Friday, May 04, 2007

Men, Mice, And Cheese

Often in life, there comes a time when a man is expected to stand up and be counted. To prove he is a man and not a mouse, to show some backbone, some steel in his character, and what not. It is true that most men run away from such moments with their tails firmly tucked between their legs. But, every once in a while, one man decides to stand up and bare his teeth in a fierce response to the challenge. Such men are rare, and the act of standing up usually creates legends. Indeed, a man who stands up to be counted usually inspires others around him to do the same. They draw from his courage to feed their own, and thereby he creates a chain reaction. Such men are to be found in times of great adversity for their people, and they usually lead their nations to greatness.

Sadly, we are lacking such men in Nigeria. This is not to say that there are not those among us who display remarkable courage and moral fibre in the snake pit we call our political class. Senate President Ken Nnamani is such a man. During the Third Term brouhaha, Sen. Nnamani displayed courage in ensuring the entire constitutional amendment process was transparent. Those who sought to perpetrate crimes against the Nigerian people under the cover of darkness suddenly found powerful light shone upon their criminal activities. Repeatedly, they pleaded with the Senate President to switch off the light and allow them continue, and he repeatedly reminded them that he had no such power – the Nigerian people wanted to see what was going on, and by God, he was going to make sure they did. With no place to hide, the third term advocates failed woefully to extend Baba's tenure. Naturally, Baba never forgave Nnamani for thwarting him, and resolved to embarrass him should he decide to seek re-election. Nnamani avoided that trap with great skill – he simply declared that he had no intention of running again, thereby denying Baba his pound of flesh.

During the last vote allocation exercise laughably called an election, Nnamani again showed he was on the side of the masses by speaking out against the conduct of the elections, and Baba's henchmen were quick to hurl insults at him for doing so. When Baba sought to extend the emergency rule in Ekiti State, Nnamani immediately reconvened the Senate and blocked that plan. Incandescent with rage, Baba's people began accusing Nnamani of treason. Treason! For doing his constitutional job. Nnamani has taken all this with admirable equanimity. A lesser man would have been quick to exchange words with Squealers like Frank Nweke Jr. Nnamani rather chose the higher path, and Baba's boys are still wondering how to deal with him.

Nnamani has been a true hero of Nigeria's modern history.

Prior to Nnamani, during the 1993 Elections, Henry Nwosu, then Chairman of the National Electoral Commission, also showed his heroic credentials. When he was ordered to stop releasing the results of the Presidential Elections by Maradona, he refused, and continued releasing results until his office was sealed off by soldiers. But for his bravery, M.K.O Abiola would not have known that he won the elections, and he would have had no basis for the fight for his mandate which would eventually cost him his life.

Which brings me to Maurice Iwu. A true rat among mice. He made all the right noises initially, gave some of us cause to hope. He promised to lay down his life to ensure we had credible elections, and Nigerians resolved that if he matched his stated ambitions with action, he would have our unflinching support. Some cynics told us that Iwu was being primed to fail, and no one should place any trust or hope in him. I told myself that that was said about virtually every new government appointee, and joined those who felt Iwu should be given a chance. Besides, aren't some cynics just optimists in disguise? Boy, were we disappointed. I took Chxta's advice about elections seriously – I registered to vote, something I've never bothered to do in the past, and was looking forward to participating in the electoral process, and getting a first-hand view of proceedings. But from that point onwards, it was all downhill. First of all, I never got my voter's card on the same day as advertised, but was told to return the following day. In spite of repeated visits to the registration point, my card didn't turn up. Eventually, I took the matter to a friend at the INEC Office, and was told that “perhaps” my card had ended up somewhere beyond Mararaba. I live and work in Wuse, registered to vote in Wuse, how the hell did my card end up in what is effectively Nassarawa State, with a “perhaps” attached? The bureaucratic process involved in retrieving my card would have made a saint hopping mad. Thus disenfranchised, I duly sat out the elections fuming with anger.

Throughout the gubernatorial elections, I was glued to AIT, and the reports of late arrival of voting materials, non-arrival in several parts of the country, thuggery at polling stations, etc. made me despair. The cynics were being proved right. Then the results began coming in, and I finally gave up. PDP here, PDP there, PDP everywhere. From that point on, I knew I had to accept the painful truth – the cynics were right all along. The most massively unpopular party in Nigeria was being given a clean sweep of seats everywhere. The Delta State results literally numbed the muscles of my jaw. Everyone knew Emmanuel Uduaghan had less than a snowball's chance hell of winning that election, yet he was being declared the winner by such an extravagantly comfortable margin.

It made me wonder about the nature of power and men. Prior to the elections, Maurice Iwu sounded like the man for the job. I hoped he would draw from the courageous examples of those around him, men like Nnamani and Nwosu, but as the elections got closer and closer, Maurice began saying the wrong things, doing the wrong things. He began setting off alarm bells amongst all pro-democracy people in the country. INEC suddenly transformed itself into the mouthpiece of the PDP, and Maurice became an extension of Baba.

Now that he's “delivered”, I have only one question for Professor Iwu – did they pay you in silver or cheese, you rat f***?

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I love my country, enjoy a cold beer once in a while, rabidly support Arsenal FC, but I don't get Diet Coke...