By Rev. Fr. John Odey

Part 1– 2

NEWSDAILYNIGERIA: Keeping silent in the face of injustice is a crime. On September 17, 1997, Walter Carrington who was then the United States ambassador to Nigeria lamented during a lecture at the Island Club, Lagos, that Nigeria, the giant of Africa, had fallen from grace to grass. He said: “At independence, Nigeria was among the most richly endowed nations of the world in resources. Today, Nigeria is one of the world’s leading oil-producing nations. But like the cobbler whose children often go without shoes, it, frequently, is unable to supply its own people with fuel. In spite of its vast potential, it is today ranked by the United Nations as one of the fifteen poorest countries in the world. Its wealth has been squandered and many of its best and brightest, in frustration and fear, have chosen to live in exile.”

Today, 26 years later, more and more of Nigeria’s sons and daughters are living in exile because the giant of Africa has been crippled by what Chinua Achebe pertinently identified as “simply and squarely a failure of leadership.” At the beginning of the Russian and Ukrainian war, we saw it go viral on the social media where some Nigerian youths declared that they were not prepared to return to Nigeria even if that meant perishing in Ukrain.

That Bola Ahmed Tinubu did not win the February 25, 2023 presidential election is no longer news. He knows he did not win. All the political jesters who flock around him expecting to pick some crumbs from him know he did not win. Professor Mahmood Yakubu the arrogant chairman of the so-called Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who imposed Tinubu on Nigerians as their president, knows that he did not win. The judges handling Tinubu’s defence in the court know that he did not win but they had to yield to the Macedonian call beckoning their profession. It is no longer news that an overwhelming percentage of Nigerians have lost hope in the possibility of a resurgent Nigeria. Many Nigerians, out of frustration, have been having some doubt as to whether God is still interested in Nigeria. But we should not lose hope. The God we believe in is still the God of the biblical Exodus. At his appointed time the hardened Pharaoh was compelled to let his people go. It is very possible for such divine intervention to take place in Nigeria. Our Pharaohs can be compelled to untie their grips on us and on the nation to let Nigeria compete with the progressive nations of the world.

It is no longer news that the hopeless situation in the country is responsible for the untimely deaths of thousands of Nigerians being buried daily. That the wickedness and the insensitivity of the elite political class to the suffering of the masses of this country constitute major reasons for the escalation of crimes in the land is no longer news, When all the avenues and foundations of decent living are unjustifiably denied a whole generation of the young people, when all their hopes are frustrated and dashed, anarchy is let loose. At that stage they will brace up to the occasion to survive “by any means necessary.” Finally, it is no longer news that the majority of Nigerian youths are agitatedly waiting for the judiciary to dare pervert justice in their verdict before they will make their presence felt by moving to take their country by any means necessary.

We are aware that those who refuse to learn from history will eventually allow history to turn them into monuments of disaster. George Santanya, the Spanish-American philosopher, put this mildly when he said: “Only the dead have seen the end of the war. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. A country without memory is a country of madmen.” A dark and thick cloud is hovering over Nigeria. But Nigeria is certainly not a country of madmen. In this context if there happen to be some madmen in the country, they may be found among our political leaders and certainly not among our learned men and women of the law. Hence, the judiciary must disperse that cloud. The judiciary must not set Nigeria ablaze to please Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his gang of electoral mandate snatchers.

A Brief Historical Flashback: Anybody who is conversant with the history of the Civil Rights struggle in the United States of America in the 1950s and 1960s will recall that the phrase “by any means necessary” is the language of Malcolm X. Malcolm was a contemporary but a stark opposite of Martin Luther King Junior as far as their struggle for freedom was concerned. The sting of American racism at a time pushed King to admit that at a time he was at the verge of losing hope in a nonviolent approach in the course of their struggle. He said: “I tried to talk to the nation about a dream that I had had, and I must confess to you today that not long after talking about that dream I started seeing it turn into a nightmare.” His family upbringing prevailed and he refused to succumb to despair. Hence he continued: “Yes, I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that I close today by saying I still have a dream, because, you know you cannot give up in life.” As all of us know, the summary of his dream is that a time would come when racial oppression and discrimination in America would become history and that when that time comes, no person would be judged on the basis of the colour of his skin but on the basis of the content of his character.

What lesson can we learn from this here in Nigeria where the likes of Nasir El-Rufai believe and teach our Muslim brothers publicly that what matters in being a leader is not the character of anybody but whether the leader is a Muslim? Does it occur to our mischievous political leaders that their penchant to promote tribalism and religious intolerance at the expenses of the contents of our character leaves the entire nation at the mercy of the cult of mediocrity? Did Mahmood Yakubu think of the contents of the characters of the presidential candidates the electorate voted for or the tribe, the religion and the political party they belong to? Did he believe that he was doing a favour to Nigeria as a whole when he gave our electoral mandate to a man who did not only lose the election but who has played his own part and should have retired honourably but insists on constituting a stumbling block to the younger generation?

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Unlike Martin Luther King, Malcolm did not believe that white racists would ever have a change of heart and freely allow Black Americans on equal basis the civil rights that they had packaged for themselves. Apart from the unbearable plight of the blacks in general, the family history of Malcolm, what his father, mother, Malcolm and his siblings suffered in the hands of the dreaded Ku Klux Klan, a secret and terrorist group that white racists formed to promote white supremacy, made it impossible for him to believe in King’s dream. Hence, while King talked of the dream of a better future, Malcolm said that the blacks were kept “at the bottom of the social heap”, where they were being choked to death by persistent nightmare. He declared: “And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare.”

Here in Nigeria, does it occur to our political leaders that the rest of Nigerians who do not belong to the upper echelon of their favoured political parties, particularly the youths, have been confined to the bottom of the social heap and are seeing nightmares having been blinded by the politicians’ empty promises, maddening ostentations and interminable rascality? Does it occur to them that in spite of being unable to effect any positive change, the rest of Nigerians at least know that they do not mean well for Nigeria and for us. This claim is here substantiated.

On December 31, 1983, General Muhammadu Buhari ousted the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. In his statement, Brigadier Sani Abacha, as at that time, who announced the coup, gave the following as one of the reasons why Shagari had to go: “Our educational system is deteriorating at an alarming rate. Unemployment figures, including the graduates, have reached embarrassing and unacceptable proportions. In some states, workers are being owed salaries and there are threats of salary cuts. Yet, our leaders revel in squandermania and corruption and indiscipline continues to proliferate, public appointments in complete disregard of our stark economic realities.”

Since this write-up is meant to be a brief discussion on what is currently going on in the court about the 2023 political elections, there is no need to talk about how Sani Abacha himself ruled Nigeria from November 1993 when he bulldozed his way through as Nigeria’s military president to June 8, 1098 when he died. When, after three attempts, Buhari eventually became once more the president of Nigeria, a statement in his inaugural address on May 29, 2015 fascinated and deceived Nigerians into believing that he came for good, not knowing that he had some ulterior motive that would unfold and do a long-lasting damage to the security, unity and progress of the nation. That statement is: “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody. A few people have privately voiced fears that on coming back to office I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue.”

Buhari has completed the assignment he viciously mapped out for Nigeria and disappeared in shame. Now that he has accomplished his disreputable and nepotistic assignment and faded out, it has become clear that he did not believe in what his speech writer wrote for him to read as his inaugural speech. He did not belong to everybody. Rather, he proved by words, by actions and by his body language that he belongs only to a particular section of the country and to a particular tribe. While he deliberately played the ostrich when his favoured tribe kept unleashing mayhem on the rest of Nigerians, he was at the same time determined to exterminate people from another section of the country. The Muhammadu Buhari who told us that he belonged to everybody and to nobody is the same Buhari who later told the world that a particular section of the country gave him only about five percent of their votes and so have no claim over his administration.

To crown it all, Buhari ensured that he handed over the leadership of the country to a man who did not win the election, to a man into whom, according to Dele Farotimi, every evil about Nigeria has coalesced. Is Nigeria under a curse? When Buhari ruled Nigeria as a military dictator from December 31, 1983 to August 27, 1985, most of the mothers that gave birth to the very youths whose hopes are being shattered today had not matured and had not been given into marriage. It is possible that a good number of them had not even been born. Whether he likes it or not, an overwhelming majority of Nigerians believe that so far, the worst thing that has happened to Nigeria in the name of leadership is Muhammadu Buhari. It makes sense to acknowledge that Nigerians are patient with their evil leaders. That is a virtue. But it certainly does not make sense to think that their patience in the face of leadership scourge is infinite. That is a vice.

Part 2

In his book, “Anthills of the Savannah”, Chinua Achebe wondered how and what gives typical Africans the strength and the fortitude to bear the sufferings imposed on them by their so-called leaders. While the ordinary people would be struggling to survive the unpredictable vicissitudes and vagaries of life, baking and sweltering under the sun, drenching and shivering under the rain, quarrelling and fighting and sometimes killing themselves to promote the cause of the leaders that may not even know that they exist or care for them, all that is good and desirable are there coolly waiting for those leaders. Hear Achebe in his own words: “Isn’t the great thing about a VIP that his share of good things is always there waiting for him in abundance even while he relaxes in the coolness of home, and the poor man is out there in the sun pushing and shoving and roasting for his miserable crumbs? How does the poor man retain his calm in the face of such provocation? From what bottomless wells of patience does he draw?”

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His questions are rhetoric and to them he supplied this answer: “His (the poor man) great humour must explain it. This great humour turned sometimes against himself, must be what saves him from total dejection. He had learnt to squeeze every drop of enjoyment he can out of his stony luck.” Achebe did not live to see the terrible things that happened during the national disaster called Election 2023. Yet it is amazing how he was able to see clearly 35 years back when he wrote the book that to survive a national disaster like the 2023 election, Nigerians would turn that disaster into an occasion of great humour. And indeed the political disaster of 2023 proved beyond doubt to the world that Nigerians can not only transform a disaster of such magnitude to an occasion of joy but also that they transformed it into an occasion for demonstrating their creative ingenuity. Young Nigerians entertained us without any glitch on the social media in the midst of the sorrow that overwhelmed the nation in the name of election. We have indeed been suffering and smiling at the same time.

But the judiciary should not be deceived. There is fire on the mountain. The judiciary is the last hope of those who are unjustly treated because it is the only institution that has been invested with the power that is next to God’s power. Whatever the judiciary says, whether it is morally right or wrong becomes the law that all those who are within its domain must abide by, whether they like it or not. But there have been instances where the judiciary, misusing her enormous power, glaringly reduced the law to a travesty by perverting justice and people refused to obey and there was a feast of anarchy. The judiciary must not allow such to happen in Nigeria.

The current occupation of the presidential throne by Bola Ahmed Tinubu could be a case in point. It is an illegality that should not have happened. It remains an illegality even if he turns Nigeria into another Dubai tomorrow because he did not win the February 25, 2023 presidential election while Mahmood Yakubu who intransigently declared him the president did not follow the rules he declared to us before the election. Let nobody think that there is anything he can do to let honest Nigerians accept that Tinubu won the election he did not win or to succumb to the heart-rending illegality that has reduced Nigeria to a laughing stock in the eyes of the world.

That is why there is a manifest need for caution on the part of the judiciary. Nigerians are tired of being oppressed by a relatively few evil men who pass for leaders. They are tired of smiling while suffering excruciatingly. They should not be taken for granted any more. The premonition is clearly registered on people’s faces, particularly on the faces of the youths that they are now prepared to rise against oppression. That is the fire on ‘the mountain. It behooves the judiciary to ensure that it does not consume Nigeria.

To continue with our story about Malcolm X, because he believed he saw American nightmare where the suffering and hopelessness of the blacks compelled many of them to wallow in crime, on August 10, 1963, he gathered the back victims who had no alternative than to plunge themselves into the life of crime, at the New York Harlem, and spoke to them in the language he is known for. Among other things, he told them: “Unemployment and poverty have forced many of our people into this life of crime; but the real criminal is the City Hall downtown. The real criminal is the State House in Albany. The real criminal is the White House in Washington, D.C. The real criminal is the white man who poses as a liberal – the political hypocrite. And it is these legal crooks, posing as our friends, (who are) forcing us into a life of crime and then using us to spread the white man’s evil vices among our own people. Our people are scientifically maneuvered by the white man into a life of poverty. You are not poor accidentally. He maneuvers you into poverty. You are not a drug addict accidentally. Why, the white man maneuvers you into drug addiction. You are not a prostitute accidentally. You have been maneuvered into prostitution by the American white man. There is nothing about your condition here in America that is an accident.”

The racist American society denied Malcolm and his black brothers and sisters all the decent opportunities they had in life to live and survive decently. The result is that to keep breathing they decided to drown their misery in crime. Recall Malcolm’s soul-searching lamentation: “Unemployment and poverty have forced many of our people into this life of crime.” But the real criminal is in the City Hall, in the State House and in the White House. He also saw the real criminal in the white man who did not like the way the black people were being treated but had not the courage to condemn the evil openly. He gave the people in this group the sarcastic nomenclature of being white liberals. Have we any “black liberals” here in Nigeria, people who saw the rampaging monster that ruled the land in the name of election but look the other way because the architects of that monster are members of their tribe, religion or political party?

It happened not only in America. It is happening here and now in Nigeria. The real criminals responsible for most of the crimes our youths commit are those in the State Houses of Assembly, in the State Government Houses, in the Federal House of Assembly and in the Presidential Villa. They share among themselves our wealth and the opportunities that wealth offers and refuse to employ our teaming youths. The real criminals are some of our university professors who descend to the low level of conspiring with the likes of Mahmood Yakubu to sell Nigeria and the future of our children to the evil men in power. The real criminals are those who are in the position to speak for Nigerians who have been turned into the slaves of democracy but choose to remain silent. Let us pray that the judiciary will not join these gang of criminals by perverting justice over the all-important stolen presidential mandate.

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On June 28, 1964, a new movement, the Organization of Afro-American Unity, was born in the United States of America through Malcolm’s effort. Malcolm was designated the chairman. From July 17-21, 1964, the Conference of the Organization of African Unity was held in Cairo, Egypt. In his quest to let the African Heads of State know what was the fate of the blacks in America and to persuade them to link the Organization of Afro-American Unity with the Organization of African Unity and fight for their cause, Malcolm attended that conference and was accepted as an observer. In his address to the Conference he pleaded:

“Your Excellencies, the Organization of Afro-American Unity, in cooperation with a coalition of other Negro leaders and organizations, has decided to elevate our freedom struggle above the domestic level of civil rights. We beseech the independent African states to help us bring our problem before the United Nations, on the grounds that the United States government is morally incapable of protecting the lives and the property of 22 million African-Americans. And on the grounds that our deteriorating plight is definitely becoming a threat to world peace. Out of frustration and hopelessness our young people have reached the point of no return. We no longer endorse patience and the turning-the-other-cheek. We assert the right of self-defence by whatever means necessary, and reserve the right of maximum retaliation against our racist oppressors, no matter what the odds against us are.”

It is most likely that Malcolm read William Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” and admired how Shylock reacted to Antonio to whom he lent a large sum of money on the condition that he would extract a pound of flesh if he reneged on his promise to pay at the appointed time. When a fatal shipwreck destroyed Antonio’s material fortune and he was not able to pay as stipulated, a sympathetic friend suggested to Shylock that it would not be beneficial to cut a pound of flesh from Antonio as agreed. His reply was that even if the pound of flesh to be cut could not do him any good, it would at least feed his revenge. Having said that, he reeled out the following litany of the wrongs committed against him and his Jewish race by Antonio’s Christian race: “He (Antonio) hath disgraced me and hindered me of half a million; laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies! Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions, fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.”

The problem between the Jews and their habitual enemies stems from what is called racial discrimination. The same is applicable to the problem between black and white Americans. In Nigeria, since all of us belong to the same black race we do not refer to the root of our various problems as racial discrimination. Rather, what we have are tribal and religious discriminations. Under Muhammadu Buhari’s administration both matured into ethnic and religious cleansing respectively. The mild form of this scenario is marginalization. These are the root causes of our problem. There are people in this country who believe that they are born to rule while the rest of Nigerians are born to be under them and to serve them. For that reason, nobody has the right to become the president of Nigeria without their authorization. There are other people who believe that those who do not worship God the way they worship do not believe in God at all. Therefore, in the words of Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, the only way to bring about Nigerian unity “is to try to convert Christians and non-Muslims as much as possible. Until the other religions become minority and they will not affect our society.” For emphasis, he added: “I don’t think Muslims can allow a non-Muslim to be their prime minister (president) by election. He could be by use of force or by army coup but by election it would be difficult for a non-Muslim to be a leader in Nigeria by election.”

These, coupled with the cocktail of endemic corruption are responsible for declaring Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the president of Nigeria. But honest and patriotic Nigerians, both Christians and Muslims and of various tribes, have swallowed enough of the bitter pills given to them by the agents of political subjugation and religious intolerance. The aggrieved have been in the court. The lesson we can learn from the stories of Shylock and Malcolm X is that unbearable suffering imposed on an innocent person by man’s inhumanity to man can make the victim go to unimaginable proportions either in his revenge mission or in his struggle to be free. But no matter how unbearable the situation in our country is, the way of unimaginable proportions will not augur well for the country. Therefore, we are eagerly waiting for the judiciary to show us a better alternative by rising up to the challenge of her noble profession and call injustice by its real name.
To Be Continued


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