WEDNESDAY COLUMN by USSIJU MEDANER
2019, an election year, was shrouded in intricacies. We saw the calculations of the Third Force, the amalgamation of some political parties that almost saw to the name change of PDP, to take up its structure as a common front to slug it out with the ruling APC; to the emergence of personalities like Omoyele Sowore and Kinsley Moghalu as presidential candidates are unique points of the year.
The Not-Too-Young-To-Run agitation and the eventual passage/ assent of the alteration of Sections 65, 106, 131 and 177 of the 1999 Constitution may not have produced the expected result in 2019. But it is a vision birthed already and its time would come.
Year 2019 did expose a large section of Nigerians as empty noise makers and social media agitators who lack the ball to back their agitations with actions. Sowore’s 33,000 votes in the presidential election is an attestation to that. Those Nigerians who had claimed they would all line up behind a youth presidential candidate, all ended up giving a combined votes of almost 26 million to the duo of Atiku Abubakar and President Muhammadu Buhari, who are both well above 70 years.
Gross abuse of the media was one of the defining characteristics of the Election Year 2019 and unfortunately, it is also one malady most Nigerians prefer should be left unfettered. Efforts to control the negative use of the unfettered media – most especially unregulated social media, which has obviously deepened division and hatred among Nigerians, and is being used in tarnishing the images of a number of personalities and institutions – had met a strong opposition to it as a huge population consisting mainly of the opposition and those benefiting from the inconveniences insist that the citizens must be allowed to roam freely and say whatever they desire to say regardless of the effects of such utterances could create thereafter.
We all remember when Deji Adeyanju took the unchecked social media (via his Twitter handle) to cast aspersions on the President and his supporters; when he said “Only bastards support Buhari. Only cursed people support Buhari. Only people that will not end well in life support Buhari. People like Buratai. ” A simple Google search of the first statement would even yield more derogatory comments of his and some reactions trailing them.
Also, we all remember when Farooq Kperogi, unbelievably, a professor of journalism, who ought to know more than any other the implications of disseminating unverified information and falsehood on the media, stormed the social media earlier in the year and insisted that from reliable source, he got the information that Buhari had murdered Sambo Dasuki in detention. He told the country then that the man had died and the president and his cabal insisted the news of his death must be concealed till after the elections. He went ahead to declare that what was more worrisome was the cause of his death as he narrated how the president instructed that he (Dasuki) be denied his life-sustaining drugs. He went ahead to make more sinister statements against the person and integrity of the president.
We all remember, again, how Farooq Kperogi shared a particular photo of how Boko Haram militants killed some military officers; a photo he apparently picked from a Kannywood movie set to propagate his deception – or rather, to sustain his delusion. Attached to the misleading photo he sent was his heart wrenching message: “this photo broke my heart! It bespoke profound anguish and helplessness. Boko Haram is on a murdering spree of our soldiers, but all that the presidency cares about is the 2019 election. The president’s aides are tweeting about empty endorsements and about GEJ’s book. Incredible”
A section of Nigerians responded by believing him; the president lost a number of votes probably due to that particular misleading tweets of Farooq Kperogi asides the overall negative influence that fake news had had on the president, his Administration and party at that time. Yet, we believe he was just exercising his fundamental right of speech and should be allowed unchecked to spit whatever he chooses for whatever end he wants.
The list is endless. It seems every Nigerian now hits the media – not limited to the social media but also mobile media ( WhatsApp and the likes) – and drop fabricated and hate comments at will for daily consumption of the people who are becoming more willing to swallow hook, line and sinker without checking the authenticity of such fake publications. Some weeks ago, we woke up to hear the news about the death of former Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida. It is surprising that we are all more concerned with the relief that it was a fake news without bothering to ask necessary questions on the originators of such fake news.
Few months ago, the news of the president’s marriage to one of his ministers littered the social media; detailed of schedules was given but it all ended that it was yet another fake news. Because we did not do anything about this growing menace in the past when the likes of Fayose broke the news of the death of the president in a UK hospital, the menace has only grown in sophistication and magnitude and if nothing corrective is done about it now, tomorrow, the victims will shift from individuals and institution to the sanctity of the nation itself.
This is the reason why we must all, to a great extent, support the evolution of the Fake News Media Regulation Bill like in other developing nations, India, Malaysia and the South-East Asian Countries.
Discussing 2019 without recognising the contributions of Sowore to developments during the year would be a gross error. The significant contributions of Omoyele Sowore to the events of 2019 is a major focal point of discussion; the in-house commotion, the internationally undue and hypocritical interference as well as the general politicisation and biases that summarised the responses to the Sowore saga from most quarters are worth remembering and to be documented for posterity.
We all remember how the Sowore story began as an account of a certain young man who rode on the back of the “Not- Too-Young-To-Run” Act to contest the prime seat of government in the 2019 presidential election; a very welcomed development across quarters but did not pan out as expected as he got a meager 33, 000 votes (approximately 0.1% of total votes cast) in the presidential election; a result that cast aspersion on the hypocrisy of social media activists and their support in the country.
We all remember how Sowore was among the first set of contestants to accept defeat and congratulated Mr. President after the declaration of the final result.
Amazingly, we all remember how in less than two months into the inauguration of the new government, Mr. Sowore began his unscrupulous opposition to the Administration; how he claimed that a two months old Administration had failed woefully. We all remember how four months later, he constituted his “#RevolutionNow” movement with the singular objective of repeating the Venezuela experience in Nigeria.
We all remember his open visit to a fugitive from the Nigeria authority, Nnamdi Kanu in London; he posted a photo of himself with Kanu and categorically stated that he had come into agreement with his brother on how to win the war in Nigeria. Till now, I don’t know how we interpret that singular action; that development alone represented enough security concern for the country, one that no nation would treat lightly.
We all also remember how he returned back to the country, making incendiary speeches using his privileged position and platform and mobilising his assumed army to truncate a constitutional order by removing a constitutionally elected president. It becomes more worrisome imagining a possible agreement among the duo of Sowore and Kanu. Emboldened by the meetings, he rebuffed those who were persuading him to tread carefully.
One of his incendiary statements that is on record was that which he said “I am not talking of protest. I’m embarking on revolution. 85% of Nigerians are in support. Don’t tell me about the legal implications or what a judge will say. I don’t care.” Unlike his few but exaggerated followers and defenders, he knew there are consequences for his actions.
The rest is story; his arrest, re-arrest and the drama at the court. But what caught my attention most in all the saga is the hypocritical responses, analyses and conjectures of the Sowore issue by a section of the international community and the self-appointed human rights groups within the country.
A country like the USA that would not condone any form of attack on the sanity and sanctity of its constituted government had some of its lawmakers at the forefront of the fight for Sowore’s release because they claim he is their citizen; whereas, a Louisiana man, Friedrich Ishola has been held in prison custody since November 6, 2019 for threatening the president of the United States of America via social media. The US takes social media threats against its president very serious but threatened Nigeria to thread softly on another who was ready to take to the street to uproot its own democratically elected President; what an hypocrisy! I think the entire blame should go to the judiciary that falls to the cheap blackmail of those benefiting from every inconvenience and granted him bail in the first instance.
Despite the fact that we all very well understand the demarcation between a protest and a revolution, and understand fully well the full import of the later to a country that is currently just wading off the Boko haram insurgency and has seen a lot of other secessionist movements responsible for the death of a few innocent Nigerians in the last few months in the East where a police ACP lost his life in the incident; either hearing directly or read the bolded “I am not talking of protest. I’m embarking on revolution. 85% of Nigerians are in support. Don’t tell me about the legal implications or what a judge will say. I don’t care. We must bundle Buhari out of that place…the DSS shall seize to exist,” a section of Nigerians and some compromised USA lawmakers still hypocritically chose to label Sowore a prisoner of conscience; a journalist who is being persecuted for doing his work. They all chose to believe the lie acted in the court room even when they all know it was a lie; they sing abuse of human rights even when they all know the sanctity and integrity of a nation is being threatened.
Their hypocrisy becomes more exposed when they all sentimentally became incensed at crucifying the Federal Government and Mr. President for the Sowore travails but ignore the plight of another journalist, Agba Jalingo, who has been incarcerated for months by the PDP-led government of Cross River state. He spent the Christmas in the prison custody; those USA lawmakers are not bothered by his plight; the agitators of human rights in the country too were not perturbed; he wasn’t a prisoner of conscience because President Muhammadu Buhari is not involved. In fact, Governor Ben Ayade is right to have incarcerated him.
Another defining factor of the year 2019 was the Federal government’s commitment to infrastructural development – to be funded by loan acquisitions. The government in the course of the year, once again, listed some notable developmental projects it requires a $30 Billion loan to finance. Even when the loans are pre-attached to projects, the opposition still has a field day. Atiku Abubakar came out to say, if we borrow $1 trillion today, we will not still achieve anything and he was partially right; seeing the economic management of the country from the way he and his Party managed it from 1999- 2015, he was sure the money would probably be shared at a roundtable and mismanaged much more like he handled the Aluminium Smelting Company of Nigeria and many others which were eventually privatized or as many believed, were sold to themselves; but, he refused to acknowledge the glaring change and the new open financial dispensation we are now. He refused to acknowledge the unprecedented magnitude of projects, completed and ongoing in the country.
It was equally amazing that ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo would consider the well thought out plan to borrow, a national risk that could bankrupt the country. Obasanjo said Nigeria risks bankruptcy with its penchant for loans under the Administration of President Buhari; the same Buhari he praised to heaven in his book. In his word “As Minister of Petroleum and member of the Supreme Military Council, Buhari is one officer that is diligent in his duties, who carried out whatever assignments that is given to him, with high sense of responsibility, patriotism and prudence”; now suddenly makes a U-turn because he is not having his way with the president and his Administration.
Attesting to Obasanjo submission on Buhari, the level of prudency under Buhari’s government is unprecedented as he operates a leadership style where accountability is the norm and every borrowing is attached to a project before it is taking. In the course of the year 2019, the same prudency earned the country a place in the World Bank list of Most Improved Economies of the World; a list in which the country is in number six ahead of several major world economic powers including the USA and UK. Perhaps, Obasanjo is becoming jittery over the coming accountability to the $16 billion power wastage which represented a bulk cause of debt burden on the nation.
Someone wrote that “Obasanjo is expanding his farm into Benue and employing over a 1000 new workers. Atiku is planning to diversify into rice farming. both men are telling you that Nigeria is not working, lamenting the border closure, while nicodemously actively positioning themselves to get richer over the border closure.”
If a country as developed as the USA will operate a $1trillion budget deficit consecutively in 2018 and 2019 to accelerate infrastructural development, why will Nigeria not borrow and develop its infrastructure because your party laid an antecedent of borrowing and stealing.
Another major event that took the year 2019 by surprise was the Attorney General of Federation (AGF) order for the immediate release of Dasuki and Sowore. Unexpected and surprisingly, the AGF ordered the release of the duo days to Christmas celebration by exercising his Constitutional powers under Section 174(1) b & c and Subsection 2 and 3 respectively. Unfortunately, instead of recognising the position and contribution of the AGF in the release of the duo and appreciate the same, the same elements who would always find a way to ridicule every good actions and projects of the Administration were only able to conjure that the AGF was only bowing to pressure from the international community in releasing the duo. This assertion, premised on a letter written by three members of the United States legislature, which we all know did not carry the intention of the United States Government, as the open line – a well established and recognised protocol – to communicate such intention is through the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, if it were to originate from the government of the United States.
As per our usual attribute of celebrating corruptions and criminality, we had taken to the streets and the media to celebrate the duo without recourse to the high criminal charges against them. We all chose to ignore the magnitude and implication of the devastation caused by the excessive corruption perpetuated by Dasuki to the nation and the north-east specifically.
When the likes of Femi Fani-Kayode would come out with praises of the same man, allegedly responsible for the death of thousands of Nigerians who either were killed by the insurgents or are still in captivity of the Boko Haram, because he chose to divert money meant for prosecuting the war into personal, private, partisan purses, we should know that we had lost our connection with righteousness.
When a man who is alleged to be responsible – singlehandedly – for the death of hundreds of our military men at the war front and many others who are currently languishing in various jails for abandoning their duty posts because it was not worth staying at the battle front when money meant for war gears has been swallowed by the devils, is been celebrated, then we have lost our rectitude for what is just as a people.
Crimes against the nation are crimes against each and everyone of us. We all have a responsibility to rise in unison and condemn that which is tantamount to a slight – if not an attack – on our common heritage.
Another high point of the year 2019 has been the stress-free, fear-free celebrations we have so far enjoyed even as we are about to witness the end of the year. Once again, we must all remember how we have all enjoyed another consecutive yuletide without bomb blasts and fuel scarcity. Someone said our children would have grown up believing annual fuel scarcity is part of our culture if not for President Muhammadu Buhari. Unfortunately, a section of Nigeria chose to know the truth, see the truth, but still believe the lies.
Has the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari done well in 2019 is a question that would receive different answers from different camps. I presume that the camp of retired and retiring politicians, those who were benefiting from the annual ritual of fuel scarcity during yuletide period, fuel and expired rice importers, the benefactors of Dasuki largesse who are currently not having peace, the Mainas’ and brown envelops media houses; the answer will be no, Buhari performed woefully!
Another camp of the abandoned former BIAFRA Police , Nigeria Airways Pensioners and many others whose pensions and gratuities have been paid; the farmers who are smiling to the bank every day because of the improved, favourable business environment; the thousands of families who have returned home and to normalcy after years as IDPs in some parts of the northeast; the N-Power beneficiaries and their likes would all definitely say yes. Yes because they chose not to be blind to the realities of change that abound all over the country.
God Bless The Federal Republic of Nigeria!