By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo

The meek ones have, like Shakespeare, said, “The quality of mercy is not strained.” Other others have said, like Moses, “An eye for an eye.” In other words, “spare the rod and spoil the child.” Yet Others have, like Jesus, drawn the line and said, “He who has never sinned alike, let him cast the first stone.”  

A student of a university in Jigawa insulted the first lady. Then he disappeared. According to the Student Union, for days, neither the boy’s parents nor the school authorities knew his whereabouts. The Student Union’s president said after a nervous search that exhausted the parents and the union for days, the boy was discovered.

In these days of rampant banditry and school abductions, Aminu’s poor parents must have been to hell and back. The boy was found in the custody of the Nigerian police in Abuja. Safe custody. The police are his friends. But any agency arresting a student in Jigawa to haul him to Abuja, like he committed treason, should inform the university authorities and his parents.

Ethical policing is founded on due process and justice. Killing an ant with a sledgehammer is vengeance. Treating defamation like terrorism is antediluvian. The first lady’s office should be a fountain of love and charity, where parched and frustrated students can find succour and redeem their souls. The first lady should be a compassionate moral compass.

In the 80s, all healthy university students called the members of the ruling government and their families thieves. They mocked Babangida and caricatured Abacha. We all did. The looting of the public treasury has become cultural in Nigeria. And youthful idealism means a blanket condemnation of all who have had a chance to steer the ship out of the abyss.

If every student in a federal university who insults or slanders a government official and members of his family is captured Gestapo-like and hauled hundreds of miles away from his school into detention, this nation would have been filled with castrated slaves and zombies. 

Fake news is bad. Defamation is an offence. But those who seek high office in banana republics where the poor have remained dispossessed by roguish politicians must buy or borrow think skin. Anyone who suffers allergy to mockery should abstain and urge his family members to forgo public office. Defamation is hurtful and condemnable, but non-specific jibes are generally excusable. Students are allowed the room to vent to develop into watchful citizens rather than somnolent serfs. 

That boy’s tweet was less adventurous than the average newspaper cartoon. To this day, that tweet lacks the capacity to reduce the estimation of the first lady in the eyes of anyone who knows that the boy is a student and the country question is Nigeria. That is why the response of the student union is disgraceful.

That statement written by the student union sounded like a whimper from a shivering dog. NANS has deteriorated. Gone are the days when the union was the ultimate watchdog. Then, NANS barked and bit, so governments didn’t treat it with contempt. Today, NANS has become a pet dog. It hobbles around with morally flabby politicians during the day and crouches by their bedside at night.

Today’s NANS, lush with fine fur, looks tame and docile. When it makes an effort to bark and ends in a whimper, the government knows it needs milk. Gone are the days when the Student Union had a fire in its eyes and ate t0rture and detentions with its mouth.

Because, then, its heart was sold to freedom, and its head rejected fifthly compromises and bowls of porridge that would have cast a spell on many Esaus. Then, nothing scared or seduced it. Then, its language was bombastic, youthful and irrelevant. And poetic. 

The Student Union is now unrecognizable. After claiming the boy was tortured, it timidly inserted an apology for the first lady. The union used to be synonymous with Aluta. And no government official could touch a Nigerian student with brazen malice without inviting the anger of the students.

On my first day at University, I read a communique of the Student Union on a notice board, and my head swelled as pride coursed through my veins. It was a coming of age. I felt vicariously powerful. Today, student union leaders wear babanriga and ride SUVs donated to them by those their ancestors would have deemed oppressors. So, today, a student caricatures the first lady, and he disappears. 

Perhaps the first lady chose to use the boy to set an example. Well, it’s her prerogative to seek an eye for an eye. Though sensible mothers of yesteryears would have cared more about the child and his exams than their ego. But why use a small innocent fry who has exams to write?

Fani Kayode had spent years defaming and demonizing the president and his family and the entire Fulani race. The first lady was alive and well when Fani Kayode called the president a corpse and described the government of which the first lady was part and parcel as a ‘corpsocracy’.

Fani Kayode didn’t tweet from the forest. He went to TV studios to say that Buhari was corrupt. He mentioned the PTF audits and much more. He said Buhari was a kidnapper. He called Buhari a murderer. He said these things in public. Aminu is a poor anonymous student whose tweets nobody reads. Fani Kayode is a lawyer and conspicuous ex-minster with millions of social media followers.

The first lady did nothing to Fani Kayode. Some months ago, nearly a decade of demonizing the president and caricaturing his family and tribe, the same Fani Kayode cross-carpeted to the APC and was hugged by the president. It’s not impossible he ate tuwon shinkafa from the presidential kitchen that day. So why is the first lady frying a fry?

I remember Fayose. Fayose once said the first lady was wanted in the United States. It was fake news. It amounted to criminal defamation. Fayose has no immunity today. Why hasn’t the first lady gone after big fishes?

Why would a young student who heard all these and saw the first lady do nothing become such a criminal for saying what every Nigerian student says, for saying less than a percentage of what most members of this ruling party said about Jonathan and his wife on the eve of the 2015 elections?

Recently Aisha Yesufu magnified Aminu’s words and let out a stream of invective on the first lady. After that, she dared the first lady to come after her. Nothing has happened to her. It is, therefore, pertinent to ask if poverty complicated Aminu’s situation.

For seven years, President Buhari has ignored all slander and fake news. The president has been an example of equanimity. The office of the first lady should be a fountain of peace, tolerance, harmony and charity. But if evildoers must not be spared, then let’s exhaust our anger finding and punishing those who constructed a criminal four km pipeline for grand oil theft and those who abducted school girls. Power is ephemeral. Tomorrow is pregnant. 

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