His story reads like the biblical Joseph. General Olusegun Mathew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo was vocal about the human rights abuses of the Abacha regime. He was tried and sentenced by a military panel set up by the then Head of State, General Sani Abacha. A death sentence was awarded which was later commuted to 30 years imprisonment.
Obasanjo was released after Abacha’s death. Much as Obasanjo was Abacha’s victim, he had between 1976 and 1979 been accused of human rights violation and political repression. During his rule, Fela Kuti, the Nigerian musician and political activist, had his house raided and burned after a member of Fela’s crew got involved in an altercation with military personnel. Fela and members of his family were beaten and raped while Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Fela’s mum, was killed by being thrown from a window.Funmi’s coffin was later taken to Obasanjo’s barracks as protest against political repression.
Obasanjo’s family also felt the brunt of his action. In 1987 for instance, his second wife/ex-wife, Lynda, was reported to have been ordered out of her car by armed men, and was fatally shot for failing to veer off in time.
There is an incident which would come across as eerily familiar and a close replica of what is happening now. On June 3rd, 2005, Alhaji Mustapha Jokolo, the 19th Emir of Gwandu, was deposed. Governor Adamu Aliero reportedly acted under the powers conferred on him by Section 6 and 7 of the Chiefs Appointment and Deposition Law of the State on the grounds that: Jokolo was complex in character rather than the simplicity expected of his status, issued reckless statements capable of threatening national security, was not in good terms with other traditional rulers in the State, abandoned his throne for Kaduna and openly berated President Obasanjo and lampooned his administration’s policies.
In December, 2014, the High Court sitting in Kebbi State ordered the reinstatement of Alhaji Jokolo on the grounds that Governor Aliero did not follow due process of first issuing a query then calling the kingmakers to deliberate and endorse whatever activities he intended to take. The Appeal Court in a unanimous decision in 2016 reaffirmed the High Court’s decision on the grounds that fair hearing had been breached. The Court ordered the payment of Jokolo’s 10 year emoluments and his reinstatement.
Fast forward to 2017, Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the outspoken and sharp government critic is being investigated over what is described as financial misconduct and corruption .The Monarch had accused the Buhari-led government of corruption and doling out foreign exchange to the President’s friends and cronies. He has been loquacious against the effect of polygamy by poor families which he described as the reason crime and terrorism was on the increase in Northern Nigeria. Sanusi has also recommended the building of more schools than mosques to increase access to education.
The Emir who delivered a keynote address at the KADINVEST in Kaduna in April criticized conservative leaders of his region, the northern region, describing it as a complete failure of social policy and a fight against culture and civilization. His comments drew ire from various circles. Over two weeks after his comment, an investigation was opened against him by the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti- Corruption Commission inviting the emirate’s secretary and treasurer to appear before it on the emirate’s finances while legal advice that the emir be suspended to allow for diligent investigation was presented to Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, the Kano State Governor.
While it would be awkward to draw common latitudes between Emir Jokolo and Emir Sanusi, one common thread that runs through the story is the emerging fact that a monarch is entitled to be seen but not heard. That it is ok to take in the exhibition of equestrian skill and prowess of royalty, hold unto the Gajere and nod to the authority of the Tambura but not speak. It would appear that the freedom of expression goes into abeyance with royalty.
Without holding brief for Sanusi who in any case is bright enough to tell his story and influential enough to put up his defense retinue, the point must be made that no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. Too often our leaders dwell in the fringe zone where the law is created from the allure of the power of the moment and a refusal to move with the dynamics and realities of the times. The law becomes what the ruler deems it to be. No thought is given to the fact that what goes around may just as well come around.
Take for instance the throwback to President Buhari’s statement in 2010 when as one who had ran for presidency with President Musa Yar’adua he declared that the only solution to the political uncertainty at the time was for the national assembly to set machineries in motion for the impeachment of ailing President Musa Yar’adua. Today, the tables have turned with various quarters calling for the resignation of President Buhari or a negotiated exit on the grounds of ill health. The Nigeria Medical Association has equally called on the President to make his health status public.
As it was in the days of Yar’adua so is it now that the health of the President is shrouded in secrecy. We now hear terms like the President’s handlers. We hear description of a cabal. What is happening now has happened before. It must be to this tragic legal psychology that the poet mused: Things will soon change. The Hunter can become the hunted. That big, revolving, life ball moves on the same axle in such determined and familiar fashion.
It speaks to the fact that we cannot afford to make decisions from selfish spleen nor mistake motion for action. Just because there is movement does not mean we are moving in the way we should go. And it is obvious, that there is a lot of motion void of reason. Our country has not significantly changed because we have failed in our purpose. There seem to be one big canvass where the grand design of maneuvering and exploiting truth has been laid out and the more some of our leaders look at this design, the more they intensify the deception of it.
But like all journeys on an alley, the walk comes to a halt at some point. Since the sidewalk can come to an end, then our leaders ought to come to that place where decisions are taken for all the right reasons. Truth must retain its colour. The change we clamored for must change all things rightly rather than paint hypocrisy in glowing colours. It remains to be seen in the days ahead if our country will learn from history and get it right this time around.