By Jude Ndukwe
When news broke out late last week that President Muhammadu Buhari had allegedly placed travel bans on two governors of the opposition party, PDP, in the persons of Governors Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, an already unsettled nation became even more distressed. If the report is true, then our democracy is in danger of premature abortion. Unlike any dictatorial political setting, what makes democracy beautiful, endearing and enduring is the capacity and capability of stakeholders and state actors to play by the rules, respect institutions and resist the temptation of putting their personal interests and biases above those of the nation no matter how personal they feel about any issue or anyone.
The ability to exercise restraint and act gentlemanly especially according to the provisions of the law is what makes a leader exceptional and exemplary while his legacies last for a long time after him. It is based on this that the purported travel ban on the governors by the president is quite disheartening to democrats and people of goodwill everywhere.
Just about the same period the said ban made it into news circles, President Buhari narrated how shocked he was when former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan against all odds and culture of African leaders called to congratulate him during the last presidential election even before counting of votes were yet to be concluded. That is how statesmen behave, and obviously Buhari has a lot to learn from the former president.
Beyond Jonathan’s “miracle” call that has saved Nigeria an unnecessary crisis and led to an unprecedented handover by a ruling party to the opposition, an action that has fascinated President Buhari, one should also quickly remind the president that this is not the only act of large heartedness that has endeared the former president to him and Nigerians.
The reasons for which governors Fayose and Wike are purportedly placed on travel bans are nothing compared to what members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, did to Goodluck Jonathan. From Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Dino Melaye, Adams Oshiomhole, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Rauf Aregbesola, the ACF and other opposition elements then, the gross and unbearable disrespect shown to the person and office of the President was unbearable, unprecedented and abysmally low. Dr Goodluck Jonathan was subjected to all manner of abuses, insults and sophistry of the highest order woven against him. It would be more shocking to president Buhari to be reminded that Jonathan did not for once consider placing any of these people on any travel ban, an act which should be considered equally heroic based on latest developments to the contrary.
Placing such a ban on serving governors who as citizens should not only enjoy their constitutionally guaranteed right to free movement, but operate within an inviolable constitutional provision of immunity is an invitation to anarchy. President Buhari has no such powers to singularly or in conjunction with any government force and or agencies place such bans. President Buhari should concentrate on governance which includes accepting criticisms without bitterness. He should rather look beyond the narrow prisms of party politics and affiliation and see such criticisms as necessary speed bumps meant to save him from self-destruct and national catastrophe.
The federal legislature has a duty to urgently save our democracy from collapse by calling President Buhari to order. He is a product of our law and must subject himself to the same law. He cannot arrogate to himself extra-presidential powers not given him by our laws. To do so is to unintentionally create a state of chaos, anarchy and doom. No one man can be greater than Nigeria and no leader is beyond criticism.
Criticism is the food on which democracy feeds fat; sycophancy is a virus that drains and eventually kills democracy. Countries where leaders are known to be sitting tight today are those countries where sycophancy is elevated to a nauseating level while criticism is clamped down the way it is currently being done in our country.
If the Buhari administration cannot stomach the criticism coming from Fayose, Wike and other opposition governors, it should approach the courts for consolation or the legislature for comfort, beyond this, there is nothing anyone can do to a governor who enjoys the same immunity that the president himself enjoys. One hopes that this is another joke from the presidency, just like the joke that was the 2016 Budget, the drab one year anniversary speech and other jokes, cheap and expensive ones alike.
Fayose should be left alone, please. He is one of the very few remaining voices of the common man even though others are rising with time!
– firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @stjudendukwe