A Country of Talk, Talk,By Adagbo Onoja



Adagbo-OnojaReading Sunday Trust editorial late evening in an Abuja suburb today made me wonder aloud as to which is the greater problem confronting Nigeria. Is it the fact that undemocratic machinations are routinely deployed by the powerful against the powerless or the fact that the Nigerians never rise en masse to checkmate the deployment of undemocratic machinations. One thing the editorial in question brought out very clearly is the list of eminent Nigerians who have condemned what has been going on in Rivers State for the past one week or so. That section of the editorial probably deserves to be quoted for the purpose of clarity. It said, “Many eminent Nigerians have condemned the events in Rivers State and President Jonathan’s complicity in them. Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, constitutional lawyer Professor Ben Nwabueze, former Bar Association president Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, and prominent lawyer Femi Falana, SAN all joined in the condemnations. Soyinka said that democratic grounds are being eroded in Rivers state. He also rejected attempts by the president’s men to absolve him from the crisis, saying “the perception in the world is that he bears a vicarious liability in the crisis.”
Considering what each of these individuals represent for each of the constituency that they appeal to most, it can be argued that the country is united against what is going on in Rivers State, directed at neutralizing the governor. Yet, no set of Nigerians have moved solidarity headquarter to Port Harcourt to show to the world that Amaechi is not politically fatherless. It is one thing for eminent persons to condemn a particular development, it is another thing for the condemnation to be followed by a series of symbolic political actions, not only in Port Harcourt but also Lagos, Kaduna and Abuja. This is the only way to keep power in check.
The president of the United States of America cannot even contemplate certain actions in office but not because he or she is so democratic, so refined or so well-heeled in these matters. S/he cannot only because s/he knows there is a legitimacy price to pay for doing so. Here in Nigeria, the powers that be do not have to bother about the consequences of their actions because they know there are no prices to pay. At least, they are certain that no mass actions will follow their democratic foolery. So, the tendency continues. Today, President Jonathan is held to be the power behind the machinations in Rivers. Tomorrow, the next president will do the same thing if not worse because s/he knows that the Nigerians will not go beyond talk, talk.
But the Amaechi case is where Nigeria must demonstrate that it still has a soul and can shield those who have stood for it when it mattered most. I, for one, have never had anything to do with Amaechi, either as a journalist or some government staff man. But I do know that after taking over power in late 2007, he said to the whole world that “I have taken pains to make myself clear on this. I am not against the struggle to seek redress over the criminal neglect, marginalization, underdevelopment, etc that have been visited on the people of the region over the years. I am against the scourge of criminality, militancy or any other unlawful means, applied to prosecute this mission as it would be counter productive and would certainly spell doom rather than any foreseeable gain. It is this monster of criminality that I have undertaken to confront head-on and fight to a standstill”.
On that account, one came to the conclusion that even before the spat between the governor and the president started, Amaechi had won both the battles and the war. And that only a president Jonathan would take on such a person whom even the Nigeria society, as reckless as it is about intelligent selection of leaders, must have taken note of. It has nothing to do with whether one liked Amaechi or not. The point is that by insisting on that distinction, he was rolling up the sleeves for the Nigerian State which was as distressed as it is today. In other words, he didn’t defeat Jonathan in 2013. He did so in 2007 when he made that declaration openly. He couldn’t have been grandstanding because it was on record.
This is why opposition to what is happening in Rivers State should have gone beyond condemnation into symbolic solidarity action by now. What would be wrong with a repeat of APC governors’ type visit to Borno sometimes back? What would be wrong with a visit of politicians of like minds to Rivers State? What would be wrong with solidarity actions of guardians and protectors of democratic propriety such as the NBA even if this was staged in selective Nigerian cities? If there cannot be such elite protest actions at this stage, then why shouldn’t we forget about democracy?
In the said editorial, Femi Falana mentioned what happened in Anambra exactly 10 years. The anniversary of that is being marked by an even more brazen replica. It stands to reason then that we should expect a version three times worse in the year 2026. That is another ten years from now. What a country!
It is probably too late but it might still not be out of point to draw the attention of President Jonathan to something that someone like the late Sunday Awoniyi was used to emphasizing. He always said that the Office of the President of Nigeria is already too powerful that every incumbent must never be party to evil or anything that could disturb the balance between rectitude and greatness. He wasn’t referring to a plastic sense of rectitude but the elevated sense of power that should define and dominate the thinking and actions of anyone who finds him or herself wielding so much discretionary powers in the affairs of men. It may be true that power is an aphrodisiac and corrupts absolutely, it is even truer that man has the capacity to domesticate power. That is what makes all the difference between a Mandela and a Mobutu, all of them Africans. But who am I to preach to a president of Nigeria?

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