Femi Fani-Kayode, a leading thought leader in Nigeria, writes on the ailing President Muhammadu Buhari and the similarities of the Nigerian situation with that of the ancient Roman Empire, in this series.
In 44 BC the respected Roman seer and soothsayer Spurinna warned the great consul and ruler of the Roman Empire Julius Caesar about the “ides of March”. He counselled him not to go out on that day because he had perceived that something terrible would happen. According to the Roman calendar the ides of March was the 15th of March.
Caesar treated the prophecy and the warning with ridicule and contempt, as is often the case with most men of power, and he chose to ignore it.
According to the Greek historian and essayist Plutarch, on the morning of March 15th, whilst on his way to the Theater at Pompei, Julius Caesar saw Spurinna again and disdainfully whispered into his ear that the ides of March had come, thereby mocking the old man and his prophecy.
The soothsayer smiled and responded by calmly saying,
“Ay Caesar, the ides of March has indeed come but it has not yet ended”.
Later on that same day on his return to Rome and as he entered the great hall and hallowed chambers of the Senate, the great Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by no less than 60 of his most trusted colleagues in the Senate, including Marcus Brutus, his young protegee who hailed from a noble and respected Roman family, who he had supported all his life and who he had virtually adopted as his own son.
History records that such was the courage, strength and fortitude of Caesar that even after dozens of vicious and deep fatal stabs were inflicted all over his ageing body and even as his blood flowed all over the floor of the Senate, he still stood up proud, refusing to bend his knee, refusing to plead for his life and refusing to fall. What a man he was!
It was only after the last of the conspirators, his very own Marcus Brutus, walked up to him slowly, looked him in the eye and plunged his long and sharp dagger deep into the old man’s heart that Caesar gave up, yelled in pain and whispered the famous latin words, “Et tu Brute?” meaning “and you too Brutus?”? He ended it by saying “then Caesar falls” after which he fell down and gave up the ghost.
The truth is that he died more of a broken heart as a result of the betrayal of those that he trusted and loved, like Marcus Brutus, than he did from the physical stab wounds that were inflicted on him by the other Senators and his political enemies.
When he saw, felt and suffered Brutus’ betrayal and treachery he gave up hope and lost his will to continue to live.
What a royal tragedy this was! What a waste of human life and greatness! What a gruesome and complicated mess!
What a way for the most powerful man on earth of his time to end his days.
What a way for a gallant and noble son of Rome, a man of valour and a great and irresistible warrior, clothed by the Living God in magnificence, splendour and glory to go down and leave the earthly plain.
This was a valiant and courageous man who had achieved greatness and who was bestowed with awesome power and unprecedented glory by the God of Heaven and the Lord of Hosts.
This was a man who went to the British Isles, who conquered and bound their ruling spirit Britannia and who proudly proclaimed those famous latin words, “veni, vedi, vici”, meaning “I came, I saw, I conquered”.
This was a man who turned Egypt into a vassal state, who overwhelmed the Greeks, who conquered Europe, who mastered the Middle East, who ruled the entire civilised world and who bedded and tamed the great African Queen Cleopatra.
Yet this was also a man who was also deeply flawed: an unforgiving man who could not reign in his immeasurable and profound sense of narcissism, who could not control his obsession with power and desire to dominate others and who could not shed his sense of pride, self-importance and vanity.
This was an arrogant man who listened to no-one, who took pleasure in being worshipped, who loved to be revered, who relentlessly persecuted his enemies, who showed cruelty to his detractors, who scorned his three wives, who had contempt for his clerics, who mocked the sacred prophecies and who defied the Living God and the Ancient of Days.
Predictably and sadly it all eventually caught up with him and, in the end, he was taken despatched from this world in the most agonising and pitiful way, wallowing in a pool of his own blood, slaughtered, not by his traditional and known enemies, but rather by his own political associates, loved ones and erstwhile friends.
If Caesar had listened to his youngest wife, the beautiful Calpurnia, that ill-fated morning and not stepped out he would not have been murdered and Roman, nay world, history would have been very different.
If he had listened to Spurinna, the great seer and soothsayer, who the God of Heaven had used to speak to him and if he had shown humility and heeded the seer’s warning about the ides of March, Caesar would have lived to finish the work that he started and to fulfil his vision.
If he had not become the victim of his own vanity and obsessions and if he had not turned from being a great and much-loved war general and hero into a beastly and dictatorial bully he would not have turned the hearts of the Senate against all that he stood for, he would not have provoked the wrath of God and he would not have kindled and stoked the bitterness, hatred and enmity of even his most trusted loved ones and men like Marcus Brutus.
If he had not sought to destroy all his enemies with a bitter vengeance and if he had not killed, incarcerated, jailed and tortured the innocent and those that had done no wrong he would have attracted the mercies of God and the Lord would have protected him from his relentless and implacable enemies.
If he had not abused power, brought sorrow, hardship and pain to the people, played God and sought to impose his wicked will over the nation he would have lived longer and he would have died peacefully in his bed many years later as a fulfilled and happy old man.
If he had not allowed himself to be transformed from being a great warrior and war hero who feared and honored God, who believed in justice, equity, fairness and the rule of law, who upheld the sanctity and integrity of the republic and who defended the constitution and the sacredness of the Senate into a mean-spirited, power-hungry, obsessive and brutal tyrant he would have lived for much longer.
If he had not attempted to transform himself from being an accommodating Consul and the humble leader of the Republic of Rome into a life-long dictator and all-powerful emperor who could tolerate no criticism, who would brook no opposition and who would kill, brutalise and demonise his enemies, lock up and humiliate his critics and seek to destroy the destiny and very essence of his nation, he would have lived for much longer.
If he had not used his brutal army to murder young and defenceless activists, opposition figures and protestors or his secret police to torture innocent people and lock them up all over the country without any recourse to the law or respect for their civil liberties, human rights or the courts, he would have lived for much longer.
If he had not attacked and sought to blackmail, humiliate and intimidate the Judiciary and if he had not attempted to politicise, manipulate and corrupt the administration of justice in his nation he would have lived for much longer.
If he had not treated the opposition with disdain and contempt and if he had not sought to decimate and destroy their ranks by foul means and the dishonorable despatch, planting and deployment of a bunch of merciless, crooked and treacherous blacklegs, traitors, moles, gangsters, saboteurs and murderers in their ranks he would have lived for much longer.
I could go on and on. When men play God all manner of tragedies stalk them and they never end well. That is the lesson of history and that is what we are seeing unfolding in Nigeria today.
Persecution and the abuse of power always attracts a heavy price for those who indulge in it: this is especially so when they hate God’s children and His anointed and they persecute the Church and His clerics. (TO BE CONTINUED).
Femi Fani-Kayode is a lawyer, a Nigerian politician, an evangelical christian, an essayist, a poet and he was the Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to President Olusegun Obasanjo from July 2003 until June 2006. He was the minister of culture and tourism of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from June 22nd to Nov 7th 2006 and as the minister of Aviation from Nov 7th 2006 to May 29th 2007. He tweets from@realFFK.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.