Ego Ndi Enugu: Lessons from the falls of Napoleon, Hitler, Abacha, and perhaps the Oligarchy in Enugu
The poetic headline of an anonymous article traveling around WhatsApp attracted my attention on the morning of Wednesday, December 21, 2022, and unlike my attitude to a number of the endless streams of rhetoric in this space, I spent valuable time reading this one. And I must tell you this article was so good I read it twice.
The headline of this article was, “Ego Ndi Enugu Christmas Musical: Neither Mbah nor His Aides have Provided Answers to the Many Questions Raised.” Unlike many who were expecting answers from the Peter Mbah camp to the questions raised in what has become the “Ego Ndi Enugu revolutionary skit” (an anthem similar to the sorrowful songs of suffering African slaves and the moving folk songs of beleaguered South Africans under the oppressive apartheid jackboots), my mind, deeply rooted in Nigeria’s political history, switched to connecting veins and arteries of repeated historical errors from which the protagonists learned nothing.
History is replete with successive leaders who failed the learn from the mistakes of their predecessors, situations that caused them to perish under the same falling meteorite. And if the rave-making “Ego ndi Enugu” anthem leads, as it is looking likely, to the mass revolt and rejection of Peter Mbah and his PDP in Enugu, the reason will, for those with historical eyes, be linked to this candidate’s failure to learn from former dictator, late Gen. Sani Abacha and his vanquished dream to transmute from a military dictator to a civilian president between 1997 and 1998.
We will come back here, but before then, it will be nice to travel around the world for case studies that would help us validate the direction this song is taking the political leadership calculations in Enugu. To begin with, we will cite an example from France and travel through the war Napoleon Bonaparte waged against Europe but which was halted in Russia.
Napoleon, the all-powerful French revolutionary was intent on conquering the whole of Europe. He was almost succeeding. Nations and principalities, scared of his brave army, were pledging allegiance and submitting to his overlordship. He even enthroned himself as an Emperor. His name stoked fear and submission. Entire Europe was under his feet. Even Russia which he was yet to conquer was scared of h army of France and Napoleon knew this.
if the rave-making “Ego ndi Enugu” anthem leads, as it is looking likely, to the mass revolt and rejection of Peter Mbah and his PDP in Enugu, the reason will, for those with historical eyes, be linked to this candidate’s failure to learn from former dictator, late Gen. Sani Abacha and his vanquished dream to transmute from a military dictator to a civilian president between 1997 and 1998.
To make good his dream of being the person who conquered the world, he decided to invade Russia. And he scheduled this invasion at the wrong time – in winter. His then-unique asymmetrical war tactic meant he had to encircle the vast Russian subcontinent and close in. But covering the vast snow-filled lands of Russia during this season took time and this time took its toll on soldiers and chariots. The horses died and the soldiers died, both from starvation and from the adverse weather.
Russia won the war without firing a single shot.
By 1935, another European rose to conquer the world. His name was Adolf Hitler. He was feared in Germany as he was dreaded in other parts of Europe and the new world. And in 1939, he began his own attempt to conquer the world from Europe.
Like Napoleon, success was his and the entire Eastern and Western Europe, down to most northern African countries were falling like denuding dry leaves in harmattan. But just like Napoleon, he made the mistake of attempting to invade Russia in winter.
The consequences were crushingly devastating. Winter chose to be especially brutal that year and the German soldiers, like Napoleon’s, starved to death. Even the specially made Panza tanks could not move through the snow-covered mountains and plains.
This caused German soldiers to retreat and the Russian forces, who had merely been waiting, pursued and routed those who survived snow and hunger. Those who were strong enough to escape quickly fell into the hands of the waiting Allied Forces, and even before America detonated the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Germany and its ally, Italy, were already drained of human, military, and emotional resources.
Now, why am I telling these stories? I doubt if there is any need to begin an explanation. If you understood that Hitler failed because he ignored the telltales of history, then just patiently read the remaining part of this article.
In 1997, preparatory to a planned and well-orchestrated transmutation of power to himself, the late General Sani Abacha contrived many machinations to make his dream materialize. One of the things he did was to throw up a young man by the name of Daniel Kanu, who used a platform known as Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha (YEAA) to organise national rallies in Abuja in support of Abacha’s dream. Those who speak about One-million-Man March around political mobilisation circles in Nigeria today might not know that this was where it all began, but that is a story for another day.
Daniel Kanu and his YEAA mobilised youths from across the country, and that included the youths of the Niger Delta that have endured years of deprivation, even though they are the wealth-base of the country.
But these young men and women, from the creeks, arrived Abuja, saw the opulence and lavish infrastructure, and returned home in anger and rebellion against a state that they felt had used their resources to develop other parts of the country at their expense.
That was the beginning of “resource control” agitation. That was the beginning of all the struggles that have refused to end in the Niger Delta to date.
Fast-forward to 2022 and Peter Mbah wanted to be governor of Enugu State. To establish that he had the financial muscle and corporate experience to prosecute the elections and manage the state, Mbah conveniently scheduled the commissioning of his multimillion-dollar tank farms in Lagos to happen soon after he had picked the PDP ticket.
On the day he commissioned his tank farm, according to this anonymous writer I referred to earlier, he packed youths of the state, many of whom are victims of state-induced economic deprivation, and transported them to witness the stupendous investments he had made in the oil industry.
It was this visit, so this writer explained, that made Mbah’s guests mutter in constrained discontent that the sprawling real estate they were beholding was a product of the wealth and resources of Enugu people.
Ego ndi Enugu.
This was because it was easy to link Mbah, who was nobody until former governor of the state, Chimaroke Nnamani plucked him straight from national youth service, into government, where he was both Chief of Staff and Commissioner for Finance. This essentially gave life to the “Ego Ndi Enugu” sad tale, and it began because Mbah invited people who lived in poverty, to have a view of the opulence that he has been able to build up.
Do you now see why those who have been pillorying both the person who created the now very famous “Ego Ndi Enugu” song and all those who have been feasting on it should pocket their misguided frustration? The person who created the grounds for the video is the same Peter Mbah, who is butt of the vitriol in the video. He could well have launched his tank farm very quietly without linking it to either himself or his politics.
But like Abacha, he exposed the people to an opulence they never imagined was possible, more so when they believe it may have been acquired with their commonwealth. Like Napoleon, Mbah refused to learn from history and thus, has become a victim of his own political endearment.
The way it is going, Enugu people will sing this song at the polling stations in March. The song captures their frustrations since 1999 when a set of political leaders arrived and treated the state like a private estate. The song sums up the queer philosophies of political emasculation that have been visited on the people in the name of democracy. And if this song, like those sung by our brothers who were forced into slavery, becomes an expression of hope, a rallying cry for solidarity, an evocative muster for political resistance, and a battle call for emancipation, then the people of Enugu have to be entitled to it.
But let it be known that, just like Abacha should not have exposed Nigerians to the obscene wealth lavished on Abuja at the expense of the people under whose earth the national wealth was being generated, Peter Mbah should never have taken the impoverished people of Enugu State to the needless expedition around items and projects that give any suggestion of converted and diverted commonwealth.
Ego Ndi Enugu