Nigeria and the modern-day Herodians Syndrome
Whenever I reflect on issues on contemporary Nigeria Nation especially in our political sphere, one of the things that readily come to my mind is the Herods and Herodians phenomenon of the Bible era. I have come to see the Herodian as that individual who supports an oppressive and unjust system for reasons associated with selfishness, hatred, ignorance or outright foolishness. The Herodian exhibits blind solidarity and obsequious adoration of whomever he supports. He is like one who is condemned to support and defend the actions of his principal no matter how unjust or absurd the action may be.
Historically, the Herodian dynasty began in 37 BC when Herod Antipather a Roman protégé was appointed King over Palestine by the Romans after their conquest of Palestine. Herod who ironically was addressed as “Herod the great”, like most oriental kings was despotic. He was hated by the Jewish people because of his origin being an Idumean (Idumeans are Edomites the descendants of Esau) and more specifically for his cruelty and despotism. Not even his attempt to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem could ingratiate him to the Jews. It was the cruel Herod in his quest to kill the infant Jesus the new born King that ordered the murder of the innocent. Members of his family were not spared of his cruelty. It is on record that he executed some of his wives and children. He was purported to have signed a decree on his death bed authorizing the execution of prominent citizens of Palestine upon his death to ensure that there were mourning and weeping in the land when he realised that nobody would mourn him when he died on account of his cruelty.
When he died in 4 BC, his kingdom was divided among three of his sons—Archelaus, Antipas and Philip. It was the fear of Herod Archelaus that made the Holy family to relocate from Bethlehem in Judea to Nazareth in Galilee upon their return from Egypt. It was Herod Antipas that snatched his brother (Philip) wife and went ahead to behead John the Baptist for criticizing him. It was Herod Agrippa the grandson of Herod that killed James the brother of John and arrested Peter with the intention of killing him after the Passover. Herod Agrippa 2 was involved in the trial of Apostle Paul.
Traditionally, the Jewish people have reasons for their hatred for the Edomites. The Deutero-canonical (Apocrypha) book of Sirach 50:25-26 expressing Jewish sentiments about this, states thus: There are two nations that I detest, and a third that does not even deserve to be called a nation. These are the Edomites, the inhabitants of the Philistine cities and the stupid Samaritans.
But paradoxically, much as the Herods were hated by the Jews for their cruelty, despotism and tyranny and origin there was a group among the Jews known as the Herodians who were in support of the Herodian dynasty. The Herodians were part of the political parties among the Jews during Jesus Christ time. Jesus made disciples from among the publicans, scribes and Pharisees and Zealots but none was recorded among the Herodians. The only mention of Herodians in association with Christ was in connection with putting Jesus to test (Matt 22:16) and conspiracy to destroy Jesus (Mark 3:6 and 12:13).
The Nigeria situation at present is analogous to that of the Herods-Herodian phenomenon. Nigeria is in a sorry state due to dysfunctional leadership and official high-handedness. There is a reign of terror in the land as every aspect of national life seems to be negatively affected. There is suffering and palpable fear in the land while the government appears to be noncommittal about the plight of the people and some individuals seem to be comfortable with the state of affairs.
Just as some Jews were supporting the Herods for selfish reasons, there are many Nigerians supporting the present tyrannical government for parochial reasons. The Nigerian modern day Herodians are Buharists otherwise known as the buharideens who are blind supporters of Buhari regime. They will defend every action of the government no matter how terrible and attack anyone that tries to critise the obnoxious policies of the government. They include those who in the past have pretended to speak against injustice in the land but now have overtly and covertly shown support to the mockery that is being made of our democracy. Among this group are some sections of the press and the civil society groups. The Press that were once thought to be vibrant and militant has suddenly become lukewarm and dangerously neutral—no more sensational headlines except if it is in the favour of the government. Some people insinuated that they have been “settled” or intimidated. The organized labour, student unions and right activists have all become taciturn—no more aluta, no more million-man marches and demonstrations. It is said that those who used to manipulate them, the so-called progressives are the ones sharing power in this regime. The press and the civil society groups have by omission and commission been playing footsy with this regime.
Our modern-day Herodians include the cheerleaders, internet hack writers, media hirelings, and spin doctors of the this regime who would cheer every move no matter how trivial, defend every blunder no matter how unjust and attack and try to muffle every voice of dissent no matter how constructive or logical. And broadly, these Nigerian modern-day Herodians can be grouped into three namely: the hypocritical, the ignoramus and the haters.
The hypocritical are those who are benefitting directly or indirectly from the system as it is currently constituted and would want the status quo maintained. Chiefly among them are those who in the past have pretended to speak for the masses. Others are some appointees of the government, those branded as corrupt who would want to escape EFCC noose, and the ethnic jingoist.
Generally, the hypocrites always have reasons, no matter how preposterous, to justify their roles. The hypocrites have anchored their support for the government on what they claimed to be government’s war against corruption. But in reality, it does not take a clairvoyant to know that corruption has indeed worsened under this administration. There are cases of corruption against high profile members of this government that were swept under the carpet. The list is too long to be enumerated here. There are cases of those facing corrupt charges previously but had their charges quashed just because they defected to the ruling party. It is only in this regime that we hear that snakes and monkey swallowed public funds and orphaned monies “stage-managedly” dumped in the most bizarre places. When Idi Amin was terrorizing his people in Uganda, he made it look as if he was fighting Western Imperialism. The same for Master Sergeant Doe of Liberia who made his tyranny look as if he was fighting the Mulattoes whom he accused of subjugating the native Creoles. Also, Sani Abacha in his futile effort to ingratiate himself to the Western Powers pretended to be fighting money laundry; harassing car dealers, business center operators and other business men in Nigeria. But later events has shown that he was the most known money launderer in Nigerian history for his loots stashed away in foreign vaults are still being recovered.
The haters are those who may or may not have benefited anything from the government but foolishly want the regime to continue because it is believed to be punishing some people and excluding a section of the country from the affairs of the country. These people live in perpetual fear of some people and were angry with the previous regime not because it did not do well but because it appeared to give attention to those they considered not part of the country.
Again, among the Nigerian Herodians, are some ignorant people and hear-say rumour peddlers who believe whatever they hear—those who would believe that one who has never been arrested or tried for any wrong doing is a thief while the one with corrupt cases and scandals around him is a “man of integrity” because his opinion leader said so.
Clearly, the danger of modern-day Herodianism manifests in many dimensions. The suffocating lull in civil advocacy has sent wrong and misleading signals, creating the feeling that all is well whereas all is not. This tacit endorsement of the regimes obnoxious policies has emboldened those in government into thinking that they are doing well. At present, there is wanton waste of human life in a manner unprecedented in the annals of this country. The economy, one of the fasted growing in the world before the coming of this government is so bastardized so much so that Nigeria is now regarded as the poverty headquarters. Insecurity, crime and social vices are on the upward swing. Corruption is growing in leaps and bounds albeit the government is deceiving the world pretending to be fighting corruption. The culture of impunity is now firmly entrenched in the system.
Gozie Irogboli email@example.com an economist and public policy analyst