Friday, 22 November 2013

Danse Macabre

            Emperor, your sword won’t help you out
            Sceptre and crown are worthless here
            I've taken you by the hand
            For you must come to my dance.

Those who perpetrated the idea that President Jonathan was weak - myself included - were not wrong but culpable nonetheless in encouraging him to be strong, or at least give the semblance of same, which was all that was left to him. This has now become a problem, for him no less than for us.
Take the case of Sule Lamido, one of the seven PDP governors opposed to Jonathan’s 2015 transition programme (if we may dub it thus). Lamido is generally considered among the better performing governors. Indeed, he has been compared to Fashola in Lagos and is a self-declared disciple of the late Aminu Kano and his philosophy of service to the downtrodden. To that end, he instituted the first social security bill in the country, under which every physically-challenged person in the state – there are about 4000 – is paid N7000 monthly to stay off the streets; in the governor’s own words: ‘We, therefore, feel fulfilled that...the most deprived layer of the longer go to bed hungry on account of lack of money...’
Lamido has also flayed the culture of impunity whereby ‘a corrupt office holder was arraigned before a court of law for corrupt practices and even pleaded guilty’ but was set free and allowed to contest for public office again in order ‘to be promulgating laws to punish an ordinary thief of a goat or a pick-pocket’. He called this ‘a shame and disgrace’ and advocated scrapping the immunity clause from the constitution. Now, it seems, he is himself guilty of corrupt enrichment, at least if the charges levelled against him and his two sons by the EFCC are to be believed, totalling over N10 billion since he became governor in 2007.
Whether the charges are true is impossible to say. Everyone knows that the EFCC is simply a stick with which to flay the president’s perceived enemies. Moreover, being Nigeria, one assumes that all public office holders are corrupt, whatever they claim to the contrary. This is a melancholy fact but there you are. Worse again, those widely perceived to be corrupt but close to Oga at the top are not only not persecuted by the EFCC but actively shielded by him even against his own political interests, as in the continuing case with the ‘embattled’ aviation minister, Princess Stella Oduah.
The facts of Oduahgate, as we have come to call it (we love mimicking the nomenclature of our betters, being unoriginal in everything we do except stealing), are well known and needn’t delay us. She is not the first minister to be caught with her pants down, as it were, and she certainly won’t be the last (alas!), but for whatever reason her case galvanised public opinion, with calls from all quarters for Jonathan to sack her. Pigs might fly. Not only has he refused to do so but he eschewed the EFCC in favour of a commission whose subsequent findings – assuming it reached any - he refused to disclose. Meanwhile, the Senate, which made much noise about getting to the bottom of the matter (pigs might indeed fly), made a sudden U-turn and unanimously decided not to grill her. That she will get away with (or perhaps in) her expensive bulletproof cars is not in doubt, itself evidence of the culture of impunity Lamido railed against.
As for Lamido, he is not alone in his travails. All the so-called G-7 governors have, in one way or another, felt the wrath of the presidency for their impertinence. One of the most flagrant abuses of executive power occurred a few weeks ago when the police ‘stormed’ (their preferred mode of operation) the Kano State governor’s lodge in Abuja where the disaffected governors were meeting on the grounds that a residential building was being used as an office. One of the ‘outraged’ governors expressed alarm ‘at the way and manner the Nigeria Police treats elected representatives of Nigerians,’ and noted that, ‘if the rights and privileges of these governors and members of the National Assembly can be so threatened, then an ordinary man in Nigeria has no hope and confidence in the Nigerian Police Force,’ a conclusion he might have drawn by simply opening a newspaper.
Using the EFCC to prosecute only those who disagree with you, and the police as storm troopers to disrupt meetings held in a private residence, give the illusion of strength but in fact demonstrate its opposite, and underlined by the refusal to use either in the case of a minister you happen to be close to but whose reputation is more odious than most. No doubt this Dance of Death will be the style of a president desperate to renew his tenure at Aso Rock as we move ever closer to the 2015 deadline; and it is unfortunate that his many advisers cannot tell him that all it does is make him look petty and, worse, foolish, but then that is not what he hired them for. The EFCC can’t go after Lamido directly because he has immunity so they target his sons; the police disrupt a meeting of disaffected governors of the ruling party only for the Inspector-General to deny knowledge of any such operation.
In the midst of all this, one was almost forgetting that the ASUU strike is now in its sixth month, that one of the largest exporters of crude is still one of the largest importers of refined, that we continue to wait for the electricity long since promised... But the list is a long one, so much so, indeed, that there are those who doubt there will even be a country called Nigeria come 2015, much less an Aso Rock to occupy.
© Adewale Maja-Pearce
Adewale Maja-Pearce is the author of several books, including Loyalties
and Other Stories, In My Father's Country, How many miles to Babylon?, A
Mask Dancing, Who's Afraid of Wole Soyinka?, From Khaki to Agbada,
Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa and Other Essays, A Peculiar Tragedy, and
Counting the Cost, as well as the 1998 and 1999 annual reports on human
rights violations in Nigeria. He also edited The Heinemann Book of African
Poetry in English, Wole Soyinka: An Appraisal, Christopher Okigbo:
Collected Poems, The New Gong Book of New Nigerian Short Stories,
and Dream Chasers: New Nigerian Stories.

Click here to see Maja-Pearce's page: Pearce/e/B001HPKIOU


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