Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Whispering Drums by Musa Ibrahim

Secret societies and the Nigerian Military

There were lengthy debates and wagging of tongues on the subject during the Obasanjo regime. In the end two schools of thought emerged; one contending that there is nothing secret if a group of people with certain commonalities meet once in a while to discuss issues of mutual concern, or issues that reflected a collective past. A second more conservative view believes that anything worth discussing is worth discussing in public, loud and clear. To them, societies and organizations whatever their motives are evil and are ill-winds that will blow nobody any good.

These debates, it must be recalled, started at the height of General Obasanjo's tenure in office as Nigeria's Head of State. There were accusations among the rank and file of the military leaders that some of them belonged to certain secret societies with sinister motives. It was even alleged that some top civil servants also belonged to some secret clubs and organisations. According to these stories, members of these secret clubs and societies often collude with one another and then plan coups or some form of mischief or disaster against the ruling government and the entire country.

It now seems that almost a decade after, the question of secret societies has resurfaced among the present ruling military government in Nigeria. According to my sources, the situation is now tense among members of the Supreme Military Council as they now regard each other with suspicion and distrust. About five of the members are said to belong to a notorious secret society that is noted over the years with the smooth planning and execution of coups. Again, in the council of states which comprises all the nineteen states military governors, the same atmosphere of fear and distrust is rife. Remember the drama that happened in Lagos during the swearing in ceremony of the governors? Conventionally, and for political expediency, Nigerians called to serve often take oaths either on the Koran or the Bible.

Well, it was the turn of one of the military governors to take his oath. Known and identified as a moslem by his closest associates, the governor refused to take the Koran and when given the Bible, he also refused to swear by any of them. Reason? He belongs to a secret society that forbids him from swearing on either the Bible or the Koran.

As things now stand, the military government is in a state of disarray, to the extent that some army officers have protested to the Head of State to 'dismiss with immediate effect' those suspected to be members of any secret societies at all. As the wranglings continue, there are strong indications that sooner or later, the nonsensical purge that has engulfed all spheres of the Nigerian life might eventually find its way to the top brass of the military itself. Whatever happens, one thing is pertinent. The military by its nature, composition, training and inclination is supposed to be a secret society. Its duty demands it, that is why the military in civilized parts of the world maintain its distance from areas outside its sphere of influence. One of such areas is the art of governing human beings. It is way out of the military's domain. This is what African soldiers must know.

Of dialogues and Botha

The Sixties were turbulent years for the entire world. Africa was desperately and slowly dismantling the yoke of colonial burden. America and the Soviet Union - two undisputed super powers then and now, were inextricably locked in one conflict and crisis or another. There was the Cuban missile crisis, there was Berlin, there was Viet Nam and there was the civil rights movement.

The world was on the brink of collapse. One false move and it will be all over. Curiously however, the world did not tumble, thanks to the maturity and decency of the two principal actors, the flamboyant John F. Kennedy and the enigmatic Nikita Kruschev, Ther pathological hatred of each other's system notwithstanding, they conceded that first and foremost, they were human beings given the authority to determine the destiny of other human beings including theirs. Confronted with basically human problems, they decided to find human solutions for them. They had to meet to talk things over. They did and a dialogue was opened up. Solutions were found and the world was saved for another generation of mankind to live on. In the words of the Reverend Jesse Jackson: "If you don't talk with your perceived enemies, you can't help them."

Today, more than twenty years following those events, the world is still threatened by a dangerous, far deadlier disease than the memories of Vietnam. Apartheid, the monstrous and devilish South African government headed by Prime Minister Pieter Botha is corrosive and morally wrong. It is corrosive because the system saps and demeans the human mind and intellect thus reducing those affected to human vegetables. It is morally wrong because God the creator of the world we live in, said He created all men and women equal and in his own image. So why should a man be judged and governed by the colour of his skin and not by the content of his mind? That is why there was concern and stampede among African nations when it was heard that Botha will be visiting Mrs Margaret Thatcher and other eight West European countries.

Before his arrival, the 'Iron Lady' said that Botha's visit will serve to open up a dialogue with the racist regime so that negotiations towards the elimination of the system can be facilitated. Though a little too glib, we hope the prime Minister's action was in good faith. It is true that dialogue with an avowed enemy can ease tensions and yield results as happened in the sixties. But that is only if the sides involved decide to face the realities of their situations.

Was Botha made to realise that the apartheid system he operates in South Africa is evil? Did he admit it was inhuman? Or did Botha and Thatcher talk capital and nuclear build-up?

As events continue to unfold, we are bound to know within the next few days what sort of dialogue took place at Chequers. If the demise of apartheid does not come sooner, then we will know there was no dialogue with Botha and we will leave Mrs Thatcher and her allies to the wrath of posterity.

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