Nigeria’s elite children of perdition easily forget: Goodluck Jonathan’s electoral rout of 2015 was a rejection of a feckless fellow, as it was an elite gambit at class preservation.
Yeah, a bumbling Jonathan had to go; for his scandalous humbug was fast demystifying the elite, and the hoi polloi were rumbling — just as a reckless military provoked the Fela famous quip: uniform na khaki, na tailor dey sew am!
So, that defeat was nothing but a fiery pyre, with crackling dry wood of elite panic: they must bury Jonathan first, before he buried them with him.
But why did Jonathan unravel so fast, despite so much initial goodwill? Free-wheeling sleaze.
Yes, that probably had been the norm. But its brazen projection under Jonathan earned a furious, mass censure, akin to the Achebe quip, in A Man of the People: folks just stole too much for the owner not to notice!
Candidate Muhammadu Buhari, hardly a revolutionary in spite of his ascetic contempt for graft, struck the right message; the people keyed into it; and Jonathan, with his hubris-stricken Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), became shameful history!
Back then, no elite symbol, of the old venal class, could save their beleaguered class. Everyone, lovers and haters, just scrambled onto the coat tail of the severe General from Daura!
Which is what now makes that picture — of the trio of IBB, Bukola Saraki and Dino Melaye — which went viral, all the more amusing. The picture was taken after Saraki’s and Melaye’s visit to IBB’s Minna hilltop mansion.
Now, to their doting families, charmed friends and acquaintances, these three are excellent private citizens. But public perception — right or wrong – may well differ.
IBB, General Ibrahim Babangida, Nigeria’s first (and last) military president, is fairly adjudged the very quintessence of military rot.
True, the late Sani Abacha was unfazed champion of military venality; and, from the exciting tales from Vindication of a General, Ishaya Bamaiyi’s new memoirs, as Abacha’s chief of army staff, the military plutocrats back then just might have buried Abacha, before Abacha would bury them, with him.
Still, the IBB regime clearly owned that devil-may-care rapacious temper, that drove Abacha to new greed. IBB not only crowned corruption as the cornerstone of state policy, he annulled the sanest election in Nigerian history.
Saraki, as Senate president, projects himself as a doughty cohabitant of state power. But while President Buhari tries to clear Nigeria’s towering mountain of sleaze, Saraki pushes his democratic right, with the Senate he heads in tow, as the very antithesis, of this noble historic duty.
That much was clear from the Senate’s carping, climaxing in Ibrahim Magu’s non-confirmation as EFCC chair.
But that has provoked a counter executive sleight of hand — even if very noble in the circumstance — that purports the Constitution does not require Magu’s confirmation, even if the EFCC Act says so. Is it not trite, argues the Presidency, that any law inconsistent with the Constitution is void, to the extent of that inconsistency?
Talk of a de-jure key democratic institution, tragically pushing itself into de-facto irrelevance, because of the hubris of a few of its members!
As for Dino Melaye, Saraki’s unfazed sidekick, in Magu and allied senatorial wars, the beam on his university degrees, real or phantom, clearly shows he is no more, as his adopted name suggests, than grating din. It’s tough luck that the highest legislature in the land is his echoing chamber!
Still, IBB and friends have a democratic right to free association; and to pictorially toast themselves, schmoozing in great camaraderie, as long-lost lovers.
But should acute Nigerians interpret that, given IBB’s past record and Saraki/Melaye’s current labours, as worrying symbol of the ethically challenged ancien regime, rousing itself, after two years of searing heat, to gamely confront its nemesis? Only the good Lord knows!
Still, the problem is less with individuals, no matter how powerful they fancy themselves; but more with the broad spectrum of the Nigerian elite. They, like Emperor Nero of old Rome, fiddle over puffery, while their kingdom is on fire.
Take the Judiciary. First, the new Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, plays the Pontius Pilate, washing his charges clean, of any perceived glitch, in the anti-corruption war.
But did that performance, by the original Pilate, erase the grave piracy of justice, of nailing the Christ, on trumped up charges, even if, by the Christian doctrine, that was spiritually pre-ordained?
Can the CJN, in all good conscience, say the Judiciary under his watch is less corrupt, than under his predecessors? O, the judicial throne is safe but the estate is sinking!
And the lawyers! In truth, many senior lawyers have bought into the anti-sleaze war. A good many others too decry the alleged technical shallowness of those charged with prosecuting high profile graft cases, and call for drastic changes.
But it is also true that many a silk picks no bones about defending the decadent order that had pumped them, to near-bursting point, with sweet rot.
Many hitherto too busy eating to talk, from the rot of yore, now lash out as fiery, crusading angels of corruption, though they hide behind legal cant.
Well, here is great news, for this judicial Sodom and Gomorrah! The awe of the courts is less in the impressive gown and foreboding wig, which nevertheless contribute to their grim dignity. It is more with the societal acquiescence to polite adjudication.
The moment irate citizens go the Fela way: court na house, nay mason dey build am, the game might just be up!
And that’s not as difficult as it seems, does it? Even as Ekiti governor-elect, Ayo Fayose tried it, and the response was the easy bedlam of fleeing gowns and tumbling wigs!
Just imagine the society butting into that outlawry, just because the courts are perceived the biblical house of worship turned a den of thieves?
If polite society collapses, the judiciary gets buried without trace. So, its flowers had better quit posturing, and roast the few corrupt elements, before these corrupt few roast, with themselves, the upright majority.
Still, you could excuse judicial nervousness at any change. Not so the media, perhaps the most vibrant trigger of change, in all human history.
The grandmasters of the early Nigerian press, John Payne Jackson and son, Horatio (Lagos Weekly Record), George Alfred Williams (Lagos Standard) and John Bright Davies (Times of Nigeria), among others, set the tone, of doughty social activism, that served the newspaper press so well, in its titanic clash against military despots.
Herbert Macaulay (Lagos Daily News), Ernest Ikoli (later of Daily Service) and Nnamdi Azikiwe (West African Pilot), among others, built on the robust legacy of the early colonial era, in their own independence struggle age.
Though critics accuse many of these greats of striking a happy marriage between public good and private bliss, history is clearly kind to them, by the way they have shaped the temper of the Nigerian newspaper press.
But pray, what would history say of the Nigerian press today? Strangers from Mars playing the ostrich, in culpable finger-pointing, while the soul of their country blaze in filth? Analysts-turned-pundits, obliged to live or die by rogue punditry, when naked facts point to a more redemptive lane?
Purveyors of pure fiction, faith and tribal champions, driven by explosive bigotry, when the times call for for the exact opposite — universal ethos that lifts all?
At a critical pass, when corruption either kills Nigeria or Nigeria kills it, vital segments of the media, the judiciary and an errant parliament are marooned in Distraction-land.
Nigerian elite children of perdition play Emperor Nero while their estate goes up in moral smoke!
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