My recent piece on this platform dwelt on the impossibility of a bloody revolution in Nigeria given the current socio-political trend.
My contention is that, palpable as the divide between the haves and the have-nots is; pulsating as the naked debauchery and thievery is; resounding as the level of corruption and depravation is in Nigeria, certain factors are inherent in our psychology that make the re-enactment of the French-like revolution almost impossible at this time.
No revolution, either bloody or psychological, can run its full course without a sound, credible and sustainable leadership. These leadership qualities are inherent in the behavioral tendencies and dispositions of the would-be leaders.
In Nigeria, the obvious leaders of the instruments of positive change-revolution-are the progressives, the writers, the labor leaders, the ethnic grouping leaders, and the human right activists.
As a result of the fact that these groups draw their legitimacy from within the oppressed sections of the social order, the tendency for the masses to draw their inspirations from the opinions, postulations, and view points of the leadership of the aforementioned groups is unquestionable.
This perhaps makes an ordinary Nigerian to respect the stand points of an Oshiomole, a Niyi Osundare, a Balarabe Musa, an Agbakoba, or a Beko Kuti, more than what a Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo has to say on say a hike in the price of fuel.
What this assertion boils down to is that, if Adams Oshiomole, acting through the NLC, asks the Nigerian work force to stay at home for what is perceived as an unjust cause, the workers would obey him. Suppose, Adams Oshiomole’s leadership has been tainted with corrupt accusations, would the workers still abide by his call, legitimacy or otherwise of the call notwithstanding? I doubt a positive response of the workers if they are discerning.
So, it follows that if the advocates of occurrence of French-like revolution in Nigeria in this decade are serious, they need to take cognizance of, and make efforts to discourage shady deals in the potential leaders of the revolution, thereby instilling confidence in the followership.
One of such incidents capable of eroding the confidence of the masses in the modus operandi of the latent leadership of the revolution is a news item on page 44 of the Sunday Sun of November 21, 2004.
The bold headline reads: Beko’s aide walks tall as Court clears him of theft charge.
When I first read about the arraignment in May 2004, I gave the report a perfunctory glance, believing that Dr. Beko Kuti, given his human rights activism, should be in the right and that Fatai Olashein, the accused, is indeed, a thief.
However, The Sunday Sun account of Friday, May 14, 2004 on the hearing of the case, and the same newspaper’s report of the discharge and acquittal of the accused “of alleged theft” left me flummoxed.
The story has it that Beko Kuti, had dragged Fatai Ojikutu, his Director of Research and Programme at the Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG) to Court “over alleged theft of a financial report file”.
The sign that things were not what I thought then to be with Beko, the Director of the Center, began to manifest during the trial. Ojikutu accused Beko of “dishonest activism”. He alleged that Beko “forged signatures and misappropriated millions of dollars sent by Ford Foundation, a foreign donor based in America.”
Fatai alleged that the harbinger of his problem with Beko was that he challenged Beko over inflated payment vouchers to ghost workers of CCG because what the workers were paid was far less than what Beko sent to the Ford Foundation headquarters in the USA.
“As I was going through the financial report,” Fatai continued, “I discovered various scandalous transactions. I discovered a lot of signature forgeries and inflated salaries on the payment vouchers that were higher than the real amount being paid”.
Adding punch to his claim, Fatai cited his personal case as an instance, “my salary for two years was paid in dollars upfront by Ford Foundation 1500 US dollars per month which was N150,000 equivalent by Beko’s calculation. He paid me only N60,000 per month. But surprisingly, in the financial statement proposal waiting to be sent to Ford Foundation, it was claimed that I was being paid N150,000 per month.”
Certain issues become relevant from the available evidence, given the position of the major actor in this debacle and the institutions involved.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Dr. Beko Kuti has been in the forefront of human rights activities in Nigeria since antiquity. It is also a statement of fact that he is a role model, a personality every Nigerian would want to emulate and support because of his track record in the areas of human rights campaign, and opposition to oppression and bad governance. Indeed, the revered medical practitioner has demonstrated many times over that he would never tolerate injustice, corruption, mismanagement and other social vices, so much so that his name is synonymous with what Enahooro, Soyinka, Falana, Umar and the likes symbolize in Nigerian social and political standing. The crux of the issue is what happens to the potentiality of Beko and the Center for Constitutional Governance, the organization he heads in Nigeria, as leaders in case of an uprising. In view of Fatai’s revelation at the Court, what has happened to the credibility of other human rights groups in Nigeria?
The response of Barrister Gabriel Ojumah, the President of Citizens Rights Watch, when the question was put to him “that the ruling has no effect whatsoever on activism in the country,” is as far as any discerning mind is concerned, shallow and jejune.
The reality is that any potential or substantive Nigerian follower and supporter of activism who has made an acquaintance with the Beko-Fatai entangle, would begin to question the sincerity of purpose of the activists. One question that should agitate the mind of such Nigerian is: Are the activists really fighting for the rights of the Nigerian masses or their pockets? What actually is the basic difference between the thieving Nigerian politicians and the human rights activists, in view of Fatai’s revelation?
The moment these types of posers start agitating the minds of the followership, there is a big problem of credibility which only transparency and accountability in the course of further interaction can ensure. Today, Beko heads the secretariat of PRONACO, a body that is opposed to the present administration’s nature, structure and composition of the on-going national dialogue. Pronaco is planning a parallel national dialogue that everybody hopes will be more representative and devoid of the fetters which the Justice Niki Tobi’s chaired confab is encumbered with by Mr. Obasanjo.
What bothers me is will I be comfortable with Beko calling the shots at PRONACO’s secretariat, with forgery and financial misappropriation still hanging around his neck? What sort of leadership will he afford in the life of PRONACO? Are other human rights activists, hands clean? Is it possible for me to trust a man who though earned $3,000 dollars monthly fleeced another junior officer of N90,000 every month? Do I want to believe in the cause the man supports? The list of justified suspicious is endless.
It will do those who claim to be fighting for a just and egalitarian Nigeria, and have been adjudged to be doing so a lot of good if an in-house reassessment and cleansing are embark upon. The type of Beko-Fatai litigation does not do any good to the moral balance sheet of the human rights groups in Nigeria. In as much as those allegations against Beko have not been challenged or refuted either by litigation or a public statement, a dark cloud hangs over what he has stood for in Nigerian history, what he and other human right groups are standing for.
The only saving grace is for the likes of Soyinka, Agbakoba, Falana, Enahoro, Ezekome, Oshiomole and others to investigate Fatai’s allegations and let us know what actually happened, if only to prove that they are serious in their postulations and homilies.