By Michael Achile Umameh
The darkest side to human nature is at play in Kogi State.
Yes, it is unseemly and eerie – shameful and evil, even – to rejoice when a bad man dies. Gen. Sani Abacha was a sadist, psychopath and notoriously corrupt. He took excessive gratification in humiliating, hurting and killing people. His conscience was as dead as dry wood, and he never expressed remorse or guilt. He never listened to advice or reason. On the 8 of June,1998 he died. Nigerians, home and abroad were overjoyed, we were like delirious victims of post-dictator syndrome.
In Ibadan where I was then, street vendors, bartenders, taxi drivers, restaurants were giving away food, drinks and services for nothing. It was a German Schadenfreude moment: ecstatic rejoicing over someone else’s misfortune. And Kogi state is again the new amphitheatre of collective death wish for those in authority.
This ripening dark presentiment offers the leadership of Kogi state a golden opportunity.
In the past days, the social and print media have been overflowing with sarcastic prayers of quick recovery for the so-called wounded and limping white lion, Gov. Yahaya Bello. And as if the perennial Kogi’s carnival of ridiculous drama has no end, the ominous news of Edward Onoja’s purported accident is filtering in. Is he dead? Is he alive? A Schadenfreude-like moment felt during Sani Abacha’s death is once more palpable all over Kogi State.
There is a chance for Gov. Bello and Edward Onoja to listen to the whispers in the wind and think again.
The lives of Sani Abacha and Alfred Nobel are very instructive here. Alfred is the famed Swedish entrepreneur, and inventor who instituted the Nobel Peace Prize, the world greatest prize for human achievement.
In 1888, Alfred’s brother Ludwig died while visiting Cannes in France, and a French newspaper erroneously published Alfred’s obituary. It condemned him for his invention of dynamite and ballistics. The obituary stated in the original French: Le marchand de la mort est mort (“The merchant of death is dead”) and went on to say, ‘Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.’”
Alfred Nobel, after reading the premature obituary which condemned him for profiting from the sales of dynamite and ballistics, appalled at the idea that he would be remembered as a merchant of death; greatly distressed and heartbroken; he became more determined to change his story before it was too late. As a consequence, he bequeathed the majority of his wealth for the creation of the Nobel Peace Prize as a better legacy for which he is now well-known and remembered by.
A large number of Kogites recently exulted in schadenfreude when they heard of Bello’s fractured foot and Edward Onoja’s reported accident. These “premature obituaries” are the checklists of the judgements posterity may pass on you. Now the paid government media crew are in town in full gear, in defensive and combative mood. There is no need for that. Appropriate the opportunity and learn a lesson or two. In this world, nothing is fixed.
All is in flux. Death is certain for all. The graves of dead pensioners are restive, the widows are cursing, the starving are wishing you the worst and these recent happenings are your invitations to re-think, rejig, redress and change. Do not let posterity bury you in a blanket of thorns. Ask yourselves:
Will my legacies be equated to those of Sani Abacha or will I be remembered like Alfred Nobel? The ball is in your court. And the time is Now.
“We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery.” Arise, O compatriots!