Dr Bala Usman at “Interesting” Times Like This, By Issa Aremu

The received wisdom has that it is a Chinese curse to say  “May he live in interesting times.” Interesting times are often defined as “times of danger and uncertainty” while conversely “uninteresting” times are times of uninterrupted peace and tranquility. Certainly all nations  pass through both interesting and uninteresting times so defined, no less Nigeria. But unarguably very few countries parade citizens living in seemingly endless “interesting” times like Nigeria. What with almost a century long British colonial occupation, brutal exploitation and oppression (1861-1960)? Even much more earlier, what with 16-18th centuries long inhuman Slave trade in which million Nigerians were forcibly kidnapped  to the Americas to force labour on plantations?

What with a Civil ( Biafran ) War,  (from 6 July 1967 – to 15 January 1970), between the Federal government and the secessionist state with 100,000 combatant  casualties and as many as over 2 million civilian casualties? What with 30 years of military dictatorships (1966-1979) and (1983-1998), almost half the nationhood and almost twice 20 years of “democratic” rule? What with decade long economic structural adjustment (remember SAP?) with political regimentation? What with scores of communal and ethnic-religious feuds, militancy and insurgency? And  endless constitutional / political debates and reports? And what with the current political frustrations and shouting matches of unity and disunity, “restructuring” and self determination  and even audacity of disintegration? Some nations certainly do have bagful of interesting issues, but Nigeria ever lives in interesting times with scores of interesting issues. Paradoxically interesting times do throw up interesting historic figures who commendably turned adversities into national progress. Nigeria has had its fair share of historic figures, heroes and heroines of anti-colonialism, independence and democracy. They include Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, Hadia Gambo Sawaba, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Pa Micheal Imoudu,   Mallam Aminiu Kano, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Kudirat Abiola, Alhaji Balarabe Musa and Dr Yusufu Bala Usman among others.

What marked Dr Yusufu Bala Usman ( 1945 – September 24, 2005) out was that he was both an historic participant figure and academic, and a leading scholar of  Nigerian historiography.  We are living in an interesting times in which common sense is far from being common with cheap shut down of communities and cheap quit  notices to fellow compatriots, no less  cheap social media proclamation  of  “Self determination”  by misguided youths of various shades. It is self evident that to be academic  and seek for real knowledge in this interesting time is a luxury. All this negative development then raises the question; what would be the reactions of the philosopher-patriot that was Dr Bala Usman if he was alive today? What would  be the reaction of  the founder of the Centre for Democratic Development, Research and Training at Ahmadu Bello University, a major figure among post colonial historians to the return of the long discredited TINA mentality ( There  Is  No Alternative) this time “Restructuring” but then SAP ( Structural Adjustment Programme)? What would be Bala Usman’s reaction to Prof. Wole Soyinka’s band wagon seemingly uncritical new posturing that “Nigeria is negotiable”? For one Dr Bala Usman would have audaciously taken the Centre stage to put issues in historic perspective making a passionate case for the unity of Nigeria and indeed Africa. He would have taken an exception to the recent fashionable insular shoddy analysis of a complex issue of development and good governance. He would have also profiled the new emergency reformers for what they have always been; the wreckers of nation-building projects and warned the citizens against a renewed manipulation of religions and regions. Dr Bala would have thought outside the false box of restructuring and called for the “liberation of Nigeria”!.

We must revisit the historic brilliant  engaging essay by the great African patriot and scholar at the sixth Bala Mohammed (his friend!) Memorial Lecture entitled;  Nigeria unity and Nigeria History: the Basis of our self –determination And our Survival delivered at the conference Hall, Shukura Hotel, Sokoto, Friday, 10th July, 1992.  On national unity here is quotable Bala Usman at times like this;  “It is necessary to be very clear from the beginning as to the nature of what we are talking about here. Nigerian unity is not an abstract thing existing in the minds of some people. It is not a figment of somebody’s imagination. Like the unity of other countries, of other polities, and indeed of all communities at all levels, it is made up legal and constitutional enactments. It is made up of network of human relationships. These relationships are real. There are ecological relationships, economic relationships, social relationships, psychological relationships and political relationships. Right now, these relationships are being strained and battered by the intensity and scale of the decline in the living conditions of almost all the people lives of Nigeria, except a handful. This devastation of the lives of Nigerians is a direct result of the economic crisis the country fell into from the early eighties and particularly due to the policies of the structural Adjustment Programme imposed by the present regime, over the last six years

Issa Aremu mni


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