Because the president is not around

THE president is not around and the country is very adrift. But no one is blaming him for the national drift. Nigerians are very considerate people. They don’t make unnecessary demand of their leaders no matter how dire their conditions are. When they love you, you cannot be wrong. Like a woman madly in love, they allow you to handle them anyhow. They even invent excuses for you, assisting you to escape blame for failures. The president has been away for over 40 days now. He has not sent home any photo to appease our curiosity. But these times are unlike the last trip when mischief was in the air. That time, there were too many enemies to silence with images of the General. Today, the enemies within appear to be tired of inventing bad designs. They are quiet, very quiet. But there is a certain Eric Joyce, an ex-UK lawmaker who seems unimpressed, disgusted by our silence on the absence of our president. What is his problem? You would ask. White men are descendants of Mungo Park, nosy explorers, idle busybodies. They ask too many questions and dabble into affairs and matters that are clearly not their business. A few days ago, this man was all over the Internet attacking everyone, particularly the Nigerian media. The media, he said, had failed in its duty of asking the right questions about where and how the president is. With great insolence, he used words almost equating our president to a missing cap. Hear him: “We recommend that every Nigerian check their own wardrobes for Mr Buhari, and perhaps ask their children if they have any ideas. If you do this, you will have looked harder for him than the Nigerian media.” The white man is very angry, that is his problem. We are not angry and we are not complaining. We cannot be angry because we are Africans. In Africa, you join in finding cures for the ailments of your sick neighbour. You don’t join noisemakers to make his life more miserable.

Our president is not lost, we know where he is. He told us at the very beginning that his doctors hold the exit key of his abode in London. But here, the country is in deep trouble and we all seem lost on the way forward. There are all sorts of demands of the federation. Is it because the president is not around? Should we think so when the man acting appears competent on the job? Was there a sallah statement from the president on Saturday? There was something like Buhari asking Nigerians to live in peace. Was that statement also meant for the rebellious East? Has the president watched the latest video of Kanu and his Igbo clan? It is the video of a huge crowd of the young and the old chanting “Give us Biafra” before a swag-savvy Nnamdi Kanu with a designer walking stick. That is the face of the Igbo nation. His image has continued to loom large over the land and over the peace of Nigeria. Is it because the president is not around that the young man walks majestically? If Buhari were around, what would he do or what should he do? What happens if Nnamdi Kanu fulfills his promise of no election again in Igboland beginning with Anambra governorship election this November? The other time he ordered every Igbo man to stay indoors and his word was law everywhere. What will be our response to the spectacle of a whole region refusing to vote for a president in 2019? We move on running the country without them? And how do we handle that zone staying away from electing governors, senators, Reps and state legislators in a democracy? Kanu’s demand is a referendum. Should that be a difficult thing to do in a federation? Who has the powers to grant that wish? The president or the Senate or who? Or we simply watch as he gives himself that power to call for a vote of confidence in his dream Biafra?

How about the threat to expel the Igbo from the North by October 1? Nigeria has asked the Igbo to ignore the quit order. It is not good for everybody. An exodus will mortally assail the nation’s fabric. We cannot afford it. But Northern Nigeria has a reputation for keeping deadly promises. It solemnly kept one in 1953 with the Kano riots which broke out on 15 May.  Blood and tears flooded the drains of Kano. Over what? Independence motion! By the time peace returned on May 18, thirty-six people were officially declared dead and 241 wounded.  There were the more notorious riots of 1966 which claimed 306 lives and injured 650 with 1006 arrested across North’s nine provinces. Several other deadly events from the North have since repeatedly blighted our humanity as a nation. It is a region that does not issue threats. It makes promises and keeps them. But there are assurances from the state that this one is not a promise to be kept. It is a mere threat which the law would handle. So, what are we supposed to do that has not been done? Can the innocent trust the law and the government and ignore this latest ultimatum?

In times of crisis as this, is there a role for the representatives of the people to take? Why really do we have the National Assembly if it cannot do something about this? The states over which Nnamdi Kanu now rules have senators and Reps. Why are these persons not saying and doing anything to push back from the precipice? Or have they submitted their mandate to the IPOB and its Commander-in-Chief? How about the Houses of Assembly in the northern states where the shocking ultimatum came from? If they are complicit in the crisis, where are the others from the other states? Or do they think war knows ethnic boundaries? Somebody told me I have someone representing me in the Senate. I replied that I don’t think so – and I am serious. Do I have? Who is he? When last did you hear or see your own senator take a stand on any issue? He won’t take any stand because he fears a raid of his fortress by the police, the SSS or the EFCC. Your senator is silent because of what is in his throat. Overeating leads to constipation – then vomiting follows! He knows. The lawmaker, not the president, is the mainframe of democracy anywhere. But where are ours? If you ask citizens of Arizona in the United States about their senator, the glint in their eyes will tell you how proud they are of Senator John McCain. A week ago, the old man threatened to block President Donald Trump’s nominee for Deputy Secretary of Defence because the man did not satisfy him with his answers on how to respond to Russian aggression: “Inexplicably, you responded by saying you have to look at the issue. Not a good beginning. Not a good beginning. Do not do that again, Mr. Shanahan, or I will not take your name up for a vote before this committee…That’s not satisfactory…would you wish to abridge or amend your statement?” The nominee sat up and took a position. He amended his statement. That was a senator in a senate. Is it true that here, money speaks at all times? The Senate anywhere is not supposed to be a museum of mummified cadavers. Many go to our senate now to sleep or fiddle with whatever. I can see only one who does not slumber in that chamber. Dino does not sleep. He also makes sure he disrupts the contagious sleep in that Camber. (Un)fortunately, there are moves to sack him.  If the recall process succeeds, who then takes his place or we just submit ourselves to a senate of dozing dudes and absentee members? Meanwhile, as we grapple with the problem of a president long convalescing abroad and that of a senate without fire, the nation threatens to burn. Do we wait until we roast in the stew of the current madness criss-crossing the nation?

So, what do we do with the war cries rending the air? Do we just plug the ears and pretend the noise is not there while we march towards a grim October 1? We did that before and what were the results? Do we just “forget our differences….” as Zik once suggested or go with Ahmadu Bello who asked us to “understand our differences” so that “we can build unity in our country”? Or we just surrender as Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa did in 1948 with his famous statement that “Nigerian unity is only a British intention for the country”? Why is it difficult for us to agree to a renegotiation of the terms of our union? Will a renegotiation of those terms bring lasting peace? If it won’t, what will?

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