By John Darlington
The world is democratising and Nigeria finally joined the league of other democratic nations 16 years ago after our previous attempts collapsed like a pack of cards. Under a despot who died with his boots on, we saw the ghosts of late dictators hovering over Nigeria like Ismail Enver Pasha, leader of the Ottoman Empire during the Balkan Wars and World War I, North Korea’s Kim II-Sung’s dictatorial leader who led the country in a dreadful direction.
Others are Mao Zedong of China, communist leader and revolutionary who led the People’s Republic of China, and back in Africa, Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia who led the country from 1974 to 1991 and initiated The Red Terror campaign that recorded the worst mass murder ever in Africa and, of course, the self-acclaimed Field Marshall, Idi Amin Dada whose rule like we have today in Nigeria was marked with brutality, human rights abuse and ethnic persecution calling to mind the ongoing suppression of the Igbo nation.
At the period under sad review, many of us who objected to the absolute power wielded by the late dark-goggled Aso Rock dictator had no option but to flee the country. This was in the heat of pro-democracy struggle in Nigeria amid state-linked killings and brutal repressions worse than nazi-Germany.
Voices of reason like the late National Democratic Coalition chieftain and elder statesman Chief Anthony Enahoro had to flee the country when he was marked out for death, the Nigerian literary guru – the Nobel Laureate – Nigeria’s pride, Prof. Wole Soyinka and many others who were at the forefront of the pro-democracy struggle had to follow suit resulting from an ill-conceived plan to send them to their untimely graves. These were indeed dark days in our nation’s history.
The late despot Sani Abacha ‘may God rest his soul’ has probably not left the four walls of a secondary grammar school somewhere in the desert city of Kano when the late elder statesman he had planned to cut down moved the historic motion of Nigeria’s independence back in 1953 from British rule, a country which he later bestrode like a colossus. Many other NADECO chieftains among whom were Pa Alfred Rewane, Kudirat Abiola were hit and the uncrowned winner of 1993 presidential election in Nigeria, Chief Abiola was unduly incarcerated and died while in detention. In fact, so many things went wrong so much so that one loathes the distinctive Nigerian identity.
That period, however, remains the darkest part of our nation’s night but like a bolt from the blue we were freed from that yoke that heralded a return to civil democratic rule through the agency of the self-styled evil genius. I know many would contest this, but it is undeniably true. Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar would probably have held on to power like other sit-tight African leaders but contrary to all expectations he heeded the advice of his boss Gen. Ibrahim Babangida as matters were somewhat getting out of hand probably from some esprit de corps developed through comradeship resolved to end the military rule that ultimately ushered in civilian government in 1999 with his handpicked former boss President Olusegun Obasanjo to lead Nigeria again.
Thus, the military forces were sent back and had them confined to the barracks to concentrate on their statutory duty of defending the country instead of playing the neophyte actors in the governance chess game He earns my respect for this rare display of magnanimity.
This marked the dawn of a new era in Nigeria which was none other than a welcome relief today it is becoming a less savoury experiment. Having watched behind the scenes, I do not, frankly, think the dividends of democracy were enjoyed beyond former President Olusegun’s tenure. When President Yar ‘Adua took ill and inevitably went the way of all flesh, President Jonathan completed his tenure in accordance with the provisions of the constitution and contested which he won in 2011. That victory cost Nigeria so many things resulting from one man’s intransigence which ultimately transformed into aggression and violence.
The riot and consequent killings that trailed the 2011 presidential election in Nigeria soon after former President Jonathan was declared the winner by beating the then closest opponent, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd.) ominously threatened our nascent democracy in the face. In the years that followed while Jonathan ruled, we saw Nigeria gyrating between panic attacks and undefined hopes until he fell prey to a grand conspiracy that booted him out of Aso Rock to his Otueke ancestral home on May 29, 2015.
A new Sheriff and an ethics policeman took charge. It is six calendar months today that power like the ‘marshal’s baton’ was given to President Muhammadu Buhari after his party, the All Progressive Congress, won by a landslide. Driven by his party’s change slogan he delved into work and began cleansing the Augean stables. The first shocker we got when he assumed office was to order bombing raids on Cross-Rivers creek communities that left many defenceless civilians, including children and women dead.
That was a danger signal and the atmosphere reeked of blood and foreboded repression – a sad pointer that the leopard could never change its spots. We had earlier recorded deaths in 2011 when it became clear that he had lost the presidential election and the deaths again recorded by the bombings he ordered in Cross-Rivers was a sad reminder which only swelled the number. These are harrowing incidents that keep this writer astounded in no small measure.
In a bid to cleanse the proverbial Augean stables what we visibly see is nothing short of a harrowing departure from all accepted norms and procedures. You are labelled an undesirable and consequently marked out for a tragic fate once you are not on the same page with the regime in Abuja while the party partisans and apologists have become the rightful heirs of our common patrimony.
This brings the assassination bid of Nigeria’s Deputy Senate President Ekweremadu into focus. It has made news headlines across the globe and the international community has been watching what is happening in Nigeria which is fundamentally opposed to all accepted democratic norms and this leaves the country risk-averse. There is no denying the fact that there are traces of brutality, human right abuse and ethnic abuse in Nigeria under the present Buhari regime like the world witnessed when Amin ruled over Uganda that qualified him for a despot.
Be that as it may, reports making the rounds say soon after the attempt on Ekweremadu’s life, his seat was methodically and dramatically taken by Senator Remi Tinubu in the Red Chambers and our Honourable men and women watched helplessly in consternation. This story, frankly, is better imagined than real.
In civilized world as the manhunt for the killer squad begins, if the drama that reportedly took place in the senate chamber is anything to go by Sen. Remi Tinubu runs the risk of being thoroughly investigated and implicated in that heinous crime commencing with wiretapping, surveillance and e-mail monitoring but, who is there to bell the proverbial cat when the ruling APC, according to the PDP, may have recruited the killer squad on the prowl?