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Nigeria and Echoes of Pieter Botha - TELL Magazine

Nigeria and Echoes of Pieter Botha

Pieter Willem Botha (1916-2006) was a South African politician. From 1978 to 1984, he served as Prime Minister and morphed into the first executive state president from 1984 to 1989. Botha was an outspoken opponent of black majority rule and international communism. However, his administration made concessions towards political reform, whereas internal unrest saw widespread human rights abuses at the hands of the government.
During his forty years in politics and governance, Botha made many statements that were villainous vituperations against Blacks. Botha it was who said thus: “If the principle of permanent residence for the Black man in the area of the white is accepted, then it is the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it in this country.” Botha also said “Adapt or die” and that “Most Blacks are happy, except those who have had other ideas pushed into their ears.” These statement reflected his mindset, which informed his actions as President of Apartheid South Africa.
This piece focuses on the statement made by Botha in 1988 at the twilight of the Apartheid regime thus: “Black People cannot rule themselves because they don’t have the brain and mental capacity to govern a Society. Give them Guns, they would kill themselves. Give them power, they will steal all the Government money; Give them independence and Democracy, they will use it to promote Tribalism, Ethnicity, Bigotry, Hatred, Killings and Wars!”

While Pieter Botha could be forgiven for harboring the uninformed racist misconception that Africans “don't have the brain…to govern a Society” due to his rather limited knowledge of the functions and capacities of the brain, he was out… Click To Tweet


As repugnant, repulsive and, therefore, objectionable as the above assessment of the African is, it is asked as follows under the current circumstance in Nigeria especially via-a-vis the conduct and outcome of 2023 elections: (1) was the conduct of Nigerians, especially the ruling elite, during the just concluded elections reflective of a people with the capacity to govern themselves based on the tenets and ethos of democracy? (2) have we not been using the guns acquired officially and privately (many, illegally) to kidnap our people, sack communities, attack and kill people even in the hallowed places of worship? (3) Did we not turn the peaceful process of election into an orgy of voter intimidation, harassment, maiming and killing? (5) have our professors not proven to be illiterates in basic arithmetic? (6) has our justice delivery system not become a super market? (7) have our public office holders not used the powers given to them to empty our treasuries into their private vaults thereby exacerbating poverty and hunger? (8) Have we not used independence and democracy to promote tribalism, ethnicity, religious bigotry, sectionalism, hatred, internal xenophobia etc, resulting in war in the state peace? The questions are virtually endless and the simple answer is that Nigerians have failed woefully in the very crucial art of governance, which determines the future of a society.
While Pieter Botha could be forgiven for harboring the uninformed racist misconception that Africans “don’t have the brain…to govern a Society” due to his rather limited knowledge of the functions and capacities of the brain, he was out rightly correct on the lack of “mental capacity to govern a society”. If you ask me, I’d say that Africans have clearly demonstrated lack of the “mental capacity to govern a society”.
In its basic form, mental capacity is the ability to put one’s learning to practice and being able to make your own decisions. So, it is asked: Have we put to practice what we have learned about democracy with special reference to elections? Being decision and time specific, mental capacity requires dispassionate objectivity in the overall interest of the society. From independence till date we have consistently demonstrated that prejudices have beclouded our sense of reasoning hence we lack objectivity.

Nigerian professors are now known to rig elections for corrupt and inept leaders just as they sell marks for money and sex, yet they expel students for the comparatively less evil of examination malpractice. Click To Tweet


In his blog titled “Who Did This to Us”, Israel Davidson raised pertinent issues that elicit introspection; he also asked thought-provoking questions that demand answers. He offers that irrespective of abundant human and natural resources and exemplary achievements of Nigerian professionals abroad, Nigeria remains backwards in all indices of human progress. Therefore, he asks: (1) have we proven Pieter Botha wrong? (2) are our leaders making decisions in national interest? (3) are the led demanding probity and accountability from authority figures?
The American linguist, Noam Chomsky (The Father of Modern Linguistics), once said that “a lost nation is one in which hungry and jobless people blindly support those responsible for their poverty, agony and misery”. Sadly, Chomsky’s conceptualization and characterization of “a lost nation” played out in bold relief during the 2023 Election in Nigeria where and when otherwise knowledgeable, educated and economically stable and comfortable professionals and other people yielded to malfeasance for pecuniary benefits.
Nigerian professors are now known to rig elections for corrupt and inept leaders just as they sell marks for money and sex, yet they expel students for the comparatively less evil of examination malpractice. The taunting phrase “Go to Court”, which has taken the center stage of social banters in Nigeria, has tainted the nation’s justice delivery system. Now that some contestants are in court over the results and other matters, Nigeria’s judiciary should objectively and judiciously take a painstaking look at the merits and demerits of the submissions towards redeeming its badly battered image. The courts in Kenya earned the respect of well-meaning Africans and the world when they overturned suspect election results in 2017; three years thereafter, their counterparts in Malawi did same in 2020.
Arguably, the black race is the only race that is usually ready and willing to sacrifice meritocracy, national development and progress to favor protection of tribal and religious prejudices irrespective of the recycling consequences over time. It is said that most Nigerians don’t hate bad leaders: they just want the bad leader to come from their family, religion or their tribe.
Nigerians must learn to identify, develop and embrace a new breed of competent, credible and compassionate patriotic leaders who desire to emancipate the people from mental slavery. Such leaders must have character and should be able to help the people develop confidence in their innate abilities, their cultures, food, dress codes and the way they talk and to assert their sovereignty by taking full control of their natural resources and national borders. Government should restore the dignity of the Nigerian person who’s been a prisoner of poverty and neglect as a result of corruption and unpatriotic and incompetent leadership.

Jason Osai can be reached via ozomogoosai@gmail.com

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