By Ochereome Nnanna
ABOUT a week ago, the photo of Senator Francis Arthur Nzeribe looking terribly invalidated by age and (may be ill-health) trended in the social media. There were cries and hisses of “vanity upon vanity”, that Biblical expression coined by King Solomon.
The reason for this was not farfetched. Arthur Nzeribe volunteered himself as the instrument of the General Ibrahim Babangida military junta (incidentally, he also looks terribly invalidated by age and, may be, ill-health) to annul the June 12 1993 presidential election won by Chief Moshood Abiola through his Association for Better Nigeria, ABN.
Before that, Arthur Nzeribe, in 1989, had tricked the Muslim community in Nigeria into believing that he was coming to the palace of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, for his formal conversion to Islam. The heavens did not fall. This was a man who had won elections unprecedented four times to be in the Senate. His reason for helping to scuttle June 12, according to him, was because Abiola had boasted to him that he would win the presidential election with or without Igbo votes.
Beyond scuttling Abiola’s victory, Nzeribe also brought another unsavoury innovation into Nigerian politics which has stayed with us till today. His ABN which, according to him, had 12 million members was used to campaign for Babangida to remain in power beyond August 28th 1993, the date for the return of democracy. Here was a presidential aspirant who was also campaigning for the military ruler to stay put! When asked why, he simply said: “Babangida is a damn good politician. He is the only politician smarter than me, so let him stay on, or I will take over from him”.
This article is not really about Nzeribe, though. It is about one of his innovations which is now routinely deployed, even by a government led by a person of alleged “high integrity”, President Muhammadu Buhari. Last week when the President’s second medical journey outside the country crossed the three-month line, Charles Oputa (alias Charlie Boy or Area Father) fronted the #RESUMEORRESIGN, #OURMUMUDONDO protests at the Unity Fountain, Abuja. Two days into that protest, Federal Government officials hurriedly hired a counter-protest by a horde of unemployed youths, who came against the Resume Or Resign campaigners.
While 66 year-old Charlie Boy and his groups were tear-gassed and water-bombed to unconsciousness, the pro-Buhari marchers where royally and jealously chaperoned round their march-routes with horse-mounted Police guards. This was exactly how Babangida had treated the June 12 agitators in contrast to Arthur Nzeribe’s pro- Babangida hirelings. One peculiar thing about Nigeria is that once a new evil act is invented, it is quickly picked up and soon it becomes part of the Nigerian convention.
The Resume Or Resign protesters were only doing what is supposed to be done in a democracy: media and civil society advocacy groups have a duty to hold government to account. The All Progressives Congress, APC, Federal Government has oscillated between hiding what is wrong with President Muhammadu Buhari from Nigerians and telling outright, barefaced lies about it. When Buhari travelled the first time this year, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, after visiting him in London, came back to misinform us that he was “hale and hearty”, but a few weeks later, the President returned and told us the truth: “I have never been so sick in my life”! imagine the contrast!
This did not deter the Vice President. When he paid Buhari another visit this second time, he said the President was now okay and would “soon” return (please how does the APC Federal Government define the word “soon”?). Orji Uzor Kalu, the busybody politician and a convenient APC convert had informed us that Buhari would return “before June 11th 2017”. Governors have come back from London with the same report of an impending Buhari return (in fact, we were even told his plane had taken off from London en route Abuja, but it never landed!)
Yet after these assurances, there is no sign that our president would be back any time soon. Meanwhile, the Acting President is doing his best under an atmosphere where he has to look over his shoulders at the Buhari cabal before taking any step forward. Thanks to Buhari’s cabal, we now know that a President can transmit a letter to the National Assembly without actually transmitting power. The Acting President remains a “Coordinator” as Buhari had put it. He cannot swear in ministers, reshuffle the cabinet or fire any appointee of the President. He cannot act decisively when the nation is drowning in hate speeches amid an upsurge of terror attacks.
The Resume Or Resign campaigners want an end to the impasse and power vacuum, but the sponsored counter-protesters are saying no to that. They are singing the chorus of the beneficiaries of this power lacuna.
Now, where do I stand on this matter? Since they don’t want to resume or resign, let them not resume or resign. Majority of Nigerian voters gave Buhari their mandate to be president for four years. For as long as he lives, he remains the custodian of that sacred mandate. Let him hold it the best way he knows. I don’t agree with those who are secretly pushing for Osinbajo to become President through the backdoor or by tragic fluke. If Osinbajo wants to be president, let him contest for it. It is only if Buhari expires or steps down that I can support Osinbajo as President.
The APC National Chairman, Dr. John Oyegun, has already announced that even as Buhari is, he can still be presented by the cabal for election in 2019. Well, it is up to Nigerians to decide after the four years of the Buhari Presidency, and a putative further four more years for him. It is up to Nigerians to decide whether #THEIR MUMU DON DO.