The Danger of Collective and Individual Amnesia

The Buhari regime forbade the discussion, in any form, any reference to, discussion of, indeed any hint regarding this nation’s return to civilian rule. This went beyond armed robbery of a nation of its most precious asset—its voice—it even attempted an appropriation of its dreams. Yes, if it had been possible, if Buhari and his sidekick had the means to enforce it, they would have forbidden a hundred million people to dream of democracy or civil determination of the future in any shape. So here we are yet again confronted with another Nigerian wonda, the unconscionable breed that makes bold to feast on a banquet which it has trampled…there are many yardsticks by which to judge the worthiness of any individual for a public position, but I believe it is safe to presume that one of these must be the ability to keep one’s word. Here then is a man who swore that he would commit suicide if Sanni Abacha failed to become the civilian President of the nation and—lo and behold—did he follow his Master to the Great Beyond? Not in the least….For now, however, the PDP ethics police appear to be saying to Mr. Kanu: your candidature is somewhat premature, since it can only be valid if posthumous. First, commit suicide, then file your nomination papers. (Wole Soyinka, The Deceptive Silence of Stolen Voices)

The German Philosopher Nietzsche writing “On the Use and Abuse of History” emphasizes that man cannot live without a burden of memory no matter how he envies the herd which lives unhistorically. Though he cannot be happy nor offer happiness without a level of unhistorical living, that is to say, a kind of forgetting. An attempt to live without forgetting harms life. In Nietzsche’s word “ there is a degree of insomnia, of rumination, of the historical sense through which living comes to harm and finally is destroyed, whether it is a person, a people or culture.” However there is an unhistorical living that is at the same time anti-historical. This is that condition in which memory turns tirelessly in a circle but it is nevertheless too weak and too tired to make a single leap out of this circle and he says is the most unjust condition of the world, narrow, thankless with respect to the past, blind to what has happened and deaf to warnings. This is a small living vortex in a dead sea of the night and forgetting. In this condition one forgets things in order to do one thing; he is unjust towards what lies behind. What Nietzsche is saying is that there is a kind of forgetting that borders on pathos.

Ndi igbo in their wisdom insists that old men should not die lest the young feast on the vultures thinking them edible meats, in other words, the old are seen as repositories of history. They are people with a long memory. However what they forgot is also the very fact of pathologies that hamper remembrance. Pathologies like somnambulism, dementia, hallucination and amnesia. The old are often susceptible to such pathologies and when that happens the young whom they are meant to guide become helpless. To use Brutus words, “on such a full sea are we now afloat.” Thus the collective amnesia of a large segment of the Nigerian populace is responsible for the state of the nation today. Our President who in all honesty ought to be in jail for a crime against democracy is now saddled with the task of flying down to Gambia to persuade the so called “ewu Gambia” to leave office and detain the Kanu’s of this world for treason. What will Jameh think of Buhari? He will simply, in the spirit of court jesters of democracy entertain his guests and laugh in derision, just merriment.

As in Ouagadougou, so it is in Banjul. Buhari is unfit and unqualified to market democracy to a people. He can continue to dance “skelewu” in his Aso Rock or make a dash to “Olumo Rock” for extra measure, however let him not think that we are all afflicted with amnesia. Collective amnesia does not equate to total amnesia

. The individual variant of the collective amnesia has also found expression in our own Professor Wole Soyinka. On a simple issue of historical-record taking which the Professor was called to do, he accuses us of vomiting and masturbation and on another occasion refers to us as morons and imbeciles. In actual fact what we are saying is simply this “Professor your act of critical ejaculation has reached that point where economists use the term ‘ anarchy of production.’ ” This is to say a point where additional production offers no profit but loss. Is it a question of different strokes for different people? The eminent Professor was simply called to take a look at the presentation he made on the seventieth birthday of that diplomat—Anyaoku,( the Igbo name in this context starts looking like a pun) in which he reminded the Kanu of YEAA marchers of his inability to play the Horseman to the King. The question now becomes was that call or reminder an exercise in literalism or a call for a reality check?

In retrospect, I can hear the commander of YEAA marchers—in reply to the Professor’s claim of throwing his Green Card—without shouting Rogbodiyan! Saying “Prof., come touch the soles of my feet, check it out—not with a telephone conversation nor in Oxford—I have resurrected. Does resurrection not appear in your literature? If not I guess you have heard of Benjamin, thank you memory, lest I forget in a “Rush Hour” Walter Benjamin. He is the man who said ‘indeed the past would fully befall a resurrected humanity.’”

In other words, instead of living up to the standard he sets for another on the issue of prediction and predilection, our dear professor lapsed into a historical narrative that stretched from the Atlantic to the Antipodes, from California to Australia and back to Cuba where he was knighted or medaled by the late Castro!, all in an attempt at self-reassurance or mass-conviction of a feeling , yes a Trumpian feeling that is based on a time travel where the United States becomes Hitler’s backyard. Now we have a new pathology. Perhaps, we can call the doctors to give us a lecture in hypermnesia or hyperthymesia. In the mean time I sidestep it for another time. However the Professor must be reminded the words of the German philosopher we began with who says that “ anyone who does not dare any longer to trust himself but who involuntarily turns to history for his feeling and seeks advice by asking ‘what should I feel here?’ in his timidity gradually becomes an actor and plays a role, usually in fact many roles. Therefore, he plays each badly and superficially. Gradually, the congruence between the man and his historical sphere fails.”

In effect the palpable danger of amnesia and hypermnesia—collectively and individually, is just the same. It is the substitution of fiction for facts, feelings for reality. This is exactly the state we have found ourselves in Nigeria today. The big question then remains what are we to do. My cautious answer remains located in that logic of Brutus “ And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures.”

By Anosike Wilson


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