AGF Abubakar and Our Incurable Tall Poppy Syndrome
I may not be the biggest fan of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Malami Abubakar SAN but I cannot but observe that those presently trying to besmear him are doing a desperate job of it. With what I now of Nigeria and our tradition of targeted witch-hunt the style was usually to pick on one grievous offence and highlight same to the point of generating national outrage.
But the allegations against Mr Abubakar are as long as the 210 count charges that frustrated prosecution counsels will bring against an upright person just to increase the possibility of securing a guilty verdict. These numerous accusations – repeating them here would eventually amount to be slandering the gentleman – give me the sense that whoever the AGF’s enemies are must be very powerful. There is also no point in trying to make a list of the things the AGF got right for which he should be commended. That would amount to image laundering.
This write up is not about image laundering for anyone. For me, it is my contribution by giving an early warning on what I see as a potentially dangerous situation that is unfolding. Since the funny stories about the AGF increased in frequency, which I find hard to believe is a coincidence, I have taken time to observe that there are some other pivotal members of the current government that are not being spared. The minister of justice, in this piece, is therefore symbolic of all other members of the present government that are facing the onslaught from a group, individuals or both that are yet to marshal the courage to show their faces or reveal their identities.
Far from targeting Mr Abubakar, the target of those after him will appear to be his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, whose relationship with the minister dates back some years. As opposed to running Abubakar out of the government the objective from my viewpoint is to isolate Mr President from lieutenants that are truly loyal to him. Perchance President Buhari falls for this ruse he would be playing into the trap of his enemies who have conjured the Tarquin the Proud treatment for him as he would succumb to Tall Poppy Syndrome.
According to Wikipedia, the cultural phenomenon known as "tall poppy syndrome," is one in which persons of unusual merit are attacked or resented because of their achievements. The phenomenon dates back in time and Kierkegaard: Fear and Trembling narrated that “The reference is to an ancient story in Rome in which the son of Tarquin, the kin of Rome, had gained power in the rival city of Gabii. The son sent a messenger to his father to ask for advice about what he should do, but the father did not trust the messenger. Saying nothing, he simply walked around in the garden and struck the flowers off the tallest poppies. When the messenger related this behaviour o the son, the son correctly inferred that he should try to bring about the death of the leading citizens of the city.”
The President would therefore be helping to weaken his own government if he buys into the barrage of supposedly “damaging stories” about a very strategic minister in his government. If the Tarquin story proves true in his own case, he will soon discover that the rest of his trusted allies would be sullied one way or the other and he will end up having to lop the tallest of his men off at the instigation of an enemy whose capabilities he is yet to fully grasp.
The other facet to the prism is the cultural side of the “tall poppy syndrome,” we all certainly enjoy it when persons in position of authority face the prospect of taking a big tumble. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on what side one views it from, President Buhari is the nation’s tallest poppy. The sadistic part of the population is setting him up with accusations about his appointees – if he fails to get rid of them after the accusations he would be accused of harbouring corruption; if he gets rid of those accused the same accusers will later come after him saying he is intolerant. I recall vividly that he was severally accused of “shopping for angels to occupy his cabinet” when he was trying to be thorough in arriving at the list of his appointees.
I have a sense that one dangerous thing that can happen the way things are currently going is for Mr Abubakar to be petrified by these allegations to the point of becoming ineffective in office. While he is at liberty to exercise his reflexive human reactions that include becoming overwhelmed by the circumstances, he will do well to be informed that the system will suffer if he should become lethargic just like those after his boss wants him to be. They will then finally have a genuine excuse to demand for his head, only that in his case they will want his head on the basest platter possible and not a platter of gold.
In the meantime, I am waiting to see the next story to added to the overfilled cart containing the AGF’s supposed misdeeds or who next would be added to President Buhari’s “to axe” list from among his cabinet.
Kolawole PHD is a University lecturer and contributed this article from Keffi, Nasarawa State.