The Rotting Republic
Dr. Aliyu Tilde
Mohammed Haruna, a renowned journalist and columnist with Gamji.com and Daily Trust has in last Wednesday’s edition of the paper correctly captured the direction of our nation. In concluding his article titled “The Awka Whirlwind” that dwelled on the role that Chris Uba, the chief coupist of July 10 against the governor of Anambra State, Haruna said: “What happened is that in April, the ruling party sowed the wind by thinking it could use the foulest means possible to fix the general elections in its own favour and can get away with it. But then, as the saying goes, he who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind. Awka, I dare say, is probably the first harvest those who sowed the wind of April are starting to reap.”
How I wished that the PDP would reap it alone! But it would not. We living in Nigeria must be prepared to pay the price of our complicity in one way or the other for allowing the party to go Scot-free after “sowing the wind” in April. The truth of the matter is that we should lose all hope in making any progress in nation building. Instead, we have to contend with increasing degeneration into a lawless society.
The happenings at Awka on July 10 could hardly be imagined before. We thought the President and the ruling party would cease the opportunity, if not as a consolation for the 419 elections, to show some signs of commitment to sanity in these early days of his second tenure. Unfortunately, that they did not. Instead, they are conspiring to evade justice. The president claims ignorance over the July 10 coup while the party is insisting that abducting the governor and forcing him to resign is a family affair for the party to settle in-house using its constitution and without resorting to prosecution.
If the party and Obasanjo have surprised us, the judiciary has proved to be most insensitive to its duty. After Nigerians were partially consoled by the failure of the coup and the governor was already back on his seat carrying out his functions, the Federal High Court in Abuja asked the governor, as captured by last Wednesday’s Daily Trust, to stop parading himself as governor. Goodness! The judiciary is stripping itself naked in public.
As usual, the party and the culprit have taken refuge in the court, seeking to hide behind orders that will shield their ‘lover-boy’ from the law. In a civilized society, Chris Uba should have been under arrest and trial for treason. In Nigeria, the 38-year-old now with strong connections with the Presidency is roaming the streets and the presidency free. He even has the audacity to employ the judiciary to achieve his goal of removing the governor after the failure of his putsch The court has restrained the governor from occupying his position as an executive governor of Anambra. It has restrained the PDP from expelling Uba from the party and the Inspector General and Attorney General from prosecuting him. To crown his success, Uba has used the court to legally install the deputy governor as the governor of the state! It appears that the last has not been heard about the July 10 saga.
Leaving behind the unfolding drama, I am more interested in gauging the significance of the whole episode that exposes the bad side of our society today. First, it points at government’s lack of commitment to the rule of law, putting aside whatever rhetoric the president and the Inspector General of Police would speak. This administration will go in our history as the most lawless we have ever had. A governor was abducted from office and nobody is arrested for it. The only ‘punishment’ meted on the gang was the retirement of an Assistant Inspector General who, in any case, already had less than a month to retire by the time he participated in the crime. Now even the court is giving a legal cover to the shameful act.
Certainly, this is a nation that has been reluctant to punish. And for that reason crime will continue spreading like a virus, unabated. If Uba were convicted for killing over 20 Nigerians when a story building he was constructing collapsed for using inferior materials, he would not have had the chance to commit treason today. The same thing is true with all the crooks now parading themselves as our leaders. Each of them has committed one crime or the other in the past for which the society failed to apply the recommended sanctions. Today here we are living under their spell.
Two, the episode has also shown the extent to which merit is relegated in preference for mediocrity and sycophancy. Otherwise, how could a doctor with a long history in the civil service find it imperative to depend on a secondary school dropout, who about ten years ago was just a car washer and later a houseboy and driver to a contractor? While the society shuts its door to those committed to decency, it hands over the keys of success to the hooligans who are ready to commit any crime to satisfy their quest for power and wealth.
Third, the police have proved further that their service is for the highest bidder. Only this can explain how an AIG could commit himself to the cause of a 38-year old criminal, desiring to wreck the boat of democracy. The masses would say that the elite are learning this wisdom too late. The law, the masses would argue, has always been for the highest bidder in Nigeria. At no time has the police force in the country made itself a fanatical accomplice to high profile crime as it does today under Tafa Balogun. This was an Inspector General of Police who publicly presented fake evidence regarding the political assassination of Chief Marshall Harry. The following day, the world was shocked when the ANPP Chairman told it that Tafa was lying. The N20 million cheque the IG produced, explained the chairman, was never retrieved from the robbers but from the chairman by the police a day after the assassination. No role could be more awkward for the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in the country.
Four, in the stories emerging regarding the episode is the detailed evidence that the opposition was right to claim that elections did not hold in some states in the Southeast and South-south zones. With people like Chris Uba in charge, and the willingness of the police to use whatever force is necessary to play foul, the free and fair atmosphere necessary for the conduct of the election must have only been a dream guaranteed on paper. It is not surprising therefore that a former Justice of the Supreme Court, Emeka Aniagolu, decried the elections as lacking credibility and went ahead to strip the government of any legitimacy.
Five, the affair has exposed the craze of our political elite for money. Once you are rich, by whatever means, even the president will be ready to dine with you. I cannot understand how Chris Uba, for his sheer wealth and his connection with the president, would gather governors, ministers and party chairmen to his village just to commission his palatial house built amidst the poverty of his people. Nobody, not even the president, is questioning the source of his wealth, his background or the profession he belongs to. He could gather the cream of our leadership and boast that he is “the godfather of godfathers” in the country.
Now the judiciary is also under his armpit. He dished out a senatorial seat to his brother, Ugochukwu, who never contested the election. He got the high court to grant an order forcing INEC to issue a certificate to a loser of an election –Wabara – who went ahead, few hours later, to become the senate president. Finally, the same boy was able to get the same court to sanction his action of deposing the governor of his state.
Five, it is not enough to blame the godfathers. The ‘sons’ themselves are guilty especially when they have the training to resist the humiliation and live decently. It beats the imagination of the sane to see how a doctor, for sheer political experience, subordinating himself to an illiterate chap who in civilized societies is qualified to be nothing better than his houseboy. Such elite have abused scholarship, their training and their profession. Once the possibility of a political office is at sight, knowledge, training and profession are thrown into the dustbin and the doctor or professor will be ready to go down on his knees pleading before an illiterate to connect him with the “top”. What a shame!
I could not believe that even as a governor-elect, Ngige was slapped and kicked several times by Chris Uche and his gang. They tore his shirt and humiliated him tremendously. Yet, there he was, with an MBBS, fellowships or PhD, keeping mute until when later, as governor, he was abducted and locked in a toilet of a hotel for hours. The truth is that people like Ngige do not deserve to be governors.
And so on. Would this be the last assault on democracy in Nigeria? No. We do not expect to see any change so long as Obasanjo is in power. The PDP, in its quest to win the last elections has raised many Ubas throughout the country. Anybody who played their role deserves to be treated as a sacred cow. That is why neither Obasanjo nor the PDP could touch him, just like Senator Omisore. The boy-syndrome has been there since the military days of Babangida and Abacha. The difference is that while Babangida and Abacha were recruiting their boys from the military and few educated civilians, Obasanjo is recruiting houseboys and area boys and subverting the rule of law. These were the boys who won him the presidency during the last 4-19 election. You can imagine by what means they did that. By the “foulest means possible”, Haruna would answer.
In addition to a police that is notorious for its connivance, there will also be the elite who will be willing to sacrifice their conscience and become the houseboys of the Ubas in our society, as long as the society is contemptuous of merit and shows preference for anarchy instead of law.
One can therefore understand the lamentation of Justice Aniagolu when Vanguard (Mon. July 21, 2003) reported him saying, “All I can tell is that I feel ashamed, totally ashamed. I did not know that I will live to see what is happening in Nigeria today. I did not know that Nigeria we loved so much would turn to be what it is today. It is a tragedy. It is a tragedy of monumental proportion.”
The nation is fast rotting. The eighty-year old former Justice of the Supreme Court may be lucky to have reached advanced age before his lamentation. For those of us that are in their thirties and forties, without a saviour in the glare and without intention to become houseboys of the Ubas in our society, we have to learn how to live and die in the rot called Nigeria.