(Vanguard of Sunday, November 19, 2006)
Many things are happening that many people cannot understand. I need help myself because I believe I am tipping over. When you hear people being so helpless that they say, “Well, let’s leave everything to God,” get out of your dream state and think harder about what can be done because danger is knocking on the door. This is the stage we are at now in our bravado experiment with disorder.
Only the mentally retarded would glow with pride when misfortune strikes the nation. And this nation is struck with misfortune anytime we do things outside the laid down procedures for doing them. The latest madness was acted out in Plateau State last Monday, at about 6am.
But let me tell you what struck me when I was told of the Plateau tragedy. My mind went back to a story of the struggle for power in a village. The parties to this struggle were a woman and a young man who had been appointed the chief. The woman was the sister of this young man but she was intent on controlling his life and his domain.
Although he consulted her on everything he wanted to do, this ambitious woman was not satisfied. She went to the oracle and was given a bottle and asked to empty the content into the well from which the people drew the water they drank. She knew what would happen and was ready to achieve her ambition – to control the people and be seen to be doing so directly.
It was as if the gods had become angry when people started running mad. But no one ever traced this sudden disorder to the ambition of one person. The woman’s plan was simple. Everyone would be mad after drinking the water from the well. The only sane person at the end of the day would be the brother, ruler of the village.
Since the mad recognize the mad and regard the sane as insane, the chief would be driven from the village and she would take over control of the people. She was not mad, but she was a witch. When the last man in the village ran mad, the chief assessed the situation and decided to follow the footsteps of those over whom he ruled instead of deserting them or being driven away.
He went to the well, fetched the water and drank. His world changed and he became one with his people and they all looked in the direction of the residence of one mad woman near the chief’s abode. That mad woman was the chief’s sister. Her witchcraft could not save her. The people drove her from the village, and life went on drably at the level it had been driven by the mad ambition of one greedy woman.
I do not know who is the chief who had to take desperate steps to retain his place in the polity, but I identify the ambitious woman as the Nigerian politician, in government or out of government. My watch over the years leads to this conclusion that greed runs in his blood. And reference to him is also reference to her.
And reference to him or her is not limited to the fact that they are in political parties. No. They are in the professions—from law and medicine through teaching and music to journalism, priesthood and the military.
There is even now organizational encouragement for professional involvement in active politics. And like the woman who poisoned the water in the well in her greed to control people, even if in their demented state, we have the political class ready to destroy the document that contains the rules of our walk on the democracy highway because they must have in their closets the keys to the strong rooms where the people’s money is meant to be in safe-keeping.
Since 1999 we have seen our Constitution which is our road map ignored more in the breach than the observance. Someone who said our Constitution has become an orphan did not miss the point. We say what it means even when we know that it speaks clearly through its provisions. Even those who defended it with their integrity over the years have changed gear. What is being done must be right because those being dealt with were wrong.
They tell you about Bayelsa: Alamieyeseigha stole the people’s money. The only body that could tame him is constitutionally the House of Assembly. He bought them over and they would do nothing to the governor-general of the Izon nation. Having been thrown out of Britain in spite of what we thought about him escaping from house arrest, we did many things that the Constitution did not support because a desperate situation demands a desperate attention.
We insisted that the deputy governor was still acting governor until the incumbent governor spent the number of days he wrote in a letter to the Speaker of the House of Assembly when he left the country for a medical engagement which turned out to be an operation on his tummy so that the bulge would be reduced. We closed down the state radio station which was telling the people that the governor had returned and was back at work.
We sent the police and the army to Yenagoa where there was no sign of any trouble. We closeted the members of the House of Assembly outside Bayelsa State where they should meet and make law, and they signed documents to send their governor packing. They asked that a panel be picked that would investigate allegations of misconduct against the governor. The governor protested against the presence of some members. We dumped what we inherited from Britain in respect of trial by jury.
Until there is agreement on the jurors, they cannot start any hearing. But the panel started work and produced what is unknown to the Constitution, an interim report which found the governor guilty of jumping bail in London. He was removed and the Speaker of the House became the deputy governor. We have not yet seen the full report telling us their findings on what constitutes gross misconduct. All we wanted was to remove the governor. The end justified the means.
The train moved to Ibadan and Oyo State Governor Ladoja was on trial. Two-thirds of 32 members of the House would decide that the allegations of misconduct be investigated before the chief judge would pick a panel. But we introduced a new approach to calculating the two-thirds.
Members of the House suspended some of their colleagues, depriving the people they represent a voice in deciding whether their governor should go or remain. A legal icon solved the problem for us. He said in as much as there was no protest at what the House had done, their action was legitimized by their silence. Two-thirds had therefore to be calculated on the number left after some of them had been suspended.
Even after the Court of Appeal ruled that what was done was null and void, we told Ladoja to wait until the Supreme Court pronounced on the matter. Meanwhile a situation is being created in Ibadan to ensure that even if the Supreme Court says Ladoja should go back to his desk, it would be impossible to effect the order because the general officer commanding Ibadan politics has said the courts are wasting their time. Ladoja is not wanted by the powers that be, and he must be barred from returning, by whatever means. The end justifies the means.
From Ibadan, we moved to Ekiti State. There a chief judge picked a panel and refused to listen to protests. The panel cleared the governor without any opportunity for those who filed allegations of misconduct against Governor Fayose to present their case. The Speaker sacked the Chief Judge and appointed one to act in his place. That one picked a panel and the panel found Fayose and the deputy guilty.
The House removed both governor and deputy and appointed the Speaker to be acting governor. The government said the appointment was unconstitutional but would not restore Fayose. They created a situation where the Speaker and the Deputy Governor would be seen to be struggling for power. The chaotic situation led to the dismissal of both and the declaration of a state of emergency in Ekiti State and the appointment of a sole administrator. Fayose was marked to go. The end justified he means.
The tanks rolled to Plateau State. They were once there when we declared a state of emergency there and suspended Governor Dariye who later sneaked back into office and wore his immunity cloak, to our utter chagrin. The House that ought to have nailed him for money laundering did not find any substance in the allegations.
Then as has been happening in other places where people have been changing parties because of the turmoil in all of them, the majority members of the Plateau House of Assembly moved out of the PDP. Their colleagues still in the PDP, but less than a third of the total number of the membership of the House, declared their seats vacant.
The magicians put their acts together and started to look for two-thirds of six to nail the governor. They succeeded last Monday and the governor was removed and his deputy sworn in by a judge who had been constitutionally removed by the governor as acting chief judge. The Ekiti scenario was enacted, but Ekiti State is not Plateau State.
But a brief time before this event, Anambra State had witnessed the removal of Peter Obi, the governor who had waited for the better part of his tenure to assume office because Ngige had climbed the chair on the strength of results which Chris Uba confessed had been manipulated. In both Plateau State and Anambra State, the ends have justified the means. But something had to give in all the cases under reference.
Those who are saying that we are messing up our democracy, systematically destroying it in a bid to achieve noble ends with despicable means, should be wondering if they should not go to the well, drink of the water that has been poisoned and wear the toga of the insane. So while the bombs explode and people run helter-skelter seeking cover, the drunken people will celebrate the event because they cannot now differentiate between what is good, what is bad, what is ugly. God save Nigeria from the greed of the ambitious.
(Published in Vol. 2 of Democracy Watch, A Monitor’s Diary by Tony Momoh, pages 230 – 234; Lagos, 2008).