BY DELE FAROTIMI
I implore Nigerians, please, do not die in their war. Resist all invitations to violence… The PDP is the APC, and the APC is the PDP… They are one and the same. Do not die in their war.
I had resolved to watch the coming elections with some sense of detachment for a season. There was nothing to be excited about. I was going to vote for General Buhari if he got on the presidential ballot; and for Jimi Agbaje as governor of Lagos, whichever platform he chose to run on. I expected GMB to lose, but I had hoped that Agbaje would win. So simple were my thoughts, but they have since evolved. If I would bother to vote, these remain my choices, but I shall not be voting in the coming elections.
The mood of the country is depressed. Our president is an uninspiring, dour and colourless man. He inspires no confidence in anybody. He is surrounded by comical people who have little understanding of how to appear sober, temperate and or presidential. Nobody appears to be responsible for the ship of state, which is glaringly on course to hit a reef any time from now even as it is buffeted by pirate ships and dangerous waves.
Goodluck Ebele Jonathan presides over the current manifestation of the corrupt system that has always produced the political leadership of the Nigerian state.
Jonathan became the deputy governor of Bayelsa State, under the kleptocratic regime of Alams (Alamieyeseiagha). His capacity to keep quiet, and be loyal to those who appoint him to office – not his cerebral capacity, competence, and or integrity – qualified him for that office.
GEJ became the governor of Bayelsa courtesy of an extreme perversion of democratic norms by St. Matthews of Owu – the conscienceless conscience of our rotten nation. Our elders in Yorubaland of whom Baba Aremu should be an honoured member were it not for his planet-sized ego and inherent selfishness, have a saying, “lle ti afi ito mo, iri ni o wo.”
Baba Aremu presumed to install a puppet government that he would control from his crypt in Abeokuta, but he forgot yet another one of our elders’ sayings, “a fi oba je, ohun lo ndi ota oba”.
OBJ’s insufferable hypocrisy, which has seen him in his 70s, begin a rabid pursuit of wealth, when he ought to have dedicated himself to the redefinition of our country, led him into a collision course with the puppet government he presumed to have left behind. Yar A’dua moved early in his regime to be rid of OBJ’s influence, and GEJ has bruised his ego the most.
GEJ is OBJ’s legacy to Nigeria. The one man who has been singularly blessed to have the opportunity to lead our nation at two critical junctions in our history, bequeath the GEJ presidency to Nigerians. It is important to make this point, because yet again, OBJ is up to his usual games, and in his latest adventure, he has found allies in usual, but hitherto disguised places. Common cause has occasioned strange alliances and the darkening clouds demand this alarm.
The president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria presides over the most extensive criminal enterprise known to modern civilisation. The constitution does not derive its legitimacy from the expressed will of its captured people, and functionaries of the amoral state abridge citizenship rights in the most violent way. This will remain the case when votes would be cast on March 28.
The inspector-general would remain the Honourable Justice Inspector-General of the Nigeria Police; the men in uniform take their cues from him, and he’s the one in charge of the guns deployed to protect us during the elections. That man – and it does not matter who he is, every IGP in the sad history of our country, has acted in exactly the same manner for as long as they are products of the president’s benevolence…will be the same on March 28.
The INEC, that same one, that has not managed to register all eligible citizens, has already disenfranchised millions of Nigerians, and shown a sad inability to conduct the most basic of tasks… the same one peopled by the same corrupt Nigerians, same as you and I, that will be guarded by the same police, that will be under the same IGP, that will answer to the same president… will now conduct an election, that will announce a result, pronouncing defeat for the incumbent president of this blighted land on March 28?
The PDP is the APC, and the APC is the PDP. The presence of Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) and his own monster franchise, is the magnet that has unified strange bedfellows, but as our elders would say “iku nde dedere, dedere naa nde iku”.
BAT knows that GEJ would win, but he is hoping that the popular demand for change – mostly the mantra of the middle class impoverished by GEJ’s incompetence, and the extreme mis-governance of states such as Lagos, which is his cash cow… would distract attention from the 16 years of his sovereignty over Lagos State. In the noise generated by the GMB propaganda mouthed as “change,” nobody is asking APC to run on its own record.
Eight years of Babatunde Raji Fashola (BRF), preceded by eight years of BAT, with the vast amounts received in taxes, what has it birthed for Lagosians beyond the paparazzi and razzmatazz? They have built gardens in the middle of the expressways, and they call them Parks, they proclaim that “Lagos is working” but the question is, for who? Who has had the space to ask them to account for the several tollgates with which they have imprisoned the inhabitants of Lekki? At what costs have they pretended to rebuild the roads in Ikeja GRA? What is the true cost of the many anti-people policies of the APC government of Lagos State, and at what cost have lies been deified?
In 2011, per his own admission, BAT cut a deal with GEJ, and then pulled away from then AC presidential candidate Nuhu Ribadu. Would he be cutting a deal again?
GEJ, Obasanjo, Tinubu, Lamido, possibly GMB – they share common knowledge of a fact: GEJ will win the coming “elections! Why would Obasanjo fight GEJ, if he knows he would win? It’s about his own ego, his perennial need to be the messiah. Saint Matthew is guilty of every crime he today accuses GEJ of, and GEJ, as said before, is OBJ’s legacy to us. Or could the general have a far more sinister agenda? With Babangida’s recent declarations in Minna, could the generals be calling out their boys?
OBJ is an extremely intelligent and self-disciplined human being, especially in areas he has identified as being of interest to him. He senses the mood of the nation for change, he realises that his legacy would be indelibly destroyed if he comes to be identified with GEJ, and he is tapping into the discontent, in order to burnish his own sullied image and to preserve his own vainglorious views of his legacy.
GMB! He reminds me of the folk song accompanying the Yoruba fable of the elephant’s coronation, “A o m’erin jo ba, eweku ewele”. GMB, a man so simple in his views of the complex issues facing Nigeria, to the point where he presumed to cut a deal with all manner of unsavory characters, in his bid to garner their endorsement in his quest to lead Nigeria. GMB, the same one for whom I was going to vote just a few weeks ago, is a very simple, idealistic but not adequately informed on critical issues in today’s polity.
He has occupied that office before; he failed in the simplest of his duties – to preserve himself in office. He was so colourless that IBB did not even deem him sufficiently deserving of death, because trust me, if he was a threat, Ibrahim would have arranged something for him. He is so rare a breed amongst his peers, that even the kleptomaniacal Abacha tapped him up to head the PTF in order to burnish his own image and his presence in that agency gave it the semblance of temperance and probity.
GMB lacks personal conviction to the point where he would make statements that have today become albatrosses on his neck, and damaged him irreparably in the eyes of a significant chunk of our citizenry. Yet he today disavows his own words, and his records would not support the charges of bigotry. Who is the real GMB? Will the real GMB please stand up?
GMB has not sparked, talk less of kindled, the fire of the Nigerian spirit that chased out IBB, but was ultimately aborted. His quest for the presidency is based on an illusory “change” being sold to the Nigerian people, whom they (GMB’s promoters) have assumed will endure regardless of whichever one of them “wins the election”. GMB has become the dry cleaner, the laundryman washing away the stench of corruption that taints all his principal sponsors.
The illusion of change is being marshaled using the instrumentality of the social media, and the Internet. Facile theses are piled on top of each other, and silly attempts are made to distinguish between the two sets of dark forces that have held our country hostage for these years. Men who until recently were sworn enemies, have become compatriots overnight, and strange bedfellows have emerged. A founding father of the ruling party is suddenly talking about the 16 years of PDP misrule; IBB presumes to speak on our behalf, and OBJ is suddenly the conscience of our sick nation!!!
The armies of keyboard warriors have no voter’s cards with which to vote! Majority of the ones who have, they will walk away once GEJ’s goons execute his agenda. Yet a good number are Nigerians in the diaspora, ensconced in the uncomfortable comfort of exile, and yearning for the best for the motherland, preaching ideals of western capitalist democracies. The Nigerian press, not divorced from the people themselves, forced into the rabid rat race of existential living and generally devoid of principles and ideals, its conscience purchased with envelopes of varying sizes depending on office. Our national penchant for talking a revolution whilst outsourcing the sacrifices required, has led us into a democracy devoid of choice. How do you reconcile a vote for Agbaje with Bode George lurking in the shadows? A democracy devoid of choice!
From stringers to publishers, the fourth estate is lost. Were it not lost, how come nobody is asking the pertinent questions and shouting directions? What happened to seal the lips of those who used to enquire? Who is watching the watchmen? What kind of society are we building? What has made it possible for ordinarily intelligent men and women to become imbecilic in their intellectual capacities? How did we end up in this sorry place, where state failure has become a real possibility in our own lifetime? There is enough maleficence to go around all parts of our sick society; our press continues to promote lies in place of truth. Yet, the conscience is an open wound that only the truth can heal.
Assuming by some miracle, that GMB wins the coming election, and GEJ and his backers are somehow persuaded or compelled to bow out to popular will, due to pressure from internet, press and public opinion; what next? Nothing will change. The same corrupt governors and their godfathers would remain under the same corrupt system with the same corrupt legislators, judiciary, police, and same castrated army.
The illusion of change will be for a season. Very soon, GMB would be allowed his rants against “corruption” – as defined by his own ultimately narrow interpretation of the word; and his handlers would probably allow him the occasional victim to be fed to the lions in what would soon become the circus of anti-corruption. But in that critical battle, all anyone needs to do is take a look at the high table at any political gathering of either of the major parties. The general has lost the war against corruption before it even began.
The Nigerian middle class has been a resounding disappointment, and its failure to rise above existential living, replacing intellectual curiosity with vacuous religiosity devoid of conviction, has accentuated the pervasive corruption of the political class. The very best amongst us have never aspired for political leadership, we are too good to be local government councilors, and we are too big to run for the Houses of Assemblies. Only the ‘corrupt’ go to the House of Reps, and the Senate; it’s not for those with anything to do. We have as a class failed ourselves, our children, and generations yet unborn. We have abandoned governance to the worst of us, and we have watched them move from being councilors to assemblymen; we’ve seen men without desire for service promoted to high offices because we are all too big to serve the only nation we call home. As they did between 1982-1999, they’re coming for you again. Whichever of them wins…
I implore Nigerians, please, do not die in their war. Resist all invitations to violence. If you have your voter’s card, please vote, but vote knowing that it probably wouldn’t matter anyway, especially in the presidential elections. But it is not too late to prepare to use all the other elections across the country, as barometers for the performance of the incumbents, from state house of assembly to representatives, governors and senators.
The problem will not be solved by a mere change of personnel, it is the system itself that requires reformation, and the nation itself that has to be redefined with the rights of its citizens clearly delineated and held sacrosanct. In 1992, MKO tapped into a national desire for change. He energised a movement that became larger than him. He became the symbol of a young generation of Nigerians; I was one of those who voted in the most peaceful election ever witnessed in the history of this potentially great nation. There was no war in any of its territories, and there was not any part of its territory ceded to a terrorist.
Some betrayed the ideals of nationhood that were sown on that blessed day. From the minute of conception, they knew who was, and who wasn’t the messiah. Yet they often stood on June 12, and have traded and prospered whilst sitting on it. They are the same people who presume to call us to their battles again.
I beseech you; do not die in their wars. Today, they are in PDP; if APC should assume office tomorrow, they will move to APC; and if PDP and GEJ should win, they will remember their PDP genes. They are one and the same. Do not die in their war.
* Excerpted from a yet-to-be published book, with the working title, From Dele’s Observatory
* Farotimi is a Lagos-based lawyer and public commentator