By Dele Momodu
“A lost nation is not one which lacks a ruler, but one that lacks law. Distortion of law does not mean there is no law. It means there is law but it is not applied.” – Law Definition – Duhaime’s Law Dictionary
My dear Uncle Yemi, please, permit me to cut out the protocols and address you the way I always do. I have looked up to you as a big Brother for many, many years. I have the highest respect and regard for you personally and for your accomplishments as an academic, religious and political leader (please, note that I did not say politician, because I do not see you as one. You are honest, forthright and loyal unlike most politicians). I must also congratulate you on your election with President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term of office, even if I have reservations about the sloppy conduct of the election. I have never hidden my admiration for your commendable performance in office during your first term. You have been the major embellishment and strongest advocate of this government.
I know this open letter must come to you as a surprise because I have unlimited access to you on my own accord, and through family and friends. We’ve actually met a few times privately since you became Vice President. I have chosen to go public with this letter because it is not about you personally, even though it is addressed to you, but because it is about matters of a public nature that concerns you and your government. There may be lessons to be learnt by others apart from you. At those times when we have met one on one, I was able to express myself candidly to you. Our last private meeting was a secluded one, in Ikoyi, Lagos which happily was witnessed by one of your aides, Pastor Laolu Akande. At that meeting, when you and I sat and discussed for a considerable period of time, I had expressed serious reservations about the direction your government was headed, and you asked if it was that bad and I responded that it was “much worse.”
I have decided to write you today, Sir, after writing similar letters to your boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, in the past, without eliciting positive results. Our discussions have always been about our uncommon passion for Nigeria and not about anything personal. Long before you became Vice President, I had stumbled on you at Heathrow Terminal 3 one evening, and naturally, our interaction dovetailed to the State of the Nigerian nation. We were both concerned about the lack of progress and the usual sundries. By the grace of God, you are now the number two citizen of Nigeria, by virtue of your position as Vice President. I was very excited the day you were selected and even more so, the day you officially won the election. We all expected a new Nigeria, indeed. Our expectations were high.
As days climbed days and months mounted months, things began to fall apart. The last four years became a grand mirage of blame games. I watched you speak at different events and on varying platforms and could not believe how much blames you heaved on past governments without remembering that many of the called past actors are now in your party, warts and all. Things seemed to improve admirably whenever you acted as President. The sanity in the land was palpable. You took right decisions and made efforts to reach out to all Nigerians of different persuasions, tribes and tongues. Everyone praised you for your modern and cosmopolitan style of governance and the way you have embraced technology. But whenever the President resumed work, it seemed the unbridled conservatism and rigidity returned with him in full force, and with renewed vigour. Your exciting forward movement always appeared to go backwards, in reverse gear. It was as if some people were angry about your success and the relative peace and prosperity that you managed to secure.
I did not expect you to do anything other than to keep supporting your boss and espousing his policies. You’ve always been absolutely loyal and dependable since serving Prince Bolasodun Ajibola in the Attorney-General’s office, through to being Attorney-General, yourself, in the Lagos State Government of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and up to now as Vice President to President Muhammadu Buhari. This is commendable. My worry, and main reason, for writing you publicly today is because of the recklessness of your government in the last few months in its dealings with the Nigerian people. The immediate cause of this epistle is the issue of the ongoing elections. Nigerians had looked forward to these elections with both excitement and trepidation. The energy many put into it was unbelievable. Even after the first date was postponed, many still went out, against all odds, to exercise their rightful franchise. But what did they meet out there? A simple election was turned into an act and theatre of war. Many innocent souls were killed, wasted, maimed or injured. Properties were mindlessly destroyed including those of the umpire, INEC. There were reported cases of rape of INEC officials and some were forced under duress, at gun points, to declare fake or falsified results. In Lagos, your adopted home State, many voters were disenfranchised through malevolent beatings. Ballot boxes with ballot papers were seized and smashed and scattered into the wild winds or raging inferno. Yet, the security people, with all the braggadocio of the President could do nothing more than to watch the thugs of their own masters go on rampage, unhindered. Contrary to the provisions of the electoral laws, many States voted without their PVC or the card reader machines that were meant to capture data and reduce the usual electoral malpractices and general rascality, because they were faulty or unutilised, or deliberately ignored.
After all was said and done, your Party was declared winner of the controversial election by INEC. The election was rated among the most dreadful and despicable ever in the history of Nigeria. Despite this fact, I was one of the first to call on the opposition leader, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to rise above everything else and transfer the burden to your government by following the new tradition that was established by former President Goodluck Jonathan despite the fact that President Buhari had stated whether jocularly or seriously, we do not know, that he can never lose the election, so he would never have to congratulate his opponent!
Anyway. My painful and difficult request to Atiku was predicated on my good knowledge of our dear country. One. I didn’t want any violence to break out with more innocent people being killed. Two. I liked the example of former President Al Gore in America, who after fulfilling all righteousness, by calling his opponent, George W. Bush, still went to court, even if it was more of an academic exercise. 3. I have learnt some lessons from the wisdom of the Yoruba which says when your home is invaded by an armed robber, there is no point getting killed when you can pretend to be weak before you fight back later. Also, when a lunatic invades your wedding and says he is the groom of the day, don’t argue with, please tell him he is, and guide him out gently for you to continue your ceremony. 4. There were lessons to learn from how the June 12 crisis was handled and Atiku should know that most of his supporters will soon disappear in a short while due to various reasons, sometimes due to no fault of theirs but practical expediency and self-preservation. It seems to me that no government, in recent memory, has terrorised the opposition more than yours with a fickle and skewed campaign against corruption. Many have discovered and devised a practical strategy, join them and live in peace and prosperity, and the binge continues. 5. I have read a lot of books and interventions by your grandfather-in-law, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and most of the travails and prejudices he encountered then are still very much with us.
I have no doubt that the elections were not free and fair. I must hasten to add that both sides were apparently guilty of ensuring that this was the case. Not much has changed in Nigeria in this regard. I always say that people are able to rig in areas where they have the most influence. Nobody, least of all me, expected the elections to be perfect, but this one bordered on the ridiculous and, I daresay, was arrant nonsense. My grouse, and that of many people, including local and international election observers, was about the wickedness and intimidation visited upon the opposition by the excessive use of the military and agents and forces of violence and coercion. They acted in a most irresponsible and perfidious manner. I am certain you will not have known or approved of these excesses because I refuse to think you knew and looked the other way. You are far more of a gentleman for that. I suspect that your Party may still have won a handsome victory without resorting to the apparent self-help that some of your Party chieftains chose to adopt, tragically. What you have today is unfortunately a contested victory, blemished by the violence which makes me sad for you, in particular, since it seems many of your people are living in denial. All I can say is best of luck because you will always have my very best wishes.
On a personal note, I have chosen to hand over everything to God. Sir, you know more than me, as a Pastor, that God is the ultimate Judge of everyone, low and high. If I have been cheated and I choose not to fight, it is not because I’m stupid or squeamish but because I expect God to intervene on my behalf. Therefore, if indeed Atiku Abubakar and others have been robbed, the judgment of God will be harsher than that of the Supreme Court. But since I wasn’t the candidate, I accept whatever measures Atiku decides to take to regain his mandate (a tall order in this clime) and whatever psychological pleasure he derives from exposing the rot and corruption perpetrated by some of your operatives. It is after all his Constitutional right to challenge the result, as President Muhammadu Buhari did on three earlier occasions when it appeared that he had been short-changed. When tomorrow comes, truth will certainly come out.
Please, don’t be deceived by the deluge of greetings that you have received, and will be receiving from both well-meaning Nigerians or soldiers of fortune. Some would do it more out of protocol than sincerity. No matter how many of the revellers visit you and your government in Aso Rock Presidential villa, those visitors will never succeed in conferring legitimacy on your government until we know what actually transpired. Or maybe we will never know, as notoriously typical of our country!
Let me also plead with you to speak to your government most frankly, if anyone would listen to your admonition. President Buhari and his cronies should not over-celebrate and over-dramatise this pyrrhic victory. It is a victory littered with human blood. What you need urgently is to beg God to forgive all those who spilled innocent blood because they must remain in power. I can see that your Party’s army of occupation is still going on rampage in the South South of Nigeria, as if we are in a State of war. I read the article by the brilliant journalist, Comfort Obi, about the state of anarchy in the South South and I had tears in my eyes. Is it that there is more than this proclivity for power to control minds over matter? All parties and persons involved in this higgledy-piggledy need to sit back and remember how transient power is. What shall it profit a man who inherits the whole world but perishes in hell?
I just needed to pour out my heart to you, Sir. Instead of committing more sin by the way your government continues to pummel Atiku and his friends, I beg you to prevail on your people and the Party to be temperate and show great magnanimity in victory. The clock is ticking.
My warmest regards to you and yours, as always…
By Dele Momodu