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Desperate times; desperate measures

By Rotimi Fasan

IT’S all getting more curious and strange to interested bystanders. The story of our country and its runaway president grows ever more nauseating by the day.

When Nigerians of diverse sectors, all stakeholders in the fate and wellbeing of this country, decided the business of calling to account a fugitive president held prostrate by an ailment with no name but who has greedily held on to power, unwilling to handover to his deputy however temporarily- when more Nigerians decided that task could no longer be left in the hands of only civil society groups and joined in calling on the President to do what is right, many couldn’t be sure if the support of certain persons was appropriate.

Not a few tongues were set wagging when they saw Pastor Tunde Bakare, face cap turned backwards like a hip-hop star, standing side by side Wole Soyinka, Femi Falana and Joe-Okei Odumakin on their last march in Abuja. Many wondered what the Latter-Rain Assembly pastor had in common with those members of the Nigerian power establishment would want to call mere agitators, rabble-rousers, trouble makers and extremists.

While yet mulling over this seeming monster of an event, another rally called for the same purpose and with more clerics, men and women of God, in attendance again held in Lagos. By then the message was probably beginning to sink in to the doubters that something unusual was afoot. It looked like the season of anger and ultimatums and everybody was out to issue one, some more ennobling than the others.

One of the latter was the infamous one by the National Assembly, for long tongue-tied and unable to respond to the flagrant violation of the constitution by a runaway President Umaru Yar’Adua that had ceded state power to his wife, Turai and an unelected clique, so-called kitchen cabinet, especially a loudmouthed Attorney-General and Minister of Justice who imagines his loyalty to the President is measured solely in terms of his nuisance value and the degree to which he could protect his job while aggravating far more knowledgeable Nigerians.

Waking from its interminable slumber and ignoring the elephant of a constitutional crisis, left by a shirking president, in its very chamber, the Assembly issued a seven-day ultimatum to Obama and his people in faraway America to review Nigeria’s inclusion on its terrorism watch list following Farouk’s Mutallab’s Christmas Day misadventure.

The Assembly’s gaffe here is only matched by the ineptitude of most of its members best known for their criminal indolence and self-aggrandisement. Roundly pilloried by Nigerians and ignored by the US government, the National Assembly soon put a spin on its reported ultimatum and sought to put the blame on the media, the fall guy of Nigerian newsmakers, for misinforming the world.

This then makes it all very curious and interesting when the media itself or some sections of those who run it decided to issue a seven-day ultimatum to the National Assembly to do something about the disappearance of the President.

We need not know what those who issued this ultimatum hope to do and how should their ultimatum be ignored. What has amused some is why the media should stick its neck out in this manner. Aren’t they confusing their roles? A journalist is at the best of times a reporter.

That is all they are. They certainly have an opinion but such opinion is supposed to be a matter of concern only in their positions as private citizens. They are expected to report the activities of others not report themselves or take positions that would translate to self-reporting. But strange as this may appear, there may be an explanation for it.

These are not normal times in our country. Things, terrible and strange things, are happening at such dizzying pace that to be silent is to be complicit. That these media practitioners would act in this way is to tell everyone the extent to which the insulting, tragic and potentially destructive act of a few power profiteers could lead others into assuming desperate positions, however illogical.

If a few unelected Nigerians could deign to insult and disregard everyone, exercising power without the authority that should go with it, is it not stupidity for others to keep silent in the face of such violation? It may seem foolish and ineffectual for any section of the media to issue an order in the manner that has been reported but such ultimatum should warn those who have been acting in blatant disregard of the Constitution that they are asking for something beyond them. A scenario like this played out in mid- 1994 when the National Democratic Coalition issued a 30-day ultimatum on the usurper regime of Sani Abacha.

Many wondered then what NADECO would do should Abacha fail to handover power to MKO Abiola. Abacha not only refused to heed the ultimatum, he took on NADECO and clamped its leaders into jail. End of matter? No! Arresting NADECO leaders was one of the earliest signs that Abacha was on a path of self-destruction. He became a hostage to power, holed up in Aso Villa until his sudden death. How much of this came from the stress occasioned by his fight with NADECO and other sections of the society is anybody’s guess.

Which is to say that there is nothing inherently natural about the role certain individuals and groups play in society. Circumstances play a major role in how people respond to issues and a tactic that suits a particular place or era may not necessarily suit another.

The activism of a Nigerian university teacher would be strange to his Western counterpart. If today clerics are joining rallies it is what the times demand. Neither Jesus Christ, the Jewish prophets nor the Prophet Mohammed to mention just a few were naturally made for the role history eventually recorded for them. Circumstances led them to it. As they have apparently led some in the media to take on our slumbering, dying and perhaps dead rulers who are determined to bring down the house on us all.


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