Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Nigeria: Who Says Army Cannot Takeover?

By Ike Abonyi
"In our age there is no such thing as 'keeping out of politics.' All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia"— George Orwell 

In the title of this piece is the harmful question asked by the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu that set the polity and military authorities talking? It is one contribution to a debate last week at the nation's parliament - the Senate, that ignited a tense conversation in the polity. The topic was on the incessant human rights abuses especially on the Senators by their obsessional state governors.

Ekweremadu was reacting particularly to a report from a Kogi state Senator Ahmed Ogembe to the effect that his youthful controversial state Governor, Yahaya Bello, has been sending political thugs after him and threatening to chase him out of his constituency.
As Senator after Senator lambasted the governor's apparent intolerance to opposing views recalling similar attitude on the loquacious Senator Dino Melaye, Senator Ekweremadu stood up apparently to sum it and said, “The problem in Nigeria is that our democracy is receding. The house of a senator was destroyed in Kaduna state; we are talking about Kwankwaso who was stopped from going to his state where he ruled for eight years. In Kaduna, Shehu Sani cannot organize a meeting and we are talking about a democracy? The international community needs to know this because they helped us install democracy. Who says army cannot take over, let us not joke with our democracy, that is the issue?"

All the other salient points the distinguished senators made during the debate got drowned by this striking question ostensibly intended to underscore the seriousness of the issue on the table: “Who says military cannot take over?"
Even the embattled Deputy Senate President (DSP) has been forced to come up again to make further clarification but the issue has refused to abate. Not even the military authorities were left out in the debate as they tried to distance themselves from any dream or vision associating Nigeria military with coup or direct involvement in politics.

But the reason why the topic continues to trend in the media space is obvious; the effect of the military in our polity is so horrifying that not a few would want it to be confined to history. That an experienced parliamentarian, a lawyer and a strong advocate of rule of law in the country in the status of Senator Ekweremadu had to use such phrase to stress his point shows clearly the level of the frustration in the polity.

When you see somebody talking to another in the same room with him and he screams even when the other person has no health record of being deaf, just know that the point in question may have been over stressed and no evidence of assimilation. If Ekweremadu had not gone gaga the way he did, Nigerians would not have known the import of the topic under discussion. When persons wearing democratic garb continue to operate as dictators and the entire public outcry ignored, what you get is sudden outbursts as Ekweremadu did on the floor of the Senate.

A solution need to be urgently found on how to handle some undemocratic attitudes spreading around the country that forced the DSP to erupt the way he did.

For instance, the nation has moved on as if all is well in Kaduna state where two serving Senators have been under all forms of attacks in their state for daring to have opposing view with their state governor. One of them even had his house demolished and they are also prevented from holding meetings, even when we all know how inevitable meetings are to politicians. The governor doing these damages in an apparent unrepentant mood had the audacity to ask his victims to go to court.

In Imo state, we hear of a Catholic Archbishop being publicly assaulted by hired hoodlums allegedly sponsored by Governor Rochas Okorocha an obvious squadron leader of a selfish political group bent on installing his son- in-law as his successor. The resistance to this political anomaly is what allegedly led to the manhandling of a Bishop. What is the bone of contention? After ruling Imo state for eight years, Gov Okorocha desires that his son-in-law who is his current Chief-of-staff succeeds him so that the daughter can replace her mother as the First Lady of the state.

Opposition to such self-centeredness is not scarce in coming. Expectedly Imo people determined to nip it in the bud have begun the mobilization even ahead of the use of their voting power - the  the PVC - to do the needful. 

But the body language of Okorocha does not seem as if he would settle for anything less than his inordinate and obvious unusual dream agenda. If that happens and the people resist it and he uses the instrument of governance to suppress them, what happens? Critical stakeholders like the President, Okorocha's political party and elders in Imo state and indeed Igbo land have all been watching the bizarre political drama in the state. This is certainly not the spirit of democracy which is long explained as the government of the people for the people and by the people.

Agreed that military rule is bad and should be consigned to the dustbin but are we really and sincerely working towards doing that?
If democracy is not allowed to work and the populace are undergoing avoidable hardship as a result and leaders who instead of positively addressing the issues are busy playing Nero, who fiddled as Rome burnt, what do you expect?

Injustice has prevented this country from advancing, and 58 years after but we seem not to yet recognize this ugly fact.
The first disruption of civilian rule in 1966 soon after our independence was a consequence of injustice aggravated by ethnic, religious and geo-political interests. This was to lead the country into a civil war. The destruction of lives and property in that gruesome war was not enough to lead us away from those variables that caused it. Instead, further injustice brought the country to another point where an aggrieved citizen, Mohammed Yusuf, had to engineer a guerrilla war against his country men and women. 

The group was to metamorphose into a very deadly terror group notoriously known as Boko haram that has killed thousands of Nigerians. With injustice still persisting, one Nnamdi Kanu had to emerge from the blues and took this country through the rigours that threatened the fabrics of her existence and amassing enormous support along the line. Ekweremadu's warning should be taken from the point of the saying that critical problems require nothing less than critical solutions as the only way to see off such political guiles as military rule.
At the base of all these is arrogance of power, injustice and clear lack of respect for the rule of law.

If Ekweremadu because of his level of exposure and status is reacting to his own frustrations by warning that what is happening could invite some bizarre actions, why should the nation continue to live in denial even when they refuse to do the needful.

On Monday this week I was Dutse, the Jigawa state capital, where I watched a rally in the state organized by the opposition PDP in the state to welcome decamping members. But while many saw the joy of a crowd ready to reject a failed government and a failed political party and go to an alternative, what I saw was more than that. I saw a society in danger of something more than a military rule.
I pray that rather than pretend in perpetuity that a democracy as a form of government is flourishing in our land, we should accept that it has failed in all ramifications the way it's being practiced in the country.

President Muhammadu Buhari and his APC government certainly are not the originators of all the nation's problems but they have by their poor vision and lack of direction helped greatly in compounding the situation. Nothing underscores this more than the fact that an Army takeover of government is even being contemplated at all even if it's in parentheses.

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