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Komputer Keyboard Kombatants

Two days ago, in an article entitled “No Military Interventions Allowed,” I argued against the prospects of a military coup in Nigeria.  My article followed reports that certain elements within the army were preparing—or being prepared—for a coup, and that the Chief of Army Staff was taking measures to ensure a coup did not happen. 

Two days ago, in an article entitled “No Military Interventions Allowed,” I argued against the prospects of a military coup in Nigeria.  My article followed reports that certain elements within the army were preparing—or being prepared—for a coup, and that the Chief of Army Staff was taking measures to ensure a coup did not happen. 
My thesis was—and is—that knowing what we now know of military interventions in Nigeria, civilian rule must be protected and nurtured by civilians, not cut short by soldiers who soon prove to be no better than the civilians they forcibly replaced.  My thesis was—and is—that ordinary Nigerians must jealously guard their right to determine who rules, and how the country is run.  These are rights that are lost when guns run the streets.  

I drew of the examples of Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha, military men who so deeply exploited Nigeria politically and economically that the nation had to fight tooth and nail to get rid of them.    The inference was that while the lure of a military “saviour” is enticing, on the surface, our experience has been that we are forced to accept whatever the “saviour” inflicts upon us, with no opportunity to challenge him.

That article appeared on this website, where it attracted considerably more “interest” than other places where it was published.  Sadly, many of the comments were aimed at my character, not the substance of my argument.  The following is a sample of the allegations and innuendoes aimed at me:

“Gbako” wrote: “Mr. Olumhense…you've eaten so much of our money from crooked politicians that you no longer know your left from right.”

“Bright Okoje” wrote: “Mr. Olumhense only God knows the kind of money you must have earned from corrupt politicians for this piece…You would not share in their plight as you are living comfortably in another mans country, you are no different tothe corrupt Governors you collect huge sums of money from, withholding the real news and situation of the country on ground!! SHAME ON YOU MR. OLUMHENSE!!! SHAME ON YOU!!!”

“Godswill” wrote: “I am sorry for our country Nigeria.  I am a friend to a Commisioner of Information in one of the South South States of Nigeria. I was shocked when his boss told him to get to SR and post strong comments that will stop the military boys to take over their Government. That he should immediately get in touch with all their PR men in the media in Nigeria to post comments to support what Sonala Olumhense has written in SR of 20 Feb 10…”

“Prince Adetokunboh Esq.” wrote: “Sonala Olumhense, how much money have corrupt 'politicians' paid you to write this piece?? You and your kind are part and parcel of one of the problems in Nigeria... CORRUPTION. Real news is not reported because corrupt politicians pay the likes of you to do their bidding for their public image aprroval.”

“Adeyinka Adebayor” wrote:   “You have surfaced in SR with your 'brown envelope' journalism. 99.99% of Nigerians want the Nigerian Army to come and free us from your hand and that of your Poverty Development Party (P.D.P). Shame to you and your brown envelope practice…By the way, what about the Abuja land given to you and Rueben Abati and the rest of your brown envelope journalists? By UMYA?  Has Johnny started to build houses on them for you?”

“Chinedu” wrote: “Nigerians should not take Olumhense seriously as he is doing his consultancy job. He is consultig for four state governors let him go to markets, follow public transport or attend Churches, he wil find out that Nigerians are crying and praying for the army to come because at least they will be able to feed their families.”

“Changemustcome” wrote: “ Sonala Olumhense, you have found your voice now. Which of the Governors have paid you to write this? It is only SR that has been fighting corruption in Nigeria for us. All of you (Nigerian media) lost your voices…”

Anyone who reads my columns knows that I advocate the best of Nigeria as I understand it.   One article does not an advocate make, and I have advocated a particular Nigeria for a long time.  “No Military Interventions Allowed” was intended as a contribution to what is best for Nigeria in the long run.  In my view, what is best for us is a republican democracy in which the rights of all Nigerians are protected, and which provides for all Nigerians.  I have always advocated a nation in which every man and woman can speak openly and vote freely; no soldier wants to hear that.

I know that is a difficult concept for some people, particularly in a society where the educational system has collapsed.  There is no sharper proof of this collapse than a situation where contributions to a public debate consists of the kind of manufactured allegations and innuendoes as I have quoted above.  This is how low the quality of our national dialogue has sunk. 

In a society where true education still exists, not only would a democratic society—warts and all—recommend itself without argument, even to the semi-educated, nobody would dare to make the kind of comments hereby quoted.  Educated men recognize that education is a trust, a responsibility.  Part of that responsibility is to avoid libeling others.  Part of that responsibility is to be able to conduct an argument logically with the intention to persuade, and not to insult or defame. 

Several of the contributors to this article spoke longingly and wistfully of a “Rawlings-type” military savior who would swoop into Nigeria in a military uniform to clear Nigeria of bad politicians.    That could very well happen.  But it has not happened in the past10 years.  And it may not happen in another 10 or 20, or ever.  Even if it did happen, who is to say when the “savior” will stop killing, or who he may refuse to save; who he would listen to, or whom he would keep from speaking? 

The reverse is what recommends a democracy: as bad as things may be in the entire country, or in a state, the individual citizen can intervene.  He is not helpless.  He can take action.   He can speak out.  He can join a group to fight for candidate of his choice, or for a political promise to be redeemed, or for a wrong to be righted, or for a policy to be changed.  That is not the same under military rule.  When a soldier seizes power, your only contribution is what he chooses to cede to you. 

Yes, Nigeria is rotten, but one of the reasons for that is that the average Nigerian often connives with the criminals.  We crawl indoors and ignore the crime, waiting for Rawlings to swoop down from the skies.   Sometimes, we do not vote, or even register to vote.  We ignore the riggers and the thieves in our own communities.  We cheer them on in cheap self-interest.  We give them chieftaincy titles.  We do not ask how they could afford all those cars, or even that private jet.

We have dreamt of Rawlings for a generation, but we got IBB and Abacha.  And one of the reasons we continue to dream Rawlings is that we are cowards who are too scared to fight for ourselves.  We are looking for someone else to come and do it for us.  One of the contributors to my column, someone who calls himself “Student believer” said: “…we want the military. We students want them…It is only the military that can give us free and fair election. IBB did it.”

IBB, dear deluded student, voided the elections to which you refer.  Read your History: He did it with a single stroke of the pen.  He then took the money and fled, leaving us with the mess we now have.  But that is where a democracy is different: when “civilian” Obasanjo wanted a third term, some “bloody civilians” stopped him. 

Again, “Student believer” is an example of the citizen waiting for political manna from heaven.  Where, for instance, were our students recently when the Save Nigeria Group called demonstrations to help break the impasse in Abuja?   They went missing.  They would rather weep into their beer looking for Rawlings than fight for themselves. 

Finally, a note about all those that made cowardly allegations about my character: ownership of a computer keyboard is not the same as intelligence.  Being able to type is not the same thing as being able to write.  And access to the Internet should not be treated as an opportunity to expose one’s ignorance. 

When I have the kind of information you pretend to have, do you know what I do with it?  I pass the tip on to the press.  Why don’t you pass the tip about me to any medium of your choice for investigation? 

I challenge you to do that.  Expose me.  Disgrace me by publishing all the information you have about me. 

But first, let me set myself up for you by restating an old claim: I cannot be bribed.  I have never taken a kobo from any politician—civilian or military—and never will.  None of them is rich enough to buy my conscience.  I have always demanded the highest principles of public figures, and I will accept no less of myself.  Expose me if I am not exactly who I say I am: a man whose opinion cannot be bought.

Why don’t you take advantage of this claim and really embarrass me?  Don’t hide behind a screen name or a computer.  Show some self-confidence: identify yourself and publish a full expose of your allegations against me.  Publish the allegations to which you allude: the brown envelopes or other inducements you say that I accepted to advocate the protection of democracy in Nigeria.

Remember, I put my name on my articles.  I challenge you to be man enough to do the same.  Unless, of course, you are you only a spineless keyboard warrior, eloquent and powerful only when you are hiding behind a computer screen name and a layer or lies.

Otherwise you are what I call a Komputer Keyboard Kombatant: a cowardly Nigerian with no opinion of his own, who gets his kicks by wearing an Internet mask for the purpose of waylaying, assaulting and assassinating.

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