When former President Goodluck Jonathan, in trying to distance himself from those calling for more positive “action” from him in arresting the obvious drift of the ship of state under his leadership, made the now infamous statement of “I am not a Pharaoh; I am not a Goliath; I am not a General”, Nigerians railed at him. Perhaps, that was the last straw that broke his Carmel’s back. After that not-so-carefully-thought-out speech, Nigerians who had been trying to nudge Jonathan to be firmer in responding to burning national issues, more so the shenanigans of aides, family, and hangers-on, gave up on him. This must be a pathologically weak, incomprehensibly incoherent, and embarrassingly incompetent leader, the nation reckoned. When the Day of Decision came, Nigerians ventilated their frustrations, which had mounted over time; for, as they say, it is little drops of water that make up an ocean. The mighty ocean that the follies, foibles, and inanities of Jonathan built up incrementally over time submerged and swept him off his feet and out of power. The rest, as they say, is history.
Incidentally, everything Jonathan confessed he was not appears to be what his successor is. Muhammadu Buhari is not only a fighter (a David), he is also someone eager for a fight. In fact, he will go out of his way to look for one! If diplomacy and war can either resolve a matter, Buhari will choose to shoot his way through. Like Pharaoh, Buhari is incorrigible in his beliefs; hardened in the pursuit of his missions, and undeterred by any litany of perils sign-posting his route. Of course, the new president is a retired two-star Army General, a one-time dictatorial Head of State and Commander-in-Chief. He is a veteran of many wars and battles who, possessing a Messianic bent, never shied away from taking unpopular decisions. Buhari, thus, appears to be Jonathan’s very opposite and the former president, in mistaking virtues for vices and vice versa, missed the point by a wide margin and paid dearly for it. Different epochs and times dictate virtues and vices and the hallmark of a discerning leader is to correctly read and respond to the situation.
Ironically, however, such is never cast in iron. Benevolent as well as malevolent tides blow over them and changing times and circumstances sweep one away and enthrone another. Again, the hallmark of a smart leader is to master the flow and ride the currents. Which is why, in the advanced democracies – and Nigeria will someday get there – a party swept out of power by the gale of disenchanted electorate soon rides the crest of popular support again to end its sojourn in the political wilderness and make triumphant come-back into power. Because our democracy is young, this dynamics of democracy was lost on PDP, making its leaders gloat that they would rule ad infinitum; but no sooner than they made their boast, like the Biblical rich but foolish man, than they came tumbling from the pinnacle of political power. Let the APC beware if it is not to fall into similar error!
The carting to court in handcuffs of Olisa Metuh, PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, was an agonising, pitiable, and sorry spectacle. But the shame was not Metuh’s as it was the ruling party’s. Were Metuh sufficiently political, he would have made political capital of that very unfortunate situation and turned the tables on his traducers. He would have, like the irrepressible Gani Fawehinmi and iconoclast Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, held aloft his chained hands to the chagrin of his political foes. He would have been defiant like the “Black Pimpernel” Nelson Mandela and hero of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro, author of the famous “history will absolve me” speech. But, then, Metuh is Metuh and not, by any stretch of the imagination, a towering figure of integrity and pro-people activism. A tragedy of our politics is the total abstinence from political ideology as the driving force of political action. Men and women lacking in pro-people convictions get into office and set about serving primordial and selfish interests, ruining rather than running the State and setting us back by their deeds and misdeeds.
They deserve to be punished and should, indeed, be severely punished. The rot in the system is mind-boggling and the impunity intolerable. The sheer size of the loot and depth of the sleaze, evidenced in decrepit infrastructure and yawning gaps in developmental activities all over, is mind-bending. But suspects should have their day in court. Due process must be observed and the rule of law followed. Our pains and frustrations notwithstanding, the inalienable rights of man cannot be abridged or treated with levity. When we so observe the rules of civilised conduct, we do demonstrate our humanity as opposed to the crass bestiality of common criminals and debased scoundrels; for, as they say, two wrongs do not add up to a right. Maltreating them, like the State did Metuh, only draws them undeserved sympathy; and when such happens, State and people suffer double jeopardy.
Rightly or wrongly, a case has already been made of creeping fascism against Buhari and further acts of infantile radicalism as was displayed in the Metuh case can only go to confirm rather than dispel the accusation of a supposedly democratic government getting increasingly irascible and intolerant of democratic ethos. In spurning the courts; over-riding bails granted accused persons; railing against due process and the rule of law; mistreating opposition figures, and making the anti-graft war look like an Inquisition against political opponents, Buhari is unwittingly allowing the label of an unrepentant dictator being brandished by the PDP stick on him. One dictatorial action after another and the count continues, until his cup is full and we behold a mighty ocean capable of generating the kind of avalanche that swept Jonathan off his feet and out of power. If Buhari and APC will work against such a fate, they must not only call to order but also punish busy-bodies like the prison officers that put Metuh in chains. None of the excuses they offered for their hare-brained action resonates with the right-thinking.
PDP National Secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo’s narrative appears more plausible than that of the Nigeria Prisons Service. Metuh, who lately had been a thorn in the flesh of Buhari/APC, was put in chains if not on the direct orders of APC/Buhari but certainly to curry presidential attention and favour by someone crying more than the bereaved. Metuh, in his new role as opposition spokes-person, has performed admirably. As I have often stated, vibrant opposition is a fulcrum of democracy. Yet, that should neither attract unto Metuh sacred cow status nor victimization by the powers-that-be. In this same country we saw APC’s Lai Mohammed run Jonathan and PDP ragged when he was opposition spokesperson; and APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was tried by the Code of Conduct Tribunal; none of them was put in chains. Since #Dasukigate broke, none of those charged to court; not even the master-mind, Sambo Basuki, who reportedly maintained armament at home as well as stone-walled his arrest, was put in chains; why Metuh? The inferences are many and dangerous. Not paying commensurate attention to such sensibilities and frailties of our nation ruined Jonathan. Will history repeat itself with Buhari?
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