Perhaps there is something about the military orientation in our leaders which makes them to give no hoot to public image. I do not understand why a government that connects with the comity of nations will be so defiant and mindless about how it is perceived by outsiders.
Even as perfect as Jesus Christ was in His days, He was concerned about the PR around Him. Once, He asked His disciples, : “What/Who do men say that I am?”
But these leaders of ours, especially those with military background, do not bother to review their public image. They are so ensconced in the comfort of the presidential villa that they are deaf to the ruckus noise about how dim their images are.
I will give four examples: two military leaders and two democratic leaders (with military background)
The former military president, Gen Ibrahim Babangida brought a lot of mud on his image when he kept tweaking and tinkering with the political programme of the country, aside other vexatious vices. It came to a head with the annulment of the famous June 12 1993 presidential election won by the late MKO Abiola. But loud as the whole world shouted, Babangida managed to carry on, neglecting the global slam on his image. He was eventually forced to step aside in August 1993, after foisting Chief Ernest Shonekan on the nation as Head of Interim National Government.
The latter was sacked by a fiercer junta led by late Gen Sani Abacha on November 17,1993. He took dictatorship to a new height when his steely grip on the nation clamped everybody into forced submission. His killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa, an environmental rights activist on November 10, 1995 was the climax, even as the detention camps were bursting in their seams with the arrest of many human rights activists, even as many fled the country.
Nigeria was expelled from the Commonwealth conference holding in Auckland, that year. Nigeria was banned from FIFA competitions and many other consequences. Nigeria was already a pariah nation, but Abacha did not give a hoot. The global condemnation of his style did not mean anything to him. Nigeria was only wrested from his hands by God, when He decided to delete him from among the living.
The third example of a defiant leader was that of President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was democratically elected in 1999. Out of partisan differences, he got into a quarrel with the then Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, who belonged to a different political party. Tinubu had created 37 new local government areas in addition to the existing 20 LGAs in Lagos State making 57. Then President Obasanjo got very angry and asked that the new councils be dissolved. Tinubu argued that all the processes (referendum et al) prescribed by the constitution for the creation of Local Government Areas were followed and refused to dissolve the councils. As punishment, Obasanjo ordered the seizure of local government allocation due Lagos State.
Not even the verdict of the supreme court which ordered the release of the funds could make Obasanjo release the funds. Not even when the status of the said LGAs was scaled down to Local Council Development Authorities (LCDA) which will not be entitled to any allocation from the federal purse, would make Obasanjo to release the held funds. The illegality and sheer obduracy of the president was roundly condemned in the media, and even in international fora. But he stuck to his gun.
It sure crippled governance in Lagos State at the time.
It took the coming of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua for the held funds to be released.
And now we are having President Muhammadu Buhari who was an acidic dictator in his days as Military Head of State.
Many people were opposed to his return as a democratically elected president because of his chronic dictatorship credentials. That explains one of the reasons he lost the three attempts to become a democratically elected president until 2015.
At the time, his publicists launched a great campaign that he was a reformed dictator, one who was now a great adherent of democracy, rule of law and constitutionality.
Indeed, on very many counts, Buhari had deferred to whatever the law dictates, even when it is not exactly convenient or even politically expedient.
But despite the larger show of deference to law, he yet proves that the leopard and its spots are inseparable.
Until recently, the two sore thumbs that have stuck out in profiling Buhari as an unreformed dictator are the cases of Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd) former National Security Adviser (NSA) and the leader of the Shi’ite Movement, El Zazaky, both of whon have separately served over five years in detention. But who cares!
The duo have been ordered released by several court orders, but the Department of State Services (DSS) has defied all the court orders and has continued to detain them, no matter how loud the country and even outsiders shouted about it. Till date, Dasuki and El Zazaky are still being held in incarceration, without any legal basis.
So the question is : how can a man who claims to be an adherent of the rule of law continue to operate in breach of the provisions of the law, and yet lay claim to being lawful?
The latest addition which lengthens an odious credential is that of Omoyele Sowore, the convener of Revolution Now.
Sowore, a former presidential candidate, was arrested since August 3, 2019 after he planned to organize a revolution where he claimed that after it (the revolution) there will no longer be agencies like the DSS.
I had written to also condemn what Sowore said or planned to do. But having held him in detention since that time with no tangible evidence of planning to topple the sitting government, I would think he should be let off the hook and placed on a close watch.
What’s more, the courts have given several orders granting him bail, which were defied by the DSS. It took the threat to imprison the DG of DSS by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, for Sowore to be grudgingly released December 6. But less than 24 hours after, the DSS had clamped on Sowore again, after a controversial drama that took place in the courtroom. The DSS was accused of attempting to re-arrest Sowore right inside the courtroom, although the DSS has denied being involved in the courtroom scuffle. Nevertheless, Sowore was re-arrested and is still being detained by the DSS, at the time of this report.
It bodes ill for this administration.
The re-arrest has attracted wide condemnation, even from the United States of America, where Senator Bob Menendez
Has described it as “blatant miscarriage of justice which is symptomatic of closing political and media space in Nigeria.”
Right now there is an ultimatum from Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) in the country to organize mass protest if in 14 days from Last Tuesday, the DSS does not relase Sowore. It would be more complex when the protesters are joined by members of the Shi’ite movement as well as supporters of Dasuki. Somebody should tell President Buhari that Nigeria does not need this wahala.
The House of Representatives has ordered a probe into the re-arrest, just as the president has also constituted a committee to investigate the re-arrest.
In fact, so peeved by the president’s poor disposition to these matters that a respected media house in Nigeria, has resolved to henceforth keep addressing Mr President as Maj Gen Buhari, just to rub in his military foundation.
All these are needless hoopla.
What is the reason for the re-arrest by the DSS? What did they suddenly find out in 24 hours which they did not know about Sowore and his plans since August 3? Why did the DSS not approach the court to amend the charges against Sowore if need be?
It is a show of raw power which casts the service in very bad light, as having not weaned itself from the pangs of military grip, twenty years after. It is an angry throwback to the ugly past where the service was seen and used as a hammer to crush all forms of dissent to the sitting government, especially during the military years. This profile cannot fit into a democratic government.
What kind of service is a law unto itself? If the rule of law is removed from democracy, then we are back to dictatorship. The DSS cannot and should not hasten a recline to the odious past. Let Sowore go!