This intervention has been provoked, not so much by the ambitions of General Buhari to return to power at the head of a democratic Nigeria, as by declarations of support from directions that leave one totally dumbfounded.
It would appear that some, myself among them, had been overcomplacent about the magnitude of an ambition that seemed as preposterous as the late effort of General Ibrahim Babangida to aspire yet again to the honour of presiding over a society that truly seeks a democratic future.
What one had dismissed was a rash of illusions, brought about by other political improbabilities that surround us, however, is being given an air of plausibility by individuals and groupings to which one had earlier attributed a sense of relevance of historic actualities.
Recently, I published an article in the media, invoking the possible recourse to psychiatric explanation for some of the incongruities in conduct within national leadership.
Now, to tell the truth, I have begun to seriously address the issue of which section of society requires the services of a psychiatrist.
The contest for a seizure of rationality is now so polarized that I am quite reconciled to the fact it could be those of us on this side, not the opposing school of thought that ought to declare ourselves candidates for a lunatic asylum. So be it.
While that decision hangs in the balance however, the forum is open. Let both sides continue to address our cases to the electorate, but also prepare to submit ourselves for psychiatric examination.
The time being so close to electoral decision, we can understand the haste of some to resort to shortcuts. In the process however, we should not commit the error of opening the political space to any alternative whose curative touch to national afflictions have proven more deadly than the disease.
In order to reduce the clutter in our options towards the forthcoming elections, we urge a beginning from what we do know, what we have undergone, what millions can verify, what can be sustained by evidence accessible even to the school pupil, the street hawker or a just-come visitor from outer space.
Leaving Buhari aside for now, I propose a commencing exercise that should guide us along the path of elimination as we examine the existing register of would-be president.
That initial exercise can be summed up in the following speculation: “If it were possible for Olusegun Obasanjo, the actual incumbent, to stand again for election, would you vote for him?”
If the answer is “yes”, then of course all discussion is at an end. If the answer is ‘No’ however, then it follows that a choice of a successor made by Obasanjo should be assessed as hovering between extremely dangerous and an outright kiss of death.
The degree of acceptability of such a candidate should also be inversely proportionate to the passion with which he or she is promoted by the would-be ‘godfather’. We do not lack for open evidence about Obasanjo’s passion in this respect.
From Lagos to the USA, he has taken great pains to assure the nation and the world that the anointed NPN presidential flag bearer is guaranteed, in his judgment, to carry out his policies.
Such an endorsement/anointment is more than sufficient, in my view, for public acceptance or rejection.
Yar’Adua’s candidature amounts to a terminal kiss from a moribund regime. Nothing against the person of this – I am informed - personable governor, but let him understand that in addition to the direct source of his emergence, the PDP, on whose platform he stands, represents the most harrowing of this nation’s nightmares over and beyond even the horrors of the Abacha regime.
If he wishes to be considered on his own merit, now is time for him, as well as others similarly enmeshed, to exercise the moral courage that goes with his repudiation of that party, a dissociation from its past, and a pledge to reverse its menacing future.
We shall find him an alternative platform on which to stand, and then have him present his credentials along those of other candidates engaged in forging a credible opposition alliance.
Until then, let us bury this particular proposition and move on to a far graver, looming danger, personified in the history of General Buhari.
The grounds on which General Buhari is being promoted as the alternative choice are not only shaky, but pitifully naive.
History matters. Records are not kept simply to assist the weakness of memory, but to operate as guides to the future.
Of course, we know that human beings change. What the claims of personality change or transformation impose on us is a rigorous inspection of the evidence, not wishful speculation or behind-the-scenes assurances.
Public offence, crimes against a polity, must be answered in the public space, not in caucuses of bargaining.
In Buhari, we have been offered no evidence of the sheerest prospect of change. On the contrary, all evident suggests that this is one individual who remains convinced that this is one ex-ruler that the nation cannot call to order.
Buhari – need one remind anyone - was one of the generals who treated a Commission of Enquiry, the Oputa Panel, with unconcealed disdain.
Like Babangida and Abdusalami, he refused to put in appearance even though complaints that were tabled against him involved a career of gross abuses of power and blatant assault on the fundamental human rights of the Nigerian citizenry.
Prominent against these charges was an act that amounted to nothing less than judicial murder, the execution of a citizen under a retroactive decree. Does Decree 20 ring a bell?
If not, then, perhaps the names of three youths - Lawal Ojuolape (30), Bernard Ogedengbe (29) and Bartholomew Owoh (26) do.
To put it quite plainly, one of those three – Ogedengbe - was executed for a crime that did not carry a capital forfeit at the time it was committed.
This was an unconscionable crime, carried out in defiance of the pleas and protests of nearly every sector of the Nigerian and international community – religious, civil rights, political, trade unions etc.
Buhari and his sidekick and his partner-in-crime, Tunde Idiagbon persisted in this inhuman act for one reason and one reason only: to place Nigerians on notice that they were now under an iron, inflexible rule, under governance by fear.
The execution of that youthful innocent – for so he was, since the punishment did not exist at the time of commission - was nothing short of premeditated murder, for which the perpetrators should normally stand trial upon their loss of immunity.
Are we truly expected to forget this violation of our entitlement to security as provided under existing laws?
And even if our sensibilities have become blunted by succeeding seasons of cruelty and brutality, if power itself had so coarsened the sensibilities also of rulers and corrupted their judgment, what should one rightly expect after they have been rescued from the snare of power”
At the very least, a revaluation, leading hopefully to remorse, and its expression to a wronged society. At the very least, such a revaluation should engender reticence, silence.
In the case of Buhari, it was the opposite. Since leaving office he has declared in the most categorical terms that he had no regrets over this murder and would do so again.
Human life is inviolate. The right to life is the uniquely fundamental right on which all other rights are based.
The crime that General Buhari committed against the entire nation went further however, inconceivable as it might first appear. That crime is one of the most profound negations of civic being.
Not content with hammering down the freedom of expression in general terms, Buhari specifically forbade all public discussion of a return to civilian, democratic rule.
Let us constantly applaud our media – those battle scarred professionals did not completely knuckle down.
They resorted to cartoons and oblique, elliptical references to sustain the people’s campaign for a time-table to democratic rule.
Overt agitation for a democratic time table however remained rigorously suppressed – military dictatorship, and a specifically incorporated in Buhari and Idiagbon was here to stay.
To deprive a people of volition in their own political direction is to turn a nation into a colony of slaves. Buhari enslaved the nation. He gloated and gloried in a master-slave relation to the millions of its inhabitants.
It is astonishing to find that the same former slaves, now free of their chains, should clamour to be ruled by one who not only turned their nation into a slave plantation, but forbade them any discussion of their condition.
So Tai Solarin is already forgotten? Tai who stood at street corners, fearlessly distributing leaflets that took up the gauntlet where the media had dropped it.
Tai who was incarcerated by that regime and denied even the medication for his asthmatic condition?
Tai did not ask to be sent for treatment overseas; all he asked was his traditional medicine that had proved so effective after years of struggle with asthma!
Nor must we omit the manner of Buhari coming to power and the pattern of his ‘corrective’ rule.
Shagari’s NPN had already run out of steam and was near universally detested – except of course by the handful that still benefited from that regime of profligacy and rabid fascism.
Responsibility for the national condition lay squarely at the door of the ruling party, obviously, but against whom was Buhari’s coup staged?
Judging by the conduct of that regime, it was not against Shagari’s government but against the opposition. The head of government, on whom primary responsibility lay, was Shehu Shagari.
Yet that individual was kept in cozy house detention in Ikoyi while his powerless deputy, Alex Ekwueme, was locked up in Kiri-kiri prisons.
Such was the Buhari notion of equitable apportionment of guilt and/or responsibility. CONTINUE READING
By Wole SOYINKA
CREDITS: SAHARA REPORTS