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What are heroes made of?

By Tabia Princewill

How far we are from those hopeful and joyful times which succeeded Muhammadu Buhari’s ascent to the Presidency. I believed with all my heart that justice was finally here, that every embarrassment and humiliation done to this country and its citizens would finally be repaid with just punishment.

The fight continues. Never must those who love this country and believe that its riches belong to everyone and not just a corrupt few, join the cynics in their belief that this is it for Nigeria. As human beings, we are the sum of our beliefs which shape our actions: it is time now to show what we, individually and collectively are made of. Our mettle, our collective heart, is being tested by the ruthless forces who’ve held generations of Nigerians down, who’ve seen us suffer and plotted to no end so that our overall condition remains the same.

The President might be ailing, but those who believed in change are not. We must tirelessly demand that the fight against corruption is seen to its logical conclusion: no longer must it be said that Nigerians forget or move on.

We frequently get lost in political battles where the victors are only politicians. This isn’t simply about Buhari, partisanship, support for APC, PDP or any political appellation. It is about the survival of this country and the ability of its citizens to live happy and decent lives which is near impossible in today’s Nigeria, without the help of someone high up or willing to break the law to buy some well-being.

First, Nigerians must demand that the President frees himself of the supposed cabal whose allegedly treasonous plans to retain itself in power by all means, are a danger not only to the office of the President, but to all Nigerians. Rumours of coup-plotting and sinister plans for a time “after Buhari”, purportedly orchestrated by former leaders who’d rather die than see the Vice-President in office, apparently because of the “Jonathan betrayal” (who ended up running for office after allegedly agreeing to only one term) and worsened by Vice-President Osinbajo’s competence and popularity, are precisely why President Buhari must act swiftly and deal decisive blows.

The President must never forget what he embodied in 2015, that is, how and why he won. He was perceived as the champion and liberator of the poor and middle classes, of all those who aren’t politically connected, who don’t have the option of destroying millions of people’s lives to secure money and endless comfort for themselves. Nobody wishes for illness. But it might be time now for some soul-searching and tough choices. Only the President can honestly answer the question of whether he is strong enough to continue the brutal fight needed to set this country back on track: the enemies of Nigeria won’t tread cautiously now that they smell weakness. Promisingly, the President has an able, competent deputy, someone modern, with the knowledge and technical know-how to implement specific policies, someone, moreover, who could really stand up to corruption, if given the chance.

This isn’t the Yar’Adua scenario thrust upon us by some envious relics of Nigeria’s unfortunate past. Nobody knows God’s plans or can fully understand the twists of fate: has everything we have lived so far as a nation worked to bring us to this moment?

The President must ask himself: what are heroes made of? The hero isn’t always the one who delivers the captives from the monsters. Sometimes, he might just be the one who even dares to claim there should be “deliverance” to begin with. By proving that it was possible to beat an incumbent without “federal might” on one’s side, Buhari made history. He made us dream of a Nigeria many people thought they’d never again see in their life time; he made us think the impossible. Sometimes heroes are simply men and women who remind us of our own potential. In fact, in key historical moments, that spark, that catalyst who starts a national conversation and gets a movement going, is only the first phase of a relay race. What if that person’s true role is to set the stage for another sort of competence to shine?

Nigerians have to believe that no redeemer, rescuer or knight in shining armour can do the job of righting the wrongs in this country alone: we make our own heroes. In fact, we are our own heroes. We empower them, give them possibility, just as they inspire us to believe that something different is possible. In Brazil, it was ongoing street protests which enabled the arrest and successful prosecution of high-ranking government officials. Sergio Moro, the Brazilian judge (fondly called the “exterminator of corruption”)who brought down Dilma Roussef, the former President and other corrupt, powerful figures, could only do his job because of popular support for the anti-corruption crusade.

Similarly, in Guatemala, a UN supported, popular commission is assisting prosecution against former officials accused of embezzlement, one of which is Otto Pérez Molina, another former President. The only thing we have to fear is that our true selves are revealed: will we live up to the sacrifices of those who’ve come and died before us, died of generalised injustice or of fighting terrorists with derelict weapons?

Will we excuse a man’s illness (and wish him all the best in his recovery) while asking that he not lose sight of the bigger picture, the fate of near 200 million individuals many of whom remain in abject poverty, or will we allow ourselves to be distracted by the same people who’ve robbed us? Choose and fight wisely Nigeria. There’s a little hero in all of us.


National Judicial Council

Like the police, the NJC unsurprisingly denied the results of the recent National Bureau of Statistics survey which showed that the judiciary is the second most corrupt institution in the country. The NJC called the report “speculative”, language which in itself is contrary to the exactitude of statistics, science and mathematics more generally.

The NJC’s unwillingness to acknowledge the problem hints at an inability to proffer solutions, a tragedy only surpassed by the actual content of its publicized statement: “How many Judges or Magistrates have been arrested and/or prosecuted and convicted of corruption till date to deduce such conclusion”. That itself is the issue. When government attempted to prosecute judges accused of corruption, not only were Nigerians fooled into believing it was a witch-hunt, the process was dogged by all sorts of issues and even more allegations of corruption.

That the NJC doesn’t recognise this is troubling, that it seeks to hide behind a lack of convictions of corrupt lawyers and judges to justify a lack of corruption is the summon of all irony and just another reason why the President and the chairman of the EFCC must urgently get UN backing and continued international assistance to successfully prosecute corruption and rid the system of those with the gall to pretend it doesn’t exist.


Lawyers on the wrong side of the law (again)

Many comments accompanied the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo’s labelling of hate speech as terrorism. Some lawyers promised to fight any legislation attempting to criminalise hate speech in a court of law. They claim it’s an attempt to “gag” Nigerians.

These must be the same lawyers who defend obviously guilty politicians, all for a slice of their illegally obtained funds. They know that hate speech is the bread and butter of politics in Nigeria. They know that without hate speech their clients can’t operate, or get poor people to kill each other in the name of politics.

Freedom of speech must be tempered by a strong belief in human rights: how can one believe in the rights of any individual and simultaneously defend the right for another person or group to threaten his existence publicly? Some people are too greedy and selfish to want peace and prosperity for all.

It’s time Nigerians become wise to their tricks.

Tabia Princewill is a strategic communications consultant and public policy analyst. She is also the co-host and executive producer of a talk show, WALK THE TALK which airs on Channels TV.


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