First of all, let us quickly get ex-dictator, ex-President, General Olusegun Obasanjo, retired, out of the way. We are only interested in the physics, not the physiognomy, of power, as it were. That is, we have no opinions on Obasanjo as a person, as we have more serious matters on our to-do list. Our interests are in the forces that play Obasanjo and that play through Obasanjo. For us, Obasanjo, like every other Caesar, is a mere historical placeholder.
The point is important, because we are about to quote Obasanjo. But that is only in his capacity as an unwilling or willing instrument of forces he may or may not have understood or even been briefed on. Perhaps, for elucidation of this crucial difference, our dear and glorious readers may make reach for Matthew 26:24.
Anyway, here is Obasanjo on ‘tape’:
“Like I have told you, I learn in every situation. Even in prison, I called the 419 boys to come and teach me their tactics, just to learn. I think I love Nigeria and humanity…” https://www.thecable.ng/extra-i-learnt-419-tactics-in-prison-says-obasanjo
Immediately we read this, it was like one has been hit by an ancient and more virulent strain of coronavirus. Is it possible, one wondered, that the old general does not know that god is dead, and that there is blood on his hands? Is it possible the general does not know that coups are the highest forms of 419, the finest evolutions of 419, and that the two are one genus? Is it possible he is not aware it is 419ners who should be learning and enriching their ways and means from coup-makers? Is it possible…?
It was at this point that it dawned on us that despite the near universal cant that Nigeria’s problem is leadership, the truth is otherwise. Nigeria is ravaged by populist and generalized ignorance. So, Nigerians perish for want of self-knowledge, not leadership.
Perhaps, there is no greater relief of this ravaging ignorance than that the separate classifications or taxonomies of coups and 419 are ‘wildly’ accepted by Nigerians. Whereas it is 419ners who should go to coup-makers to learn and upgrade their game, in Nigeria the reverse appears to be the lore.
In other words, it is safe to speculate that Nigerians have had no teachers, no Black Moses, no Black Buddha, worth the name. If, for instance, they have had, old things would have passed away and their world made new. In short, Nigeria would have been as developed as China, if it had managed to produce one Black Buddha, not a million melamine skinned Caesars. Today in Nigeria, the dark sun of ignorance, of unknowing, is so fashionable, that crippling underdevelopment is its inescapable solid shadow. You can’t be in the sun and not cast shadows.
Anyway, for avoidance of doubts, let us unbundle 419 and coups, seek out their family roots and resemblances.
1. 419 is obtaining by false or forged pretense. A guy or group of guys put themselves up for what they are not, say, Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
2. They reach out and ensnare potential victims, individuals or corporate persons.
3. They promise that they will deliver [nonexistent] assets, say, shiploads of petroleum or gold bullions.
4. However, to process the deals, the prospective receiver or victim – mgbada, in local parlance – has to part with processing and administrative and related fees.
5. At the end, it all ends – there were no assets to be delivered in the first place – and no assets were delivered finally, etc. The whole scheme is just to let you, the individual or corporate victims, part with your own assets.
6. If successful, the 419ners retire in opulence, unearned opulence, and even national acclaim. So many of them are today’s self-styled industrialists, senators, fools, godogodos, governors, etc.
Coups on the other hand may be anatomized as follows:
1. Coups are obtaining by false or forged pretense. A guy rallies a group about himself and they put up themselves for what they are not. That is, they put up themselves as redeemers or messiahs. If you let Soyinka characterize them, he did say, specialist madmen or mad specialists.
2. Coup-makers reach out to potential victims, more dedicatedly and discerningly, corporate persons – aka countries and entire citizenry.
3. Coup-makers promise that they have come to fix the wrongs of the past and to inaugurate a new age, of the good life, of paradise, for all. This is the familial equivalent of 419ners promising shiploads of petroleum, etc.
4. However, to make the good life or paradise for all feasible, the coup-makers make a few processing demands ala 419ners. For example, if the lead man was a common colonel, he quickly promotes himself to a general as a needed rite for molding the blocks of national paradise. As if that was not enough, he and his ruling council, that is co-coupists, immediately take on the remunerations, privileges and more, of the sacked governments. That is, a common colonel say, unelected and often unelectable, takes on the highest privileges of the land – even before one single block of any paradise is cast. This is aka the processing fee of the 419ners.
5. In the end, no good life for all or paradise, is delivered – nor was there any such intention or capacity to so do. The two are one.
This fifth point needs clarifications. For example, to be a million naira generous, one has to first be a millionaire. So, a non-millionaire has no capacity [and thus cannot have the intention] to be generous with millions of naira. In other words, your next door neighbour, cannot be Dangote generous. The Igbo have tied up the matter in a beautiful saw: ochonma kpara aku.
It is thus easy to see that a coup-maker, a common colonel or major, lacking capacity to govern, even themselves or their barracks, knows it in his bones that he cannot govern, not to speak of redeem a country. Despite their litanies otherwise, the coup-makers know it is a game – it is ‘’eti okwe erie okwe.’’ It was never a mission. This self-knowledge is familial with 419ners.
6. Just as their successful 419 counterparts, the successful coup makers, despite failing to deliver on their false or forged promises, retire into sinful opulence. While the 419ners retire as industrialists, senators, etc., ex-coupists retire as statesmen, third world election monitors, United Nations Special Third World Rapporteurs, etc. Meanwhile, not one brick of the promised paradise has been laid for their citizens. Somehow, what you have are hilltop mansions and valley-deep palaces for these ex-plunderers, whole country reapers and rapists.
In other words, a coup, whatever else it is, is a public mask for private greed, just like 419. Anyway, no coup in Africa has disproved this iron lore, or indeed anywhere else in the world. If you have a kobo to waste you can wager on this, dear and glorious reader.
But it is not the failures of coup-makers that is the issue here. Why should the 419 failures of coup-makers bother one? There are stickier matters on one’s menu. The real worry is this. Why have Nigerian scholars insistently failed to teach their populations the truth? Dear reader, would you know? If you don’t supply us an answer, we shall go as far as Wuham, China, to seek out the solutions. Perhaps, in stumping Wuham for the answers to the abysmal failures of Nigerian scholarship, the cure for coronavirus may just pop up on us, unsought. Boy, don’t doubt the good graces of the gods… things happen. All else is in humour. Ahiazuwa.
Quotes on the nature of the universe
“Anything in the open can be openly discussed..”
– Mother A’Endu
Lest we forget
A friend who stumbled on this essay, wondered if they won’t kill me for it. Well, we had to refer him to our Japanese master – in loose paraphrase. “’Writing isn’t about self-protection. Writing is in the way of self-perfection, however imperfect its methods. So you first learn to take the pain, and ultimately the death.”
Trust me, these ruminant cowards, who conducted genocide under the cover of civil war have not finished with their inordinate thirst for others’ blood. So, it is not my portion to watch my back against their hired assassins, government attack dogs, etc. However, we challenge them, if they have courage, let them share out Kalashnikovs, and we face ourselves, man to man, nwoke na ibeya. But that I Ozonma Ogbugo na Oru, not Igbo, Biafra veteran, should be afraid of speaking openly of things in the open, of things that are of the commons? Nope. That gagged silence will be by my tombstone, not while I am. Maka ugboro abua ka ekwe na akpo dike, okpokuo ya na ndu, okpo ya na onwu. All else is in humor. Ahiazuwa.