Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Whispering Drums With Maigani

by Musa Ibrahim

The guilty are afraid

Fear is going to be all of humanity's staggering fact of life. Not fear of the unknown but the known, each other. That was of George Orwell's prophetic fantasies brilliantly and sadistically portrayed in his novel, 1984. Today, in the very year that bears the novel's title, fantasy has become hard realism. There fear of terrorists, there is the fear of a nuclear war and annihilation, there the fear of air crash and there the fear of coups and counter coups. The list is endless.

More haunting than any of these fears is the fear of guilt, of self-guilt. This, unfortunately, is what has gripped African leaders, particularly those that have forcefully put themselves into such positions of leadership. Ever since John Jerry Rawlings decided to colonize Ghana once again, he has been rumoured to be sleeping in empty sacks of rice and in crevices. It is eve said that his own wife does not know where Rawlings sleeps. In Tripoli, Upper Volta and Nigeria, the same story is told of Comrade Gaddaffi, Comrade Sankara and Capitalist Buhari. There are many more. These men are governed by their own fears dressed up as gods. It is fear of insecurity, of inadequacy, of not belonging, of imaginary ghosts, fugitives and mercenaries, forcing them into a haunted and secret class whose links with the people they are supposed to govern are non-existent or meticulously stage-managed at best.

In Nigeria, the ordinary people are numbed and cannot understand what is happening. Only but recently, they saw their president come to them. He spoke with them and ate with them. He drove through them in an open landrover and the people reached out to touch him. “That is Shagari! That is the President.”... “One Nation", the President bellowed to them. "One destiny", the people roared back. That was the old order. The new dispensation is for Buhari to surreptitiously hop into an armoured bullet-proof military helicopter from Dodan Barracks to the airport. Nobody goes near. Nobody cares. Back to the hidden crevice, he dreams of Umaru Dikko and Isyaku Ibrahim and his sleep is disturbed. It is morning and he announces to his lieutenants that the fugitives are planning to invade the country. There is panic. There is pandemonium. It is a vicious circle of fear, of self-guilt, of hallucinations and there can be no saviour.

Keeping body and soul…

Still on prophecies. Writing in the Sunday Concord of 26 December 1982, Ray Ekpu, one of the chief megaphones of the Concord Newspapers Ltd prophesied this “... I see 1983 as the year for the trial not just of the politician but of the journalist… For if confidentiality of news sources cannot be assured, news sources will dry up. If news sources dry up, news dries up. If news dries up journalism is left high and dry. Journalists will hold on to nothing… The public will hold on to their right to know, a property that shall have become a hollow element, its soul taken away, for the public will know nothing…” Does that remind you of Decree 4?

That was bad prophecy because it picked on the wrong year. 1983 saw the Nigerian press at its freest and meanness, ever. Having acquired those attributes since 1979, nothing and no amount of prophecies was going to be in the way of the Nigerian journalist and they marched through 1983 unscathed thanks to the tolerant nature of the man at the head of government.

Since the turn of events in Nigeria at the beginning of this year, I have been curious to see how the ilk of Ray, and Dele his Editor, will deal with the blatant subjugation of the press under the present military junta. To my utter speechless disappointment, I hear Ray is on a long vacation seemingly oblivious of all the happenings around him. I also hear that Dele Giwa’s scooping column “Parallax Snaps” has snapped into a blind abyss of oblivion with the author safely cushioned on the “other side”. Which reminds me. It was Ray again who once wrote “... the journalist will have to decide on whose side he wants to be: on side of journalism or on the other side… “ never mind on whose side these men want to be

talking drums 1984-07-02 President Doe - Onabanjo trial in Nigeria - Krobo Edusei famous or infamous