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Our power is greater than theirs

(Columnist)

 

In his inauguration address, President Muhammadu Buhari correctly captured our successor-leaders as spoilt children who broke everything and brought disorder to our house.

For a leader not known for flowery prose, tonal seduction, charm and beauty of the oracular, and for the poetry of language, he came to his own like a poet possessed by his muse, by the moment and delivered his memorable address.

He didn’t disappoint those who, in their most joyous moments, thronged the Eagle Square to witness a baton change only true seers and prophets would have foreseen and foretold.

He didn’t disappoint, at least going by those words which resonated with the hopes of his compatriots.

He delivered his punch lines like a poet who usually finds rhythm in the ovation of his audience, claps accompanying words, heads nodding with approval, eyes beckoning more punch lines, while rounding up on our successor-leaders, elites, profiteers, fifth columnists, and all that is wrong with our country, thus: ” In recent times Nigerian leaders appear to have misread our mission. Our founding fathers… worked to establish certain standards of governance. They might have differed in their methods or tactics or details, but they were united in establishing a viable [and progressive] country. Some of their successors behaved like spoilt children breaking everything and bringing disorder to the house”.

His depiction of the political high and mighty who behaved like spoilt children smashing doors and windows of our collective home, breaking the peace, highlights some of the dangers confronting us today.

The dangers are everywhere. Step into our streets there you will find the poor, disheveled, denied access to the benefits of citizenship. There are those eking out their lives, searching out livelihoods, means of surviving our ever-diminishing economy, and who feel cheated by the high and mighty living off the commonwealth.

Here, the high and mighty are kings, they are legion- for they are many. There, they do no wrong, even in the face of the law. They lay ladders into the hellholes of poverty, so our poor can climb down and disappear into the darkening depths.

They have no interest in taking our country out of poverty, nor the poor out of penury.

How the poor sink deeper into hellholes is all that matters to them.

GOD PUNISH THEM.

I am not weaseling falsehood, here, or things we don’t already know. At Least, we are witnesses of moral corruption – going by the ugly indignities that make citizenship meaningless, the arrogance of power – going by the corruption of everything, including governance values and principles, the timeworn truth that elected public servants derive their powers from the people- we are witnesses of the odious things they do, those bad behaviors public servant exhibit that disconnect them from the people.

At least, we bear testimonies to the faces at the bottoms of the wells of our cities, towns, villages and hamlets and the permanence of anguish, to paraphrase the title of Professor Derrick Bell’s influential work, “Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism”.

Kings can do no wrong. They can commit acts, omissions or crimes no law can inquire into. They are all-powerful. They are above the law. Or, they are the law, better put, power and law are rolled into them. They are the prosecutors of their own causes.

They are the judges of their consciences.

There are no limits to their power. The power they deploy is like the cane a heartless husband uses on his poor wife. Citizens who occupy the higher rungs of the ladder of society are not immune to them- in fact, they relive their chilling experiences the same way poor citizens relive theirs when they shine their chains in the meridian sun.

Here in this house, a hundred flowers wither and a thousand school of thought perish.

WHO BORN MONKEY WEY NOR KNOW THE PLACE OF THE BABOON AT THE TABLE OR THE FOOD TREE?

Ask Joan Mrakpor, member of the House of Representatives, who was slapped by the security details of the Comptroller General of Prisons, Dr. Peter Ezenwa Ekpendu.

Her status didn’t matter. Neither did her gender, nor the hallowed grounds of the House of Representatives. She was slapped for overtaking the convoy of our chief warder.

The action of the warders exposes the face behind the mask of power and moral bankruptcy of those who treat the moral terms of the social contract that bind governors and the governed with utter contempt.

Only Retired AVM Nura Imam exposes the mask of power better.

Hear him: “officers of the Air force, and indeed the armed forces, are trained to have the instincts of a mad dog. Sometimes when they don’t act, their masters are not always happy”.

Recall that time- a long time ago now- when the mad dogs of the Air Force held and barked at the family of late MKO Abiola over a road rage incident that involved one of his sons. That time their masters were happy just as the Comptroller General of Prisons is happy today.

Democracy lends itself out, first, as a bulwark; and, second, as a countervailing ideology, as a check on those who corrupt the political and governance environment. The idea that kings do no wrong has no place in a constitutional democracy.

In fact democracy delimits the powers of kings, and subjects them to the scrutiny of the constitution and the law.

A true democracy not only centers the imperatives of morality, but also matches public conducts, performances, actions and inactions of public servants against the moral and ethical dictates of institutional and governance frameworks and mechanisms worthy of their names and places. Here, no individual is above the law. No individual can supplant moral precepts for the immoral.

It isn’t for nothing that democracy is seen as “the government of the people, by the people, and for the people”. Flowers bloom and thoughts flourish in a democracy when the Lincolnian type defends its representative character, levels and deepens the playing field.

The power which resides in the people in a representative democracy is greater than the power representatives of the people exercise.

A river cannot be greater or purer than its source. Our public servants cannot be more important than our citizens. When public servants behaving badly smear reason with their putrid excrements, shadow our doorsteps and pee into our sleeping quarters, we must remind them of the power which lies in us that is greater than theirs, we must refuse to be the doormats they wipe their feet on.

WE MUST ACT.

The high and mighty “behave like spoilt children breaking everything and bringing disorder to the house” because there are no consequences for their actions, there are no sanctions, no reprimand for nuisance, and there are no moral and ethical beacons to guide them in the darkness of the house.

Rhetoric isn’t the shorthand of action, neither is it a substitute for what is to be done. Rhetoric is what it is- the art of discourse, which only achieves its essential canon of delivery by making our successor-leaders less of spoilt children.

President Buhari has to bring order to this house by ensuring that public servants who abuse our collective values are shown the door. This can only happen when he walks it like he talks it.

Why is the Comptroller General of Prisons still on the job?

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