Here we go again! The other time, it was our friend and information minister, Labaran Maku who dropped the bombshell. In the heat of the last presidential election campaigns, the former table-banging student leader gloomily warned Nigerians to expect trouble if his principal, President Goodluck Jonathan, was not elected. Maku’s logic, queer as they come, was that the Niger delta militants would turn the country on its head if a Nigerian outside the oil-rich Niger delta region was elected president! It did not bother Maku that, even if he feels safe in Abuja and could book a seat on the next presidential flight out of Nigeria, ostensibly in search of peace, he will be leaving behind friends and compatriots to carry the can in the event his prediction came true. It probably did not bother our fast-talking friend that in nearby Nasarawa-Eggon, he will be leaving behind family members to bear the consequences of a careless talk.
Similar careless talks surfaced before and after Maku’s queer logic. From instance, page 58 of The Guardian Newspaper of Monday, January 9, 2012 carried a one-page advertorial titled A call to protect the president. The advertorial, the product of some fictitious security reports, spoke of a plot by ‘retired senior military and security officers who are working with some-serving officers (and) some powerful opportunistic businessmen’ to assassinate President Jonathan, Senate president, General David Mark, former National Security Adviser, late General Owoye Azazi among other ‘very senior military and security officers from the south and Middle Belt’. Prominent among the fifteen signatories who claimed to be speaking on behalf of the nations and peoples of the Niger Delta on the need for ‘the eventual re-inventing of Nigeria’ was Mujahid Asari Dokubo, a self-confessed former terrorist. Well, you got another think coming if you thought supposedly authentic leaders of the Niger Delta would condemn the hare-brained thesis; some did, of course, but those that should matter, indeed some supposedly authentic leaders of the Niger, including some in the evening of their lives applauded what should normally be condemned either as juvenile delinquency or an indulgence of the youthfulness.
Asari Dokubo has been in the news again. Few days back, he upped the antenna, warning there will be war if President Jonathan is not re-elected in 2015. There will always be the temptation to ignore Asari Dokubo whose best credential is being a self-confessed terrorist and saboteur. But he cannot be ignored because he just repeated what Labaran Maku said in 2011. Let’s attempt a comparison of both men. Maku and Asari Dokubo are fighters; as a student leader, one shouted a luta continua from campus rooftops in pursuit of student rights while the other, as an insurgent shouted a luta continua from the inhospitable creeks of the Niger Delta in pursuit of native rights. But that is about all the comparison that could be made because under normal circumstances, both men are parallel lines that should not meet.
As a student leader and later in life as a journalist, Maku believed in and, lived the Nigerian project. Give it to him: Maku had and, probably, still have little patience for those compatriots who speak glibly of a break up of the fatherland and would never touch violence even with a ten-metre pole. If he ever came near a gun, it was probably that of the police orderly attached to his office first, as deputy governor of Nasarawa state and now as minister of information. Let’s turn back the hands of the clock: two and half decades ago, Maku would have been in the vanguard of a nationwide protest against the likes of Asari Dokubo whose choose violence as a pastime. As a terrorist and saboteur, Asari Dokubo must have engaged in gun-running; of course, he lived by the gun and must have killed or caused others to kill. It is a sad irony of history that today, Maku inconveniently finds himself on the same platform with Asari Dokubo in addition to becoming an unofficial adviser to people who promote divisive tendencies that threaten the unity of the country. And, why not? His 2011 open threat has become the execrable tonic that enamoured Asari Dokubo and his gang in their attempt to hold the nation by its jugular.
In the midst of the security challenges facing Nigeria, nobody expects careless utterances that serve to further polarise the country. Blackmail comes cheap but, even at that, this particular one is headed for the record books. There is always a problem when reasonable members of society, for whatever reasons, quit the stage for blackmailers. It happened in the south west in those days of the struggle to actualise June 12 when some starry-eyed youngsters, led by Gani Adams hijacked the struggle. The day the police picked Adams up with his bagful of charms, Mike Okiro, then Lagos state police commissioner said trailing Adams looked seemingly difficult because the young man was a vagabond with no known responsible friends in society. That was the man many people in the supposedly better -informed south west chose to do business with ahead of Dr. Frederick Fasehun. Funny! Up north, a similar funny drama is playing itself out. Prominent citizens, among them religious, political and community leaders are either providing cover for bandits or have simply clammed up, in preference for the back seat forgetting that when good people belt up, they create room for bad people with unconventional interpretation of responsibility to take the initiative. Soon, the views of a criminal few, weird as they are, are often mistaken to mean the views of the majority.
Nigerians must be getting sick with people who shoot before warning. Is it the new fad in town? Which sensible person, in the name of elections, wants to spill the blood of others? When, on earth, did resource control or lack of it become a criterion for election into public office? And, by the way, who wants the president dead? Pray! Are these so-called brothers and friends of the president playing out an already scripted book? Who ever told terrorists and other social misfits that the president does not enjoy the support of Nigerians outside the Niger Delta? Has it ever struck somebody that, if other Nigerians reason like these so-called friends of the president, nobody from the Niger Delta would become president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria even if all Niger Deltans at home and abroad, not even if the under-aged are allowed to vote? These posers should agitate the mind because the hot air and threats ahead of 2015 appear to be confirming that many things went wrong with the last presidential election. Otherwise, what we seem to be saying now is that those ordinary people in far-flung places in Monguno, Moniya and Mbaise, who shunned religious and ethnic considerations in 2011 to queue behind President Jonathan, at the expense of their own, either made a mistake or, did not actually vote for the president!
We are not yet at Golgotha. Until we get there and for God sakes, let no former terrorist who took up arms against the fatherland, whether repentant or not, threaten Nigerians with war if the next election does not favour their own. The president must hear this: it is about time to rein-in those who see a link between his ambition and violence by harping on his 2011 declaration that his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian! Of course, Nigerians expect their country to be re-invented in line with basic tenets of democracy; not on the template of terrorists.
Abdulrazaq Magaji is based in Abuja, Nigeria, and can be reached at [email protected]