From the Past



By Uthman Shodipe

There is an unnatural turpitude in the political firma­ment. There is an encroaching still­ness in the air. There is a frozen mo­tion, an abrupting of civic animation. Everything is at a crawl, stifled in lymphatic awkwardness. There is no certainty anywhere. There is no active calendar. There is nothing to pursue in faithful aspirational nudg-ings. Everything is gridlocked by the unfathomable will of power.


Those who had once dashed about in excited animation have now crawled back into sombrous quie­tude, uncertain of the nuance of the moment, incapable of comprehend­ing the attgurial content, fated to wail in defeated silence, straining to hear the manipulative echo of the great puppet master.


And since the echo does not come in comprehensive certitude, there is even no more feigned stirring of po­litical enthusiasm. There is no more any pretended exuberance of partici­patory drama. For the stage is un­seen. The script is unknown. Every­thing else is cloaked in mischievous bewilderment, hurrying the actors into the refuge of anonymous pon­dering. Even the time-servers who had wheeled about.-in exaggerated hur­rah are suddenly somnolent, per­plexed by the vague spectacle. There is a chastening irony here.


The halleluyah men who were part of the fraud, who are defined by their mastery of the motions of power, who   survive   on   unconscionable predications, are now screened from the promptings of power. Like everybody else, they are equally en­closed in a dark puzzling alley. Since; there are no motions, there is nothing to latch to in mechanical survival. Since there are no feints, no sig­nalled direction, no codified messag­es, no enlarged clarity, the purchased men are now stymied, halted by the overwhelming muddle.


The survivalist campaign is now endangered. The enterprise is no longer profitable. The slush money is no longer strewn in licentious liber­ality to rent a crowd, to energize a horde in sycophantic mutter. There is no more any jostling of the carnival stampede. The brazen banners are furled. The voices are muted. The fraudulent ardour smitten in eclips­ing tarnishment by the indomitable latitude of reality. All is quiet on the front.


The lapsing of the odious theatri­cality into a stricken inanimation is a witness to the confounding of power’s ambition. The old certitude which would impose a martial trans­mutation is apparently hobbled by the conflicting assertions within the hegemonic court. There is now, a widening incoherence of purpose, a subtle disruptive  ferment rivening the ruling orbit.


It is in the contradictory locking of this debate that power is confronted with its own vulnerability. Its will enfeebled by the inner containment within its own ranks. The once vaunted totalitarian rollicking, sweeping across the polity, fettering the independence of thought, vitiat­ing the dynamic alertness of institu­tional structures, is no longer valid.


What obtains now is a blind, sur­reptitious wandering; the desperate grasping for rescue, the veiled orbit­ing in a destructive, obsessional compulsion. Aware that the road ahead is fraught with inhibiting dan­ger, conscious of the rallying canvas of the oppositional strength, wary of the trenchant vigour of the global vigilance, detained by the treacher­ous bursts of intra palace contest, power now yielded to a rambling un­certainty.


It is a victim of its own ambition, a prisoner of its own heedlessness. Surely, it cannot proceed with the ancient script without some ruinous ,,collision. And yet it refuses to go back to the rectifying progression. Perhaps, because it is immersed in some intoxicating compulsion, it still hibernates in a bizarre muddle, unwilling to define its purpose, in­capable of amplifying itself in a firm clarity.


The result is a frozen benightedness, the darkling universality entombing us all. There is a blind ineffectuality everywhere. There is a narrow limiting to the moment, the unreflective detention in the funda­mental annoyances. Blighted by the byzantine fraud of power, flum­moxed by the stark uncertainties, the thronging, deprived populace in­habits a cluttering, pitiable fixity; scarred by starvation wage, huddled in diseased shackles, entrapped in the sweltering heat without water, without electricity; poisoned in the open vistas by the foul, corrosive torment of a murderous fuel, sav­aged by the grim generality of sub­sistence living, the populace resides in a harsh, benumbing bewilder­ment.


The silent, sullen hungry visages strung in endless stretches at the bus stops, in the public squares, behind -the market stalls, hooded in mobile contraptions — are all flung in a

consuming prowling for sustenance, too enfeebled to challenge the formidable murkiness.


And as the scarred visages deepen in their  own perplexity, undiscerning the content of the greater struggle, frozen in the emblems of helplessness, and as the sycophantic survivalist theatre shrinks in peripheral latitude, unspoken, unheard, power withers in incoherent soliloquies. It is grounded in perverted imaginings, wandering still in transformative motions, roaming in a destructive wasteland, contemptuous of reality.


But even in this stillness, even in this enthralling muddle, power is still roused into realistic glimpses by the active, relentless coterie of oppositional muster. It is in this animated resolve, it is in this vibrant heroic assertiveness that power is curbed, contained in tne reckless diffusion of its whim.


Certainly, we are far from any coherent denouement.  The horizon is far from limpid. There re are still swarms of hidden indicator? Everywhere, there are still hobbling equivocating traps, diminishing the polity in muted hollowness. But in the end, there is a tempering consolation in the rousing vigilance of the conscionable few.

First published Tuesday, 21 October, 1997.