The life of a columnist is calibrated in weeks. He is expected to bring fresh insights to happenings around him week after gruelling week even when history is repeating itself and the network stations are filled with bland news. Even the most gifted of columnists, those who can make something special out of the mundane sometimes feel uninspired if a week is filled with Déjà vu moments.
At times like that, a columnist is tempted to go into his archives to fish out an appropriate article he had written months, even years before. But he has too much respect for his readers to do that. So he goes within himself to try and do his job as professionally as possible; to try and put old wine of repeated happenings into new wine of words.
My week was filled with such Déjà vu moments. I have written at least two articles on opulent weddings before as friends and defenders of Mrs Alakija very well know. So when the news of Senate President’s ‘superlative’ wedding filled the air, all I could do was yawn. The week he was taking up the most expensive Events Centre in Abuja and doing it up ‘to opulent taste’ before filling it with exotic drinks, delicious meals and over fed celebrities, poverty was ravaging the IDP camp in the North-East; suicide bombers had taken yet some innocent lives a few kilometres from Abuja.
But the country’s number three man is insensitive to the sufferings in the land; he is also impervious to the allegations of corruption and tax evasion around him. He is yet to explain why his name is in the ignoble list of those who put their investments in tax havens abroad or the source of such investments. He has, for all I know, been a public man most of his adult life yet he is arguably, one of the richest Nigerians around. The Senate over which he presides pontificates on the budget and rotten national infrastructure. But we know it is all talk. Change must begin with it.
The PDP convention and the race for the chairmanship reached its climax on Saturday. But the earth did not move to borrow a cliché. First, we must congratulate the ‘biggest party’ in Africa for successfully concluding its convention. This is something the ruling party neither has the courage nor the will to do. I am not even sure that APC, the party of change, the party of democracy, has democratically elected any official since getting to power. Its Board of Trustees is yet to be filled.
If the APC operates its own constitution more in the breach, how then can we expect it to operate the nation’s constitution faithfully? But the PDP did not do itself any service from the way it chose its chairman. PDP is still the same party the people rejected in 2015. First, chairmanship was zoned to the South-West to give that region a ‘sense of belonging.’ The powerful interests then realised the presidency would also have to be zoned to a region in the North.
So they decided to reverse themselves and throw it open to the entire South. The opportunists in the South-West did not help matters. Everyone fancied his chances. There was no maturity, no discipline and no focus on the larger interest. The cracks in the wall among the South-West contestants allowed not only lizards, but also dangerous serpents to enter. The South-West lost out and did so woefully.
Of course money played an uncomfortable role; the governors played an uncomfortable role; the elders and special interest groups played an uncomfortable role. Rigging as usual unfortunately, played an uncomfortable role as the votes counted could not tally with registered delegates. The outcome therefore, can neither be said to be free and fair nor good for democracy.
Has the PDP learnt anything from being out of power? None that we can see from the convention. Have the rest of us learnt anything from the way the PDP conducted its convention? We should because with PDP, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
Another Déjà vu moment for me was the acquittal on Monday, of a judge who was docked for corruptly enriching himself. According to the charge, last sums of money were found which exceeded his income and which he could not explain. In other climes, the sheer weight of public opinion and personal propriety would have been brought to bear. But when he was freed—on procedures and technicalities—there was hardly a whimper in the polity the following day.
He is the second or third judge to be so freed. The more things change…. His lawyer is an erudite and respected one. He is also elderly. Makes you wonder which he is bequeathing to his children and grandchildren; a society of procedure and technicalities or a society of probity and justice. I can’t help praying that somehow, some day, some of these SANs or their close relatives would fall prey to technicalities at the expense of justice. Reminds me of a novel I read so long ago that I can’t even remember its title or its author.
But I think it is a John Grisham novel. I hope somebody will remember the story. It is about a brilliant criminal lawyer who would do anything to win a case even at the expense of justice. His client closed late one night and was on his way home when he hit a man at the traffic lights. He insisted the man jay—walked, that is, he crossed the street against the instruction of the light. It was so late in the day that only one witness saw the incident.
The witness claimed otherwise, that it was the accused who ran the light. This lawyer proved to the jury that the witness had a criminal past and was therefore unreliable. Besides, he had just undergone an eye surgery and what he saw as red might actually be amber. It was the word of one discredited witness against that of an affluent man. The winner was obvious. Except that the lawyer knew the truth which was that his client had a woman with him that night.
The woman was giving him a blow job and he was about to climax when he ran the light and hit the poor man who was trying to cross the street. His judgement was thus impaired by a brief moment of ecstasy. But he was freed, thanks largely to the lawyer who knew the truth and hid it relying instead on technicality at the expense of justice. Weeks later, the lawyer closed late from work and was crossing the street to his car. It was a dark night.
He was hit either deliberately or accidentally by a fast moving car. He died on the spot. The only witness was the discredited, poor sighted man whose evidence could not be relied upon. Retributive justice, in its peculiar, unpredictable way, had been served. I hope it says something to our respected SANs.