It sounded unbelievable that a ranking Senator could be so disgraced— I found parts of the footage really embarrassing —in a foreign land by his own people. Especially since some of those people—by themselves or through their kinsmen—had been responsible for the serial endorsements he had received through the ballot box over the years. To the best of my knowledge, this ranking Senator has not had any problem winning elections in his senatorial district time after time. Even after his alleged ‘sins’ on the Biafra cause, he still won the last election handily. So it is either the elections did not represent the true feelings of the people in which case we need a serious electoral overhaul, or the action was from a few disgruntled minorities as alleged by him. I also find the endorsement of this action at home by many people including enlightened ones, uncomfortable. It is a pointer to people’s feeling at the state of the nation.
Let me state clearly here that I do not support the shenanigans of our grandstanding politicians. It is just that I abhor violence in any form, especially public violence. You would never catch me raise my voice in a public gathering no matter how dissatisfied I am with the proceedings. I definitely will not be involved in fisticuffs cuffs. The worst in my book is mob violence as experienced in Nuremberg last week. Who knows what would have happened had Senator Nkweremadu not been quickly spirited away? Who knows what would have happened had the Senator slumped due to a heart attack or stress? Who knows what would have happened had he met confrontation with confrontation? Who knows what would have happened had he been mistakenly felled and his spinal cord damaged? I am sure those who organised the attack would not have wanted murder on their hands not to talk of a high profile one. Besides the unintended consequences of mob action, it is also a reflection of the characters and the disposition to the violence of those who indulge in it. And to the extent that these people are Nigerians in the diaspora, a reflection of the character of Nigeria itself.Hence my embarrassment. I do not deny here that certain situations can lead to pent up frustrations which in turn, can bring out the worst, the best in people especially when all avenues for justice, for redress or even for ventilation are shut down with impunity; when people are taunted or provoked beyond an acceptable level of tolerance. After all, it is not without some justification that a sage opined ‘those who make a peaceful change impossible make a violent change inevitable….
Peaceful changes are usually through the ballot box or through dialogue. Although we have severally met brick walls on those two fronts over the years, we still have to honestly ask ourselves if a peaceful change is no longer possible in Nigeria; if we have exhausted all the options that can lead to a meaningful change and not just a change in personnel. Have we now come to the inevitability of violence ala Nuremberg; or revolution ala Sowore? It is easy to say yes to this nagging question when you consider the nature of our politics and the way politicians emerge and get entrenched in the system irrespective of performance. It is easy to be frustrated when you see how our justice system seems to pander to the rich; how our senior lawyers, our SANs lean more towards technicalities than justice; how the electoral body defers to the incumbent; how our politicians literally get away with murder. It is easy to give up when religious institutions reserve front row seats for known looters of our treasury. Or throw in the towel when the larger society itself mocks an honest but poor public official. But it is precisely at times like this that people with nobler ideals should come together; when knights with moral armour should band to rescue a nation from descending into chaos and violence by pushing for a meaningful but peaceful change. I am not talking about an APC to a PDP change. They are birds of identical plumage. The change we desire is one that flushes out the rent-seeking elite and changes the system that nourishes them. One that enthrones good governance preferably through the ballot box. And it can be done without violence. We have seen what violence did to North Africa and we want none of that. We must not resort to jungle justice as enticing as it seems because of collateral damages.
It is at this point that I wonder whether the punishment Ekweremadu received last week was as a result of his own misdeeds or because of what he represents. Part of the allegations was that he did not further the Igbo cause at the Senate. I do not want to defend him but as the Deputy Senate President, he could not afford to be seen as parochial. I am also not aware that he endorsed any cause that was overtly detrimental to the interests of the Igbo people. In any case, there is no consensus on how to achieve the Igbo cause, otherwise known as the Biafra cause just as there is no consensus on how to achieve the Oduduwa cause. That is even assuming that these separatist movements will actually further the interests of their people in the long run. It is also possible that Ekweremadu was punished for what he represents— a selfish, greedy, rent-seeking political class—one which crosses from party to party in search of power and wealth to the detriment of the national, or even the common good. As one of the oldest members of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu represents all that is good and all that is bad in the National Assembly. And the consensus seems to be that there is more bad than good in the Red and Green Chambers. As the immediate past Deputy Senate President, and a ranking member of Congress, he had his chance to impact on the lives of the people and improve on their welfare. But like the rest of them, he has used the occasion to feather his own nest. It is time to ask ourselves whether we really need the two Chambers.
If any good came out of the Nuremberg experience, it was that it brought into public consciousness, the angst of many people to the in-your-face excesses and profligacies of the political class. Looting would reduce if we all stopped saying ‘rankadede’ to thieves and instead call them out. Let members of the political class account for their wealth. Across board. Let them serve the people whose mandate they shamelessly appropriate or get out of the way.