Politics in a season of cholera

September 9, 2010
4 mins read

It was the great Latin American w riter and Nobel Laureate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who became known as the exemplar of magical realism in literature. In the genre of magical realism, magical elements are blended into the realistic portrayal of social settings to assist an understanding of social reality. Some literary scholars say the invasion o f realistic portraits by elements “too strange to believe” underlines the essence o f magical realism. The definition is not without its controversies, with some describing it as a ‘postcolonial hangover’; but this needs not detain us here. Working within this definition, Marquez has given us greatest works of modern literature: the classic, One Hundred Years of Solitude; Love in the Time of Cholera; Chronicle of a Death Foretold; The General in his Labyrinth and Memories of my Melancholy Whores, to name a few.

I have appropriated and re-worked one of Marquezs titles for my piece today because of the strange essence to life here. By the end of August, the media reported the epidemic of cholera in Nigeria. The nut and bolt is that hundreds of Nigerians have died in an epidemic spreading all over our country, while thousands have been afflicted. The Federal M inistry of Health issued a report that I I states were battling the epidemic, and from June w hen the first outbreak was suspected to have occurred in Adamawa State, 6,437 cases had been confirmed with 352 deaths.

The report said “although most of the outbreaks occurred in the North-West and North-East zones, epidemiological evidence indicates that the entire country is at risk”. Cholera is “endemic in most parts of Nigeria but often occurs in epidemic proportion at the onset of  the dry season, when people scramble for drinking water from doubtful sources and during rainy season when contaminants are washed into surface and underground water sources”. A quick survey’ revealed that “40% of the entire population in affected states has no access to toilet facilities of any description. Thus, open defecation is the only alternative available to the people”. In what reflects a “Federal Character” of cholera affliction, confirmed cases came from: Jigawa, 86 and 6 deaths; Bauchi 1725and53; Gombe 1188and59;Yobe456and46; Borno 1090 and 80; Adamawa 986 and 56 deaths. Others are: Taraba 277 and 16; FCT 137 and 2; Cross River 557 and 24; Kaduna 12 and 2; Rivers 81 and 3 deaths! The report said Bauchi State has the highest num ber of people infected with this archetypal affliction of underdevelopment: cholera!


This is the picture of 21st Century Nigeria: entrapped in an affliction that ought to belong in the M iddle Ages! It is outbreaks like these w hich help set the crimes of our ruling class in bold relief. After 11 years of civil rule, we are still registering “over 140% of households” not having basic facilities to defecate and those who rule us do not think we are in a crisis! It is similarly incredible that at a time when the affliction was eating up mileage around Nigeria, the nation’s political elite was also too busy politicking to note or care! It is cholera for the Nigerian people and political maneuvering for the elite. Our country has been consumed at the elite level by nocturnal and other clandestine meetings about the vicious struggle to earn power in 2011. Not for Goodluck Jonathan any talk about cholera; the man has 1,000 of hungry “JONATHAN-MUST-RUN” groups to constantly propitiate and “settle”.

Even Isa Yuguda’s horizon neglects cholera, never m ind that his state has recorded the highest num ber of victims; he is too busy strategizing how to survive the approaching political deluge o f 2011. This is why the appropriation of Marquez in our context is in order; we are witnesses to high wire politicking in a season of cholera; add the 75 per cent failure in the latest WAEC results plus a dollop o f scandals in political society, such as Madam Patience Goodluck’s entourage junketing around Nigeria in three presidential planes and arriving at Okrika to dress down an elected governor; just as Goodluck Jonathan and his governor friends in the states drew down the excess crude account from $27billion to less than $500 million (within nine months!) and the man wants to take a foreign loan of about $5Billion (most of which may be stolen!); the “too strange to believe” magical essence of the Nigerian condition would have been fantastic background for a master piece by Gabriel Garcia Marquez!

There is a lot that is wrong with Nigeria, and none can be m ore astonishing than the recent exhumation of the GESTAPO tactics o f the Obasanjo era in the manner that Goodluck Jonathan has decided to pursue his political enemies with the EFCC. That single action shows how inept Goodluck is, and it underscores why he must be prevented BY ALL MEANS NECESSARY from nicking the PDP’s ticket for the 2011 election. Goodluck betrays an astonishing incompetence and a poor political judgment by assuming that the quickest way to whip his opponents into line is by employing the discredited tactics his godfather, Olusegun Obasanjo, used in the run up to the 2007 elections. Goodluck Jonathan skewed the pursuit of power in the direction which took both ethno-religious and regional colourings. Our paper weight president lit his candle from both ends in a desperate pursuit of power, and it is that                     miscalculation which has become his nemesis! Nigeria resembles the broad canvas which the magical realists paint, and in our setting the bizarre tops the magical; this after all is a society where mythology, mystification, metaphysics and hollow piety trounce the rational. We must invite Marquez to observe the absurdities upon which this society has constructed its existence! VP Namadi Sambo and zoning.

Last week, Vice President Namadi Sambo described zoning as having become irrelevant; good talk! To prove a point, why doesn’t he step down for Edwin K. Clark or Tony Anenih to become vice president?

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