OUR MUMU, OR FEAR?: UNDERSTANDING THE CURRENT NIGERIAN CULTURE OF STOICISM

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Austin Emaduku

This offering is inspired by the recent protest in Abuja, organized by Charles Oputa, aka Charlie Boy under the theme “Our Mumu Don Do” to bring to the fore, as it were, Nigerians seeming indifference to the long absence of President Muhammadu Buhari from his seat without full disclosure of his state of health or any indication as to when he would return and resume duties. As at today, Nigeria’s President has been away from the country he was elected to rule for over ninety days. This is the second of such absence occasioned by trips overseas on medical grounds since he was sworn into office. Nigerians have neither been told the nature or severity of the ailment that have seen the President spending more time on foreign hospital beds than on his seat and they are left in the dark as to when he will return to office.

According to Presidential handlers, the President has fulfilled the constitutional provisions by handing over to his deputy who is now firmly in charge as the acting President. Having fulfilled this requirement, these aides seem to be telling Nigerians that the President can stay outside the shores of the country for as long as he wishes and if possible for the rest of his tenure, having handed over to an acting President. Their response to all these inquiries have been, to say the least, condescending and very provocative. Yet it is an established rule of the public service that one can not be away from his place of work for an indeterminate period on medical ground.

The rules specify three months after which a Medical Board is required to certify whether such an individual is fit to return to his/her duty post or otherwise discharged from service and that is, if the sick person refuses to voluntarily turn in his/her resignation letter. The period required for this procedure is 90 days and the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the chief enforcer of the public service rules is in breach of this rule.
There is no doubt that Charlie Boy is aware of this rule hence his resort to the “Our Mumu Don Do” protest to enlighten Nigerians on their right to know and act, most especially when the nation’s law makers seem to have buried their heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich which refuses to see and hear.

The situation is even made more dire when considered alongside the backdrop of our recent national experience of an invalid President held incommunicado just so that a cabal can continue to hold Nigeria hostage and rule on his behalf until death finally struck. The striking and disturbing similarity with the present and that previous unfortunate scenario is the arrangements of carefully selected delegated visits to the ailing President. As in the previous case, no one heard the President speak or knew the exact ailment that eventually killed him even to this day. And it makes one to wonder, which is easier and more plausible? Getting the President to address the nation in flesh and blood or arranging selected delegates to see him in groups at great cost to an ailing economy? No one wishes President Buhari death, but Nigerians deserve to know in detail the state of the health of their President and weather or not he is fit enough to return to office and when this will be.

Recent national experience with a former sick President makes this very imperative. Nigerians elected Buhari to rule them and not for a cabal to rule on his behalf.
This brings me to the question of whether it is our mumu or fear that is responsible for our docile acceptance of anything thrown at us by our leaders. The “Our Mumu Don Do” metaphor brings to mind another saying decades ago, by yet another iconoclastic Nigerian, the late Fela Kuti, who captured this inexplicable Nigerian condition in an evergreen song “Suffering and Smiling”

So is it “mumu” or fear? Me thinks it is fear. Nigerians are not foolish people. They know and are indeed very smart and intelligent people that are immobilised by fear. It is a thing of joy that the British who colonised us left willingly on their own volition. If they had stayed behind like it happened in South Africa and Zimbabwe, we would probably still be under colonialism. We wouldn’t have been able to raise a movement like the African National Congress in South Africa or the Mau Mau in Kenya, to fight the colonialists. Maybe this is part of our problems. We are used to having everything easy. We have oil and so are accustomed to sitting lazy, doing nothing because we know that oil money will come at the end of every month and will only complain when there is a drop in oil income.

We gained independence without firing a shot. May be if we had, we would have known that freedom is hard won and should be protected. That’s why efforts like that of Charlie Boy should be supported by every Nigerian or group truly interested in seeking freedom for this great country, from those who have held and continue to hold it captive.
It is this same fear that has stopped Nigerians from leaving their “comfort” zone to confront the monsters before them. All they like to do is blab. At the very best they run! Nigerians like to run! That is another aspect of our tragedy. We run! To confirm this fact all you need do is visit any of the foreign Embassies on a typical working day to see the number of Nigerians seeking to emigrate.

Vibrant youths fleeing their country not to do business or study but to escape or seek pastures greener as they like to call it. Most times, these are the best brains and talents that the country has to offer. It is like Nigeria is at war and we are refuges fleeing the theatre of war. The sight of these Nigerians in long queues at foreign embassies is no more different from images of refugees we witness at borders between European countries with Syrian.
It is for this reason of always looking for the next opportunity to run, that those who hold the reigns of power behave with so much impunity because they know that the people, in deference to stoicism, are too weak to challenge them.

It is this impunity with which those in government treat their citizens that foreign missions have copied coupled with the attitude of some Nigerians of always being economical with the truth that has led to the so much disrespect netted out to these Nigerians in these embassies. A greater number of those who besiege these Embassies, lie to get visas and have no intention of actually returning to their country. As theses foreign Embassies make huge sums of money from visa application fees, never mind that an insignificant number of those who apply get to be issued visas, no doubt, these fees received are more than enough to fund the operations of these Embassies and even earn extra revenue for those countries. Meanwhile, Nigeria struggles to fund it’s own Embassies abroad.

So majority of us like to run to those ready made countries citing various reasons without thinking that those countries were built by the determination, sweat and blood of their citizens. If black South Africans, exited South Africa, the last bastion of colonialism in Africa, in droves, the way we do today, South Africa won’t be a safe haven for Nigerian “refugees” today. When we are not opportune or privileged to run away, we either acquiescence or we sit back and soak in whatever is thrown at us or at best blab – no action. We like to point fingers blaming everyone else but ourselves for everything.

It is only in Nigeria that we can hear of humongous looting of the national treasury by elected leaders and Representatives without the people rising up in revolt. A wasteful National Assembly has been in the news for the wrong reasons since return to democratic civil rule. Up to this day no one can say with exactitude what the take home of a Nigerian national legislator is. Yet in other countries, people take these matters seriously. Those who we should have chased away, were we fearless, and serious minded, keep treating us with disdain and so much impunity because they know that we are afraid and if threatened we will run. Labour has ran. Student’s Unionism is gone. Civil society groups have taken cover. The left is dead and whatever is left of it has been bought over.

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