By Bisi Lawrence
There was a time when Nigerians actually enjoyed politics. The rules were clear, though some of them were still being developed to keep up with the fast pace of our development as a nation.
But it was a level playing ground on the pitch and the game was conducted with a finesse matched by a high sense of decorum. The players were mature men who knew the worth of material wealth as against the value of humanity. They made their choices and each left his mark..
It was so thrilling to watch the passing scene in those days, especially after the exploits of Herbert Macaulay, both in London during the historic Esugbayi case, and after he returned and later began his intensive tussle with the Richard’s Constitution. And then Nnamdi Azikiwe took over the baton and publicly berated the white colonialists any time they fell out of line.
Ah, Zik! The music in the thunder of his rolling words, his towering intellectual height, the overwhelming appeal of his public address and the sheer magnificence of his physical presence captivated all the young ones who blossomed under the glow of his influence, and wept on to found a nationalist party named for him -The Zikist Movement. One of them was Harry Nwanna, a lively, courageous soul who returned to his Maker a few weeks ago. Harry was among the so-called “agitators who were sentenced to terms of imprisonment by the colonial government for fighting for our independence. Only a few of them have been remembered by those who are in charge of national honours. But that is our country.
Zik virtually had everything going his way in the ‘forties especially towards the end, and into the early fifties, because he was almost isolated from challenge. The sketchy opposition he faced was from kindred spirits, like H. O.Davies with whom he had earlier charted the course of the Nigeria Youth Movement. There were several jousts between the two redoubtable nationalists in the newspapers they controlled – Zik, the West African Pilot, and HOD the Daily Service. The newspaper encounters came to a peak with a series of point- and-counterpoint exchanges, which Zik led off with his own captioned, “Political Reminiscences”, while HOD riposted with his “Political Panorama”. These exchanges could very well be characterized as “political literature”, with both sides treating their readers to a sumptuous cascade of delicious prose and cogent information. They were both masters of sophisticated wit and humour.
It was all totally free of acrimony, like a healthy debate, but the tide changed with the emergence of other forces which challenged the leadership, though not directly the course, of national progress. There was first the Action Group in the West, and then the Northern People’s Congress to the North. Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello the Sardauna of Sokoto, squared their shoulders against Azikiwe’s preeminence and claimed a rightful share of the direction of the nation’s advancement. Awolowo was the quintessential intellectual, forthright, analytical and self-assured. The Sardauna was celebrated, totally focused and fully in control. They were an awesome twosome
These gentlemen and the different kinds of followers from whom they drew strength were to establish a triumvirate of power centre from which the country may never be free. It has always been comfortable identifying our structure along the “three main languages of Nigeria – Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba.” Ironically, the extensive military occupation of the country was partially responsible for breaking the mould of that thinking process, when appointments into leadership positions gradually deviated from the pattern of the “sole majority” of the nation’s ethnic groupings to embrace the “minorities.”.
The political scene has passed through a lot of changes. Assassinations once featured prominently in the proceedings. The sub-culture of “coup de etat” seems to have been fortunately abandoned. Women are now finding space to play a prominent role. But along the way, the political process has picked up some legacy from the military mode of address which has only been mildly affected by time … .like, “with immediate effect”, for instance – an ugly phrase sometimes still applied to the actualization of an ugly action.
*the tail of the tiger
Farida Waziri complained all along about her difficulties with Attorneys-General who refused to cooperate with her, but rather strove to erode the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which she headed as the Chairman for over three eventful years. That was one side of her monumental efforts at grappling with graft, which were rendered almost impotent by the insuperable maneuvers of the powerful people with whom the commission had to grapple. On the other side were the crooks and criminals, the movers and the shakers, whose triumph is her failure.
Her fate is reminiscent of a ploy by Tarquinus Superbus, that proud emperor in ancient Rome, who would himself foment an unrest in the state, and then proceed to put it down ferociously. In that process, he was able to smoothly remove his potential enemies. It is curious that one of the most pointed indictments against the EFCC is that there is a backlog of undecided cases in court for which the commission is supposed to be responsible. But it is well known that the commission’s duty stops at the point of the arraignment of accused persons. The subsequent trial is the business of the courts. But the master stroke is in the fact that those who are loudest about delayed trials are usually involved in the delays.
However, that is not all that they have against Farida Waziri. It is said that she is involved in the gift of a car – yes, all of a motor car, if you please; that she is involved with some flawed land allocation for her family in Abuja, and all sorts of other kinds of wrong doing. These allegations were never supported by concrete evidence, in which case one would have wondered why they were not properly reported to the police. All the same, they have been made to stick with other charges that no one has bothered to prove:
But she must have expected her lot. She compared her position with that of someone “holding a tiger by the tail”, and wondered if fighting graft was in itself a crime. She has ridden the storm of vile pressures and vicious challenges as bravely as could be expected. She genuinely wished to fight against crime, but “you don’t mess around with a man who has a million”, as the saying goes. And here was she confronted by men with billions. She herself complained about the prolonged hearings in court. She advocated the establishment of a special court which would normally have made sense, since the commission was itself created for special cases anyway. But it” was heavy weather for that recommendation all the way.
However, it is true that the commission has exhausted its fund of credibility, especially in the US and UK from the unsatisfactory manner in which it had been found to dispose of some cases. Some of the incidents would have thrown more light on her record and the workings of the commission, hidden from our eyes. Her removal from office ignores the set procedure of her terms of appointment in a government that continues to boast of its respect for law and order. She was never overtly accused; she was not publicly tried; yet she was publicly disgraced out of office. If she had indeed been guilty of any offence, she still deserved her day in court. It has all been patently unfair, for justice protects even the guilty as well as the innocent.
One would have thought the days when people heard of their removal from office, “with immediate effect” through the media, were gone. It happened once before in recent times; it may happen once again. Such ugly incidents are prone to recur interminably when a nation cannot, or will not, honour her own professed due process through the sheer insensitive and uncaring use of power.
Now the tail of the tiger has been passed on to Brahim Lamorde who is an old stager in that position.
He knows what to do. But let us remind him of what not to do. He should not set out on an expedition of vindictiveness against his predecessor in office; that is self-destructive in the end, and will not promote our fight against crime. He should not recognize any friend because, in his position, there can never be any. He should not run away from the press, but avoid courting members of the “fourth estate of the realm”. We may be “a present help in time of trouble”, but we have our own way of choosing how we help, and whom we help. He should not accept the gift of a car, or van, or jeep, or any other vehicle; or any kind of gift for that matter; even a cup of coffee can be accounted to be full of corruption. It happened in the military era, but where really is the difference? He should, above all, be careful about how he holds on to the “tail of the tiger”, for many of those who handled the big cat at the rear “have often ended up in it.” (With apologies to J.F., Kennedy)
At last, two officials of the Boko Haram were nailed. Let me remind you – as though you needed reminding – that Boko Haram is the name of the terrorist group which has been responsible for the death of hundreds of Nigerians whose offence was no more than that they were at the scene of the gory incidents, minding their business and pursuing some wholesome occupation, or preoccupation, as part of an honest living. That was all, but they were ruthlessly, heartlessly, cut down by members of this band of mindless murderers, on the pretext that Western education was a monstrous undertaking that should not be allowed in the country. That was their earlier mind-boggling excuse and, for good measure, they tied it to their links with a religious faith which is, in fact, well known to abhor murder.
Now we are being treated to another story about their earlier links with a former state governor who was their sponsor but with whom they fell out. The sponsorship thereafter fell on a deceased ambassador while the mantle of leadership was inherited by a serving senator who has now been arrested. The senator has denied the legacy and is now undergoing trial. So we have to be careful here.
All the same, is the cold-blooded killing of hundreds of people simply classified as a “felony”? Is anyone who is connected, by his own testimony, with the heinous offence not as guilty as the actual perpetrators under the description and definition of being an accessory after or before the fact? Have we then put an end to the dark mystery of the arch-criminals, and thus put an end to the purple saga of the Boko Haram, or is there yet more to come later? Are we really at grips here with the real thing or dealing with a proffered red herring? God save us!