Lamentation of Mr. Democracy, by Ken Ugbechie
Don’t cry for me, don’t even weep. Let your tears not barb your cheeks. Weep not my dear for I have wept for you. I have cried for you when they came to desecrate your altar of democracy. I stood in the line of their darts. I challenged the force of their fury. I quenched their fire. I prayed for you when they came to prey on you. The fury of the beast is full. His anger rages in crimson red. Men scurried at his rebuke. His mien is menacing. His claws are ready, his fangs are bare. This is a beast from hell, full of hate, laden with torment, the harbinger of pain.
The beast came braying with carnivorous fury. Men, even friends and associates deserted me. They could not stand the madness of the beast, nor his snarls and ceaseless grunting. Oh, hell is on rampage, the beast is at his feast. He has devoured his first prey. But never is a beast cloned in hell satisfied with a morsel. He wants some more. His eyes roved from Sokoto to Lagos to Abia but hell; there is no stopping this monster. I screamed for people’s power but the people have long retreated into the safe carapace of their homes. Who will tame this shrew? Who will cage this beast? I turned again to my friends and associates but they were not in sight. Terrified and affrighted, they took to flight. Sufficiently intimidated, some found salvation in the bosom of the beast. And I wondered, this is a beast from hell, what has man got to do with it? I screamed the more, the echoes of my voice clashing and rushing through the distance. None is within earshot. The sons of men have been harassed out of the political space by the butts of the beast.
But I found grace to confront the beast. I found solace in the wig and gown. I rushed to the court of law and the court of men. I tendered my case. I brought forth my strong reasons. I said hell has no place in the company of sane men. I spoke Latin (cedant arma togae), meaning ‘let arms yield to the gown, let military authority yield to civil’. And the judge, even the people from the safety of their hiding, echoed “so let it be” and it was so.
The judge took my plea. He consulted another judge and another judge and all too soon many judges had assembled to give verdict. As always, the verdict went against the beast, against dictatorship, against the rule of the beast. The rule of law is far better than the rule of man, said the judges. Indeed dictatorship is a beast.
Now I represent the face of democracy, the rule of law and due process. The beast wanted a short cut to vainglory; I chose the long, bumpy and rough path to glory. Today, the beast is caged, the captives are set free. Reason, long out of stock, has returned to the shelves of our subconscious. There is sanity in the land, across the nation. There is a pervading sense of hope, hope in the rule of law, in the courts and in the future of the nation. I represent that hope. This is all I ever stand for. This is all I came to do – to nullify the rule of man, the rule of the beast, the rule of impunity. I came to banish it from the face of our land. If I retreat now, I feel a sense of fulfillment. But I am not about to retreat. I feel obliged to go the whole haul, a very long haul. I feel inclined to hang in, to see my dream to the very end.
When I see the darkness that has enveloped the land, the furrows and burrows of pain on the faces of the people, when I peer across the horizon and see nothing but mangled bones of hungry and angry youths, aborted expectations and raw despair; I want to tarry and make a change. Truly, there is pain in the air, epitomised by the painful crevices and contours that sit on the faces of the people, typified by the growing number of job cuts and factories closing shops. That’s why I am here, to cause a cessation to that pain.
For your sake, I came. For your sake, I have been maligned, disparaged, harangued. But I remain defiant. I am like the Iroko tree, towering, strong, immovable. I’ve fought many battles, crossed many seas. I have been pronounced dead several times, buried many times. But out of the ruins of the grave, I spring forth with even greater glory.
My priority is not to be your leader at all cost. My lot is to restore soundness to the polity, to give essence to democracy. I am the flavour of democracy, the armour-bearer of the rule of law. It doesn’t matter what you do to me now, I have triumphed in the eyes of men, in the eyes of the law, and that’s more important than the allure of power. But don’t write me off yet because my day has just dawned.
I am the one that cannot be broken. I am a political marathon runner. I am the true potentate of the popular will, irrepressible. I am democracy. And I am because the people are; I have built nations over the centuries. I am the system that can never be dethroned. I have been shot, pummeled and left for dead but each time I die, I rise to live gain. A platoon of Nigerian Generals full of fury and swashbuckling aristocracy could not put me down.
Kaduna Nzeogwu, Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Muhammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha, Abdulsalami Abubakar all arrayed in their full military splendour could not break me. Many times, they dug my grave. Killed and buried many times but from the ruins I rise to live. Make no mistake about it I have spread my arms around Nigeria. I have set my foot on the soil of Africa’s most populous nation. And I am not quitting; no, not any time soon.
In Nigeria, I have been raped, abused and abased by the judiciary in which judges sell judgments to highest bidders; and where journalists have become more partisan than the politicians. I have been desecrated by an Executive that flouts court orders and chooses which court ruling to obey; I have witnessed a legislature that sees law-making as a cash-dispensing enterprise. I have seen much and endured much but I won’t quit just yet. I am on trial every day in the most populous black nation on earth. And if it is a ploy to keep me away, my traducers got it wrong because I am not about to slither away. I will tarry here. In pain and in chains, I will dwell in Nigeria for the sake of the people. I am Mr. Democracy; I am the unbreakable spirit of hope, hope for the masses.
Yes, there is pain on the streets, in the homes, in the markets but never for the pain of the moment invite the military, the intruders to the arena who put fear in the people. The worst of me is better than the best of military rule. I am democracy and I stand with Nigeria.