ALHAJI Bamaga Tukur, the former Chief Executive of the Nigerian Ports Authority, former Executive Governor of Gongola State, the only individual African to have been given the privileged opportunity to address the United Nations General Assembly in a personal capacity, is a household name around the world.
His larger than life resume has even been made larger since President Goodluck Jonathan single-handedly picked him as the Chairman of the presumed largest political party in Africa –the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The later position is why we hear him more than the previous offices he occupied.
The big man from Adamawa State made a statement recently, while reacting to the political tornado ravaging Rivers State, that the problem cannot derail democracy in Nigeria. His assertion is based on the fact [his naive opinion anyway] that “Rivers State is just one of the thirty six states in the federation” and as such, “there is no way issue of one state could jeopardise the whole country”.
If this quote is truly the thought of Tukur, then permit me to conclude that he is either a bad student of history, suffering from a political mundane syndrome or even might be suffering from distorted memory. He need to be told a fact of history, if only to help him appreciate that the first Military Coup on the night of January 15, 1966, which threw Nigeria into the political market of madness for 40 years originated from “only one region” out of the four regions that were contending for political decoration of that time in Nigerian history. In fact, it was an argument of what was right or wrong from a few, maybe two, leaders of that region.
It means, therefore, that one single state has enough “political poisonous gas content” to blow the whole country into political “Armageddon” if care is not taken. It happened before and it can happen again. On this assertion, let us listen to what the late Chief Bola Ige – assassinated Attorney General and Minister of Justice for the Federal Republic of Nigeria – once said.
“It has been proved that people don’t learn from history, hence history has a way of repeating itself,” he said in his oratorical wisdom. Unfortunately, Ige himself did not learn from history. By accepting to join the government of “come and chop”, in the words of the late Chief Sunday Afolabi, then Minister of Internal Affairs and staunch member of the PDP, when describing the invitation extended to Ige by President Olusegun Obasanjo to serve, he “rode the tiger’s back and ended up in the tiger’s stomach”. We shall never be wiser to follow that same path of self annihilation which we followed from 1960 into 1966.
Another error of commission our political leaders, mostly those on the driver seat of the PDP political vehicle, are making is the conclusion that because of uninterrupted democratic process of the last 14 years, there can never be a military coup in Nigeria again. This is a flamboyant fallacy.
Our leaders should look at Egypt in the northern Horn of the African continent, to re-assure themselves if they still understand the dynamics of the route for democratic sustainability. Maybe Egypt is too far. A few weeks ago, the Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, warned about the possibility of “a revolution in Nigeria”.
The Speaker drew our attention to happenings in Nigeria that are indicators of impending revolution. He mentioned the quantum of corruption [a country where a man caught stealing billions of Naira will pay a fine of less than one million Naira to become a free man while another caught stealing less than N2000 goes to jail for 15 years with hard labour], evidence of abject squalor, injustice, unemployment, total disregard for lives and property, lack of respect for democratic ethic, were just but few of many vices the Speaker mentioned as glaring evidences of impending doom. We can only ignore such warning to our collective peril.
A more direct warning was to come, after Tambuwal’s words of caution. This time, it came from the respected soldier and gentleman of the gun himself, retired General Abdusalam Abubakar, a one-time Military Head of State of this beleaguered country. His was to tell political leaders to “safe-guard this democracy”. This is coming from a man who knows everything about the barrel of the gun and what it does, even on the dangerous night of a coup d’état.
Let us not delude ourselves therefore that there can never be return of the gun anymore in Nigeria – God forbid bad thing. The only thing that can keep our democracy permanently on course is the presence of good governance. At the absence of political sanity, as presently being exhibited by Nigerian dealers, parading themselves as leaders, the words of Sergeant Adolf Hitler in Germany, becomes an inescapable fact of life. He said that “if the State becomes a machinery of oppression, then revolution is not only a right but a duty for the citizenry”.
Thank God that one of the very first wise things Obasanjo did when he became President was the setting up of the Justice Chukwudi Oputa Commission, because the most profitable product of that exercise was the thorough disgrace of the Military as an institution and its personnel, on the futility of coming into government. But for that wise step, in addition to other international organisations put in place, the story would have been probably different by now. Yet, we should not over-ride our luck.
Let us understand the situation we are today and admit to the fact that there is danger just around the corner. The state of emergency declared by the President is the most cohesive thing to do in view of the senselessness of the lunatic group called Boko Haram.
That the declaration itself has not, as yet, achieved the totality of what it is set out to curb might be manifestation of a wrong in methodology of the EXECUTIVE ORDER, at least for now.
Mr. GODWIN ETAKIBUEBU, a political analyst, wrote from Lagos.