BY DELE MOMODU
Fellow Nigerians, it is with so much pride and joy that I wish to choose my Man of the Year, midway to the end of 2019. God’s ways are indeed mysterious. I was a bit uncomfortable and perturbed when the ruling party, APC, was fighting tooth and nail to install Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan as President of the Senate and Hakeem Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker of the House of Representatives. The reason for my reservations and concern was not farfetched. I had imagined that the only reason was that, as has been typical of the highly touchy and sensitive APC apparatchiks, they must have identified Lawan as a robot they believe would do whatever he’s asked to do by the Executive, no matter how preposterous the assignment may be. It was my belief at the time, the vitriol with which the race was being pursued by the Party hierarchy could only lend credence to the pervading public perception that the Party and the Government wanted to foist a pliable and malleable leadership on the National Assembly. This was particularly the case when the candidates themselves seemed to be maintaining a level of decorum and sense of fairness which the party top-notch seemed to be lacking.
Anyway. Lawan has won the contest by a handsome margin and he is now comfortably ensconced as the head of the Red Chamber of the National Assembly and, as a result, the head of the Federal Legislature. Congratulations to the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, and our dear friend, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, who emerged as Speaker, Federal House of Representatives, also with an even healthier margin. It is noteworthy that their respective victories obviously transcended party lines and that the duo are quite popular amongst their colleagues as the applause and happy buzzing atmosphere that erupted after their elections demonstrates. I pray they both individually and jointly act in the overall interests of Nigeria and Nigerians. I’m of the opinion that their loyalty and allegiance should be to the country, in accordance with the hallowed and solemn oaths that they both took after their elections, and not to any individual or collective of individuals. May God grant them the requisite wisdom and courage to foster peace, fairness and unity at all times in all that they do.
I will not trouble you with a rehash of the antecedents of the new Senate President, Senator Lawan. Much of that information is now readily available. Such is the allure of power, that one can go from relative obscurity to instant fame and stardom. It is pertinent to however note some features of Senator Lawan which I believe has not only catapulted him into the elevated position that he now occupies, but also offers a glimpse as to his personality and what the future may hold for this man who seems destined for greatness. Lawan is a geographer and former university academic who holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of Cranfield, in England, United Kingdom. His Bachelors and Master’s degrees came from the University of Maiduguri and the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, respectively. It is clear that Senator Lawan is a very educated man who has the opportunity of international exposure in his educational formative years. I am partial to academics because I grew up amongst them and I know the expansiveness of their thoughts and views. Clearly, Senator Lawan is a man of this ilk and the views he espouses and his purposive embracing of all-comers in the political and social spectrum shows learning and a cultured background. It accounts for why he is able to reach out to everybody and his willingness to work with all shades of opinion as long as he believes it is the best for Nigeria. Lawan’s accomplishment as both Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee whilst in opposition and the Appropriations Committee in 2015 shows that he is a man his colleagues believe has integrity and accountability. The margin of his victory despite the shenanigans that accompanied the Senate Presidency elections, and the seeming uncertainty before that, typifies a man who is very well respected by his colleagues and seen as a unifying factor. Watching from the distance, I also see Lawan as a man of cool mien and demeanour.
What Nigeria desperately needs today is that unification process which all Nigerians are now stridently and strickenly crying for as they are ravaged and savaged by all manner of disuniting and separatist talk and actions. Nigerians certainly do not need or want the endless wars of attrition being fought by President Muhammadu Buhari and, in particular, his vengeful and neurotic cronies, allies, and foot soldiers who derive so much pleasure in seeking and drawing their pints of blood from real or imagined enemies. Unknown to them, it is not all wars that must be fought because the nation is bigger than them all. However, they studiously ignore this point and only seem to see the here and now. They forget the transience and evanescence of power and the ephemeral and fugacious nature of the intoxicating elixir that excessive and abusive power brews. They regularly flex their muscles and try to bully submissive and already wounded Nigerians into giving in to their bizarre ways.
One of their recent acts of truculence and obnoxiousness arose from an innocuous appointment made by the new Senate President, Mohammed Lawan. And what was the cause of their irritation and irritability? Lawan, in his uncommon wisdom had chosen to embrace meritocracy, competence and capacity by appointing as an aide, Festus Adedayo, a highly cerebral writer and journalist, and a Lawyer in the making, who was to be his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity. The way the APC trolls responded was unbelievably shocking and irrationally jejune. They pressurised Lawan so much that he had to quickly drop Festus like a hot and scorching charcoal. They unleashed a blistering campaign of calumny and obloquy against a man they claimed had committed heresy by criticizing their demi-god, President Muhammadu Buhari. Oh my God! How, they asserted, could Lawan have committed such a huge blunder and colossal faux pas by appointing such an infamous person to enjoy the spoils of war that President Buhari had made possible for all APC legislators by his own might and right?
Unfortunately, and sadly, these are the signs of the times. I can almost bet my life that most of these APC folks who took to venting their unrelenting anger against Festus Adedayo have never read any of his articles which they seek to impugn. They only acted on rumours and hearsay. Even if true that Festus is such an irascible fellow who never saw any good in Buhari, was this not an opportunity to win one of the critics over? Why could none of them see that the fact that Lawan, who is expectedly a protégé of the President had deemed it fit to appoint him would suggest that there was some benefit and advantage to be derived from Senate President and indirectly the APC and the government. Previous administrations have brought in their most vociferous and harshest critics and converted them to their attack dogs. Your worst critics often become your greatest fanatic. So, in Buhari’s Nigeria, all critics of Buhari have been summarily rejected, convicted and regarded as persona non grata without any benefit of doubt or possible rehabilitation. It is indeed a sad moment for Nigeria.
What the APC has inadvertently confirmed is that political appointments are some form of gratification and reward for loyal party men and women and not a call to service. As such, Festus Adedayo was axed and hacked down because he was going to enjoy the soup he did not help in cooking. What chicanery! If his main crime was criticizing the President, I doubt if anyone has criticized Buhari in more trenchant terms than his own irrepressible wife, Mrs Aisha Buhari, a woman whose objectivity and boldness we all hail as refreshing and commendable in a government that regards any form of critique as an attack on its performance and perceived successes.
What the President’s acolytes must realise is that critics are not necessarily the enemies of governments. Critics, even those that are acerbic, caustic and nasty can be like the mad man who enjoys his lucid moments. In their venom one will always find nuggets of golden truths that can illuminate and inspire the government to aim to do even better. In any event, every Government actually needs bold critics to help sharpen and reshape their focus. Buhari will fail, spectacularly, if he continues to live under the illusion of grandeur that he is infallible and beyond reproach. In my view , it is those selfish sycophants, lackeys and hangers-on that have contributed in the portrayal of the President as a spiteful, bitter man who does not forget or forgive. Indeed, I believe that people may have been taking advantage of his style of leadership by delegation to feather their own nests at the detriment of their principal’s reputation and goodwill.
I believe that President Buhari has just wasted what could easily have been a major public relations stunt for his government and party of gladiators and warmongers. Like I am doing now, many people would have hailed not just Lawan, but the entire APC executive and the President for allowing a vocal critic like Festus Adedayo to join the team of the country’s number three citizen. The danger I see is in the vainglorification of APC members and the illusory belief that Buhari is the only saint and no one must ever criticize him.
Nigeria can do much better than this. Our country needs loving and caring leaders and not divisive elements, diversionists and divisionists. If Nelson Mandela was a Nigerian, he would have killed all his enemies when he came out of 27 years’ incarceration, mainly in solitary confinement. But he chose the path of peace and became the world’s greatest statesman. Why can’t my own people borrow a leaf from such remarkable legacy.
Did our leaders not see or notice the peace the Republic of Kenya currently enjoys after President Uhuru Kenyatta and his arch-rival Raila Odinga embraced publicly and apologized to each other. There is much to gain in true reconciliation, obviously.
Nigeria has been effectively taken over by demons who are engaged in wanton destruction of lives and property. There is no other reason for this than the dearth and death of love in our climes. Nigeria is richly blessed with some of the smartest and loving humans on earth. Yet, we have suddenly become so poor of spirit and so suspicious of one another that the cankerworm of disharmony, distrust and deceit has eaten deep into the fabric and soul of our country.
Nigeria should go in search of anyone who can restore hope and glory to our dear beloved nation. That is why Senator Lawan is such a refreshing breath of fresh air that must be celebrated. I am aware that the recent appointments of his personal aides not only cut across party lines and the political divide, he also avoided parochialism and shunned religious bigotry. He did not save plum appointments for his kinsmen or fellow Moslems. He simply decided to choose those he felt were competent even if he did not personally know them. He worked on the basis of proven ability and diligence and passion for Nigeria. It was his reason for choosing Festus Adedayo. However, those who do not care about this nation, but are egotistical and self-absorbed persons immediately rushed to destroy what would have been an epoch momentous development.
Dividing Nigeria along political, ethnic and religious lines can only deepen the mortal and fatal wounds we’ve sustained these past few years. Someone needs to rise up stoutly and halt our supersonic slide towards perdition. That someone is no other than President Muhammadu Buhari, who needs to take a leaf from Senator Lawan’s book and be more all-inclusive and all-embracing in appointments, purge himself of sickening acolytes and their rabid viewpoints and proceed to keep Nigeria united, peaceful and prosperous.
President Buhari can still live up to the expectations of those who voted for change in 2015. He has one final opportunity. Indeed, he has entered the last chance train. How he acquits himself this time around may well determine whether Nigeria survives or not!