In Praise of Mass Action

No Comments » January 13th, 2010 posted by // Categories: General Articles

In Praise of Mass Action 


Chido Onumah

 After almost fifty years of independence, we ought to be used to the buffoonery of our rulers. But even for a group of people accustomed to elite perfidy, nothing could have prepared us for the shenanigans of our rulers since November 23, 2009, when the president was flown out of Nigeria to an unknown destination.


From the initial lie about the purpose of the president’s absence, to the swearing in of the new chief justice, to the purported signing of the 2010 budget by an obviously comatose president, to the latest claim by the president’s chief economic adviserthat the president recently spoke to a few top officials of the regime, including the vice-president, we have witnessed countless fawning state officials trying to outdo one another. Atop this Hall of Shame is Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. I do not think anything could have prepared us for the antics of Mr. Aondoakaa, who to all intents and purposes, is the evil genius underwriting the current charade by making sure it gets a veneer of legality.


The last time we heard from Aondoakaa (read, I don’t care) was at the swearing in of the new chief justice by his predecessor – a first in Nigeria’s tortuous history — a little over a week ago. Then Aondoakaa, in his characteristic glib manner likened President Yar’Adua’s situation to what happened during the unfortunate Christmas Day incident in the United States. Aondoakaa was reported to have said that “wherein President Barack Obama went on vacation to Hawaii, which is about 13 hours from the Oval Office, Saudi Arabia, where President Yar’Adua is on medical care is only six hours away from Nigeria.” According to him, President Obama ordered a review of air security in the U.S. while in faraway Hawaii and there was nothing wrong for President Yar’Adua to sign the 2010 budget from Saudi Arabia and that when somebody takes time off to treat himself, it should not be a problem”.

I am not too sure Aondoakaaknows that though “13 hours from the Oval Office”, Hawaii is part of the US. If he knew, he won’t be making this absurd comparison. Where exactly is President Yar’Adua? At least we saw President Obama two days after the plane incident. You would think that considering the seriousness of the bomb scare aboard a U.S. airline by a Nigerian and the fact that it has brought the country to ridicule and disrepute, not to talk of the grave inconvenience to Nigerian travellers, President Yar’Adua, if he is able to sit up and sign the budget and speak on the phone, he would have called his U.S. counterpart to condemn the Christmas Day incident and assure him that Nigeria is a not a nation of terrorists.

When you have the chief law officer of the country coming up with this kind of puerile logic, it is easy to understand why the current political logjam cannot be resolved through reason and dialogue. Clearly, Aondoakaa and his band of rabid power-mongers would do anything, including bringing Nigeria to its knees, in order to remain in power. They would orchestrate a coup by military officers sympathetic to their cause if they have to. Their greatest nightmare now is Vice-president Goodluck Jonathan assuming the role of acting president in the absence of the president. And they are ready to thrash the Constitution to achieve their aim.


But this article is not about Aondoakaa and his ilk. It is about Nigerians and what we can do to extricate ourselves from the stranglehold of the current ruling cabal; for it is our complacency and inactivity that have emboldened this cabal and the Aondoakaas of Nigeria. Very few countries can take the kind of abuse that Nigeria has taken in 50 years and remain standing. Interestingly, we are not asking for anything extraordinary from our rulers. We are not asking them to send a man to the moon or develop nuclear capabilities. All we ask is for basic infrastructure to be in place for us to show our ingenuity and resourcefulness. Even this minimal demand, they have denied us! Today, our finest talents are scattered around the world, many living in very debilitating conditions.


It is either our rulers take us for granted or they simply do not have the capacity to learn from history. Either way, we have to remind them of what Nigerians are capable of doing if push comes to shove. The events of June 12, 1993, and the gallant efforts of democracy and human rights activists, as well as Nigerians from all walks of life against that other exemplar of perfidy, General Ibrahim Babangida, are still fresh in our memories.


The call by Pastor Tunde Bakare and the Save Nigeria Group for major street protests next week in Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna, etc., a protest which at the time of writing had received the support of Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, is therefore apropos. And for those who are outside Nigeria, you can as one Internet blogger put it, “turn on the heat by gathering in Washington, Ottawa, London, Paris, Lisbon, Dublin, Madrid, Rome and other Western capitals to protest at the Nigerian embassies in these cities”. And the agenda: “We want the Constitution to be followed; President Yar’Adua should resign or hand over”. That is if he is still able to do anything.


Just like the campaign by the G53 and the call by different interest groups in Nigeria for President Yar’Adua to step down in line with the Constitution, this call for mass action can only be a short term goal. The long term goal is to ensure that come 2011, the PDP, in whatever guise, does not retain power. We shouldn’t be lulled into exerting all our energy in winning the current constitutional battle, only to drop our guard.


We just need to constantly remind ourselves that the man who would be president told us recently that even if angels came down to conduct elections in Nigeria, the PDP will be victorious!


Onumah is coordinator,

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