By Anthony Kolawole
In the past weeks Nigerians have become victims of the people that should ordinarily lead them. Instead of being shown ways to become better persons citizens are being encouraged to become believers in jungle justice as some so called leaders of thought attempt to change the laws of the land to “guilty until proven innocent”.
Since the story of Dubai property ownership by the Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) emerged, the chant for citizens to constitute themselves into a lynch mob has grown to the point of drowning reasoning. Not even the clarifications by the Army authorities that the said houses were paid for in instalment from personal savings could stop those demanding a sack from frothing in the mouth. Buratai’s ownership of a farm, which the law allows, has been completely disregarded in order to sustain the argument that the Dubai assets are way above his means.
In the initial stages, those pulling the puppet strings mostly hid in the background like the demonic spirits of a haunted house. Some so called investigative news site have been recruited to pass off the raked muck as ‘exclusive’ stories that were thoroughly investigated. Only that both sponsors and carriers of the information outdid themselves and forgot to do some basic toning down to hold back the class of information that only state resources could unlock.
Equally overlooked was the need to isolate earlier political discontents that have been ventilated in other contexts. Using Buratai to raise question marks about President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption credentials is like a giant neon sign pointing the direction from where the missiles are being fired from. Knowing where the missiles are coming from also gives a clear hint of who occupies that exact spot so the evil people after Buratai’s job are finally crawling out of the woodwork.
No, they are actually sprinting out of the woodwork if the events of the second week of July are anything to go by. In just a few hours, several NGOs, news platforms and people once regarded as conscientious seemed to have read from the same script in tying Buratai’s incumbency despite the allegations to the credibility of President Buhari’s anti-corruption fight. This is particularly so when the affiliations of the NGOs supporting this clamour are well known. They are tied to the same master that the vocal anti-Buratai commentators report to.
Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN); Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN); Second Republic House of Representatives member, Dr. Junaid Mohammed; Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, and the National Publicity Secretary of the National Advance Party, Mr. Tosin Odeyemi were among those that made demands for Buratai’s sack. The list of media organisations that made their editorial columns available for the onslaught was equally long.
A closer look would however reveal that some of those making the calls did so because they find it fashionable to align with the trend. It is their own version of intoning the hallelujah chorus so as to be seen as conforming with the nation’s mood towards corruption. Unfortunately, this has proven to be a grave mistake for they are echoing the voices of paid singers whose actual music conductors are hidden in the woodworks of the opera house.
Take for instance, Mr Femi Falana (SAN). He has been disenchanted with the Buhari administration since his name came nowhere near making the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice contrary to the street lore that projected him for the office. His disparaging the current government began within days of not making the cabinet. In the absence of that coveted post, his next likely opportunity at coming close to the public till as a political office holder is to gun for the Ekiti state governorship seat soon to be vacated by the cantankerous Ayodele Fayose, and even prematurely so if Falana can railroad anti-corruption agencies to violate the constitution as he is currently doing.
But not being a versatile politician, the human rights lawyer’s best shot is to have the All Progressives Congress’ (APC) governorship ticket allocated to him as opposed to contesting for it and the lord in charge of that needs Buratai out of office to create one more vacancy for a proxy (this should ensure his camp keep President Buhari under thumb). For something as life changing as a governorship ticket, one can then understand why Falana joined the “bring down Buratai” mob. His desperation should be pitied rather than condemned. The man has to negotiate or arrange a state pension for himself especially now that the anti-corruption fight is drying up slush funds from his clients.
If Falana typifies those calling for Buratai’s head on a platter for personal gains, the position of Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) depicts those whose good intentions are being twisted to satisfy the interest of the first group. Ozekhome wants the COAS to be sacked only if found guilty after a fair trial. For him, the Chief of Army Staff should undergo trial while still serving as a military officer to prove that the government’s anti-corruption war is not targeted at profiled opponents. Another legal luminary, Mr. Yusuf Ali (SAN) and the Executive Director of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumumi, are of the opinion that Buratai should only be asked to resign or be sacked only after being indicted by a thorough investigation.
These bright minds have good intentions in stating these positions but they must be wary of the evil hiding in the woodworks. They must become conscious to the fact that the ultimate target is to either cripple or hijack President Buhari’s government. If the nation succumbs to this blackmail of the Army Chief it must be ready for the next victim of this evil camp, and the next and the next and infinitum.
What must happen is clear as daylight. All those that have spoken up out of genuine concern for transparency in the country must confront the paid activists to know what they really want. They must ensure that when we add our voices to demand accountability we are not unknowingly implementing the agenda of a group that is intent cornering the country for its selfish goals. If they know they genuinely have facts to prove wrong doing, the puppet masters should boldly step out of the woodworks since their puppets are already dancing shamelessly in the public square.
*Kolawole is a University lecturer writing from Keffi, Nasarawa State.