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Dr. Iyorchia Ayu

Re – New crown, new clown? By Simon Imobo-Tswam

Dr. Iyorchia Ayu
Dr. Iyorchia Ayu

On 1st of November, 2021, the Chairman of The Nation’s Editorial Board, Mr. Sam Omatseye, dedicated his back page column to the newly elected National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu. The latter had emerged as the new PDP helmsman only a day earlier i.e. 31st October, 2021.

Our initial reaction was to ignore Sam Omatseye and his jaundiced piece, especially as a response would be dignifying his impotent rage. But then, it occurred to us that the heading of his column was a question: “New crown, new clown?

And when someone asks a question, it’s only fair that he should get answers. This is the wisdom behind this rejoinder.

But there is an added reason too: We write this for the benefit of some, especially the younger generation, who may be seduced by the familiar lies from the APC stable and its hired hands – some hiding conveniently in the professions.

So, we do not write to introduce Dr. Ayu or to defend what he stands for. We believe if there is any journalist, columnist or glorified intellectual who doesn’t know Ayu or what he stands for, such a person deserves to be pitied. And here we go.

Indeed, after PDP’s very successful national convention, Nigerians expected negative reactions from the ruling APC. This is especially given that the “governing party” has not been able to hold a national convention since coming to power or even its registration. And right now, it does not even have a national chairman! So, expecting sour grapes from their direction was natural.

However, Nigerians did not expect that it would come from the direction it came: A lying Jacob with the rough hands of Esau.

It is, at once, curious and unbelievable that a columnist of Sam Omatseye’s standing will write about Dr. Ayu so pejoratively and so dismissively. But that is, perhaps, what happens when even an intelligent mind lends itself in the service of ignominious interests.

We find it instructive that on the same day that Omatseye was labouring unsuccessfully to belittle the ability, capacity, experience and historic vision of Ayu, the paper featured the photos of eight staff who won 16 prizes in the 2021 edition of the Nigeria Media Merit Awards (NMMA).

We scanned the mug-shots in hopes of seeing the face of Sam Omatseye. It was in vain.

Page 3 of the paper had names of 11 runners-up. Once again, we searched the listed names, 11 in all. We hoped to see Omatseye’s name, as an award nominee. Once again, we drew nil. And it made sense to us: people read what we write – whether or not we know it.

The whole column, to the extent that it concerns the new PDP national chairman, reeks of willful ignorance, reckless assumptions and dangerous liberties. How being a columnist gives him that kind of entitlement remains a mystery to every right thinking person who read his column.

Hear him: “The new man on the block is Iyorchia Ayu, a former Senate President during the June 12 era who managed to succeed in only going underground.”

This is not the kind of thing one would expect to read from the column of the Chairman of a very respected medium like The Nation: for not only is it an advertisement of Omatseye’s mischief, it is also a cruel attempt to murder history in cold blood. We dare say even his employers will be scandalized at this brazen attempt at historical revisionism.

Since the headline is a question, let us educate him:  Ayu, as Senate President stood by his party’s candidate, Chief MKO Abiola who was the presumed winner of the June 12 election. And his was not a negotiated stand like some familiar June 12 traitors who opposed the military by day, but sought appointments by night – Ayu’s stand for democracy was so firm that he refused to betray Chief Abiola by stepping in as Interim President!

To him, cooperation with the military meant a betrayal of the democratic process. In fact, his principled stand led the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida junta to compromise some of his colleagues in order to impeach him.

So, Ayu suffered personal, political injury, but he did it in the defence of democracy, equity, and the Fatherland.

These are facts of history. And we put these History Lessons (History 101) here free of charge. Ignorance we will tolerate, and even forgive, but mischief? We will not.

The columnist appears decent. Plus, he projects the image of a cultured intellectual. That is reputation. But reputation is different from character. Reputation is cultivated: how we want the world to see us. Character, on the other hand, is who we actually are: unvarnished, unpolished and unrehearsed. Although Omatseye has a great reputation, what drips from his pen oftentimes gives us a glimpse into his character. And what we see is not beautiful at all.

For instance, he says a former vice president of the republic, Alh. Atiku Abubakar, is “desperate like an Alsatian dog about to rip a cage….”

These are inelegant, derogatory and tasteless words that should die as soon as they are birthed in the dark recesses of our hearts. For a supposed man of culture, public intellectual and media influencer to use same on a former vice president and stateman – that is unfathomable. But then, the use of such derogatory words give us a peep into the riches of Omatseye’s mind!

He, practically likens Atiku to an “Alsatian dog,” but it is rather Omatseye who seems to be an “Alsatian dog” or may be another, more violent breed, trying desperately to bite everyone and everything in sight: Ayu, Atiku, Ortom, PDP, History, Truth….

But we return to Dr. Ayu. Speaking at the end of the Convention, the new PDP national chairman said: “We will move ahead to develop the country. We did it before. We are doing it again.”

Which reasonable person is against development? Who doesn’t know that the PDP took Nigeria forward in leaps and bounds? And who doesn’t want a refreshing change from the presidential incompetence of the APC-led federal government? Who is comfortable with the rampaging insecurity, the galloping inflation and the collapse of the economy? Who is not alarmed by enforcement of the 97/5 percent policy, the geometric rise in foreign debts, the executive surrender and the perennial blame games? Who?

That person is Sam Omatseye. And if he is not alone – that’s another tragedy. He disparages Ayu’s statement thus: “That statement has no rigour, no learning, and no promise. A party chairman cannot glamourize a historical disaster.”

Does Omatseye want the new PDP national chairman to have spoken to Nigerians atop an armoured tank? Would he have been happier if Ayu made empty promises to Nigerians, the kind of promises that the APC specializes in? Wouldn’t Omatseyi have asked the APC to sue Ayu for copyright infringement!

May be if the PDP had splintered into factions and the convention had left scores dead or if Ayu had threatened to pull Nigeria down, would Omatseye have seen/heard “rigour” in the statement? So many questions begging for answers.

And pray, if Omatseye is not living in denial or delusion, how can he look at Nigeria under APC’s misrule, and term the PDP years a “historical disaster?” The facts speak for themselves.

In 2015 when the PDP handed over Nigeria to APC, Nigeria’s economy was the biggest in Africa. The Naira also exchanged at less than N200 to the Dollar. APC arrested economic growth and promptly pushed the economy into recession!

In the six years following, the indices are chilling. The economy has virtually collapsed. The Naira exchanges at about N600 to the Dollar. The cost of living is beyond the roof. The prices of goods, including newsprint, have quadrupled. And insecurity, once limited to the North-East, is now a national nightmare. In fact, Nigeria is the “Third Most Terrorized Country” in the world!

And as if the above indices are not bad enough, Nigeria is now the “Poverty capital” of the world! This is despite borrowing more money in six years than the PDP did borrow in the entire 16 years it was in power! Nigeria even risks becoming a Chinese colony, as it were.

If Omatseye were not obsessed with Ayu’s advent as PDP national chairman, the foregoing might give him concern. But no: His problem is Ayu and PDP. Could it be that Ayu’s sudden emergence as the PDP national chairman somehow threatens someone’s presidential hopes somewhere?

If Omatseyi was commissioned for that piece, the commissioner must have commissioned him well. But if he took that demolition job upon himself, he must have very handsome expectations. Either way, rather than “New crown, new clown,” he ought to have entitled his column thus: “Ayu – A Demolition job!”

After all, there is no effort on his part to hide his partisanship. This explains why, after trying vainly to run Ayu and the PDP down, he recommends his preferred candidate for the national chairmanship of the APC, Sen. Tanko Al-Makura! He is APC – which is his right. But rather than hiding behind The Nation’s chair, let him come out, stand and identify himself properly as an APC stalwart so the PDP can engage him properly.

It says much about Omatseye’s intellectual depth and professional integrity that after dismissing Ayu’s statement as lacking “rigour, learning and promise,” he sees “charisma and experience” in Al-Makura! We invite Nigerians to judge for themselves.

In the interim, we remind the columnist that PDP has no kings, and, hence, no crowns. Everyone in the party is a patriot, intent on reconstructing a grossly damaged and haemorrhaging Nigeria. As for clowns, they are in his neighbourhood. All he needs to do is to look around.

If Omatseye has friends, we want them to remind him that he is not in a position to decide what Dr. Ayu says or doesn’t say at the convention or outside the convention.

Finally, he writes: “…Sorry, Ayu. Are you for real?” While advising him to be sorry for himself and those he desperately seeks to impress, we take him down the memory lane.

In 1998 when Dr. Ayu was appointed the director-general of the Obasanjo/Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organization, the APP (All Peoples Party) asked the same question. The rest, as they say, is history. After all, APP rhymes with APC!

And history is about to repeat itself.

Simon Imobo-Tswam, a communications specialist, is the Team Leader at Executive Writers Ltd., Abuja.

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