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Tuesday, 04 April 2023 04:55

[OPINION] Other Tales the Country Told Me - Reuben Abati

 

“My man, are you sure we are in the Holy Month, because I am not understanding anymore? There is so much tension in the country on all fronts.”

“Of course, it is the Holy Month. Two days ago, it was Palm Sunday, a significant moment in the Christian community’s observance of Lent, when Christians fast for 40 days and 40 nights, and take on Christ-like conduct and virtues and seek the eye of God. Muslims are also in the Ramadan season, the Holy Month. Both religions preach friendship, understanding, kindness towards the poor, sacrifice and the spirit of sharing and giving. A few days earlier, there was so much talk about traditional worshippers, especially in Lagos state, talking about rituals, placement of sacrificial offerings at crossroads, and yet you say there is so much tension in the country.”

“You have not answered my question. What I know is that every day, Nigerians mouth the mantra that we all worship the same God and that we are all children of God, whoever and whatever we worship. But what I see is a country that has no fear of God. What people do is different from what they say! Religion has failed in this country. We should ban religion.”

“Hey Hey, calm down. Nobody has banned religion in Russia, China, United States or Cuba. Na here you want to ban religion?Human beings are by nature superstitious, but the problem we have in this country is that there is a gap between public morality and private morality. People go to church or the mosque but don’t be deceived, they don’t care about values, they don’t give a damn about virtues, they go to church, the mosques and shrines, they claim we are all serving one God, but you can’t see a trace of it in their relationship with other human beings.”

“Free me. Tell me as you see it.”

“There is too much wawulence in the land.”

“Speak English. What is wawulence?”

“The language of persons with street credibility. Too much violence, verbal, physical and spiritual in the country of our birth, right now, today, everywhere. Too much ethnic and religious hate and bigotry. I think people are losing their minds because of the elections. And I think we need to remind ourselves that there is a country, and that the country is more important than individual ambitions and preferences.”

“Point of correction. There was a country.”

“There is a country. And there will still be a country. Can we all step out of the mass psychosis that we are dealing with?”

“The psychotics know themselves. The people who have turned election into a source of craze know themselves.”

“Yes. Like your friends in the All Progressives Congress (APC) who are now leaking Peter Obi’s telephone conversations, and who claim that he is trying to start a religious war by campaigning on the basis of ethnicity and religion, and they and their allies have put into circulation a doctored version of a telephone conversation between him and Bishop David Oyedepo. Their intent is to ridicule him and lower him in the estimation of serious-minded and reasonable people of society”.

“I don’t know who put out any audio conversation, doctored, not doctored. What I know is that there is so much hostility out there because of an election. In the first place, don’t believe everything that you see on social media. We are in the age of Artificial Intelligence, ChatGPT and all kinds of manipulations. You must always fact-check.”

“The Labour Party and the Obidients have confirmed that their candidate actually spoke with Bishop David Oyedepo except that the leaked audio is manipulated, fake, doctored. They say there is a plan to arrest Peter Obi for treasonable felony”

“Nobody is above the law. But is that how people are arrested? The people that should be arrested are the people who leaked the phone call between two persons. It is a violation of Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution and all other relevant laws on data protection, consumer protection and freedom of information. People have the right to privacy. That is why there is something called lawyer-client, doctor-patient privilege and confidentiality. If people are allowed to go about leaking other people’s private conversations, society will be ruined. Imagine someone for example, hacking into your conversation with your female friends, and sending same to your wife and other girlfriends, you would have instant chaos in your life. Your life expectancy will reduce.”

“That is a wrong analogy. I am a straight and decent man. I am not even a card-carrying politician. But someone told me that we have the right to know everything about people in the public domain, and that it is a good thing to leak everything about politicians.”

“I know what you are saying. Volenti non fit inuria. That is the principle. It does not apply here though. Even politicians have rights. In any case, in the so-called released audio conversation, I don’t see anything that is wrong. People are just making a mountain out of a mole-hill. Politicians all over the world play to their base, they mobilise their base, they reach out to persons of influence. Peter Obi calling Bishop Oyedepo, a man of great influence and asking him for support for whatever reason is not an issue. It does not amount to calling for a religious war. It is perfectly within his right to seek celebrity endorsement. In any case, Bishop Oyedepo has shaken it all off. Did you listen to his riposte? He is a man of God. He advises everyone that seeks his counsel, whether they take it or not. Has anybody queried why in the last elections, Muslim clerics supported the Muslim-Muslim ticket? Have they looked for conversations between Muslim candidates and Muslim leaders? Look, the election is over, people who are aggrieved should go to court. The various spokespersons who have been exchanging vitriol over nothing should go and look for work. You can’t be a spokesperson for another man permanently. Get busy. Election don finish oh! Boys! Move on!”

“I hear people are looking for appointments, especially within the APC, and that the President-elect is already putting together a team. He is building a team.”

“You mean team-ship?”

“Yes, team-ship. Serious lobbying going on. The other day, it was Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi lobbying openly that Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers must be given a core role in the Tinubu government. I hear some people are also already organizing civil society groups to say that they must be in the government. In fact, some men have since abandoned their wives and children and turned themselves into Tinubu’s handbags, struggling to make themselves useful. They are with him in France as we speak.”

“The things that hunger, greed and poverty will cause in this country will be serious. But truly, I don’t have a problem with the attempt to put a team together. Nigeria can no longer afford a ridiculous situation where a President would be sworn in and for six months, he would claim he is still looking for a team. No. There are urgent matters ahead. The President must hit the ground running. As long as he recruits the best and the brightest, not mediocres, not IOU-seekers, opportunists, habitual drunkards, and second-rate clowns in the corridors of power, I don’t have a problem with that.”

“Who is a second-rate clown? A clown is a clown”

“I know what I am saying. Some first-rate clowns in this country are educated billionaires. Don’t force me to mention names. If you must recruit a court jester, at least get the good ones. We have had too many jesters running the Nigerian government.”

“But people say Tinubu should wait till the dispute around the Presidential election is resolved.”

“There is nothing in our laws that says so. Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution provides very strict timelines for election petitions. Lawyers exploit this. They will stretch the matter with every possible trick. By May 29, Tinubu would be sworn in. The process has started. He will promptly announce a Cabinet and activate Section 5 of the 1999 Constitution which grants him extensive executive powers to appoint and disappoint. Within a week, a full government would be up and running. You can keep talking to the courts!”

“I don’t think that is right”

“It is not a matter of what you think. It is what the law makes possible.”

“We have to change the law. All election disputes must be finalized before inauguration. The Uwais Commission made such a recommendation. We must go back to it. That is what they do in Kenya and other places. Now I understand why some people are calling for an Interim National Government and why one man tried to stop a commercial plane from flying and threatened that there will be no Presidential inauguration on May 29.”

“I hope you also understand that the Department of State Services, and other security agencies have made it clear that anybody who tries to subvert the state, will be made to face the full wrath of the law. Nobody should test the patience of the state-qua-state. Be careful. I won’t make a case for you.”

“I don’t make trouble with anybody. I have enough issues of my own. I mind my business. I only discuss politics when we are together like this. I raise questions. I am not likely to go on television like Datti Baba-Ahmed to say any attempt to swear in Tinubu would signal the end of democracy, and then get a TV station fined. I will not board a plane like that Obiajulu man and say there will be no inauguration on May 29. I will not act like the Eze Ndigbo of Ajao estate and proclaim that Igbos in Lagos will invite IPOB to Lagos to defend Igbo properties and investments. But we have to understand the context and understand that people are angry.”

“You know I know what you mean by context”

“Yes”

“Eluu Pee”

“Yes Daddy”

“Obi Nwannem”

“Yes Daddy”

“Obi Kererenke, Obi oh”

“Yes Daddy”

“Whoever is not happy, go to Court and fact-check”

“But you know why we are having these issues, because the people do not trust the courts. Not even that musician called Portable, Habeeb Okikiola. When the police went to arrest him, after several invitations and he had snubbed them, he told them that he is a government liability, a celebrity, a Baboon, who belongs to the zoo. Zazuh zeh! That is how many Nigerians behave. They don’t trust the system.”

“But I hope you know what has now happened to him?”

“What happened to the Omo Ijoba himself?”

“You don’t read the news.? On Friday, he was arrested by the police, and told in clear terms that being a celebrity does not confer any constitutional immunity on him, and that he is truly a government liability and not an asset. He spent the weekend in a police cell in Abeokuta. Yesterday, he was arraigned in a Magistrate Court in Ifo, Ogun State where he was slammed with a three-count charge, and remanded in Ilaro prison until he discharges his bail terms.”

“Nigeria is a wicked place to aspire to be anything.”

“No. Obey the law. The same Portable that was boasting that he is a Baboon. He has been told now that Baboons in the zoo are kept in cages, and he has been kept behind bars accordingly. I hope they lock him up with very gluttonous mosquitoes. In fact, I suspect they did. He was looking very contrite in court. A se ko ti e le. Him no get liver. Egungun better be careful! This is why everybody should be calm. After the elections, everyone should learn to be calm.”

“Make we calm, make we calm down. But there is a way this country also gets on your nerves. People are reacting in their own ways. Look at Rivers state, lawyers who went to Port Harcourt for election matters were arrested and detained, and the materials in their possession were seized. That is enough to make anybody angry.”

“They have been released.”

“So. But a point has been made. Whoever wants to challenge the election results in Rivers State is not welcome and you know what happened on February 25 and March 18 in that state and after the elections, parties across the country have been suspending key officials of their parties from the Peoples’ Democratic Party in Benue, the Labour Party in Edo State to the APC in Delta, Kwara, Bauchi and Zamfara States. Some people are just determined to heat up the polity.”

“I am sure if you check the stories from those states very well, you’d see that for the most part, it is mainly about disagreement over ego, stomach infrastructure, and nothing about Nigeria and its future.”

“Even when people try to fight for the future, they are not allowed. I am sure you know that is the way we are.”

“You tell me.”

“Take Kano State.”

“What about Kano State?”

“Earlier on, we discussed Tinubu getting ready for the future, you said that was right. In Kano, Governor-elect, Abba Kabir Yusuf of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) has issued two advisories. On March 30, he issued an advisory on ongoing constructions in the state in public spaces and urged that they should be stopped until the incoming administration assumes office. On March 31, he issued another advisory to say that no financial institution should grant any loans to Kano State because the in-coming administration will not honour such loans. He has been told he is jumping the gun. Governor Ganduje has told him that he is still in charge until May 29. I don’t understand this country. We are a nation of hypocrites and double standards.”

“To be fair, the Governor-elect of Kano State does not yet have the imprimatur of the law. He is not yet a constituted authority”

“Is Tinubu a constituted authority?”

“It is not the same thing. The comparison is off-key.”

“This is the problem then. How can we have a proper country when Nigerians have over 200 million opinions on any subject under the sun and the country’s population itself is over 200 million!”

“I don’t have an answer to that.”

“I’d be surprised if anybody does.”

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