President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, was credited with introducing the phrase, “wailing wailers,” into the country’s political lexicon. Though he has no copyright claims, the catchphrase being one of the resistance names adopted by the legendary Jamaican reggae virtuosi – Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer – for their band in the 1960s before it was later changed to “The Wailers,” Adesina, nevertheless, deployed it as a rhetorical pun to insult critics of the administration, no-matter how constructive.
The presidency deployed the attack phrase maximally. Anyone who disagrees with any government policy was labelled derisively as a wailing wailer. Any attempt to proffer an alternative viewpoint, no-matter how well intended, attracted most contemptuously the wailing wailer tag. But the table seems to have turned. As insecurity spirals out of control, with governors warning that Boko Harm terrorists are only 200 kilometres away from Abuja and frightened senators weeping during plenary, the presidency has become the new wailing wailer. Suddenly, an absentee presidency has become Nigeria’s distracter-in-chief.
Rather than assuring distraught Nigerians that this government is capable of securing their lives and properties, officials are wailing that some unnamed people are plotting to overthrow the government. On Tuesday, Adesina, wailed that Buhari’s government is threatened. Curiously, the alarm came a day after the military pledged that it would not overthrow Buhari.
Acting Director, Defence Information, Brigadier-General Onyema Nwachukwu, had assured a jittery presidency that the military has no intention of taking over power again in Nigeria, pointing out, correctly, that despite tough times, democracy was the way to go and military rule was no longer fashionable. The assurance came two days after the Department of State Services, DSS, made a similar pledge. But the pledges apparently didn’t assuage the contrived anxiety in the presidency.
Ndigbo have a saying that a man adept at chopping off people’s heads is always uncomfortable when anyone wielding a machete stands, menacingly or otherwise, behind. Buhari knows about treason. On December 31, 1983, he led a band of coup plotters to overthrow the democratically elected government of President Shehu Shagari. But why complain when all the government, which has the monopoly of the instruments of coercion, has to do since it claims to know the culprits is to arrest and haul them before a court of competent jurisdiction?
The fact that the past leaders working with foreigners that the presidency is accusing of orchestrating the subliminal plot to forcefully sack the president from office have not been rounded up indicates that the allegation is nothing but mere distraction. The presidency wants to distract Nigerians from the existential threat his egregious leadership failings has orchestrated. Government has no ‘unimpeachable’ evidence to prove that so-called disruptive elements are “recruiting the leadership of some ethnic groups and politicians round the country, with the intention of convening some sort of conference, where a vote of no confidence would be passed on the President, thus throwing the land into further turmoil.”
If such evidence exists, it should be presented to Nigerians. To intentionally misconstrue the call for a national conference for an attempt to pass a no confidence vote in the president is an act of mischief intended to stifle patriotic agitation for good governance. In any case, is a president sacked in a constitutional presidential democracy by a no confidence vote in the court of public opinion? That is a no-brainer.
As Chief Ayo Adebanjo, leader of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, rightly noted, Nigerians don’t need to go that route to be persuaded that the president has spectacularly betrayed the oath he took to secure their lives and properties. But the presidency was also impish when it claimed that the only way to change a democratically elected government was through elections, which hold at prescribed times in the country, insisting that “any other way is patently illegal, and even treasonable.”
That cannot be true. A president can be removed from office in accordance with Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) through the process of impeachment. It is constitutional. It is legitimate. It is not treasonable. But we all know that Buhari can never be impeached by a subservient National Assembly as presently constituted no-matter how roguish his regime becomes. So, why is the presidency seemingly rattled by an innocuous call by his buddy, Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka, Spiritual Director of Adoration Ministry, Enugu, for his impeachment over the rising insecurity in the country?
How can such a legitimate call be treasonable? Even the call on Monday by Robert Clarke, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), on the President to hand over the government to the military temporarily in order to solve the security and economic dilemma Nigeria is facing, as harebrained and insalubrious as it may seem, cannot be termed treasonable.
Who plots treason on national television? He didn’t call for the overthrow of the presidency. Whatever proposition he was making would be actualised with the consent of the president. But the fact that a man of Clark’s standing could ever think that the Nigerian military can ever play messianic role in Nigeria’s body polity shows how bad things have gone under this government. Nigerians have become desperate in their search for solution to the unforced errors of the government.
Before the 2015 presidential election, many APC chieftains, including Buhari, called on President Goodluck Jonathan to resign. Was that treasonable? If it wasn’t then, what has made it treasonable now? Rather than hound perceived opponents, which is what this distraction is all about, Buhari should be tough on terrorists. If he claims not to know where the terrorists are, he should consult his spiritual soul mate, Sheik Abubakar Gumi, to help him out. Rather than engage in unnecessary saber-rattling, Buhari should be worried that 29 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, Mando, Kaduna State, kidnapped since March are still in captivity.
It is a tragedy that 17 students of the Greenfield University, Kaduna State, kidnapped on April 18 are still in captivity after the kidnappers have brutally murdered five of them and are threatening to kill those still alive unless a ransom of N100 million and 10 motorcycles is delivered to them. These are the issues. Terrorists are taunting the Nigerian State and the government is helpless. This government has failed the people. It has failed the country. It has failed the international community and friends of the country. And it failed because it came to power with an agenda that is anti-Nigeria.
If this government is serious about fighting terrorism, Gumi should be a guest of the security by now. On Tuesday, a parent of one of the abducted students told Roots TV the shameful role Gumi is playing in the ugly kidnap saga. Hear her: “We kept going for meetings. They took us to Gumi’s house who said we should meet one Ahmed. A Fulani man was invited, we contributed almost N800,000 to him but he said the money was just for transportation. Then I started crying and pleaded with him that I am a widow, training my boy to become my helper in the future but he said that was not his concern.
We kept begging him but he insisted that we must pay N500 million.” On Tuesday, the self-same Gumi asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to pay the N100 million demanded by the abductors of Greenfield University students. The truth is that this government thought it could take Nigerians for a ride but unfortunately, the kitchen is getting rather too hot for its liking. Those threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria are the terrorists that the presidency is pampering.
Rather than looking for nonexistent treasonable felons, the questions that should concentrate the minds of Buhari and his co travelers are: Why is the call for separation becoming so loud and urgent? Why are ordinarily sober and reflective statesmen becoming agitated activists? Why is the drumbeat of war getting louder? Truth be told, the joke is on this government. Its political wounds are self-inflicted. The government is haunted by its crass incompetence, nepotism and wilful violation of the 1999 Constitution. To resort to coup scaremongering is sheer humdrum. Traumatised Nigerians should be spared these puerile distractions.