Nigeria 2015: making tomorrow’s history today, Part II

In the first part of this article, I argued (and still maintain) that no deed or utterance capable of triggering a crisis in 2015 would go unchronicled. As if on cue, two things happened after I posted the article online. First, Dokubo Asari repeated his earlier threat to spread mayhem and destabilize Nigeria should the electorate make the mistake of electing a presidential candidate other than his own in 2015. The constitution, he insisted, made it mandatory for Nigeria to keep his kinsman, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, in office for two consecutive terms, or in the alternative, to look for another candidate from the South-South zone. As I was wrestling with this queer interpretation of our country’s fundamental law (and wondering when Umar Yar’adua would be brought back from the dead to complete his “mandatory” two terms), I got wind of the removal of Mr Joseph Mbu from his beat as Rivers State Police Commissioner. I also read something about his transfer or redeployment to Abuja.

Now, what have these two unrelated developments got to do with my earlier post and with its continuation this week? Let’s examine the implication of the first widely reported incident–Dokubo Asari’s threat to upend Nigeria’s peace and corporate existence if Nigerians did not deliver their votes in bulk to his candidate, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. By repeating this provocative ultimatum, he has basically declared war on Nigeria and called history’s bluff. Of course, that is one way to look at it.

Another way to view Dokubo Asari’s threat is to equate it with a risky gamble. God forbid, if anything goes horribly wrong before, during or immediately after the 2015 presidential election, we do not have to agonize over how it all started and who to hold directly accountable. The leader of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force/NDPVF, Alhaji Mujaheed Dokubo Asari, has stepped forward to claim anticipatory responsibility. Again, God forbid, if a slight misunderstanding develops into a full-blown crisis and the crisis spirals into horrendous ethno-regional blood-letting, the International Criminal Court does not have to look far for the mastermind or the agent-provocateur. Dokubo Asari has, more than once and unequivocally, promised to wreak havoc on, in other words, precipitate large-scale violence in, Nigeria if the 2015 presidential election does not end to his liking and with his kinsman’s return to Aso Rock.

How the pillars of our community handle the likes of Dokubo Asari and Joseph Mbu will determine how they (the movers and shakers of society) are portrayed in the post-2015 history. Regrettably, their tepid response to otherwise grave situations has up to now called their preparedness for history’s verdict into question.

The reactions to Dokubo Asari’s vituperations are a case in point. I did expect apologists for his muddled thinking to argue that the SSS did invite him for questioning, and released him after—presumably–absolving himself of any wrong-doing. What I did not bargain for is the attempt to pin responsibility for his reckless outbursts on another person. Some of the apologists, suggested, to my utter shock, and if I may add, tongue in check, that if Dokubo was invited for questioning, so should the APC leader, Muhammadu Buhari. I am sure there must be a method to some people’s madness, but I am yet to understand the logic of the latest insanity. The unrepentant Buhariphobists would be doing us all a favour if they could show us any similarity between a person who is opposed to electoral shenanigans (Buhari) and another that condones rigging (Dokubo Asari). We would also be eternally grateful if they would be so kind as to point out the link between Buhari’s statement that was issued months ago and Dokubo Asari’s recent declaration of war on the electorate!

Anyway, let’s get back to the issue on the table. I doubt if the SSS “invitation” would suffice to exonerate Dokubo from further liability. After all, the invitation was grudgingly issued and swiftly revoked. The SSS did not swing into action until the opposition and a prominent NGO, the Muslim Rights Concern/MURIC, loudly wondered if the security agency was asleep at the wheels, that is, the wheels of a vehicle racing perilously towards a canyon. When the SSS finally woke up from its slumber, it went about its statutory responsibility listlessly and in a way least likely to inspire public confidence. Unlike El-Rufai that the security agency held and grilled for days just for spelling out the stark realities and grim consequences of rigging, Dokubo (who threatened the whole of Nigeria if the 2015 election was not rigged in his candidate’s favour) did not spend one night in the SSS jail. Most telling of all, the SSS did not issue a statement even remotely suggesting that it did extract a pledge of good behaviour from the ethnic supremacist before setting him free.

This brings me back to MURIC. Its swift response to Asari Dokubo’s bluster is an example of how the pillars of our community could go about securing their place in history. What is so significant about MURIC is that it was one of the very few organizations which, through its Executive Director, Professor Is’haq Akintola, came out boldly to demand Dokubo Asari’s release from detention. When Asari Dokubo was in captivity, MURIC spoke truth to power in defence of his civil rights. History has somehow repeated itself. MURIC’s is one of the isolated voices raised against Dokubo’s advocacy of violence. MURIC is about the only non-political and non-cultural organization that carpeted the SSS for not moving fast enough to cage the war-mongering Dokubo.

It is highly regrettable that the leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (and particularly, Pastor Ayo Oristejafor) did not on this occasion add their voices to those urging the SSS to perform its lawful duty. It is of course possible that CAN had more pressing matters on its mind. However, one cannot but wonder what could be more pressing than the life and well-being of 150 million Nigerians. Equally baffling is the other sectarian groups’ and the various cultural organizations’ silence on a matter as earth-shattering as the survival of our country and its people. When it comes to power sharing, the cultural organizations are likely to be among the first to weigh in with their opinions. However, when the future of our country is at stake, they are suddenly and conspicuously missing in action. What stopped the likes of the Afenifere, the Igbimo Agba Yoruba/Yoruba Council of Elders (if it still exists), the Northern Consultative Forum, the newly formed Northern Elders’ Council, and the Ohaneze Ndigbo from robustly responding to the clear and present danger that Asari Dokubo’s rants pose to our country?

Also perplexing is the professional associations’ indifference to Dokubo Asari’s outbursts. Even if it does not take profound knowledge of constitutional law to rebut his specious arguments, the Nigerian Bar Association ought to have been on record as educating him on the correct interpretation of the fundamental law. The Medical Association should not wait until hospitals are besieged by victims of civil strife before calling out war-mongers like Dokubo. Our captains of industry know that their success (along with the profitability of their enterprises) depends on our country’s peace and stability. Yet, they kept quiet when both the peace and the stability were being put at risk.

How about the way Joseph Mbu’s case was handled? If Dokubo Asari got away with a serious offence, Mbu’s disgraceful removal from the office of Rivers State Police Commissioner should count for something. Under normal circumstances, his exit should send a powerful signal to potential Mbus looking for an opportunity to cash in on partisan political differences and to ingratiate themselves with those in authority. However, it is premature to commend the Inspector-General of Police, Mr M D Abubakar, for effecting the long overdue “surgical operation”, or the Police Service Commission for allowing the operation to proceed. Redeployment is, in any case, not the answer. Nothing short of Mbu’s total separation would instil public confidence in the leadership of the police, or restore the discipline and the esprit de corps badly undermined by the indiscretion of one official. Amputation is the only cure when a gangrenous leg looks like corrupting the whole body.

It is in fact highly disappointing that Mbu was allowed to stay in Port Harcourt long enough to drag a disciplined force into partisan politics. He ought to have been sent packing the day he attacked the character and office of the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi. Whether Amaechi made the right or the wrong moves is not the issue–at least, not an issue for a career official to comment upon or to take upon himself to resolve. As Police Commissioner, he swore an oath to protect the life and property of all citizens, regardless of their political affiliation, social status, religious belief, gender, or ethnic origin. The mission statement posted on the website of the Nigerian Police contains more or less the same pledge–the pledge to serve and protect citizens regardless of their stations in life.

Yet, the police command sat on its hands for months while Mbu made profound political statements, and issued highly controversial, meaning, partisan, directives to his subordinates. Neither the Inspector-General of Police nor the Police Service Commission moved promptly and decisively to throw the books at the overzealous Police Commissioner. As at the time of writing, the Police Commissioner is still on public payroll. Instead of firing him, the police command has simply redeployed him to Abuja, leaving observers to wonder whether posting an erring official to the head office is the best way to preserve a uniformed organization’s professional integrity and restore public confidence in the organization’s impartiality.

As we move closer to 2015, the senior cadres of key government agencies (like the Nigerian Police Force, the Independent Electoral Commission, the SSS, the National Youth Service Commission, and the armed services) ought to get their houses in order. Any official whose conduct looks like besmirching the image or impeding the effectiveness of each agency must be quickly pushed aside. If the agencies appear insensitive to their own or their members’ shortcomings, civic organizations and prominent citizens must not shy away from removing the planks in the agencies’ eyes. We cannot afford to keep quiet or look the other way when the doomsday prophesy is about to be self-fulfilled. History, we must all remember, is watching. It is watching every noise, and noting every deafening and unwarranted silence.

Let me sound off with a word of advice to Dokubo Asari and to other people of consequence. If Dokubo is thinking of shutting Nigeria down and/or encouraging brigandage on the high seas, this is the time to perish the thought. In fact, he should start praying fervently that 2015 would roll in without hiccups or turbulence. If future elections are rigged, Dokubo has a case to answer. If any one loses his/her life, Dokubo has a case to answer. If his case is too big for our own system to handle, the International Criminal Court is waiting to step in. He should remember the fate of the Rwanda journalist who was charged with inciting ethnic hatred and handed over to the ICC. Heads of state that were once high and mighty had to swallow their pride and face the ICC music. I personally would prefer that we settle our differences peacefully and at home. However, if reaching out to the international community is the only way to protect life and property, I would rather have Nigerians safe than let myself be swayed by empty sovereign pride.

Dokubo cannot make or break Nigeria all by himself. The choices made by key government agencies will determine to a large extent whether the 2014 Ekiti/Osun gubernatorial and the 2015 general elections would proceed smoothly or open the door to anarchy. It is therefore absolutely necessary for the leadership of the key agencies (particularly, INEC, the Nigerian Police Force, the SSS, and the armed services, the print and electronic media outfits) to be fully conscious of their historic responsibilities. Vigilance, they say, is the price of liberty. Before any agency botches its mandate, we must collectively raise our voices and get it to step up. May God Almighty bless our country, keep our people safe at all times, and protect our nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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