The purported death and eventual cloning of Mr. President offers a big opportunity for a collective introspection in our country given our present march towards 2019 elections in a few months time.
Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead dramatizes the transposition of a dead man’s identity to the living realm while a living man’s identity is deliberately consigned to the necropolis. Set in South Africa during the enervating reign of apartheid, the play recounts how a man, Sizwe Bansi and his friend Buntu, while returning from a night-out of merrymaking, finds a dead man on the street. Buntu searches the dead man, identifies him as Robert Zwelinzima and also discovers a work permit on him. Realizing that his friend, Sizwe Bansi, urgently needs a work permit to remain in Port Elizabeth, he removes the dead man’s passport on the work permit and replaces it with his friend, Bansi’s passport. With this scheme, he hands over the work permit to Sizwe Bansi and advises him to begin to bear the new name Robert Zwelinzima. In a letter to his wife, Sizwe Bansi, now as Robert Zwelinzima, informs his wife of his new identity and maintains that Sizwe Bansi is dead, although he lives. Some people call it impersonation while others call it cloning. Some others refer to it as a body double depending on the degree of identity alteration.
The wilful debasement of the human anatomy through genetic engineering or other means is not new in the historical annals of the world, especially in the political sphere. Although Fugard’s play is a sad commentary on the subjugation of blacks in South Africa who must die in order to live, the overriding principle of manipulating a living being to represent another being has become a reality in contemporary times. Josef Stalin, the famous dictator of the communist enclave Russia, was cloned several times for security reasons. Iraqi’s former maximum ruler, Saddam Hussein, was also body doubled many times which made people doubt the US government when his capture and subsequent execution was reported. Today, many people still believe that Osama Bin Laden is alive, insisting that only his body double was killed by the US forces.
Recently, Nigerians were entertained to a number of inchoate theories and permutations regarding the person of President Muhammadu Buhari. First, it started as a rumour. Gradually, the rumour gravitated towards a national discourse. Then it made an unceremonious entry into the unrestrained platform of social media. Slowly but steadily, it became an object of debate among the ill-informed and merchants of dubiety. The well informed gave it no attention until the president declared emphatically in far away Poland that he is not a clone or a body double.
That response finally dignified the rumour and then, the real debate commenced. Did President Buhari die in the UK during one of his numerous medical tourisms in that European country? After his purported death, was a certain Jubril Aminu from Sudan cloned or body doubled and then parcelled back to Nigeria to assume the person and office of the president? Certainly, the entire saga made no sense although it subliminally grated on our collective intelligence as the greatest deception of the highest order in the history of Nigeria.
In no small measure, the whole idea was not only incredulous but also laughable and unintelligent. Although the present generation of Nigerians can be accused of many things among which are sedate docility, willing acceptance of misrule and glaring incapacity to decipher between corruption and incompetence, it is improbable to deceive the populace with that level of manipulation. If there was any truth in the cloning or body double engineering, mischief makers, whistleblowers, in their quest for fame and grandeur, rather than for the love of the country, would have immediately spilled the beans at least for a certain amount of lucre. So, it turned out that it was all a rumour, even if the president did not deem it fit to address his countrymen, those he is relying on to return to power next year.
It is condemnable for any right-thinking person to wish the president or any other person dead. It smacks of innate wickedness from the pit of hellfire to want the number one citizen of Nigeria dead. Such schemes can only come from demented fellows who derive immense pleasure from peddling rumours in order to attract cheap popularity and also to divert the attention of Nigerians from more germane issues that bedevil the body politic. What does someone stand to gain if Muhammadu Buhari dies? Of what pleasure or satisfaction would it confer on such conspiracy theorists that manifest tendencies of neurotic disorder?
It is important we realize that Muhammadu Buhari is someone’s father, someone’s husband and someone’s relation, a bona fide citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is, therefore, sad that a section of Nigerians will, for a split second, wish the president dead. Buhari will continue to live until such a time when his maker decides to recall him.
It is a call everyone must answer. If the mischief makers are trying to advance the abysmal failure of the APC government headed by Muhammadu Buhari, then there are more responsible ways to do it, there is no better way to do the right thing through the wrong channel. Therefore, to continue to harbour such thoughts, to indulge in such ominous mental past time is a recurrent exercise in the experience of national disintegration and chaos. The purported death and eventual cloning of Mr. President offers a big opportunity for a collective introspection in our country given our present march towards 2019 elections in a few months time. It is apparent that the peddlers of the cloning/body double rumour wish that the Nigerian leadership structure is overhauled immediately, but resorting to mindless rumour is certainly a bad approach and does not show Nigerians as a serious-minded people.
It is obvious that Nigerians are disenchanted with the APC government, with poverty as a permanent visitor in millions of homes across the land. It is also a glaring fact that Nigerians are yet to recover from many years of composite plundering of their commonwealth and therefore are wary of another return to Golgotha. If this is the accurate consciousness of Nigerians, if indeed Nigerians are genuinely poised to embrace a new order, then an election is around the corner and offers a huge opportunity for a new beginning.
Some pessimists have expressed doubt in the electoral process given the events of the Ekiti and Osun elections. These Nigerians have insisted that the forthcoming elections will never be free and fair at the backdrop of some sensitive statements made by the incumbent leadership after previous elections were won and lost. The same Nigerians that chased the military dictators away, that same consciousness is what is required to vehemently oppose any insidious machination in next year’s elections.
Let everybody remain alive, both the president and the governors but let the drums of real change and the cymbals of victory for a new Nigeria rend the air.
Adiele writes from Department of English University of Lagos, via [email protected]