Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Letter to President Yar'Adua (2)

YOUR Excellency, while all this show of shame was unfolding, you feigned a kind of presidential distance, but that did not prevent you from holding two or three meetings with top-notchers of your party, the PDP, the INEC boss and state security - meetings to which the AC, the other major party in the Ekiti contest, was not invited. Many Nigerians wondered why you opted for such narrow partisanship at a time which called for national leadership; why, indeed, you showed no moral concern for the fire burning in one part of the country you rule. They began to speculate about the likely impact of your attitude on the boiling electoral stalemate in Ekitiland. They began to wonder if a true 'father of the nation' would behave the way you did.

Well, Nigerians didn't have to speculate for too long. Soon after, Mrs Ayoka Adebayo sprang out of hiding and headed for the INEC headquarters in Abuja. After what must have been a loaded and very confidential meeting with Maurice Iwu, the INEC boss, she emerged, astonishingly happy and confident, assuring the curious press and all the world that she was, indeed, still a member of 'the INEC family', and was now ready to return to her post as Ekiti REC to complete the task she left behind. What about her former letter of resignation? What about those fake figures she complained about being pressurised to declare? What about, what about. . . Ayoka Adebayo parried all questions, and with an ominous smile on her face, she zoomed out of the INEC premises.

A couple of days later, surrounded by soldiers, fierce-looking police, and all the paraphernalia of the federal might, Ayoka Adebayo, JP., declared those same 'fake figures' from Ido-Osi and returned the PDP, your party, to power in Ekiti. Since then, there has been palpable tension in Ekiti and an atmosphere of rage and bewilderment in the county.

Mr. President, all this dangerous and frightfully ominous electoral farce played out in one part of a country under your watch. The whole world (including, alas, your hosts at the Zuma inauguration in South Africa!) stood aghast as they watched Africa's delinquent 'giant', making another mockery of democracy and the sanctity of the ballot box.

Now, Mr. President, reasonable people in the world are asking: where were you as the political, constitutional, and - very important - moral leader of Nigeria when all this 'show of shame' was unfolding in Ekiti? Did you hear or read about how hoodlums, armed to the teeth by politicians, brutalized press men and women, harassed election monitors, and made polling impossible in certain areas considered the 'strongholds' your party, the PDP? Did you learn about a particular senator of the Federal Republic who harboured over 60 dangerously armed thugs in his house? Did you read newspaper reports about the arrest of these thugs and their expeditious release when the news reached the top brass of the police? Were you told about other senators of the Federal Republic who 'visited' the voting areas with dangerous weapons in their convoy? President Yar'Adua, as a scientist, teacher, and moral being, weren't you startled by those jumbo figures from Ido-Osi? Did you ask Maurice Iwu, your INEC boss, how they came about? Did you cross-check his response with the on-the-spot reports by electoral officers, security agents, accredited election observers, and the media? Tell me, Mr. President, how did you take the Ayoka Adebayo story? Do you think she acted according to the dictates of her conscience and her God as you urged in that grand and laborious press statement by your presidential spokesman on the eve of her return to her post? Don't you see her moral somersault as an indelible blight on whatever is left of the credibility of Nigeria's electoral system? Do you think that after all this electoral and moral abomination, it is business as usual in Ekiti and all is well in the country you rule?

Dear President Yar'Adua, the Ekiti re-run election fiasco has finally put an end to your honeymoon and shredded that mask of incorruptibility that seems to hang around your face. Not many Nigerians were pleased with the way you came into office some two years ago in a do-or-die election considered as the most corrupt and most shameful in Nigeria's history. But your humble admission, upon your assumption of office, of the imperfection of that election, and your pledge to be the rule-of-law President earned you a measure of patient toleration by a country severely violated by the imperial presidency of your predecessor. Not a few Nigerians were also pleased to hear your promise to reform the electoral system. Now, with your connivance at and tacit endorsement of the recent electoral and political fraud in Ekiti, we are beginning to wonder how to square up your rule of law posture with your silence on the murderous, man-pass-man impunity displayed by your party, the ruling party. Are senators caught with pump-action guns in polling areas adherents of the rule of law? Are heavily bribed electoral officials exponents of the rule of law? Where does Ayoka Adebayo's electoral perfidy fit into the scheme of rule of law? Are those phantom figures from Ido-Osi products of the rule of law? Can you deem a candidate returned to office through this foul and violent process a rule-of-law governor?

No, Mr. President, the panel of enquiry just set up by you to investigate the Ekiti re-run fiasco has been rightly described by thoughtful commentators as far 'too late and too little'. In like manner, your tardy expression of concern about the election is insincere and insultingly disingenuous. You look very much like that guard desperately shutting the gate after the horse has already escaped, or that dog struggling to hide the knife after its ear has been cut. Your action is salt in the injury of aggrieved Ekiti people and an insult to the intelligence of discerning Nigerians.

Truth be told, Your Excellency, you have displayed a gross failure of leadership in your handling of the recent electoral fraud in Ekiti State. By putting party loyalty above national consideration, by vanishing from our moral radar at the time your presence was most needed, by taking refuge in dubious silence at a time your authoritative voice was loudly imperative, by acting so reactively in a situation warranting an urgent proactive response, you created the kind of moral - and political - void capable of swallowing up a whole country. What manner of panel will heal the wounds already inflicted on our hapless country's psyche? What kind of probe will unearth what we already know? In an administration suffering from acute panelititis such as yours, hardly has anyone told you that there are certain moral responsibilities that just cannot be delegated; that there are decisions that must not be allowed to die in the red-taped files of humdrum, red-herring commissions of enquiry.

The real leader, Your Excellency, is one that is more pro-active than re-active, a medium of divination, not a grand master of post-mortems. He is one who is able to combine spontaneity with deliberativeness, balance the exigencies of the short term with the visionary pressures of the long term; one that is able to bump partisan loyalty for the national imperative. That is the kind of leader who is trusted by the people because he has made himself trustworthy; a leader who earns respect without demanding it. A Mandela who heals the wounds of a nation. A Gandhi who liberated his country from a rampaging Empire with unassailable political, moral and spiritual force.

You will agree with me that our country has not been blessed with this kind of leader at the national level in our nearly 50 years of flag independence. Basically, we have been saddled with two types of 'leaders': the pit-bull type and the head-in-the-sand dissembler. The first is the hectoring maximum dictator who rides rough-shod over our human rights while playing loose and free with the nation's treasury. In this category, generally, are the military adventurers in power who rule through the bullet rather than the ballot box.

The second category comprises the so-called civil 'leaders' with a pervasive pretence to democracy. They usually come to power through compromised elections, and make sure they do not leave office in less perverted circumstances. While the pit-bull thunders across the country with abrasive assertiveness, the head-in-the-sand type plays up a pious disinterestedness, his dagger held gingerly behind his cloak. He belongs to the breed of the so-called 'God-fearing' rulers whose wisdom is nothing but cunning, whose so-called distance is calculated aloofness. They affect some kind of national/global attitude while pursuing the narrowest of partisan/ethnic/ religious/ideological agenda. They are 'fathers' of a 'nation' of unequal children, and see nothing wrong in keeping it so. You will agree with me that a country wedged between these two monstrosities is unfortunate indeed. This has been Nigeria's plight; and this is why the country remains what Soyinka has rightly called the 'open sore of the continent'.