Politics of hate, bile and beef By Ken Ugbechie
POLITICS DIGEST- There is hate in the air. Bile, beef and baleful pall envelope the land. Nigerians are hurting and hating Nigerians. And it’s all because of politics. Granted, the Muhammadu Buhari government has been toxic, divisive and otiosely incompetent on many fronts but it is not enough excuse for Nigerians to visit venom and violence on their compatriots on account of tribe, tongue or religion.
True, politics is partisan. Politics divides a people but Nigerians should not allow politics to set their country on fire. The 2023 general elections have been everything but free and fair. It cannot even be said to be credible and verifiable. It did not meet any of the indices that make for the nobility of participatory democracy. But even this is not enough to pile up the hate quotient.
Sadly, the hate broth is fed to poor Nigerian underclass by the elite. In the comfort of their exotic offices and marbled homes, the elite share things in common. They know no tribe. They are not puckered by tribal dirt stains. Among them and within them, there is no north or south. No Igbo, Fulani, Yoruba, Ijaw, Hausa, Kanuri or Tiv. They are united in their resolve to keep the poor poorer. They are bonded by their vision to give their children the best of Western education, usually in the Americas, Europe and choice universities in Asia. They are in tandem on many fronts. They even inter-marry across ethnic groupings and religion. The rich flows with the rich. They do businesses together, share profits, club together and frolic together in often obscene showiness.
Not so, the poor rabble. They are used by the rich to sow seeds of discord, plant hate, propagate bigotry and drive the sharp edge of the knife through their fellow masses just to split them along pre-determined primitive lines. As the poor fight the poor, throwing ethnic jabs at each other, the children of the rich are ensconced in the luxuriant fortresses of the advanced West as students. Some as business people, working class in organised and well-appointed settings or just junkying in a cocktail of narcotics through which they satiate their drug-addled souls and burn the illicit cash stashed away from Nigeria by their thieving parents.
East or west, north or south, these children of the nouveau riche know no pain. They play no part in electioneering. They do not snatch ballot boxes or falsify figures from the ballot. They do not queue to vote. They bear no cudgel, neither machete nor gun. They are a special breed. Their bread is already buttered by spoils from home; spoils criminally harvested by their parents and uncles from the national till. Their lot is to wantonly spend the cash stolen by their parents. And how they do that with aristocratic extravagance.
Yet, back home, their parents recruit children of the poor to kill the poor. They recruit those they rendered hopeless yesterday by stealing their today. They recruit them on the cheap because even the recruits do not realise they are entitled to a better life, not a life of handouts.
These poor even defend those who stole their future and the future of their children. They idolise them in near-worship. Talk of Stockholm Syndrome. Yes, you get it. The captives are in love with their captors. The captives are so weak they can’t even stir a finger. They could not ask their captors and benevolent lordships, why are your children not joining us? Why are your children not armed with daggers and bayonet? Why did you send them out of Nigeria into a safe haven, then turn around to engage us to actualise your devious plot? Why send us to kill our fellow citizens from another tribe when your own children are busy freely mixing with that same tribe, even marrying from among them? Why plant hate in us against persons from other tribes?
The captives are under a spell; charmed by the evil sophistry of the rich; bewitched by the magical spell of the wealthy. A spell that dulls their intuition and blinds them to the verdant opportunities ahead of them and around them. None could muster the courage to tell their captors ‘eat your hate’; feed it to your children; let your family feast on it. Just none.
Election violence is as horrible as it is terrible. The poor bear the brunt, not the rich. Children of the rich do not snatch ballot boxes. They do not make appearances at polling units. They are not the roadside traders nor among the throng of traders in marketplaces.
Not so, the poor. Neither they nor their poor parents have access to public till. They never stole from the public cookie jar, yet they are made to atone for the levity of the looting elite.
In the last two weeks, social media has been awash with videos of violent orgies across some states. In some cases, shops of Igbo traders were destroyed by thugs sympathetic to a particular political party. The charge is that Igbo voted against their candidate. The thugs are wild and vicious. A closer scrutiny tells who they are: poor children of the poor, young men struggling to make a meaning out of life. Another look at their victims also tells their pedigree. They, too, just like their attackers, are poor, struggling children of poor parentage. A case of the poor mobbing the poor to keep the rich richer and safer.
And this is the paradox. The poor kills the poor just so the rich and his children can stay alive. The sad reality is that among the elite sowing the seed of ethnic hate and religious bigotry are men and women who should know; persons from whom you expect a certain minimum decorum and decency. And this includes, unfortunately, members of the media fraternity. When journalists, even senior ones, join to plant hate in the minds of others, especially the misguided and angry youths, there is clear and present danger in the land.
I have read comments of so-called editors and senior journalists on the brewing hate-filled political shenanigans, and all I could mutter is ‘arrant hypocrisy.’ If journalists who should be the major moderating voice and opinion moulder could descend so deep into the abyss of unbridled hate speech, then Nigeria’s democracy is in peril.