By Mohammed Adamu
It was soon in all the grapevines of the nation’s media, that IBB had offered to State House Correspondents a chance to elect one of their own, to be made a ‘Minister’ in Shonekan’s Interim National Government. The State House Press Corps of my time was a 53-member body. We met once at the end of every month to deliberate on issues of common concern, but attendance, although it was important, was not mandatory.
There was an unwritten ‘code’ that we operated by: namely that our professional obligations to our respective organisations superseded our duty of fidelity to the Corps. It was the abiding sense of security in fraternity –rather than the existential worth of safety in number- that commanded our individual commitment to the Corp.
But in addition to our end of month meetings, we also capitalised on major events happening at the Villa –like the meetings of the Armed Forces Ruling Council, AFRC- to meet ad hoc as we waited for the Council to rise.
By the way, whenever we met ad hoc, not only did we not have to form a quorum (which was an unwritten requirement of about 25 of 52 members), we did not also take major decisions. Such were reserved for our end of month meetings, or whenever a pressing matter could not wait then an emergency meeting was called by oral notice to every member, to tackle such exigency. Any decision taken at an end of month or a duly called emergency meeting was binding on all, including those not in attendance. And although we operated an unwritten code, interestingly we had managed to keep by these rules, always. Or at least up to before IBB’s ‘apple of discord’.
Mind you, it is not always that any group of journalists get to be made such gratuitous presidential offer. It probably takes once in a ‘Harleys Comet’ for such crunchy ‘bone’ to be thrown the way of a fraternity of ‘watch dogs’.
And since IBB’s offer was conditioned upon complying with the due democratic process, this ‘bone’ –we thought- was damn too marrow-filled to be cracked at an ad hoc, chance meeting of the association. It would require more than just a ‘chance’ meeting whereat to place this tibia on the table for the best or lucky canines to grab.
Thus, any meeting at which a candidate-beneficiary for IBB’s offer would be elected must either be our regular end of month general meeting or an emergency one duly called by a properly circulated notice, -so that every member of the Corps was given equal opportunity not only to attend but also to vote someone of their choice; or maybe even to seek to be voted for. Legally speaking, and even in the absence of a written code, if any member, advertently or inadvertently was denied knowledge of such meeting, so that an offer made to all was now availed only to a few, such member could have recourse to the law and seek to void any decision taken thereat.
Unfortunately it was at such ad hoc, impromptu meeting of the Corps attended by about 20 members who, by chance, happened to be within the Villa premises, that a group openly sympathetic to the candidature of NTA’s Sola Atere, seeing that it was in a comfortable ‘majority’, insisted that election should be conducted at that material time to produce a beneficial nominee for Babangida’s offer.
A few members who knew better did call their attention to the apparent impropriety of turning an impromptu meeting into an electoral avenue for the election of a ‘ministerial nominee’ that observing the due democratic process was made a condition-precedent.
But not even the absence of Atere’s only possible opponent, the late Amechi Dike of Champion Newspapers at the meeting, would mollify the determination of this opportunistic immoral majority. Such is the character of ‘immoral majorities’. They are covetous, opportunistic and abusive of the due process. The ‘immoral majority’ can be a arithmetic ‘minority’ seizing opportune moments or exploiting a vacuum in the law to have a ‘way’ where it should have only a ‘say’. But it can also be an actual ‘majority’ acting tyrannically or unnecessarily asserting its ‘majority’ rights and privileges with impunity.
The Atere group underhandedly overwhelmed the Chairman of the Press Corps, the late Reginald Okochie of FRCN (who I would have the privilege of succeeding) to call for a division of the barely 20-member ad hoc house to resolve whether or not election should be conducted at that particular chance meeting.
It was their only basis to the claim of democratic righteousness -that a majority of the 20 ad hoc attendees had voted to agree that the meeting could vote to elect our ministerial nominee. But you do not adopt the ‘due process’ to democratise an illegality. You do not apply due process to sex up due process. Or as lawyers would say, you cannot put ‘something’ on ‘nothing’. If the meeting was not qualified to handle an election, neither a majority vote of those in attendance nor even their unanimous approval could cure the meeting of that defect.
What the Atere group insisted on doing was as preposterous as PDP’s Northern and Southern Governors’ forums in 2007 voting to resolve the question whether or not to uphold the controversial measure of zoning which ironically was enshrined in their party constitution. To vote to decide whether or not to obey the law is as ridiculous as members of a debtor organisation subjecting the obligation to pay their creditors to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. It is not true that the majority is always right. Sometimes it is the silent minority that is right. Those of us angling for the due democratic process although we were in the minority, we were nonetheless right. Nor is it always, as they say, that the due electoral process is a proof of justice.
Suffice it to say that a member of the pro-Amechi Dike group who was at the Villa when that travesty of the democratic process was about to take place, had managed to send an SOS to some of us by our offices’ land lines. But only about five of us were able to make it to the President’s Congress room, venue of the meeting just when FRCN Kaduna’s Buhari Auwalu –the electoral umpire- was about to distribute ballot papers for the election.
The Democrat Newspaper’s Sareef Mohammed, Amechi Dike and one or two others quietly passed word round to the few pro-due process members, informing them that I was going to raise a point of order objecting to the conduct of the election and that we would need some kind of mild ‘mob’ support for us to halt the process and then stage a protest walk-out. And it worked. We gathered our twigs and our pellets and we left; leaving behind about 15 of them, now in absolute ‘majority’.
But rather than proceed with the election, since they had no dissenting voice, they too had dispersed. It was not the prick of democratic conscience. It was the fear that the offeror of that gratuity, IBB, might be told that only 15 members out of 53 had gathered to ‘elect’ our ministerial nominee. It was the only reason this ‘immoral majority’ beat a hasty retreat.
But it was not yet Uhuru!