That Notorious Gate In Abuja By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, today is one of those days that I don’t even know where to start from. I’m sure you won’t blame me for finding myself in this lethargic and somnambulist state. I feel like I’m in a trance with events spiralling out of control at the speed of light. But this incredible stories need to be told somehow. Man proposes but God disposes. I had planned to write on a different topic entirely and had even completed the mental draft before things started falling apart.
It seems I was in a spiritual mood from the beginning of this week and I just allowed myself to move as the spirit directed. My original plan was to leave London to Dubai on Tuesday and spend one night before connecting to Accra on Thursday morning but I changed plans at the last minute and decided to do an immediate connection from Dubai. It was to prove a fortuitous decision. I spent about four hours enjoying the bliss of Dubai on Wednesday morning as I marvelled at what transformation a visionary Leadership can achieve almost effortlessly. I had helped to market Dubai to Africans about 12 years ago at the invitation of British Trade Partners to Ovation International and I never cease to marvel at how much Dubai has changed since then. But that is another story for another day.
As I boarded the magnificent Emirates flight, little did I realise the shocker that awaited me. Just before the doors of the plane were shut, two Nigerians sauntered in from the blue and one of them turned out to be Nigeria’s only former military Head of State and Civilian President, the irrepressible General Olusegun Obasanjo, and his ubiquitous Personal Assistant, Alhaji Akande. As he sat down, I approached him calmly and despite our differences, prostrated to greet him as any well brought up man would do, shook hands and returned to my seat after a brief chat with his warm PA.
Of course, as a reporter, my journalistic antenna had instantly jolted into action. Since we were the only two people on the second row, it was a bit easy to accomplish my mission of observing a former President on an eight-hour commercial flight. I engaged in internal monologue and stream of consciousness: would he eat and drink like a normal civilian would do? Would he drink, sleep, and use the same washroom after flying Presidential jets for so long…?
It was an uncommon private glimpse of one of Africa’s most influential men. A few people who recognised him went to greet him, including the Emirates crew who had asked me if they could snap some pictures with him. Say what you will, former President Obasanjo is actually a very charismatic, intelligent and canny leader despite his rustic disposition. This accounts for the tremendous influence he wields on the Continent and indeed outside it. In addition, ladies in particular find him attractive and see in him traits of a strong man who brooks no nonsense. And one thing is certain, women are astute in unearthing, understanding and appreciating power and its source. I was very impressed with his cosmopolitan carriage and he was truly Presidential. He exuded an aura of intense confidence and you could not but feel his vibrations throughout the flight.
I was stunned at his capacity for hard-work as he was kept busy by calls after calls most of the flight. Emirates is in the vanguard of airlines in this regard, allowing you to make calls on your mobile phone during the flight. The former President was only able to take a short nap and ate some light meal. What I made of his many calls was that Obasanjo was controlling Nigeria from the skies of Middle East all the way to Africa. His attention was badly needed and I should have known that something serious was about to happen. For the only man in Nigeria’s history to have ruled as military Head of State for three years and eight years as civilian President, Obasanjo is too entrenched in every facet of Nigerian life to be ignored. His views are much sought after by both friends and foes alike. When he voices an opinion or in keeping with character delivers his usual epistle on aspects of the state of the nation, the country reverberates as if shaken by an earthquake.
Anyway, we landed safely and went our different ways. Within 24 hours, events began to unfold at almost the speed of light snowballing at an alarming rate into a final denouement that any producer of a tragic thriller would have been proud of.
First was the sad news from Ekiti State where seven members of The Ekiti State House of Assembly claimed to have impeached their Speaker in a House of 26 members. Like a macabre dance of masquerades we were informed that three other people whose identities remain a complete mystery sat with these legislators during their deliberations. This was probably to make up the numbers to form a quorum of nine members before any legal decision could be taken by the House. Just like that! Our LAWMAKERS will simply not learn the law. Or maybe they believe they are above the LAW. How many times does the Supreme Court have to pronounce that a farcical process like that can never be sustained because it is simply unconstitutional, null and void.
As if that was not bad enough, I watched our Brother the Governor of Ekiti State Ayo Fayose as he boasted on National Television that he supports the impeachment without apologies. He emphasised that “without apologies!” without any compunction! I shook my head sadly as I remembered how a few of us, strictly on matters of principle, had stood stoutly against the kangaroo decision that kicked him out of office. I remember how bitter he was at the time that Obasanjo had masterminded and orchestrated his impeachment. But strange are the ways of PDP because the same party that sacked him ignominiously has brought him back triumphantly. That is not my cup of tea but I thought we had passed this level of executive recklessness and impunity and that if one person had learnt a lesson it would be the new Governor of Ekiti State who was once a victim. Is this what inordinate ambition does to people? How can anyone with a sense of History ever imagine they can get away with this kind of hocus-pocus!
My frustration was further compounded by the lack of better explanation of the implication and repercussions of such audacious acts at this time and age. How could it be possible for a Governor to combine both executive and legislative powers simultaneously? Where are we headed with this type of unbridled rascality? How can seven people sack a man and his deputy supported by at least 17 other members against all known tenets of Democracy? When have ghosts resurrected to suddenly join in an impeachment process and as miraculously as they appeared evaporated and vanished into thin air? Indeed everything is possible in God’s own country, Nigeria.
As that Ekiti debacle was sinking in, something bigger and more combustive was brewing. According to reports, the President and Commander-in-Chief, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had written to the National Assembly asking for an extension of the existing State of Emergency in three States. It is curious that the said letter was extended to the Speaker of The House of Representatives, Waziri Aminu Tambuwal, who had virtually been declared persona non grata since decamping from the ruling party PDP to the opposition APC. There is speculation and suspicion by conspiracy theorists that the President had been sold a decoy that it was possible to foxily impeach the Speaker by tricking him out of his recess by sending that Emergency letter which is obviously in respect of a matter of utmost national importance given the Boko Haram rampage and outrage in those States. The idea was to reopen the House and block the Speaker at the notorious gate where we were stopped and the Police threatened to shoot us when we demonstrated in defence of then Vice President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan against the cabal in 2010. As I watched the latest melodrama, memories of that gory experience flooded back to me. The Speaker who had previously been stripped of his official security without justification was kept at that gate for no justifiable reason. That was an outlandish joke carried too far.
The Speaker and his supporters were not fooled or caught napping. They were obviously many steps ahead of the game. If they had not forced their way in last Thursday, it is most likely that a few PDP loyalists would have sat like they did in Ekiti, attempted to do in Port Harcourt, and sack Speaker Tambuwal and dare him to go to court and spend eternity waiting for judgment and justice. It is a travesty and a sorry tale of how low we have descended that some people have had the temerity to condemn the Speaker’s conduct in not giving in to unabashed and shameless destruction of our constitution, our values and our democracy.
In any event they don’t seem to understand the well-tested aphorism that a bully only respects a bully and the child of fire is always sent to fire. It happened in Rivers where Governor Rotimi Amaechi would have been impeached if he had chosen to be a perfect gentleman. In a country where the Federal Government wields the power of life and death, and the Judiciary has been desecrated mercilessly, many have learnt to resort to self-help. It is such a terrible and horrifying development but that is the reality of our situation if our nascent democracy is to be protected and nurtured.
The Nigerian Police acted apparently in bad faith and obviously in malice in the partisan manner their officers blocked the Speaker from gaining access to his own office. It was a classic case of abuse of power. I felt ashamed on their behalf at their defence that they got a security report that hoodlums were going to invade the National Assembly. Nigerians are not so foolish to believe such a cock and bull story. I’ve watched the footage on Channels Television repeatedly and except our elected representatives are now being considered and referred to as thugs and hoodlums by the Nigeria Police, the justification is fantasy existing only in the minds of the police and those who provided this piece of “authoritative intelligence”. The way the Speaker and indeed all the legislators were treated was nothing short of totally scandalous. If his offence was decamping from PDP, how come the same party gloats whenever others abandon their parties to join them? It is the height of intimidation and oppression. All the Nigeria Police seem to have achieved is confirmation that the country needs a foil against their excesses and State Police appear necessary to checkmate such unbridled disregard for constituted authority.
However, I am sad by the fact that a few lawmakers went overboard by reacting in such violent manner that could have resulted in bodily injury to themselves and others. I commend the maturity of the Senate President, David Mark and the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal in the face of what could have plunged Nigeria into total mayhem and bedlam. An assault against the Speaker is the same as that against the Senate President.
As usual, my biggest concern and advice is for President Jonathan. Sir, too many people are selling you lies and dummies at a premium. A good General should never fight on too many fronts. You are already too exposed on the fronts and flanks without adding any more.
The Presidential election is only three months away and what is most obvious is that many of your supporters are acting like you can win whether the opposition likes it or not. It is not going to be that easy. This moment requires utmost caution. I will humbly suggest again that Mr President should abandon those urging him to violently violate the Nigerian Constitution and trample on fellow citizens and leave them to their idiocy. They are present in every government at next to nothing. They are heating up the polity unnecessarily. They portend no good for you. Let them not be responsible for your downfall. If you must exit the stage, let it be with dignity and honour. Let history be kind to you. One thing is certain, none of those scurrilous advisers shooing you into these present follies will be charitable about you and your leadership when tomorrow. Not even the military regimes could cow Nigerians or sentence them to perpetual servitude. There is no point starting a war you can’t win as history has taught. Fate has been too kind to you.
Remain the master of your destiny, Mr President. God be with you, now and always.
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