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A government and its strange ways

By Rotimi Fasan
Just when you think you’ve seen all there is to be seen about the strange ways of the Yar’Adua administration and some of its officials, then will the government spring yet another one on you.

The administration has reduced governance to a game of fumblers, a blind man’s buff in which people stumble from one foolish decision to another even more foolish. We only need to look back at and remind ourselves of a few incidents that have caused much angst for Nigerians and brought the country to the very brink of systemic breakdown, to realise not just how low our rulers have fallen but how poor is the decision-making credentials of today’s rulers.

After years of playing hide-and-seek with university teachers, refusing to sign agreements reached with the umbrella union of lecturers, the government is hopefully back to do what it ought to have done long before now.

But that only after lecturers had gone on a four-month strike which would be compounded by the unprecedented step taken by the same government to call off negotiations with the lecturers. All over the world it is labour leaders that refuse to negotiate. Even then, government as employer of labour never give up, they are ever ready to talk things out with unions. That was, however, not the case with the ‘Federal’ government under Yar’Adua.

Rather than follow a wise and universally-entrenched tradition, this government, through its negotiating team headed by individuals who cannot set aside their oversized personal egos in order to do the things required of them, decided the only way to address the matter was to boycott discussions.

And it is doubtful that the administration would have retraced its foolish step had its head, President Yar’Adua, not made the royally foolish move of going to open a university in Saudi Arabia at this material time that Nigerian universities had been under lock and key for several months.

It was partly in the bid to deflect criticism of this action, and the other one emanating from Yar’Adua’s failure to be in New York with his counterparts attending the UN General Assembly, that the government hurriedly resumed discussions with the Academic Staff Union of Universities. Before the Yar’Adua blunder, Sam Egwu, the Education Minister, had allegedly wasted many millions of Naira on his  25th wedding anniversary while calling ASUU names for seeking better funding of our universities.

On other occasions Nigerians would watch, open-mouthed, as the Attorney General and Minister of Justice work assiduously to subvert the course of justice by a stiff-necked refusal to cooperate with foreign security agencies, even those assisting to recover looted funds from the country.

But the same government is not averse to persecuting those it perceives as its enemies. That foolish game of personal vendetta against perceived enemies of state is the only explanation for why government, a supposedly democratic government, would refuse to renew the passports of two Nigerians that had played central roles in the immediate past government of Obasanjo before falling on the wrong side of the Yar’Adua government.

Nasir El-Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu, favourite sons of Obasanjo in whom he was well pleased, are two Nigerians that enjoyed under Obasanjo the sparkling image of ‘Mr.Clean’ along with a take-no-prisoner approach to their duties, right or wrong.

We need not go into the details of how both men fell from grace and came to incur the wrath of today’s men of ‘timber and calibre’. Those details are too well known to bear repeating. Suffice to say that today they have been declared not just persona-non-grata in Nigeria, their very status as Nigerians is no longer recognised- at least by this government.

By denying them the right to own and/or renew their passports, government is effectively saying it has no responsibility to protect them anymore nor do they deserve the rights and privileges conferred by possession of Nigerian citizenship which can be obtained by either birth or naturalisation.

El-Rufai and Ribadu are Nigerians by birth and despite attempts by this government to smear them, treating them as fugitive offenders who must be brought home, fair or foul, to face ‘justice’, nothing criminal has been found against them.

Ribadu was so sure of this that he visited the country some weeks ago to commiserate with the Gani Fawehinmi family on the passing of Gani. The Nigerian government which must have all along been aware of and taken aback by the brazenness of the visit even as it must have realised it had no case against the man- the government simply turned a blind eye on Ribadu only to turn around later with claims, through IG Ogbonaya Onovo,  that the man never visited the country.

This, despite press photographs and interviews, proving Onovo got it wrong.
There had been talks about both men possessing properties abroad and/or failing to declare their assets prior to and after their tenure in office, but all of these came to nothing. Which is to say that until the contrary is proven, this government is guilty of persecuting two Nigerians who served their fatherland diligently by denying them the right to own and possess Nigerian international passport. The last time things like this happened was under the military.

The efforts ended in failure as would the latest one- ultimately. Many would say that the April 22, 1990 Gideon Orka coup failed precisely because its makers sought to excise parts of the country north of the Niger, to wit deny Nigerians from there their Nigerian citizenship.

It was also the military under Abacha that denied the likes of Wole Soyinka and other pro-democracy activists the right to carry Nigerian passports. No government or its officials has the right to deny any Nigerian rights and privileges guaranteed by the constitution.

Ribadu and El Rufai until proven otherwise are Nigerian patriots and deserve to be so treated.


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