The Tortoise, an in-law of the Snail, was once caught by the Snail stealing yam from his barn during a great famine in the kingdom. The Snail, in unrepentant anger, tied the Tortoise to a pole with some bangles on his legs. He was tied to a stake at a cross road where those going to the market that day would see him. Early in the morning, as villagers passed, they saw the shameful display of the Tortoise and inquired from the Snail the cause of such exhibition. The Snail gallantly narrated to them that the Tortoise stole from him. People were angry at such ignominious report of the Tortoise. They jeered at him and went off on their way.
However, much later in the evening, on their way back from the market, the villagers saw that the Tortoise was still tied to the same pole. They were angry and inquired from the Snail what was going on. As he did in the morning, the Snail reported the Tortoise’s act of ignominy; dramatizing and adding more juice to the report.
The villagers turned around and became angry at the Snail. “Was the Tortoise not going to feed your daughter with the stolen food anyway?” they reasoned and blamed the Snail for his excesses and for lack of moderation in his punishment. No one then remembered the Tortoise’s act of ignominy, they blamed the Snail for lack of recourse to moderation. Punishment ought to be proportionate to the crime committed. “A lo ni ti alabahun; abo ni ti’gbin”
I was working when the newsflash came announcing that the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had declared in favor of Vice President Atiku Abubakar over his decampment to another party and his clinging to his position as VP. Unconsciously, I jumped up with joy and shouted my praises for a glorious judiciary which now demonstrating precedence of solidarity with Nigerian aspirations as the last hope of democracy. I clapped and hailed and childishly became the first one to share the news with people around. The people around me also jumped and celebrated. We were delighted that again, Obasanjo was disgraced in the court. None of us was partisan. None of us was a supporter of Atiku. None of us even imagine preferring Atiku over Obasanjo. Our joy was spontaneous and unconscious; due predominantly to haven witnessed the contemptuous and repeated abuse of power as displayed by Obasanjo over Atiku!
It was later in the evening when it dawned on me that as much as I disliked VP Atiku and believed him to be an epitome of corruption; like millions of other Nigerians, I was beginning to have sympathy for him and unconsciously getting on the side of the biblical Barnabas over Jesus Christ in the courtyard of the Roman Emperor Pilate!
When we cried and agitated to get rid of the military government from our political history, we swore that never again would we, as a nation have such history of dictatorship and demoralizing national aspiration. Unfortunately, we are now confronted with a more endemic catastrophe that is worse than before. President Olusegun Obasanjo, in his crusade to single handedly re-write the Nigerian history, in his benevolent intentions to turn the fate of Nigeria around for the good, has become over-whelmed with powerful so much that he does not even realize it himself. I remember how much Obasanjo had joined us in the past to critique the Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida’s regime, the obnoxious period of the Buhari/Idiagbon era, how he had identified with our aspiration for a level headed leadership. He formed and financed the Africa Leadership Forum in Ota to serve as a think-tank offering the Nigerian governments, a more reasoned alternative to dictatorship. When I reviewed my earlier exuberant display of joy, I could not believe that the same Obasanjo had pushed us, as a nation, to start perching on the side of mediocrity and celebrating a new hero the VP (what a laugh). Indeed, in the absence of true and faithful leadership, people will listen to mediocre; In the absence of water, people will develop hope to quench their thirst with the mirage of the desert. And it is not because “we” do not know the difference; it is simply because the Nigerian polity is already so heated up with countless unfulfilled hopes that the unimaginable becomes apparent. There are so many things happening at the same time. There are so many voices shouting and mimicking but none sufficiently loud. We want to hear a voice and in the absence of a hero’s voice, we embrace the mirage.
When Obasanjo became the president eight years ago, Nigerians hung tenaciously on his words. His words were words of the elders; and words of wisdom. The words were respected and honored with great levity. They were sole voice in the wilderness that meant hope and meant great things to come. Whenever the president cracked a joke, everyone laughed. I recall watching the president on the TV and for once in my life I became very proud of the personification of Nigerian leadership. Why should we doubt him; OBJ was kicking out all corrupt leaders, revealing their obnoxious acts and sabotage. Not long, (like play like play) OBJ became all-powerful; he became the only one with the wisdom of “true Nigerian”- the sole crusader- who had the solution for all our ailments. Like the Snail, he caught the Tortoise- the Vice President stealing yam from the national barn! And then he went on, and on, and on, even boring us with the VP’s guilt. He became seemingly “possessed” with punishing the VP so much that we could not differentiate the truth anymore. He did everything except letting go and allowing Nigerians to make up our own minds. Like in the case of “Snail vs. Tortoise”, his crusade, his punishment for the VP became excessive and without moderation. He went on so much that the tables began to turn; his own credibility started becoming questioned.
These days, when President Obasanjo speaks, people are no longer relying on his words. Our president has become something else that is not recognizable anymore. The institution of presidency has become so vindictive that people are frightened and turning away from it. Nigerians are beginning to lose their objectivity over Obasanjo’s intentions and words. Even when he calls a thief a thief, people are still unsure he was fair. The same day the Federal High Court ruling, the Senate rebuked the EFCC for being a tool of the presidency. It was another way of saying the president was out of order. A day later, the Senate passed a resolution for OBJ to moderate his utterances. Everywhere one turns, no one is giving respect to the president anymore.
People were so angry with the Snail that they started to rebuke him for punishing the Tortoise for so long.
“…And to think of what you could have done with the rest of the day if you had not stayed here all day trying to shame your son in-law”, they rebuked the Snail
“You left your farm unattended to all day-“
“-And you did not come to the market to sell your wares,”
“-The absence of your yam supply made the few ones available more expensive,”
“-Look at all you could have done today instead of laboring all day just trying to disgrace your son in-law”
“Shame on you Mr. Snail-“
“I pity the Tortoise who has to tolerate you as father in-law”
People rebuked the Snail and left him off to deal with his own shame. They walked away forgetting what the real issues were! The Snail then regretted his actions.
Before the judgment came, I was surprisingly anxious and was praying that God should make it in favor of Atiku. Other political analysts were of the same apprehensive vein. Legal analysts also compounded our anxiety that this case was yet another test for the judiciary. Anything short of victory for the VP would be a d
oom for the judiciary. My fingers were crossed. The Nigerian polity was already heated beyond normal. A cantankerous judgment could be the final nail to unpalatable occurrence. We therefore saw the judiciary as a savior of democracy calming things down where necessary. And as true-to-type, the judiciary again in the case of OBJ/PDP vs. VP became so.
However, in the euphoria of hating Obasanjo, not trusting his words and his deeds; we flouted a severe moral code; we let loose our moral guard. What if the president drops dead, will the nation now be faced with an AC president? Assuming that we actually voted for PDP (Buhari vs. PDP/Obasanjo- Post 2003 election) and it has huge supports, now the nation will be faced with another party that did not receive majority votes. Is that advisable?
If not that we are not vigilant, how can we, as a nation, in the 21st century, clap for the choice of “Barnabas over Jesus Christ” again?
Later that night, the VP who had earlier run to London- incase the judgment was not favorable- gave a press interview to the BBC. In it, the VP accepted that truly he had returned the money he was alleged to have misappropriated from PTDF into private banks. Good lord, the VP is really a Barnabas! He has continued to get sympathy and support because of the way OBJ handles his case. Is there no one powerful enough to ask the president to stop? The VP is winning and in his victories, he is winning again. Seven times already the judiciary had vindicated him. What more does the Snail need to know that his punishment to the Tortoise has gotten beyond tolerance?
While Nigerians are crying for improvements in infrastructures; (electricity supply becoming worse than ever before, roads are getting worse and unnecessarily killing Nigerian motorists everyday; the Niger-delta comrades are kidnapping, getting ransom and embarrassing the nation; the air – as a means of transport -is undoubtedly unsafe for flights, jobs are scarce, the general spirit of the nation is getting weaker and so on), this government headed by only one man; one authority, one almighty- ka bi ko si! (one who no one is bold enough to question) sees nothing wrong in leaving all to pursue Atiku. The machineries of government have rolled to a stop while the president pursues one criminal into the hole. I guess the only profession benefiting from this brouhaha is the legal profession. The VP is fighting against the tyranny of his pursuant with his own money (stolen or legitimate) as legal fees for lawyers The Senate, if they have any iota of honor left, after the hullabaloo of the defeat of third term, should ask the president with which resources is he pursing counter justice against the VP. Who is footing the legal counsel fees? Why is the VP the only thing that matters in the country all of a sudden?
Nevertheless, we should be grateful that as iron sharpens iron, we are sharpened by the foregoing saga. I am sure that never again will we allow any elder- no matter how well spoken or old they are- to bulldoze our respects again without us referring to these periods of Obasanjo’s regime. Our democracy is getting better and stronger. The Ladoja vs. Oyo State lawmakers’ incidence re-enforces our understandings and lays down practical standards for impeachments- the real “two-third majority.” Likewise, Ayo Fayose’s inglorious exist warns us that even in a model democracy, a state of emergency can be declared with an interim administrator who is also answerable to lawmakers (Olurin vs. House of Representative). The Ngige vs. Obi governorship tussle enlightens us that election (even if it rigged) is not over until it is over –that is, the 4 year tenure elected for has been served. The Salisu Buhari document forgery; the Evan(s) Enwerem fiasco; the Okadigbo’s arrogance at the senate presidency; the bribery “allegations” against Wagbara, the fall from grace to grass of Alamesia, the ridicule of Hilda Williams at PDP Lagos Primaries, the crowning of criminal suspect from prison to senate, the rejection of the confident Osoba at the Ogun State polls, all combine to tell us that democracy is a system of government of constant struggles and “watch your back.” Now we have learnt that unless and until we change the constitution, deputy governors, vice presidents and all other elected “assistants” owe their allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to the constitution of the Republic, to the Nigerian people and not to their principals:
“I agree that the vice president should have an undivided loyalty but that loyalty is due to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not, I repeat not, to Mr. President…”(Justice Umaru Abdullahi- President of the Court of Appeal February 2007)
Henceforth when we review or critique another regime we will tell each other;
“That behavior is not strange…wasn’t that how OBJ behaved during his 8 years as president?” “The man has an OBJ complex”
There is now an OBJ complex; a proud and unforgiving neo- democratic dictator!