Dapchi abductions happened one year to both the presidential elections of 2015 and 2019, respectively. The abductions were carried out by the same Boko Haram. The same North East geopolitical zone is involved. Borno and Yobe are neighouring states. Both national calamities took place in the night. Both cases involved Government Girls Secondary Schools. The captives are all girls. The political parties tackling each other over the abduction are the same: the then ruling PDP and APC (which was then in opposition) and now at the driver’s seat. The same confusion, tension, cover-ups, suspense, fear, tears, misstatements, lies, denials, anger, national uproar. The Yobe State governor, Ibrahim Gaidam is in the eye of the storm, as was the Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima. He has blamed the military for withdrawing troops from Dapchi area, thus rendering it vulnerable. The Nigerian Army, while admitting the redeployment of troops from Dapchi area shortly before the abduction, however, averred that it “handed over the security of the area to the Nigeria Police”. The police shouts foul, blue murder. In a personally signed statement, the Yobe State Commission of Police, Sumonu Abdulmaliki, said the Army neither handed over any Dapchi location to it, nor informed him of its withdrawal from the area. But, wait a moment. Is this not the same Boko Haram that had been so “beaten” and so “degraded” to a pulp that it had been rendered comatose? Has it suddenly resurrected, like a phoenix from its ashes? What happened to the “clearance of Sambisa forest” and the “mop-up operation”?
Is this roving “Chi” out to serve on the APC, the same bitter pill the APC had served on PDP? Is this the law of Karma or retribution? Is it nemesis at work? Is that why there is turbulence and continuous internal schism within the ruling party, with its dramatis personae fighting so hard to self-destruct and implode? Even PDP that was said to be “clueless” (events have proved this wrong), did not engage in this self-immolatory game of hemorrhaging.
When Chibok girls were abducted under the PDP government, the then opposition APC tormented the ruling PDP, describing GEJ as “clueless” and “insensitive” for not physically going to Chibok to commiserate with the families. We cannot all suffer collective amnesia. In the Dapchi case, I have been waiting in vain to see Mr. President fly there physically to show the “change” mantra, by doing what PDP and GEJ failed to do. All I have seen are some ministers visiting the town. Just like in GEJ’s time! And APC is holding meetings with PMB in this trying period!
So, why is it not possible for Gaidam to also blame PMB in the same way Shettima of Borno State ceaselessly blamed GEJ? Why “pass the buck”, which Harry Truman (former US President) once famously said “stops here”? This meant the President made the decisions and also accepted ultimate responsibility for those decisions. Truman kept the sign on his desk in the Oval Office. I have one each on my tables in all my offices. For sure, PMB, unlike GEJ, is a trained military officer, a former military Head of State. The buck looks for him more. He is, by virtue of Section 218 of the 1999 Constitution, “the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation”, and this “shall include power to determine the operational use of the armed forces of the federation”; and the “power to appoint the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Chief of Air Staff and heads of any other branches of the armed forces of the federation as established by an Act of the National Assembly.”
Nass and INEC: Who blinks first?
The 1999 Constitution, the Electoral Act, 2010, and INEC Rules and Regulations constitute the legal framework, which regulates our electoral process. Provisions of these deal with the right to associate, vote, form political parties, registration of voters, election day procedures, dispute resolution, etc.
Undoubtedly, the reordered 2019 election sequence has generated much furore, with many arguing that the reordering was targeted at PMB and that the National Assembly does not have the power to reorder the format of elections, as it is the exclusive preserve of the INEC. But, is this correct? No.
The INEC had in its time table released last year, placed the presidential and National Assembly elections first before the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections. But the NASS demurred. It has adopted the reordered sequence of the 2019 general elections, by placing the conduct of the presidential election last on the list of elections to be conducted by the INEC next year.
With this amendment, election into the National Assembly will hold first, followed by gubernatorial and state assembly polls. The presidential election, which usually comes first, will now hold last.
Germane to the provisions of the law dealing with the sequence of elections are Section 76(1) of the 1999 Constitution, which provides that “elections to each House of the National Assembly shall be held on a date to be appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission”.
Section 132 (1) of the Constitution further states: “An election to the office of the President shall be held on a date to be appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission”, while Section 178 (1) provides that “an election to the office of governor of a state shall be held on a date to be appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission”.
True, INEC has the power to organize elections and fix “a date”, but not the sequence, a function of a NASS Act. Its date must fall within the sequence.
The NASS can amend the existing Section 25, sub-section 1 and 2 of PART IV of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended in 2011, which had placed Senate and House of Representatives elections before the presidential election. It is, therefore, right to say that the National Assembly acted within its constitutional responsibility and mandate, as provided for by Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution, when it ordered a new sequence to be adopted towards the 2019 general election.
The NASS may have done it for selfish reasons, or self-preservation. But, legally and constitutionally speaking, it has the power so to do. After all, the smaller masquerades dance first into the playground before the mother Odogwu masquerade. I agree with the NASS reorganization of the sequence, to prevent a band wagon effect and make whoever will emerge as President work very hard by campaigning in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria.
Thought for the week
“I said the kidnapping is a crime. I have the right to speak about the crime done against me. They didn’t like me to speak about this crime. So I decided to reveal it to the public”. (Mordechai Vanunu).