THERE seems to be no new frontier of regression that Nigeria is not capable of exploring. Educated or uneducated, rich or poor, we roll on collectively towards the abyss, towards implosion, confident that Nigeria has a destiny helper somewhere that will always intervene at the last second to prevent our collective final crash. My latest observation about a new frontier of regression we are exploring is a shift in Nigeria’s social and cultural architecture of entitlement – both of which feed entitlement in the political sphere.
I do not know of any time in my entire adult life when those who control the destiny of Nigeria, the proverbial one-percenters across faith, tribe, and tongue, have not felt entitled to their stranglehold on Nigeria. To hold on to its privileges and massive material accumulation at the expense of the abject 99%, this one-percentile demographic, a united national group within which Fulani overlords ride Igbo and Yoruba and minority horses, has always had to assert its entitlement. As a political class, these people have always had to assert agency through various symbolic and performative ways of inscribing their entitlement on the national psyche.
If you are looking for a concrete example of performative entitlement – and there are thousands of examples – you need not look beyond President Obasanjo. Map his trajectory since his failed third term bid and you will uncover a horrific psychology of entitlement. What is currently playing out between him and President Buhari is an intra-class feud over the terms and limits of entitlement. However, I digress. President Obasanjo is not the issue today.
Or, maybe he is! Maybe he belongs to a dying breed of one percenters who still need to scream and assert their entitlement; one percenters who need to be in the subject position, screaming, wailing, endlessly reminding the nation that they are entitled to the control levers of her destiny. Hear President Obasanjo: “I have forgiven Atiku!”, “I will do everything to save Nigeria’s democracy!” In just one week in the life of Nigeria, President Obasanjo ensured that his “I” entered two hundred million peers of ears. He just fell short of saying: “I am, therefore Nigeria is.” I won’t hold my breath.
However, asserting your entitlement to Nigeria’s destiny like President Obasanjo does is now old school. Our political culture has shifted, pushed by social media. If you are a one percenter today, you no longer need to be in the subject position, screaming, claiming, and performing your entitlement to overlordship like President Obasanjo. You can now just occupy the object position, lie down supine, inert, conserve your energy and watch the people you oppress shower that entitlement on you. You are a new political animal. I call you the supine entitled.
You no longer need to lift a finger to claim or assert your entitlement. As their own dignity, agency, and civic sentience recede, the people will continually put a sword to the heart of democratic ethos and practices by becoming ferocious sentinels at the door of your planet of entitlement. President Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar are prominent members of this newbreed entitled Nigerians. You may add into this basket your random favorite politician from any part of the country so long as he is a member of this hermetic group.
To become the Nigeria’s President, you feel entitled to not debating? No worries. You no longer need to go out screaming your entitlement like President Obasanjo. That is so old school. There is a massive army of social media almajiris who are going to fan out, screaming that you are entitled to your absence from that standard fare of institutionalized democractic practice. They are going to water down the value of that practice. Popular culture and street lingo are there to help them create a new national domain of entitled non-engagement for you: “who debate epp?”, “una no see crowd?” “azin, ees eet ur debate? Y are u in sifia pains?”
To become Nigeria’s President, you feel entitled to lines of questioning that pander to your outsized ego as a big man by fawning, self-abnegating, and intimidated journalists moulded by three decades of brown envelopes? No worries. You no longer must scream your entitlement like President Obasanjo. That is so old school! The social forces of democratic regression are on hand to browbeat the nation into a space where subjecting you to rigorous grilling and questioning is deemed outrageous.
Your name is Tonye Cole. You are running for Governor in Rivers state. Your convoy kills two peasant women in late 2018. You feel entitled to zero legal consequences after paying the families hush money? No worries. You need not scream or assert your entitlement. Just continue your campaign as if the lives of two citizens snuffed out by your convoy were a passing distraction. The social media hordes will be on hand to scream and assert your entitlement.
Poorly-educated social media almajiris cannot create this new political animal – the supine entitled – by themselves. They need brilliant, educated, middleclass intellectuals to theorize, rationalize, and legitimize this new political animal. There must be sophisticated arguments mounted for the futility of debates. It is in the interstices of such intellectual rationalizations that the new political animal who is too big to debate emerges.
And the people are worsted.
In 2019, we rationalized the futility of debates.
In 2023, we shall rationalize Kadaria Ahmed’s townhall out of existence because she did not read our memo on the entitlements of the beast we have created – the supine entitled.
One scream at a time, we, the people, say that it is a privilege to be oppressed by those who oppress us.