In 2006, at the peak of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s ill conceived 3rd term exploits, This Day newspaper chose to write an editorial on the then Speaker of the House of Representative Hon. Aminu Bello Masari. They did not write to praise him but rather to acknowledge one person’s courage to call for change even where the status quo favoured him. It was an effort to document the capacity of democracy to triumph in the face of national decay driven by its highest beneficiaries – the political class. And such triumph is only possible when the conscientious break ranks from the compromised mainstream seeking to bring about a turn-around from within the system and, if need be, from outside of it. This is has remained an ever present reality in the polity to this day.
Going through the said 2006 editorial almost a decade later, one could easily discern Masari’s rare capacity to study trends, analyze the risks of national decent towards chaos based on clearly defined parameters that encourage a society’s return to the-state-of-nature. He was meticulous and brutally frank. The unfolding security nightmare should therefore not be a surprise. Masari alluded to the risks a decade ago. Ours is a tragedy that is borne of missed opportunities, driven by the unwillingness of leaders to harness constructive criticism as a stimulant for good governance and a general allergy towards progressive change when it matters most.
If foresight and ability to accurately predict the socio-political trajectory of a society based on subsisting policies and behaviours of its political class are the exclusive preserve of exceptional leaders, then Masari is one of such. As far back as 2006, he laid bare a clear map for the nation to harness its potentials by challenging widely accepted, yet ruinous attitude to governance. He even gave examples of the tragedies experienced in Rwanda, Sudan and Somalia as typical realities that should serve as deterrent to Nigeria of what self-conceited leadership nurtures.
To stress this point, according to Thisday, at a public hearing on the rising cases of refugees and internally displaced persons organised by the House Committee on Human Rights in Abuja, “To the consternation of civil rights campaigners, Speaker Masari proceeded to paint a graphic picture of what could easily pass for a doomsday scenario for Nigeria’s immediate future. Saying he could no longer contain his fear of a Nigeria splintered by injustice, the speaker said he foresees a Nigeria possibly slipping into economic ruin, political instability and social dislocation. He reserved the hardest knocks for his fellow politicians who are yet to respond to widespread xenophobia, bigotry and intolerance arising from ethno-religious and communal strife. In an apparent class suicide, Masari proclaimed that the emergence of militias and other pressure groups is a natural consequence of the propensity of our rulers (of which he is one) to manipulate issues of primordial sentiments for political and economic advantage. Well, to cut a long story short, the prophesy is now our national reality!
Perhaps, the clearest distinction between Masari’s idea of leadership and what is common among Nigeria’s politicians is his humility and sincerity of purpose. He’s not the type to be carried away by the narcotizing effects of political power, which in any case is permanently transient. This rare attribute was manifestly clear when he went hard on his fellow politicians who refused to synergize their thoughts and efforts to address an ever present threat but instead chose to pursue personal interests that are glaringly inimical to national stability and continuity.
He surely hit the bull’s eye when he predicted ethnic and religious suspicion among various strata of the Nigerian community as the end result of the patriotic numbness of the leadership class (of which he was then the fourth on the ladder). Who could deny the correctness of Masari’s decade old prediction when juxtaposed with today’s pathetic security situation? Who could deny what former Speaker Masari told the nation was the unvarnished truth regarding the perilous trajectory which Nigeria was headed? Sadly we have today arrived at this tragic destination and are now battling – albeit feebly – from alighting the train called Nigeria because we know that it is a jungle out there. Even our security agencies have borrowed the evasive leaf from politicians in the evasion of responsibility. Like actors in some doomsday themed tragicomedy, penultimate week they were on air claiming that their unannounced gate-crash into Cameroon, in the heat of BH onslaught was a “tactical manoeuvre.” Hmmn!
Long before our descent into hell, Masari saw the ominous cloud of chaos hovering in the horizon. The fact that his colleagues were bent on exploiting the nation’s volatile political and religious fault lines was not lost to him. He realized that maintaining the old order for pure personal gain and self perpetuation was a recipe for national economic ruin, political instability and social dislocation. That unwholesome brew is today simmering to the point where the broth has begun to bubble. And, ominously, from the recent media comments of the Australian hostage negotiator, the brew-masters are apparently still stirring.
Maiwada Danmallam wrote in from Abuja