By Mohammed Adamu
REPORT must have got to IBB that the offer he made to us, State House Correspondents, to democratically elect one of us who would be made a minister in the Interim National Government of Shonekan, we had turned into an ‘apple of discord’. He must have been told that a tiny ‘gang’ of State House Correspondents led by National Concord’s Mohammed Adamu had imported ‘thugry’ into the Presidential Villa to abort the process of electing a beneficial nominee for the offer that he had made to us. A case of an ‘immoral majority’ giving a ‘righteous minority’ a bad name to justify hanging it. Almost proving right the anti-majority opinion of Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian playwright in his ‘An Enemy of the People’ who said that “The majority has the might –more’s the pity- but it hasn’t right”. Ibsen has said that “The worst enemy of truth and freedom in our society is the compact majority”.
Yet, the irony of it was that our intention at the State House, in applying non-violent means to stillborn an illegal electoral process, was even nobler than IBB’s who had applied the jackboot and the barrel of the gun, to terminate the life of a child, June 12, after it had been born. Proving Lord Russell, the 18th century British Prime Minister wrong, who said that “It is impossible that the whisper of a faction should prevail against the voice of a nation”. A call particularly for my de-accreditation, including by my Photographer, Moshood Raji, and especially by The Guardian’s Yinka Oduwole –mastermind of the attempted fraud- rang up to the DSS and to the office of IBB’s CSO, Major Geri Mohammed. And it did so with such importunate din that I was almost provoked, voluntarily, to turn in my accreditation before it was demanded of me.
I had been de-accredited twice previously: first for breaching a news embargo and then once for satirising an accreditation reform conducted by the SSS. But this time, the duo of IBB’s and Aikhomu’s spokespersons (Duro Onabule and Nduka Irabor) had said that although our resort to self-help was mutinous and unacceptable, yet the attempt by the Atere group to commit a fraud on us was ignoble. Unknown to any, Duro Onabule had commended our action privately in his office, even though he had requested that I played along in a pacification scheme he was planning. To ease the pressure mounted on him to deal especially with Mohammed the mastermind, he would openly reprimand me the next day at a meeting of all Correspondents which he had summoned. The idea was that in order to let sleeping dog lie, I should show remorse -even if I would not apologise. Call it divide and rule. I say it was stooping to conquer. Onabule respected the angst of the righteous minority; but he was also prepared to assuage even the unfounded anger of the immoral majority. In deference to this, I stooped.
By the way, Onabule must’ve assured IBB that he and Irabor would now organise and umpire a fresh election for us –to forestall the looming possibility that the President might withdraw the offer. So now rather than organise others, there we were –watch dogs of the society- on election day, at the same Congress room in the Villa, being organised by others. In a sense even the annuler of June 12 was seeming more democratic than us, his traducers because it had to take his own agents for us to be democratic even in our in-house affairs. The duo of Onabule and Irabor presided as umpires, over nearly a full house of our mambers. No electioneering campaigns, no reading of manifestos, -not even a pre-voting address by the contestants for a last minute canvass of votes. It was not necessary. Because two camps had already emerged with minds made up to vote a certain geo-ethnic way. No thanks to the schism resulting from the attempt by the pro-Atere group to seek advantage in geo-ethnic numbers.
In retrospect, there were three contestants holed up in two opposing geo-ethnic camps: the Amechi Dike, Reginald Okochie camp, supported by virtually all the Northern, South Eastern and South-Southern correspondents; and the Sola Atere camp supported inevitably by the South Western correspondents. But our camp was further pitched kinsman to kinsman. All efforts to get Amechi step down for his fellow, more popular Okochie, so that our votes were not divided proved abortive.
Moreover Okochie was such affable, good-humoured journalist we thought even IBB would love to have on Shonekan’s cabinet. The few pro-Atere members we were banking on to shun geo-ethnic consideration and support Okochie said they could do so if we talked Amechi to step down for him. And although we preferred Okochie, Amechi’s obduracy had forced us into a last ditched effort just a few minutes before the election. Now we wanted just any one of them to step down. : we sent the two brothers into a room and said they should not come out until one had stepped down for the other. They came out almost immediately. None had agreed to step down -more to the chagrin of Democrat’s Sareef Mohammed who had been on top of this search for consensus for a week. And so now we resolved to teach Amechi a lesson; even if that would be the only electoral victory to celebrate. When the votes were counted, Atere predictably won. Apparently because Amechi’s obduracy had kept our joker votes away. But it was sweet that we did teach Amechi a lesson. He got only one vote. Meaning that only Amechi voted for Amechi.
An innocuous attempt by an opportune geo-ethnic ‘majority’ had imposed on us an ugly faith accompli, preempting the character of an in-house election in the direction of tribe and geography rather than in the direction of conscience. And it is the same mistake that the opposition PDP is making now; or has already made: whipping the sentiments of tribe, religion and geography; -a dangerous tripod by which it alone stands the most to be hurt. Every anti-Islam, anti Hausa-Fulani partisan tirade by PDP has the implication of urging Muslims and Hausa-Fulanis to congregate around the Calvary where their ‘accursed’ one, in this case Buhari, bears the cross and the prickly-crown purportedly in atonement of their sins.
Our South West members were forced to the tent of their own, Atere, by the manner of our gang up against him, not our reason for the gang up. By the way, there was no better proof that the geo-ethnic character of the Atere victory was synthetic and not antipathetic, than that at the end of Reginald Okochie’s tenure as Chairman of the Press Corps, our South West members had also rejected one of their own –Voice Of Nigeria’s Yemi Fakayejo- to give me the same block vote that they had deigned to give Atere, to become Chairman. By the way, IBB had reneged on his earlier promise to make our nominee a ‘Minister’. Instead, Sola Atere was made the Director of Media to Shonekan, It was partly the reason I had described IBB’s offer a ‘Greek gift’. Atere’s reach for a high heaven ended in a low one he probably would not have traded his prestigious NTA job for, if he had known. Nor would he have afforded the geo-ethnic animosity that his candidature had evoked. Ironically again, when Shonekan too would make Atere’s office so utterly redundant, I would be one of few colleagues that our now frustrated colleague would turn to, for us both to agonise over and also to organise against. It was proof also that Atere knew that our opposition to his candidature was altruistic, -not ulterior-motived.
NOTE: I should discuss, in a separate title, Saraki’s ‘unrighteous minority’ -which had poked a chink on the armour of APC’s arithmetic majority, and treacherously went to bed with a malicious PDP minority, and from which mutinous sex romp, an ‘immoral majority’ at the Senate was birthed which is doing to the nation what ours had done to our Press Corps.