Yakubu Gowon – A Fine Cut Above The Rest

by Banjo Odutola

Recently, I published an article titled: “General Gowon and a paternity test.” It was an attempt to reason publicly over a lawsuit in a claim that he is the father of a child for whom he has failed in his responsibility. The article was wholly a veiled message from the heart. In parts, it is of a peculiar pain. That is, the pain of how a father could abandon one child, whilst celebrating others. In another part, it is of a pain that the former Head of State may experience in latter years. He may find that those children in whom, he has invested a great deal may not necessarily do better in life in contrast to the one he abandoned. For, the future that may unravel itself to General Gowon, whom affectionately and respectfully, I call Jack, an appreciation of what George Wither (1588 – 1667), the English pamphleteer in “a collection of Emblems (1635)” stated as” …the present gain in everything, not caring what damage to posterity we bring…” It was an article written with the heart at the tip of the nib, from which the ink of empathy flowed. Yet, it was an article that sought Jack to do what is right and remain the fine gentleman that is his hallmark.

Before delving into the progress that has been reported, I dare say, the previous article has absolutely no parts in moving Jack and his wife to a path of honour. The two of them are fine people and there is no way, an article could be responsible in convincing them to take such heights of honour, courage and Christian Charity. It is for this same reason alone that I return to the same topic: to conclude a private dwelling in a public space by stating louder than the chiselling of the printed word can allow. This time with humility and if it can be said, even, with the stiffness of the upper lip, Jack has taken a godly and goodly path. Well done, Jack!

The visit to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital to meet with the mother of a child, who for many years a father’s affection speaks volumes. The visit showed strength over weakness. It demonstrated what makes faith attractive – when its adherents are uncomfortably challenged with its obligations. The moral of the visit is humbling and yet triumphant. It is not of the victor over the vanquished but it is the courage of a fine man and his wife. Good on you, Jack!

In the face of illness, or perhaps death, the “Joy” that the mother of Jack’s child must have felt is comparable to what C.S Lewis refers in Surprised by Joy, as “…it is that of an unsatisfied desire which in itself is more desirable than any other satisfaction.” The joy is the gift unwrapped before the sick, so as to bring tears in adoration for “the God, who made this day happen” as she claimed while tears flowed from the eyes to wash the soul and spirit anew. The tears that flowed from the sickly mother of Musa were not for a renewed battle, which neither ego nor farcical moves of lawyers have so far imprinted in the face of pride and insouciance. They were tears for which Jack brought yet another convert to the wonderful knowledge of the faith that he observes. Bravo, Jack!

How could all these bear on the price of a litre of petrol, a bowl of Poundo Yam at Onitsha or Kaduna Market; or, of what effect is it on the stupefied senses, as a correspondent once explained? I shall state how and why.

I do not believe in all the sermons at the Rock or national broadcasts that the current president is so fond of. In fact, the exemplification of Christian belief is best in attitudinal challenges, such as would make a man visit an avowed “enemy”, as a sign of his submission to pursue his faith with works. That type of faith is better than hollow noises of a faith preacher, who must have his way in all disputes.

Permit a digression, so as to revisit the last article in parts, as it was deliberately placed in the public space to sensitise the reader to react. And, true to expectation, there were reactions, which are easily categorised. There were reactions from what can be labelled as the “naïveté.” – who misunderstood the article as a reproach to Jack because he had not responded to an earlier invitation from me – despite stating that the previous article was not about Jack and me. Such readers could not understand farther that the wrapper that enveloped the delicate family issue prevalent in our society. The fluff in my article was a focus of distraction, which entrapped them. What was in submission laid in the bud and could not be understood by their limitations. I regret that.

There is the second group, which was shocked that having read my previous articles in which they found kinship for their national consciousness pursuits, it was trivia to descend into reasoning publicly with Jack. I had a good exchange with a particular correspondent. His missive was caringly disapproving of my descent into a topic that was not enhancing to a national debate. In the end, it was reasoned that the child is the home and the home is more important than the nation. It is the home that forms the society and the nation; and without its foundational element, a society, people, country or State will be disorganised and disapproving of its own mores. The correspondent admitted the multiplicity of national woes had stupefied him. On that note, the objective for the article was well achieved. I rejoiced.

The third group is more interesting than the first two. Their challenges had a ting of suspicion that these were the “happy oats sowers”, for whom the article was uncomfortable. Or, in reverse, they are products of the “oats” sowing and the article bore a truth that was equally unwelcome. Truth is never a commodity that can be traded for comfort. Perhaps, that is why it is harsh.

In truth, it was an article written to question the pain of what arrogance refers to, as an assured future. How could a future be assured? Such assurance can only be the display of fools. No one knows what the future may hold for an abandoned child. What a neglected child may one day achieve is only in the province of his creator. Even those whom the gods of years gone by, once served well, are today subscribers of a different type of Maktub.

Now, I return to how a private family affair bears on national probity. Whether we like it or not, Jack is a member of the class and age group of Nigerians that have a great deal to answer for the moral failures of our nation. It may be that such castigation is too harsh to be ascribed to any one-generation. But is it really? If the submission relating to his generation seems inappropriate, then contrast its zest to acquire wealth, status and impunity for our laws to his father’s. At a time, civic responsibility and respect for law were important in our nation. That was not the time when bodyguards of a vice president assaulted an ordinary citizen in the presence of witnesses and the prosecuting arm of government does nothing. And, to add salt to injury, the vice president, as reported, offers money as a gesture of remorse. Tell me, in which civilised nation does a vice president descend to such a level? His position is to protect the citizen and ensure that his bodyguards face the full force of the law. There are adequate offences against the person not to talk of criminal damage that can be brought against the bodyguards. Perhaps, if the bodyguards of the Vice presidents are prosecuted, all these brigands in uniforms will start behaving themselves.

If the reported offer of money by Vice president of our nation in relation to the photojournalist is correct – Mr. Atiku Abubakar must truly believe, he can buy everything in sight. This is nothing but lawlessness. The Vice-president needs to ensure the process of law takes its full course and he should hand over the suspects to the police.

It would be unfair not to recognise that many Nigerians of Jack’s age now realise that the legacy they shall leave behind for the next generation is hardly an enviable one. Many of them have seen the errors of their ways and that is why they are at the forefront of religion. May be, it is a good thing after all. That, those whose failures are responsible for the moral decay of the nation are now tirelessly preaching for all to come to a saving grace. Somehow, the type of religiosity in town as presently observed is indistinguishable between the celebration of fine cloth and fast cars. Idolatry seems more apt to describe it.

What we need now than ever is reconciliation with the past. Just like Jack has achieved. A social contract by which an ordinary citizen can expect to be protected; even, if “Nigeria Prays” is crucial for our nation, let us at the same time allow our law enforcement agencies to do their work without fear or favour. For it is then that a country moribund like Jack’s former lover lying on a sick bed can expect a kiss of life from those whose actions have led it to where it is as a nation.

The writer is a solicitor of the Supreme Court, England and Wales and a Lawyer at a Firm of Solicitors in London, England.

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