By Dele Sobowale
â€œPolitics is the madness of the many for the benefit of the fewâ€.
As this lengthy series progresses, we shall read here the responses of the fanatical supporters of one candidate or another. The greatest sin a columnist can commit is to point out that Babangida, Buhari, Atiku, Shekarau or whoever is not perfect.
Then his supporters would answer with insults. Like Eddy (0805-457-0240) who assumed that only â€œjournalistsâ€ donâ€™t like Buhari because of Decree 4. Or the one who sent me a crude insult because I published what Obasanjo said about IBB.
Well, I donâ€™t have a candidate â€“ at least not yet. Even if I do, the last thing I will assert about him is perfection. There are no angels among those likely to contest; what we are going to get are different kinds of â€œdevilsâ€. That means two things: You are free to take your choice; but donâ€™t ever attempt to bully me into accepting your candidate by sending insults to refute facts. That will earn you an appropriate reply. You cant bully reality either.
Last week, I started, but did not finish, with Babangida because he is the first person to declare his intention. Deliberately, I will stop for now with that appetizer on IBB and move to one of the â€œperpetualâ€ candidates â€“ Major-General Buhari.
Oddly enough, this column had been invited by Eddy, who erroneously, thought that the only grouse other people as well as journalists have with Buhari is Decree 4. Well, I donâ€™t know how old Eddy is and if he actually knew what went on during the brief rule of Buhari/Idiagbon which started on December 31, 1983, until the regime was overthrown in August 1985 by IBB who actually master-minded the coup that brought Buhari to power in the first instance.
But, before going forward, let me declare right here that I have always been opposed to military rulers from Gowon to Abubakar. There has never been any flip-flop on that. This column was against Obasanjo from the day he joined PDP and remains so till today. So, for me, Buhari is not a viable candidate because I doubt his pretensions to belief in democracy and his anti-corruption credentials as I will now proceed to explain.
The Buhari/Idiagbon regime was the first North/North and Muslim/Muslim regime we ever had in Nigeria and all appeals from southerners to, at least, introduce balance were crudely rebuffed. For a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation it was a rude slap in the face. This preceded Decree 4.
All the government officials who could be arrested were clamped into detention. That would have been fair enough except for the discriminatory treatment meted out to President Shehu Shagari (a northerner) and his Vice President Alex Ekwueme (an Igbo man). Shagari was kept in a government house in GRA; Ekwueme spent all his time in jail despite the fact that he was found to be innocent. The insult was deliberate. Again this had nothing to do with Decree 4.
Those convicted of drug offences were executed openly at the Lagos Bar Beach and the blood-letting was televised in a manner which brought disrepute to the nation. At the time Nigeria, Thailand and Saudi were the only three nations executing drug offenders. The other two never made a public spectacle of their own punishment. All those killed were southerners.
Anybody who was an industrialist or top manager of any business enterprise in 1984/5 would not forget FORM M in a hurry. The government rationed scarce foreign exchange in a manner that was openly corrupt and discriminatory against southerners. UACN, the nationâ€™s largest industrial enterprise, received less foreign exchange allocation than Alhajis who had no business address. I know because North Brewery Kano, the biggest private business in Kano, had to go to WAPA Club to negotiate to buy foreign exchange from indigenes who were given more than we got â€“ yet they had no office addresses.
The Minister, who was placed in charge of allocating dollars was a fresh NYSC graduate. In less than two years the fellow reportedly owned a private jet. Then, there was the 52-suit cases incident involving the Emir of Daura â€“Buhariâ€™s home town etc etc. Increasingly as the mounting corruption involving top government people was becoming apparent and the media started to raise questions, the Decree 4 was promulgated which made it a punishable offence to tell the truth if it embarrassed a government official.
It was the first time in history for truth telling to become an offence. And it was not just aimed at journalists; it applied to everybody who would dare to tell the truth!! Buhari/Idiagbon wanted a nation of liars. Nothing can be more corrupt than that. These are facts which the Buhari supporters must confront; instead of parading half-truths and attempting to foist ill-fitting self-righteousness on the nationâ€¦
ANIEFIOK OKON AND THE SOUND OF SILENCE â€“1
â€œThe truth shall make you free, but first it shall make you miserableâ€.
(VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, p.253).
Most probably you donâ€™t know who Aniefiok Okon is. It is not your fault. Blame the Nigerian media â€“ especially those erudite people who frequently send articles to newspapers. But, you know Farouk Abdulmuttalab. He was the one accused of trying to blow up a plane in Detroit last December. For good measures, let us also bring in the guys who exploded the bombs at Warri a few weeks ago; putting at risk the lives of over 500 top people in Nigeria.
The Okon story, after the first day, had been buried in the middle pages; similarly, the Warri episode. What then is the difference?
Before answering that question let me briefly describe what happened in each case. Farouk, a northern Muslim had allegedly attempted to explode a device which could have resulted in a plane crash killing about 200 people with Farouk being the only Nigerian. The â€œbombers of Warriâ€, southerners, and most probably Christians, if successful, would have exterminated over 500 people, virtually all Nigerians. Okon, southern Christian, when he drove his taxi through the Air Force gates and rammed the vehicle into an Arik Airline plane, taxing for take-off, would have ended the lives of 200-plus people, almost all Nigerians. That was his declared intention.
When the first reports of Faroukâ€™s misadventure reached us, via CNN, newspapers, also mostly southern, with majority of their staff being Christians, went to press immediately with denunciations of the suspect; the word terrorist was freely used; others also joined in throwing maledictions at the poor fellow, his religion, his parents, his ethnic group and the Nigerian nation itself.
An article on these pages asking for caution in our condemnation brought an avalanche of abuse and even curses. When a friend asked me why I took the risk, my answer was simple: â€œWait until a Christian southerner does the same thing and you will behold hypocrisy of the worst kindâ€. Why the silence now?