“The demystification continues”, goes the saying on social media. Men, who once would never allow the opportunity to speak truth to power slip by, have been often very quiet of late. Some have almost been goaded to issuing tepid statements, neither hitting the nail here or there, just to satisfy their accusers. Others have simply ignored the insults, and carried on in their retirement from public discourse altogether.
It is in moments like this that we ponder on what could have been, had Gani Fawehinmi not been snatched from us nine years ago. He was 71. Gani was seen as the conscience of the nation. Maybe age would have limited his public outbursts, but many believe Gani wouldn’t have been silent, were he to be alive today.
Nigerians are used to allowing ‘martyrs’ bear their burdens. Years of military rule has ingrained a culture of suffering-and-smiling into us. So, men in uniform see themselves as infinitely over and above any bloody civilian, despite the fact that we pay their salaries, and they are actually supposed to protect and defend us. But they rather see us as nuisances that are only tolerated, and should we dare cross their paths, they won’t hesitate to beat the hell out of us.
Along Iwo road in Ibadan, two weeks ago, a taxi driver decided to quickly pick up two passengers, stopping quite abruptly. He inadvertently caused a mini obstruction. Just two vehicles behind his unfortunate Micra was an “Operation Burst” (Oyo state Security Joint Task Force) truck, with four or five soldiers. It was late in the evening. Promptly, two of the officers jumped down, invaded the taxi as though the driver had affiliations with Abubakar Shekau, and dragged the man from his seat. Of course the passengers scampered for safety in all ensuing directions. The officers then dealt a sumptuous beating on the hapless man, using horse whips an his frail flesh. I watched in trepidation as the man screamed and begged, too schocked to let tears fall freely. When they were satisfied, oblivious of the long traffic they had themselves caused, the boys hopped into their truck, and drove off, happy to have taught the rascal a lesson. As they drove off, light shined on their faces, guns brandished menacingly beside them. They barely looked twenty-five!. But here they were, dealing whip blows on a man, old enough to sire them, not because he obstructed traffic, but because he obstructed THEM! That was the mistake of a country years of military rule bequeathed on us.
So, we have chosen to accept whatever our Lords foist on us. And, silence was the norm. Except for people like Gani Fawehinmi, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Wole Soyinka, Femi Falana, and bodies like NADECO, ASUU, NLC and many other civil groups. We left our fates in their hands. They obviously suffered for it, many tortured and imprisoned for their anti-government stance. However, it paid off in the long run, birthing the democracy we now enjoy.
Of course, men who faced soldiers eye to eye, wouldn’t have had any problems calling out democratic leaders. Obasanjo wasn’t spared. Neither were Yar’Adua nor Jonathan. Even Tinubu, who was in their camp prior to 1999 was taken to the cleaners by Gani when it was discovered he had fraudulently obtained one of his certificates. 1999 to 2015 witnessed the golden age of civil society pressure groups in Nigeria. In 2012, when Goodluck Jonathan removed the fuel subsidy regime, almost all civil groups coalesced into one, in a bold statement, that, never again can any leader so brazenly have his way in Nigeria. The country was practically shut down. So also in 2010, when a certain “cabal” held the country to ransom following the illness of Umaru Yar’Adua, various groups, including the now silent “Save Nigeria group” rose up to demand action. They pressured the national assembly to do the needful. However, it seemed all our right activists suddenly retired in 2015. It seemed fighting for Nigerians’ rights lost its appeal all of a sudden.
Under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, we have seen some of the worst actions ever taken by any leader since 1999. Some of the things that would have spontaneously thrown activists into the streets, with others using their pens and voices to sustain the momentum, are now suddenly passively glossed over. Never has the majority of the country contrived to make excuses for a leader’s failures and shortcomings like has been done for Buhari.
Buhari practically spent half of 2017 on the sick bed outside Nigeria. The excuse was that he duly handed over to his deputy.
Buhari doubled fuel pump price from N87 to N145. The excuse was that he had finally rid Nigeria of the corrupt subsidy regime. It turned out to be a lie. Subsidy is not only still being paid, it is not even appropriated for.
Buhari did not appoint ministers for six full months, leaving the nation’s economy on autopilot. Our activists claimed Baba was taking his time to study the ministries well enough. Turned out it was the foundation for recession.
Buhari was severally admonished to devalue the Naira when inflation started setting in. He didn’t. When dollar price skyrocketed out of control, the excuse was that the PDP government of Goodluck Jonathan was actually responsible.
Buhari has shunned any kind of media chat since it will make him give account of his stewardship, something he loathes. The excuse was that we shouldn’t force him to do what he’s not comfortable with.
Bola Tinubu, one of the leaders of the coalition that produced Buhari actually claimed he deserved a honey moon period. The honeymoon, according to him implied that he should never be critized. Unfortunately, he didn’t tell us how long the honeymoon should last, because, it still seems Buhari is still on honeymoon. Even a marriage of a lifetime doesn’t experience this long a honeymoon. How much less a four year journey?
That Buhari has turned out a less than average leader is not the issue. Because he isn’t doing anything new, as 1984-1985 history explains. What is strange is how easily our human rights activists allow his incompetence go unchallenged. Even when forced to eventually speak out, some of them speak so apologetically, as though they were forced to disturb the sleep of a charming prince. Just recently, Wole Soyinka was quoted as saying Buhari “is in a trance”, otherwise, he wouldn’t be acting so detached from reality.
Wole Soyinka, an emeritus professor and Nobel laureate, knows quite well that the Buhari is in no trance, he is simply incompetent, nonchalant and nepotistic. The minister of health who suspended the NHIS executive secretary, a northerner, due to corruption allegation, was made to see Buhari’s clannishness first hand. With a wave of the hand the NHIS boss was reinstated by Buhari. Just the way he appointed an equally incompetent NIA DG simply because he’s a northerner, despite protestations by those who should know. The same way he reinstated Abdulrasheed Maina, a man fired for embezzlement. And the country’s chief law officer was scrambling to prevent the investigation. The same way he dismissed his SGF with a slap on the wrist despite mounting corruption allegations, and replaced him with a cousin. The same way he stuffed the DSS with recruits from his home state, shattering the nonsensical federal character, until its needed again when admissions are sought into Federal Government Schools.
What more can I say about his complicit silence over the herdsmen crisis, stabbing a fellow APC governor of Benue in the back, all in the bid to protect Fulanis? Or the way and manner in which the IGP and defense minister turned into spokespersons of Fulanis, as against defending innocent civilians? Or the mounting allegations of corruption, sexual impropriety and looting, against IGP Idris, a lameduck officer for whom 32 AIGs were retired? Or the utter incompetence of the mannequins he calls ministers, or the way he condones corruption as long as the perpetrator is in his party? Or how he openly claimed women belonged to the kitchen? Or how he divided Nigeria based on how people voted for him (97%, or 5%). The 97% are having a field day. The 5% have operation Python dance I, II and III. I can go on and on.
The trouble is that we have normalized Buhari’s failures. And those who have always made it a duty to speak out against bad leadership have kept quiet. Maybe its because they all chose to support Buhari’s enthronement. And are too ashamed to eat their words. Or, they are just tired of the whole business of opposing brutal dictators. But if that is the case, the timing is disastrous. Because if more people speak out as truthfully as is required, without sugarcoating the message, maybe many more disasters Buhari’s inactions are causing would be altogether prevented.
It is in Buhari’s constitutional right to seek a second term. But to allow him continue in this journey of directionless directionlessness, would be a disservice to generations unborn. Its alright to make the mistake of allowing him into that saddle once. To make that mistake again would be being complicit in destroying all we once stood for. To send Buhari safely to Daura in 2019 is a task all statesmen must be proud to embark on. And there should be no shame, or guilt, in doing that. After all, Nigeria is blessed with millions of people who can lead our country, and rescue this ship from the wreck Buhari’s 97% vs 5% policy has caused.