But seriously, O.J.,” said Uwa Ezuoke, “what are we to make of this raging fire engulfing the globe? Everywhere you turn the talk is of democracy, democracy, democracy! Is it for real, or just another media hype?”
“I guess it’s a bit of both,” I said.
“The new Winds of Change…”
“The new god, the new craze . . .”
“It’s crazy! Democracy is crazy! It’s madness of the people replacing madness of the rulers.”
“In a democracy the people do their own killing instead of leaving it all to their leaders. Assassination and murder become the order of the day. The crime rate hits the skies. Murder of the people by the people in the name of the people.”
“Participatory democracy they call it. Empowerment. The power to decide to destroy. The President of the United States, the world’s exemplary democracy, must go everywhere heavily guarded, or fall to an assassin’s bullet. Several of his line already did.”
“Nations fall apart. Narrow nationalisms have taken over in the USSR and Eastern Europe. You can’t see the forest anymore for the trees.”
“Three decades ago the West branded it secession and fought it to a stand-still. Or was that only in Africa?”
“Then, you see, it was their empire that threatened to fall apart. Today they eulogize it as ‘national self-determination’: naturally, when it’s someone else’s empire you encourage it to fall apart.”
“You can’t control someone else’s empire; it will strike back missile for missile, bomb for bomb.”
“What you have you hold; what your enemy has you scatter if you can. That’s the global power game.”
“Where then is truth?”
“What truth? Truth is of no account.”
When the discussion touched this base it came to rest. We each sat with our own thoughts. Then Uwa Ezuoke reached over and handed me a typescript.
“It’s something I wrote some years back but never published. Tell me if it’s been overtaken by events.”
The article was titled “POWER OF WILL: Reflections on Mbonu Ojike, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.” It read as follows:
“The ultimate secret of India’s success in rapid development lies in the strong-willed Gandhian tradition of absolute nationalism.
“Gandhi’s pacifism and non-violence derived from the powerful Hindu tradition. Indian religions emphasize spiritual values far above material values. They put a high premium on detachment—what the West might call asceticism—control of the flesh, devaluation of material possessions, cultivation of the inner self, development of will power, and belief in death as merely a passage of rebirth into another and better life.
“Gandhi’s achievement was, first, in living out these values in his own life, and in bringing them to bear upon his exertions in the realm of politics and public policy. The cultivation of selflessness and detachment from material possessions in the person translated into selfless and self-sacrificing struggle for the nation. The nation—its people, their freedom from domination by foreigners, freedom to live life their own way—became, for Gandhi, as it were, the equivalent of the other-worldly nirvana sought by the Hindu mystic.
“In the political realm, then, nation first and self-reliance would be among the slogans of the Gandhi tradition. Gandhi boycotted British manufactured goods and British salt, insisted on making salt from Indian sea water, spinning cotton and weaving his own cloth, however crude, which of course got him in trouble with British colonial authorities. His successors, Nehru and his colleagues, and their successors in government over the next four decades, translated and updated Gandhi’s policy into the equally grim determination to shut out from India all foreign goods they could possibly live without, and to quickly learn to make for themselves all the ones they could not live without.
“This, then, is India’s version of our own Mbonu Ojike’s slogan Boycott all boycottables! This is the way Ojike dreamed it but died without seeing any intention by the nation’s leaders to adopt and actualize this philosophy. While Ojike was shouting himself hoarse in 1948-56, Nehru in India was quietly implementing the same boycott policy.
“India carried the boycott policy to its most extreme and logical conclusion. Nehru banned virtually all imports except food and a few manufactured goods that must be copied, and the machines for copying them.
“To complement the ban, the Indian government set about organizing agriculture and industry. They invited foreign collaboration with the stipulation that within five years the manufactured product, whatever it might be, should have attained approximately 90 percent local content and input—in design, raw materials, parts, control by indigenous engineers and technicians, etc.
“Similar rules are on the books here in Nigeria. The procedure is all spelled out in the Enterprises Promotion (Indigenisation) Decree of 1974. But we have no comparably deep and powerful national tradition of ascetic self-denial and sacrificial suffering which might impel our leaders to enforce and our people to submit to the hard labour of building an autonomous and self-sufficient nation. What is most in evidence, instead, is a near-universal convention of selfishness and self-indulgence. In exchange for cash the leaders look the other way while the rules are being violated . . . .”
I was half-way through, but I’d read enough. . . .