George Kateb, University of Princeton Emeritus Professor in a piece some time ago argued that patriotism is not only a mistake but it is a mistake twice over. According to him it is typically a grave error and its source, a state of mental confusion. However, the professor adds, as if to relieve all of us who have suffered or are suffering that mental condition –‘But the mistake of patriotism is an inevitable mistake. It cannot be avoided; almost no one can help being a patriot of some kind and to some degree.
Kateb played on my mind when news filtered that Senator Shaaba Lafiagi’s country home had been set ablaze by irate mob following the death of three young men The Lafiagi 3 who were allegedly shot by soldiers he allegedly brought in from a nearby special assignment post.
The people of Lafiagi had embarked on a protest to prevent the senator from returning to his home town on account of his unresponsiveness and poor representation at the National Assembly. Other reasons advanced was his refusal to facilitate the completion of a narrow box culvert at Sodo about 4km to Lafiagi which which has claimed several lifes. Neither Kwara State Govt nor Sen Sha’aba Lafiagi have been responsive as at tis moment.
The same culvert last Saturday 25 Nov 2017 became the spot of another ghastly motor accident that almost claimed the lives of two.
The renowned professor had the likes of the Lafiagi three in mind when he excoriated the patriotism that led to the death of these young men.
But what is patriotism as if its meaning is not apparent enough. Patriotism is love of one’s country, town or community. Patriotism is most fully exemplified by the readiness to die or kill for one’s community. It is therefore to dismiss Kateb in a country like Nigeria where random political assassinations have become a way to die or be killed for democracy. The protesters choice to die went beyond the call to duty. It was a supererogatory act of a people that for long have suffered deprivation and want. A neglected community. In all material particular, the dead are patriots and progressives in their own way. They have sacrificed their lives for what is of great value to them and their people. They are indeed progressives who are radically dissatisfied with the existing status quo and yearn for change in the direction of rationality and modernity.
It is now a dangerous river to cross in Lafiagi. The crisis which Senator Lafiagi ignited is a potent threat to democratic process and akin to a man setting fire to his own backyard just to secure political advantage. It does not appear the senator seek power for the development of his people. Were it not to be, that encounter was avoidable if his convoy had retreated. But he never saw the protest as mere demonstration rather an effrontery and like a bestined mongoose, he lunged for the protesters throat. That moment he saw his people on the streets calling for his exit, he also demanded theirs by force. To him there is no middle ground.
For over a decade, Senator Lafiagi has been the story of Nigeria’s guilt. Once he was regarded as a luminous figure on account of his traditional lineage and his headship of a once thriving sugar company and Ex Governor of the stare. Before our eyes, he lived on glory but his face shone with hauteur. As fortune flipped so did his splendour, now a man on his heels that has to answer the charges of murder of his own people The Lafiagi 3 . It is doubtful Senator Lafiagi ordered the shooting of his people if actually he loves them.
To demonstrate concern and patriotism, he ought to have for long begun the process of lifting his community from darkness to modernity. It is neither on record that he once mobilised his people for progressive cause. The senator no doubt is a product of a new leadership model in Kwara state that has added no value to its community. For what purpose does he rise to his present position? He brought no significant change to the faces of his people.
Simply put, there are two issues going on. First the majority of Edu people and Lafiagi in particular have a strong feeling that their representative savours going along with how things are in the state by embracing the ideals and rationalisations of the man holding the state by the jugular and so did not depict a man with a soul and capable enough to be trusted with the Lafiagi traditional stool. Secondly, by this singular action, he has crossed the boundary of defensible action and against the power of Nupe culture and warrior profile.
From the creeping anarchy and lawlessness which the senator is the foundation, if the major culprits of this historic heist go scot free or with a slap on the wrist as a result of our derelict legal and judicial system, some shabby police investigation or political compromise, we can be sure that the Hosbbesian state of nature will be a child’s play to what may overtake us.
The signs are already there in the bestiality, the economic cannibalism, the do-or-die politics and the flagrant disregard for the sanctity of the human life. Almost everywhere in Nigeria, the powers of the elite conservatism are on the loose, swallowing everything they can then turn to blame the victims for allowing themselves to be consumed by the merciless processes of the national political economy resentful of most of its inhabitants.
My heart bleeds for the people of Edu on the loss of these young men whose aspirations and hope have gone with them.
God bless the soul of the Lafiagi three.
Alh Tunde Mohammed Head of Strategy and Research