Yesterday, Okey Ndibe was arrested by the Nigerian government. Okey is of course a very dangerous man who carries a weapon of mass disturbance everywhere he goes. It is not a machine gun. More like a motor mouth. – Although he does not so much mouth off, as write up the follies of power. The evidence of his serial disruption of the mass hypnosis of the African masses are everywhere you look. He has been lately derided as an internet warrior (you will note the damning ‘war’ in warrior) and has been known to drop depth charges in cyberspace in venues from Sahara News to the BBC. But he also carries his warfare against the mediocritisation of public offices into newsprint, so he writes regular columns in newspapers with such aggression that Tuesdays are Public Discomfiture Days for politicians and senior public servants – until the messenger has brought in their copy of the Sun and they can confirm that Okey’s ire is directed elsewhere for that week…
Okay, so maybe I exaggerate, but how else to explain the news that on his arrival yesterday in Nigeria (a federal minister recently warned that I should not refer to my country by familiar sobriquets like ‘Naija’, so I have to watch my language here), Okey Ndibe was arrested, detained, and released after the seizure of his international passport. – And instructed to report to the SSS on Monday morning. Or the rumours that the SSS have opened a Book of Punishment with the names and profiles of ‘internet warriors’ who embarrass the Nigerian government in cyberspace. So Ndibe’s experience of special harrassment and interrogation at the international airport is a foretaste for his tribe of fellow warriors. My book, The Ghost of Sani Abacha is scheduled for release later this year, and if I were more superstitious I would fear that said ghost has risen early. How else to explain this spectre from times past? The Naija administration seems too early to have forgotten the People who battled the dictatorships of the smiling and the frowning generals to enable their current profligate tenure. And who wrestled the Ghost of Yar Adua from the empty throne. Yet, I should hold my peace. It may well be that Monday will see the unmasking of Ndibe as a drug baron of Noriegan proportions. Or even a sex maniac to make Julian Assange’s accusations sound like Sunday School. It is never a good thing to prejudge the delicate machinery of justice.
One meaning of the name ‘ndi ibe’ though, is members of a team. Naija’s retooled SSS should be well aware that Okey Ndibe is not alone. The publicity of this arrest will cause the internet to crash with the synthetic rage of critics like me whose last visits to Naija were insufficiently publicised. This attempt to cow an inconvenient voice may well deafen us.
I probably shouldn’t reveal this secret, but I will do so on condition that you do not spread it further: an American Intelligence team that was critical to the early development of the internet are now hard at work (in a top secret facility deep in the Rocky Mountains) on the follow up to cyberspace. It is codenamed, phantomspace. The concept is incredible: they are cloning human brains which are hooked on to millenial computers (far superior to Emeagwali’s computer). These computers are then connected to the www. In the distant past, people had to connect to computers via the keyboard and mouse. More recently wireless and voice-actuated devices were developed, but all that is child’s play now, with the development of a protocol faster than broadband (you guessed it. It is codenamed ghostband). In the future you will only need to think! This removes the need for a mechanical interface: the brain is wired directly, via a cloned mindmap™. The result is that such cloned brains are then free to blog and blatter on the internet, free from the constraints of athritic fingers and palsied voices. The technological applications of this are of course stupendous. Cloned pilots can fly high-risk bombing runs too complex for unmanned drones, the brains of modern day Einsteins can be replicated and put to work on a hundred problems simultaneously, and of course troublesome columnists can continue to blog from detentions more severe than Alcatraz. Indeed, because the brains are clones, it means that the death of the physical man will not end the ghostly updates of Facebook, Twitter, and all those dangerous warrior blogs. Unfortunately there’s still a bug in the programme that has kept it in beta testing for now – the cloned ghost brain does not grow or change: it remains frozen in the volunteer’s state of mind when he was wired. So while a angry rebel can grow old, frustrated, tired or be ‘settled’, a cloned rebel remains with Che Guevara virility for aye.
(I know how all this sounds, but I do swear that this is not a paragraph from my Ghost of Sani Abacha). The point of all this of course is that my sources suspect that Okey Ndibe volunteered for the beta testing. I say suspect because I realise that this revelation might complicate things for my friend Ndibe on Monday morning, were he to encounter some literal-minded SSS interogators who are fans of my blog. But it is worth a risk, since the shaman-obsessed Abacha complex appears to be hovering over Naija’s presidential palace. For if Kenule Saro-Wiwa had volunteered for this project before he died, his weekly column would still be railing against an Abacha who died 13 years ago.
The Okey Ndibe Mouth is child’s play compared with what a cloned Ghost Brain can do when it picks up the news of the fate of its… shall we say benefactor on the internet. All an intelligence hack has to do, in that secret lab under the Rockies, is plug in an eternet cable and all cyberspace will burn.
In the approaching post-internet age, Africa’s aspiring dictatorships must move beyond the dated Abacha model of repression. President Goodluck Jonathan has a Facebook page. (Folks who ‘friended’ him with the idea of juicy contracts will soon be ‘defriending’ him: every presidential status update gets three thousand comments trying to catch the presidential eye in a matter of hours and it is clear that my president cannot be reading them all and still be ruling Naija). On his info page he describes his politics as ‘Moderate’. Of a truth, relationships with critical voices calls for a fair shot of moderation. The critical prod is always painful. A few year ago I travelled several midnight kilometres on a trap pulled by a Sudanese donkey, whose owner kept prodding it with a sharpened stick in the sensitive rear end. ( I still shiver to recall it. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Donkeys has its work cut out.) The donkey could not have enjoyed the prodding, but beyond a doubt the equation of that night was, prod + donkey = faster time. Critical voices are part of the equation of a Renascent Naija. And that Presidential message of moderation is one that should go, both to the terrorists taking a cue from the Bomber of Dele Giwa, to public servant extremists who constitute the claw ends of the renascent ghost of Sani Abacha.
Do all of us a favour, folks, let Ndibe walk free on Monday.