By Ugoji Egbujo
Apologies to China Achebe. It appears Buhari’s benevolent spirits have started cracking his palm kernels. It had been one week one trouble. He conceded many own goals. His opponents were euphoric. Some angry bishops joined the chorus of some old generals. They wanted him to return unceremoniously to his farm in Daura. The National Assembly leaders were pursuing vendetta in clandestine flirtation with impeachment. Then in one simple stroke against a 25 year old injustice, his opponents fell into disarray, and the president had his best week in years.
Obasanjo and Babangida had written their letters. They laid claims to moral authority. They paraded themselves as consciences of the nation. But now they are suddenly in hibernation. One inflicted the wound, the other, sadistically, let it fester. Now the old sore has been opened for cleaning. They have squirreled into holes. The ghost of June 12 has resurrected. Obasanjo and Babangida and their righteous indignation have fled the moral high ground.
Obasanjo tried a last minute distraction. It turned out childish. He forgot he had once claimed inside knowledge of President Jonathan training snipers to eliminate him and political opponents. He came again talking about inside sources in the security services. His new tale, a rehash of the old fictitious one, was dismissed by everyone except a desperate PDP clutching at straws. Obasanjo denies he suffers a messiah complex. But with a little dose of humility and selflessness he would have been able to commend Buhari for standing for the truth and justice of June 12. Obasanjo wants to rescue the country from its moral drift. But he can’t save himself from egocentrism, unhealthy sibling rivalry and pettiness, which didn’t let him issue a statement of penitence to the public and Abiola’s family. The public must note the abiding ingratitude of the man who was the biggest beneficiary of that injustice. And must question his altruism whenever he presents himself as a champion of national transformation.
The PDP has made sensationalism a habit. So it didn’t receive the news of Abiola’s recognition with sobriety. It was in power for 16 years, it deliberately paid no tributes to Abiola and June 12. So rather than exercise remorse and tender apologies also, the PDP chose to question the president’s motive for undoing a 25-year old egregious injustice. The PDP can be excused for mistaking Buhari for a Muslim cleric and not a politician. The president has gifted the opposition so much by being politically aloof. So the PDP was perhaps offended when Buhari, this time, had politics in his calculations.
PDP’s refusal to recognize Abiola cannot be innocuous or trivial. The PDP during its reign betrayed the people in small and big things. It feigned ignorance of the cries and emotions of millions. It refused to understand history. It’s unforgivable that a PDP that ignored the significance of Abiola and June 12 justice can, with an air of righteousness, ridicule an attempt to resolve that injustice. PDP has to be freed from the clutches of arrogance and contempt for the people. It is hoped that at some point it would learn that cynicism isn’t always helpful. And that a party that has ruled a country for 16 years doesn’t have the innocence or virginity of the infant Red Card movement.
Buhari’s June 12 master stroke, left many of his opponents, individually and collectively, distraught. Governor Fayose welcomed the honour but didn’t fail to describe its timing as a piece of political desperation. This is Governor Fayose who claims the invention of political gimmickry in stomach infrastructure, and whose political philosophy is founded on tokenism. It is true that neither Abiola’s GCFR nor Fayose’s regular meals at roadside shacks can improve the standard of living of the ordinary Ekiti man. But while former is a moral enterprise to effect the amelioration of an injustice, the latter is an immoral undertaking aimed at fooling the public, a cheap ruse.
But it wasn’t just the PDP. Senator Dino Melaye, who has become, politically, an internally displaced person, waded in with belligerent incoherence. He didn’t want Abiola honoured until the National Assembly had amended the Honours Act. Because his reading of the law excluded Abiola and all heroes from receiving any honour due Nigerians, posthumously. Fani Kayode somersaulted three times before he managed a wretched commendation for the president. It must hurt that his Fulani tyrant has claimed a cherished democratic trophy in his father’s compound. Like Soyinka said, even if the motivations be partly political, Buhari deserves all the credits for moral courage, for assuming the mantle of redress and bringing justice to governance.
Clever Reuben Abati. His loyalty to President Jonathan has endured. He regretted that the University of Lagos community denied Jonathan accolades in 2012 when he renamed the institution after Abiola. Then he lamented Belgore’s advice to Jonathan in 2014. Perhaps if it weren’t for Belgore,Jonathan could have achieved more honouring Abiola than visiting Southwest Obas at midnight, on the eve of the 2015 elections. After struggling to exculpate his former boss, Abati played the spoiler. He said that the gesture would fetch no electoral benefits because voters were no fools.
Yes,it’s all symbolic. Food prices are still high. Zamfara and Benue are not yet free from indiscriminate violence. But it was that very symbolism that brought Obasanjo out of the prison and decorated him president. It was on the symbolism of 97 and 5 % that Buhari’s perceived antipathy towards the southeast and southsouth was created and inflated. All the gaffes that the opposition have feasted on are not substantive issues. Emotions aren’t flimsy in politics.
He was losing crucial support. But Soyinka turned up proudly for the investiture. He even accepted the apology for the annulment of the June 12 elections on behalf of the Nigerian people. He once feared the president was in a trance. But now he credits him with thoughtfulness and some courage. Gani Fawehinmi and Abiola families were unrestrained. They spoke glowingly of the presidents honesty and integrity. The president may not have solved the many social issues making life difficult for Nigerians. But if he audits his June 12 gesture and its returns, and designs his future interventions to serve restorations of justice and happiness to the people, his opponents will have a Kilmanjaro to climb in 2019.
There are many Abiolas and June 12s begging for justice and restitution. There are many masterstrokes begging to be unleashed. Crude prices are high. Naira is stable. Inflation is dipping. The gods are no longer to blame. They are cracking the kernels. But like Igbos say, a man for whom kernels are being cracked, must have teeth to chew them.