Doctrine of Dishonesty


On page 9 of the February 20-26 edition of The Economist magazine, there was this unusual remark:“The idea that America's democracy is broken, unable to fix the country's problems and condemned to impotent partisan warfare, has gained a lot of support lately”. And just in case you miss the point why this statement is significant, it is because for

America, democracy is everything; democracy is to America what religion is to the average Nigerian. When it comes to democracy, Americans are unapologetic and uncompromising; it is the basis of their existence as a nation and even as human beings; they could lose everything and still manage to survive, but without its democracy America is nothing. The idea that America's democracy could ever falter was inconceivable, especially to the Americans. And yet there it is, as reported by the economist; that for the first time in more than 200 years Americans are having doubt about the invincibility of their “religion”.

At the risk of being judged unkind, this should cheer up Nigerians a little. It means ours is not the only country where the roof is caving in, or where things are generally crumbling down. This should also help: this year some 17 countries in Africa would be celebrating their Golden Jubilee, that is to say they would mark 50 years since they gained independence from various European colonial masters. Almost all of them, with Nigeria in the lead, would be celebrating failure though; so there would be enough gloom all round to make our own bearable.

This is no flippancy; it is an honest confession that for this Nigerian, and conceivably for many others, life has become so harsh, laughter nonexistent and hope almost vanished that the only source of relief is to seek succour from fellow travelers; from nations and citizens whose lives are just as meaningless, or nearly so. We know we are not at war, not in the sense that DR Congo or Somalia are; all the same how many murders have our police solved in the last 10 years? Human life in our country has lost value faster than the national currency, and that is being charitable. Sometimes the murders take the form of mass killings as a result of sectarian conflicts; sometimes a hapless Nigerian is isolated and killed for no apparent reason! In one particularly gruesome act of brutality, the media reported Friday how armed robbers along the Benin-Lagos highway stopped a luxurious bus; after robbing the passengers, the robbers then asked all those who carried no money to lie down on the highway and then run over them with the bus, killing dozens. In a way even countries that are at war live a more settled life than the Nigerian. That is how bad things are in our country.

And just when you think things can't get worse, out pops another, bigger absurdity, often with tragic consequences. From having a succession of poor leadership, we have now graduated to having a leadership we cannot see, we cannot hear, we cannot feel. So this version of leadership cannot even be assessed; so that we can say, at least for record purposes, just how poor it has been. Our dilemma now is not that we have a president that is sick; but that we have an entire political leadership that is afflicted by an illness that is worse than that of the president's: dishonesty. It is a plague which affects everybody, but the most vulnerable are those vested with political authority; namely the political party leadership, the members of the National Assembly and the Executive Arm of government. And of course the so-called Fourth Estate of the Realm, the Media establishment.

Once while making a contribution on the floor of the House of Representatives over the state of the nation, Bala Ibn Na'Allah (PDP, Kebbi State) made a statement that was quiet striking; he said, with reference to the media which had carried a report suggesting that Nigeria is a failed state: “I wonder who is deceiving who between the politicians and the Media. In the morning they write reports and editorials abusing politicians; and in the night hold dinner nights where they give them awards for excellence”.

Indeed! Who really is deceiving who? Did Yar'adua's people really think they could play with the intelligence of the rest of us and live to laugh about it? Did Mr. David Mark who has hitherto displayed rare political savvy for a soldier think his invoking the doctrine of necessity was enough to sustain the fragile contraption they hoisted on the nation by way of a resolution that has no basis in law? And did the media, local and international think they could confer on that contraption legitimacy by merely describing it with the most beautiful adjectives such as 'historic' 'heroic' 'patriotic' etc?

And what about the principal characters themselves; to what extent are they accomplices in all this? This is referring to President Umaru Yar'adua and Acting President Jonathan Goodluck. It has been established long before now, even while Yar'adua was active president that substantial power resided with his wife Hajiya Turai Yar'adua. Other characters that hung around the president such as Agriculture minister Abba Sayyadi Ruma and presidential economic adviser Tanimu Yakubu are minions who exert no influence on the president. They merely took orders from Turai and for their efforts were allowed to exploit their accessibility to the president and his wife. When he fell sick and unable to function it was those three, with Turai as the de-facto leader that took over. Those are the mercenaries that have kept the nation in the dark about the condition and whereabouts of the president.

So if Yar'adua is guilty over anything it is first of concealing his fragile state of health and then surrounding himself with aides that care neither for him nor for the country; their first and last priority is their self-interest. That is why the president now finds himself hopelessly alone, with little or no sympathy from anyone but his wife and children; to underscore the president's loneliness, twice a rally was planned to shore up support for him and twice it was aborted because nobody among his aides was willing to make any financial sacrifices; meanwhile reliable sources say that their bank accounts are bulging with loots. Sad, but the president has nobody to blame but himself.Then Mr Goodluck Jonathan. The man has shown remarkable amount of restraint in the face of what must be irresistible temptation. But with or without Mr. Jonathan's consent or knowledge, a powerful web of political intrigue is building up around him. On his part the acting president appears to have suddenly found his groove; within one week of becoming acting president that is still a subject of several litigations, the VP has done, or allowed to be done, a few things that have rattled the erstwhile docile Northern part of the country. The sale of NITEL under very unconvincing conditions; the reported signing of oil blocs and, much more serious for the North, the diversion of N19bn from dredging of the River Niger to reclamation of coastlines in his own state have not endeared the controversial acting president to the North.

Add to that, the increasing agitation for the removal of the ailing substantive president by whatever means, an agitation that is gradually and dangerously taking on a regional character whose advocates seem to be narrowing down to the South and by desperados like Dora Akunyili. Taking together what this is creating is the impression that the NASS resolution and its subsequent effect of making Goodluck Acting President, rather than cooling the polity and reassuring jumpy nerves might in fact produce the opposite effect! Or to be more precise is in fact producing the opposite effect. The end result of all this doesn't look good at all. By Garba Deen Muhammad ( [email protected] )

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