By ‘Remi Oyeyemi
When at 10.22am on January 21, 1793, King Louis XVI of France was executed
at Place de la Révolution (“Revolution Square”, formerly Place Louis XV,
and renamed Place de la Concorde in 1795) it called to question the
humaneness of our humanity.
Born as Louis-Auguste and referred to as Citizen Louis Capet during the
final week of his life while being tried by the revolutionary Republican
Government, he was condemned to death for what was deemed “sins” against
the people. His immediate family members could hear the guns celebrating
his death in their captivity.
Reading the background accounts of the events that led to the French
Revolution, the sufferings of the people under an obnoxious feudalistic
system and the rebellion that followed, it was difficult not to sympathize
with the French people. Under the banner of a newly found freedom chant of
“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” they overthrew the monarchy. And executed
As I read the detail accounts of the execution, my humanity was called
into question. The gory details provided by eyewitness accounts made the
historical event so vivid and scary. Despite my unreserved sympathy for
the French people, cutting off the head of a fellow human being really got
to me. It paused me momentarily, as I shuddered at what it looked like
while the grisly event lasted.
I wondered why a different sort of punishment could not have been meted
out to Citizen Louis Capet. I wondered what had possessed his “judges”,
the French people, to the point of celebrating that barbarity. I wondered
how their blood had vapourised to make them so unfeeling. I wondered why
the milk of human kindness in their veins ceased to flow. I wondered what
had driven them to such savagery. I wondered how they became so cold,
cruel, callous and chilled. I wondered how their humanity evaporated.
Engaging in the psychoanalysis of a monumental historical event such as
the French Revolution and the amount of blood that flowed through several
stages of it, is a very titanic task. Doing this in a dispassionate manner
in a way not to allow my sentiments and sympathy, (or if you like, my
humanity) to intervene is a much more a yeoman’s yoke. Yet this is about
humaneness. Our humanity.
It is, as it was evident, that hundreds of years of povertization of the
French people by the monarchy had drained their humanity. Centuries of
yoking in squalid, inhuman and agonising conditions; living lives of utter
hopelessness from generation to generation had drained their humanity.
Such conditions have made them less than humans. The monarchy had actually
treated them not as humans but factors of production that deserved minimum
maintenance to ensure their continued servitude.
Thus, the execution of Citizen Louis Capet was not just an act of anger,
rage, resentment or spleen, but that of vengeance. Vengeance against
subjugation. Vengeance against slavery. Vengeance against exploitation.
Vengeance against poverty. Vengeance against denigration. Vengeance
against dehumanization. Vengeance against bestialization.
In their vengeance, their humanity evaporated. They became depraved having
been deprived of their own humanity. Their capability to be kind became
critically crippled. Their religiosity could not even temper their rage.
Neither could their faith in the Supreme Being mitigate their mania. As
far as the French people were concerned, Citizen Louis Capet was the
embodiment of their agonies and hopelessness. He must be at the receiving
end of their violent frustrations. He must be terminated. He must be
permanently incapacitated. He must be guillotined.
So, the reactions of a cross section of Nigerians to the misfortune that
befell Mr. Yusuf Buhari, a son of the President Mohammadu Buhari could be
understood to this extent. Aghast at the unsympathetic reactions of the
majority of Nigerians to Yusuf Buhari’s accident, Prince Adebayo Adeyinka
had asked on his Facebook page article titled : THE HUMAN SIDE OF ALL OF
US, “Where is our humanity?”
He had made a passionate appeal to us all not to lose our humanity and
show empathy to Mr. Yusuf Buhari. He appealed to Nigerians not use the
pains inflicted on Nigeria by his father, President Buhari, to judge him.
He pointed out that we are all parents and that this ought to be the
perspective to see the misfortune that befell Mr. Yusuf Buhari.
But Mr. Charles Ogbu had a different take on the issue. He wrote inter alia:
“Buhari’s son, Yusuf, who had a Power Bike accident last night, deserves
no empathy from any reasonable Nigerian.
That guy is an embodiment of the criminal insensitivity with which the
rogue govt of his father treats common Nigerians.
At a time when poor masses are sleeping in filling station to buy fuel at
an exorbitant price just to travel home for the Christmas and new year
celebration, the son of the man who is directly responsible for this
unimaginable suffering was busy doing Power Bike speed race with his
friend on a public road, thereby endangering the lives of other road
After grooving with our money in company of his friends, Yusuf Buhari
didn’t think it wise to empathize with poor Nigerians by quietly driving
or riding home in peace, he chose to mock us by engaging in racing
competition with his friends using the same fuel for which thousands of
Nigerians spent their holiday at the fuel station.
Why should I waste my empathy on such a fellow??
Now, he’s been operated upon. At our expense of course.
If I waste my expensive empathy on an over-indulged insensitive son of an
irresponsible President, which one will I spend on poor Nigerians dying
everyday on our road due to the legendary ineptitude of this President??
That his Power Bike was bought with public fund. The fuel in the Bike was
sourced from Asorock fuel depot. Even the money with which he grooved was
not his sweat. He is already receiving the best medical attention that is
unavailable to 80% of Nigerians. With our money of course.
So in essence, Yusuf Buhari DOESN’T really need our empathy. He already
has the key to our common treasury.
I rather reserve my empathy for those who are not as privileged as he is.”
While it is difficult to fault Mr. Ogbu’s position, it is my belief, as a
father myself, that Mr. Yusuf Buhari deserves sympathy. His father,
President Buhari deserves our empathy too. I congratulate the mother to
still have her son. The death of any son is the greatest tragedy that
could befall any human being. We should not wish it on others.
But it would be insensitive, unfeeling and hypocritical not to juxtapose
this mild incident to the experience of ordinary Nigerians in the hands of
a cold and evidently uncaring President Buhari. A President under whose
watch many innocent sons and daughters have been murdered by his Fulani
tribesmen. A President Buhari, under whose watch several fathers and
mothers have lost their sons and daughters.
President Buhari’s lack of response to these agonies of Nigerians amount
to trivialization of their lives. His quiet and tacit backing of Fulani
herdsmen extend the frontiers of agonies pervading the land. People are
suffering. And they are angry. Their reactions that elicited Prince
Adebayo’s admonitions are symptomatic of their level of dehumanization by
the Nigerian Government headed by President Buhari. President Buhari’s
coldness and unfeeling attitude is draining the humanity of Nigerians.
It would amount to intellectual dishonesty to heap all the blames of the
current tragedies on President Buhari alone and his Government, the fact
that President Buhari has been a constant denominator in Nigeria’s miasma
for about five decades notwithstanding. But he is the one in office right
now and he has to be responsible for the current situation.
Nigerians are daily being dehumanized. Nigerians are becoming more cruel
and mean. They’re becoming more hopeless and despondent. They are
dangerously irritated. They are frustrated. They are on edge. The sanity
of many is challenged. Their meanness to Yusuf Buhari is a tip of the
iceberg. It is a pointer to where the feelings of the majority of the
people are tipped.
Enough of the lies. Time to rectify the situation before the bomb
explodes. This is because when it does, no amount of police on the streets
or armoured personnel manned by the Armed Forces would be able to contain
the anger, the fury and the bestiality of the people.
A word, they say, is enough for the wise.
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been
granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do
not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.”
– John F. Kennedy, in his Inaugural Address January 20, 1961
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