By: Mike Ozekhome San
For over three weeks, Nigerians waited with bated breath (Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice”), suspended animation and cryogenics, as to who would be the presidential candidate of the PDP. The APC’s presidential candidate, sitting president, Muhammadu Buhari, had been known for over six months.
I had predicated long ago, even before he indicated interest, that no one in the APC would dare contest against him. It was simply inconceivable that mere mortals would dare contest against their sacred deity, nay, their “sinless” and “stainless” god, at whose altar they worship and offer sacrifices, atonement and oblation. His cult-like followership conceives him as the lamb of God who taketh away the sins of Nigeria. they argue that he is imbued with a redemptive messianism. Buhari’s party, the APC as presently constituted, is a fierce, ruthless amalgam of strange bed fellows, ensconced in a cabalistic coven that broods no opposition, dissent, or plurality of opinions. Any perceived disagreement by a member is treated as high treason against the bacchanalian gods and patriarchs of the party that must be ruthlessly squashed and vanquished.
TURNING AMBODE TO NOBODY
When Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State took the unusual detour of challenging his godfather and benefactor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, it was simply the hubris and swagger of a man stupidly wrestling with his personal Chi. I knew what the outcome would be, and I said so loudly. I knew that the Jagaban would reduce Ambode from “somebody” to “nobody”. Tinubu had been bitten twice; in Ondo (Akeredolu’s emergence against his will and his preference for Olusegun Abraham); and in Lagos (Fashola’s three-ministeries-in-one cache, just to humiliate him). He knew that no tested General loads the gun, cocks and lowers it without shooting, just because of genuflections and pleas by interested parties. Such a general would have displayed his archiles heel, and his opponents would pierce it with éclat and flourish.
So, Tinubu detonated the “Ogbunigwe” bomb against Ambode. In an election in which Ambode stood no chance at all (never mind his later “gra-gra”, swash buckling, and chivalrous grandstanding). Notwithstanding his name calling of Jide Sanwo-Olu as a fake dollar fraudster and psychiatric patient who went through rehabilitation), little known Sanwo-Olu scored 970,851 humongous votes to silence Ambode’s miserly 72,901.
The very APC NWC panel which had been sent from Abuja to supervise the election, cried blue murder. Former Cross River state Governor, Clement Ebri (a gentleman per excellence), who headed the castrated panel, sulked and literally wept. He cried foul, arguing that the very ballot papers and membership slips which were to be used for the election had not even been distributed. But, the APC Lagos state chairman, Tunde Balogun, demurred.
He urged Lagosians to go and vote with only APC membership ID Cards, a step Ambode had kicked against, as he argued it would disenfranchise his teeming supporters. In politics, anything goes. Fair is foul and foul is fair (witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth), Act 1, scene 1). Ebri had nonetheless gone ahead and invalidated the primaries, as he posited the NWC never authorised the exercise. He said it violated laid down modalities, including the turning in of the list of officials that would supervise the election.
What gentleman Ebri did not reckon with was that the fight was well beyond him. It was dirty “roforofo” fight for the soul, heart, pulse and more importantly, purse, of Lagos state, the richest state in Nigeria; a state whose monthly IGR alone is enough to cater for the entire annual budget of some other states. It was a fight for power, influence, and more significantly, relevance in 2019. So, Ebri was crippled enough to eat his words, bite the humble pie, and later cajoled to personally declare Sanwo-Olu the winner of the controversial election.
The APC leadership had made it clear to him he was sent to Lagos to merely “supervise” and not to “organize” the governorship elections. Such is Nigerian politics, sorry politricks. Such is the intoxicating effect of power, a stimulant and aphrodisiac (Henry Kissinger). With power, you can access cheep money, fame, wealth and more power.
X – RAYING THE APC AND PDP PRIMARIES
Rewind to Atiku and Buhari. Let’s first inquire into the mode of emergence of Buhari and Atiku as presidential candidates of the APC and PDP, respectfully. The former’s primaries was vulgar, outrageous, ugly. It insulted the sensibilities and self-esteem of Nigerians. Buhari, the sole candidate, against whom no serious person dared contest, allegedly polled 14.8M votes to emerge the candidate.
Even Aisha, his wife, has since pooh-poohed the APC primaries, describing them in very strong words as “unfair and lacking in integrity”.
Asiha, who is 2016, had cried out about a powerful cabal holding her husband hostage, and in 2017, described the abysmal lack of health facilities in the Aso Villa Clinic, wondered how “such impunity could take place under his (APC chairman’s) watch”. She immediately dissociated herself from “such unfairness, be neutral and speak for the voiceless”. Aisha should know better, even if PMB merely regards her as the woman “in za oza (in the other) room”.
This is not all. A coalition of five other APC presidential Aspirants have also decried Buhari’s victory. Nigerians have been gasping for breath to decipher how Buhari could have singly-handedly harvested a bumper 14,842,072 votes at an only APC primaries, which was merely affirmed by only 7000 delegates at Eagle square, Abuja. Nigerians are wondering how Buhari polled a colossal 2,931,235 votes from only 484 wards of the 44 LGAs of Kano State alone. Governor Ganduje of Kano state had told a bewildered nation that Kano state which had posted only 1.9 million votes for Buhari just barely 3 years ago), now, suddenly has 3,720,000 registered voters, out of which Buhari alone garnered a galactic 2,931,235 votes in an uncontested primary! Nigerians wonder how one million voters could have emerged suddenly in only three years. Nigerians are scratching their heads because in 2015, the entire votes Buhari scored in the nationwide election were 15,424,921 (53.95%). And 3 years later, he is getting from only his party, humongous votes which are a mere 582,849 less than his 2015 national haul? Many Nigerians are contending that the rigging of 2019 election has actually commenced and is being fast-tracked.
Let us now go to the main bowl of the Adokie Amiesimaka stadium, Port Harcourt. At a keenly contested election, whose transparency, integrity, freeness and fairness have been widely applauded, even by PDP critics, Atiku garnered 1,532 votes to dust his challengers – Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state (693); Senate President, Bukola Saraki (317); former Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwakwanso (158); former Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido (96).
The former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations, Kabiru Turaki, SAN, polled 65 votes, Ahmed Makarfi, former caretaker of PDP (74 votes); former Sokoto State Governor, Attahiru Bafarawa (48 votes), former Senate President, David Mark (35 votes); former Plateau state Governor, Jonah Jang (19 votes); and Dr Datti Ahmed (5 votes). The primaries were intense, engaging, and had all the trappings of a major election.
All aspirants had criss-crossed the length and breadth of Nigeria, pleading for votes. It is generally believed that the winner, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa, is the best candidate to challenge Buhari’s three years of lack luster performance, unfulfilled promises, economic stagnation, good will mismanagement, enthronement of more insecurity and fear (Boko Harm and the daily orgy by Herdsmen across Nigeria); and the geometrical escalation of corruption (2nd most corrupt country in West Africa and 148th least corrupt country in the world, courtesy 2017 Transparency International corruption perception Index).
Nigerians thus yearn for a candidate that would boldly and courageously interrogate Buhari’s opague credentials, as to why, under his very watch, Nigeria has overtaken India as the world’s poverty capital (Brookings Institution report), when in actual fact, he met a Nigeria that was the biggest economy in Africa (over $500billion, rebased economy, having overtaken South Africa).
Today, Nigeria, with a population of barely 200 million people has beaten India, with a staggering population of 1.324 billion people, as a the poverty capital of the world, with the highest number of extremely poor people. The number of poor people increases by six people per minute. Nigerians appear tired of the worn out, sing-song mantra about so called integrity, alleged fight against corruption and a simulated false defeat of still very potent Boko Haram. They have since realised that these are mere propaganda stunts, having heard it over and over again, for over 3 years, like a stuck record. They behold their lives going down the drains of wretchedness, in strangulating and asphyxiating economic quagmire.
The national euphoria about Atiku is not without foundation. In 2015, Nigerians had queued up behind Buhari, expecting a momentous and apocalyptic rebirth, economic resurgimento and earth shaking standard of living, with their welfare and security firmly protected more than ever before. They argued then, upon Buhari’s alleged lack of academic qualification (mere WAEC certificate) being questioned, that they were ready and willing to vote for Buhari, even with an Agege bread paper or NEPA bill.
Such was the national inebriation and political insobriety that when he won the presidential election, a Nigerian trekked all the way from Lagos to Abuja in celebration; while another rode a bicycle from Kaduna to Abuja. But, they have all since been greatly disappointed. Buhari has since displayed unbelievable cluelessness and total lack of capacity to govern and navigate the myriads of problems besetting Nigeria. He has even increased them, leading to mass hopelessness, haplessness, melancholy, dejection, destitution, insecurity, more corruption (now wholly privatized), abject penury and gnashing of teeth.
Never before, since the amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates to found the contraption called Nigeria, has there been so much divisiveness, hatred, nepotism, clannishness, ethnocentricism, cronyism, fascism, favouritism and mediocrity in government. It is therefore clear that Nigerians yearn for a change –a genuine change to change the change.
Those who had sworn that the PDP aspirants will come out tearing the umbrella apart, were shocked at the spirit of camaraderie, conviviality and concession of defeat by losers. Atiku strolled in, thrown up by destiny. He would, like Buhari, be having his 4th shot at the Nigerian presidency. But, can he win? Can he defeat Buhari, with the power of incumbency? Yes, Atiku can. And he will. Very easily. Here is why. Next week: How Atiku can beat Buhari.
THOUGHTS FOR THE WEEK
”Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.” (Robin S. Sharma)
“Every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path?’ If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good.” (Pope Francis)
Senator Peter Nwaoboshi’s Unlimited Lies
By Francis Udoka Ndimkoha
It was Mark Twain that was quoted to have said that “A lie can travel around the world and back again, while the truth is lacing up its boots.” This best describes the speed of light with which the lies peddled against the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, by no less a person than the Senate Committee Chairman on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, representing Delta North for a second time.
It is no longer news that the insistence of the Minister that the Forensic Audit instituted by President Muhammadu Buhari on NDDC must see the light of day has upset many interests in the Niger Delta, Chief amongst them being the various National Assembly Committees on Niger Delta. Every spanner has virtually been thrown into the works, to ensure that the audit is crushed. The desperation on the part of those alleged to have held the region hostage has reached an unimaginable crescendo as they daily churn out spurious lies, half truths, twists and turns through various media channels.
Recently, the Senate Committee Chairman on NDDC, Peter Nwaoboshi, peddled a heinous falsehood against Sen. Akpabio about a certain N300m naira fencing contract for a Polytechnic in Akwa Ibom State. It is important to begin by saying that every other allegation, founded or unfounded, against the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Akpabio and the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC, at this time, is part of the attempt to distract them from the Forensic audit which they are supervising. This fact does not, in any way, deify these personalities. No! They are humans, with their weaknesses. But they are so bent on sanitizing the NDDC, at this time, that they need our support to see through the forensic audit.
Nwaoboshi lied without recourse to the oath he swore as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to uphold the Constitution, while brandishing documents that have no substance in his allegations. It is surprising that a man who has found himself through the corridors of power for several years now is not done with such mannerisms as to deceive the public over what is a Zonal Intervention Project meant for Akpabio as Senate Minority Leader which has nothing to do with the NDDC budget as the Presidency, every year, makes provisions for the two Houses of the National Assembly.
That said, Sen. Akpabio has in response to the allegation of N300m contract, denied ever being an NDDC contractor, and insists that Zonal intervention projects of the Senate minority leader is different from NDDC budgeted projects. In real terms, zonal intervention projects of NASS are NOT done with NDDC budget. Project intervention which has a threshold for each Senator and each House of Representative member is a Federally approved Program of the NASS, annually. The Senators identify cum suggest the projects, in writing, through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). In most cases Senators do not know the companies that win the contracts after the bidding is done, by the domiciling agencies. It is therefore shameful that a high ranking Senator like Nwaoboshi would seek to bring the sacred chambers of the National Assembly to riddicule. In his bid to stop the Forensic Audit of the NDDC, he has succeeded in undermining the integrity of the Senate and by extension, the Legislature.
Such is his unparalleled desperation that he has succeeded in corrupting the Clerk of the Senate and inducing him into an inglorious path in exchange for an extension of his Service year, a move that has generated knocks against the NASS.
In fact, for a Clerk of the Senate begging for extension with retirement at his door step to release such zonal intervention letters to Peter Nwaoboshi for a press conference, with a view to deceiving the public, says a lot about how far desperate people can go to sink a good cause. Sen Nwaoboshi lied, in this case, as those contracts referred thereto were Senate Zonal intervention jobs and none has been paid for nor performed, since 2017! It is important for Nwaoboshi to also come forward with proof of payment for the purported job and effectively link the contractors to Sen. Akpabio. The supposed fencing project began and ended on that piece of paper being bandied by Nwaoboshi, unless he has added it to the 1,000 contracts awarded to his front man, Nelson Agbamuche. Otherwise, the embattled Senator should bring proof of the contract award with the name of the company to which it was awarded. Nigerians are not gullible to believe the lying Senator who has failed to show evidence of payment made to any company belonging to Akpabio or his crony. Again, is there any proof that the job has been executed?
It has become clear that many Senators were deceived to suggest projects to be executed in their constituencies, and even though they were appropriated but were never executed. Why is Nwaoboshi desperate to cover the lies even before the Auditors are through? If payments were made for such jobs as he claims, is it not proper to allow the Forensic Audit expose the real beneficiaries? Is he afraid that other lawmakers will discover his grand deception over the years where he has used his position as Senate Committee Chairman to amass voluminous, phantom contracts to himself through his proxy? Should only one Senator be running amok on National Television over a Presidential order for a Forensic Audit?
Akpabio is the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and requests for patience because in no distant time the Forensic Audit will expose those complicit in the failure of the NDDC and all who joined to impoverish the Niger Delta region. In any case what has N300m fence job got to do with N3 trillion naira fraud? Or is Senator Nwaoboshi trying to justify his 1000 NDDC contracts, as alleged by the Executive Director -Projects (EDP), NDDC, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, against him and his cohorts, Nelson Agbamuche and co? Mr. Agbamuche says the hundreds of jobs he controls do not belong to Peter Nwaoboshi who purportedly acted and continues to act on behalf of members of NASS, but what is left is for Mr. Agbamuche to prove how he won all the jobs and why he merits such quantum of jobs per year.
It is a view held in some quarters that the self-styled oracle of Delta state Politics and Senator Representing Delta North Senatorial District mistakes the Delta in Niger DELTA Development Commission (NDDC) to the effect that the commission is a property of Delta State where his brazen rascality is dreaded by those who deify him. Thus he believes he can turn NDDC into his own ATM with which he churns out emergency projects, even in time of no emergency. Nothing else explains how NDDC under his oversight supervision is committed to over 2 trillion naira concerns which has crippled the agency.
The NDDC, therefore has no regional project to its name. Only emergency repairs and aimless trainings, running into billions of naira as well as his annual contract for the supply of plastic chairs to schools. This contract which gulps over 3 billion naira annually is usually executed in his personal warehouse in Asaba and never reaches the selected schools, yet, NDDC pays in full for it. These and many more are part of sleaze already exposed by the forensic audit for which they can do anything to make sure it is never completed.
As a matter fact, Sen. Nwaoboshi who has pending cases with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) involving over 22 illegal bank accounts is also the same man who purchased The Guinea House, belonging to Delta State Government, a deal that has become subject of public outcry. This is not a man who should adorn a saintly garb and pretend to care about anything except that which enriches him.
Part of the inability of the NDDC to meet their mandate to the people is the penchant of Sen. Nwaoboshi and his counterpart in the House of Reps to sit on the NDDC budget for months into the fiscal year, until they extract some huge financial commitments from the management of the NDDC or phantom projects are padded into the budget, even if it means, as in most cases, supplanting meaningful projects in the region. This calls to question the source of the powers of a committee Chairman to adjust timeline for budget defense and presentation, as Sen. Nwaoboshi has been doing.
Just recently, the duo of Nwaoboshi and his House of Representatives counterpart without recourse to plenary, extended the deadline for the submission of the NDDC Budget for 2019, submitted it 5 weeks to its expiration, in order to ensure that it is not implemented for the selfish reason of forcing the IMC to pay for old contracts awarded by the previous Boards.
The Budget failure is simply because only two people sit in the comfort of their hotels to assign details of the Budget, thereby allocating huge sums to Training, Medical Retreat and other non physical and meaningful projects.
It might also suffice here to say that whatever financial misappropriation levelled against Akpabio or anyone else, in the context of the NDDC can best be exposed by the forensic audit. So why not let it thrive?
It is obvious that Nwaoboshi has so much to cover up as he is running against time. Could it be that he was elected as Senator for NDDC since he has in the past few weeks devoted so much time and resources to frustrate the Forensic Audit by throwing ceaseless mud at the supervising Minister and members of the Interim Management Committee?
Senator Nwaoboshi’s unlimited lies only confirm that he has been the unseen hand that has run the NDDC aground and has kept the Niger Delta region in chains under the Change Government.
Will the leadership of the National Assembly look the other way while a senator cause such grave injustice to a people, so rich yet so helpless? Time will surely reveal the truth.
Francis Udoka Ndimkoha is the National Publicity Secretary of Citizens Question For Truth Initiative.
The Anti Buhari Forces in NASS
Written by Rachel Kufreabasi Nse
In an ideal democracy which Nigeria is copiously adopting, separation of powers is one of the pillars on which Government is anchored.
Notwithstanding the above, they still complement each other in the onerous task of nation-building and in guaranteeing the positive growth and development of the country.
When the 9th National Assembly came into being, and the leadership emerged with the backing of the ruling party, unlike the 8th Assembly that preceded it, the people expected that there will be a better working relationship between the executive, the legislature and of course, the judiciary.
Though they exist independently, they are meant to perform the role of checks and balances. In doing so, they avoid encroaching on each other’s responsibilities and constitutionally assigned roles.
As the representative of the people, the National Assembly should be seen to align to their constitutional responsibilities and shun all forms of political and party leaning, in the course of discharging their duties. The above can not be said of this 9th Assembly.
The 8th Assembly were rancorous with the executive leading to myriads of challenges and endless crisis arising from disagreements over the manner of emergence of the leadership of the NASS, budget padding and delay budget passage, jumbo pay, refusal to clear nominees of the executive timely, among other issues.
The leadership crisis lingered beyond expectation which led to defection from one political party to another.
The ugly moments took another turn when in a commado style political thugs invaded the Red chambers creating pandemonium made away with the Mace, the symbol of authority of the Senate. The nation watched with dismay and disbelief the show of shame and gross misconduct by one of its own which led to the desecration of the hallowed chamber of the Senate.
With the emergence of the 9th Assembly from the leadership of the party, one would have expected more support and cooperation from the National Assembly to the executive. The legislators carry this heavy burden of effective representation with all the seriousness it deserves.
The President has expressed his readiness and commitment to the development of the Niger Delta region. Happenings of recent has shown the NASS in the light of a clog in the wheel of the process of development of the region.
Heeding the call for accountability and probity by the Governors of the region, the President set out to redirect the course of development by calling for a Forensic audit of the funds that accrued to the region through the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Due process was followed and the FEC approved of the auditing firms. The President not wanting any interference set up the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC to oversee the forensic audit process. The IMC is recognized under the act of the NDDC and they set to work.
The auditing firms are gathering momentum and gearing up to deliver within it’s approved time frame. They are carrying out with the cooperation of the IMC put in place by the President for this purpose.
The NASS being fully aware of the Constitutional powers of the President to set up the IMC, bickered over the composition of the IMC. Not done questioning the legality of the IMC, they went a step further by dragging the IMC through a media trial by accusing the 7 month old IMC, for the late passage of the 2019 Budget and other financial misappropriation.
In the midst of all these, it is the Niger Delta people that suffer. There’s an urgent need to address the challenges of power failure, critical infrastructural decay, insecurity, crass poverty, corruption, environmental degradation in the Niger Delta region, amongst others.
The legislators are brazenly undermining the President who in exercising his executive powers set up the IMC to oversee the Commission while it undergoes the forensic audit from inception till date.
The NASS is exhibiting a callous disregard of the democratic principles which empowers the Executive to appoint into positions in office.
A dangerous trend is being set and it’s threatening the continuing practice of democratic structures in the country, if care is not taken.
The Constitution provides for the full adoption of the doctrine of separation of powers and not antagonistic show of strength as the NASS is seen to be of the executive.
NASS in a recent resolution have declared constitution backed forensic auditors of no mean repute as illegal. This is an affront not only to the executive arm of government that hired the auditors following due process but the Judiciary since the NASS have illegally arrogated to themselves the judicial powers of declaring the firms illegal.
Rachel Kufreabasi Nse writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State
State Coordinator, Citizens Quest for Truth Initiative
Pendulum: “I’ve Seen Dictators Rise and Fall. Beware, America”
By DELE MOMODY
Fellow citizens of the world, the above title is not original to me. It is the headline of a very profound and inspired article written on June 3, 2020, by one of the greatest novelists of the last century, Salman Rushdie, in the Washington Post.
I know many of today’s readers may not know who Salman Rushdie is, so let me a give brief description of this prodigiously gifted writer and how significant he’s been in the past three decades. I first encountered the novels of Salman Rushdie around 1989 as a reporter at the Weekend Concord. Rushdie had just released his controversial book, Satanic Verses, which many Muslims found gravely uncomplimentary and deeply offensive to their religion and faith.
The book was banned by the Islamic faithful leaders. Riots took place all over the world as the heretical book was burnt and shops stocking it were attacked.
On Valentine’s day, 14 February 1989, a death fatwa was proclaimed and issued on Rushdie’s head by the then spiritual leader of Iran, the much revered and feared Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Khomeini. For those who may not know the meaning of fatwa, let me quickly explain. It is a ruling under Islamic Sharia law which leads to a culprit who has committed heresy against Islam or the holy Prophet Muhammad, being declared a persona non grata who deserves to be killed wherever and whenever he is found. This sentence may be enforced by any Muslim faithful and such a Muslim immediately becomes a Martyr. This was certainly dangerous and perilous times for Rushdie. He knew the faith, calibre and fanaticism of those whose faith he had abused and promptly went into hiding under the protection of the British Government. The situation was so charged and inflamed that the British Government and Iran broke off diplomatic relations over the fatwa.
Rushdie himself was not to surface for many years, eventually doing so and appearing, at a U2 music concert in London in August 1993.
Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie was born in Mumbai, India, on June 19, 1947. By the time his second novel, Midnight’s Children, won the prestigious Booker Prize in 1981, he was already recognised and acknowledged as a distinguished writer. The book was subsequently rated “the best novel of all winners” of the Booker Prize on two occasions, the 25th and the 40th anniversary of the prize. But in September 1988, he bit more than he could chew when he wrote The Satanic Verses.
The book as I have said attracted widespread criticism and protests across Muslim countries and other nations including the UK where Rushdie was then living, when some people realised what they claim to be the irreverent depiction of the holy Prophet Mohammed. He received death threats and ultimately a bounty and the fatwa were placed on his head. Incidentally, ironically, and by a quirk of fate, Ayatollah Khomeini died on 3 June 1989 after having five heart attacks in ten days, barely only four months into the fatwa that he had proclaimed against Salman Rushdie. It is also significant that the Rushdie comment that I am reproducing here was written on the 41st anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini’s demise.
I first got hold of the highly controversial book in March 1989, through my boss at the Weekend Concord newspaper, Mr Mike Awoyinfa. It was sacrilegious to be seen with the book at the time, although the hullaballoo was not that prevalent or ferocious in Nigeria. We are both greedy about books.
Since the Satanic Verses debacle, I’ve been a keen follower of Rushdie and purchased most of his works. He moved from England to the United States in 2000 and has permanently lived there, acquiring American citizenship about four years ago.
I was excited to stumble on his essay yesterday as I was getting ready to write my weekly column. The article was lucid and logical and I decided to make it available to my African readers for the benefit of the strange acolytes of President Donald Trump in Africa who seemed to have been conned and scammed by the antics of a man who has never hidden his pathological hatred for people of colour. Some of the ugliest descriptions of colour were coined and “patented” by Trump. But for those who think Trump can do no wrong and that he is infallible, the unfortunate and unnecessary wasted blood and life of George Floyd seems to have united the world against the white supremacists of which Trump is the undisputed champion. Let me allow you to read and savour the words of Salman Rushdie…
“In my life, I have seen several dictators rise and fall. Today, I’m remembering those earlier incarnations of this unlovely breed.
In India in 1975, Indira Gandhi, found guilty of electoral malpractice, declared a state of emergency that granted her despotic powers. The “emergency,” as it became known, ended only when she called an election, believing she would win, and was annihilated at the polls. Her arrogance was her downfall. This cautionary tale formed a part of my novel “Midnight’s Children.”
In Pakistan in 1977, Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq staged a coup against Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and executed him in 1979. This dark story was the inspiration for my novel “Shame.” The circumstances of my life have given me some understanding of the dictatorial cast of mind.
Extreme narcissism, detachment from reality, a fondness for sycophants and a distrust of truth-tellers, an obsession with how one is publicly portrayed, a hatred of journalists and the temperament of an out-of-control bulldozer: These are some of the characteristics.
President Trump is, temperamentally, a tinpot despot of this type. But he finds himself in charge of a country that has historically thought of itself — by no means always correctly — as being on the side of liberty. So far, with the collusion of the Republican Party, he has ruled more or less unchecked. Now an election looms, and he is unpopular, and flails about looking for a winning strategy. And if that means trampling over American freedoms, then so be it.
I have lived in the United States for 20 years and been a citizen for the past four. One of the most important reasons for becoming a citizen was my admiration for the ideas of freedom embodied in the First Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution. Trump, whose regard for the Second Amendment is well known, needs reminding of the First, which, if I may help, states in part that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
And yet, the man whose incompetence allowed the pandemic to tighten its deadly grip around our necks, and whose inflammatory language full of racist dog whistles has played a significant role in unleashing white-supremacist bigotry upon us all, stands in the Rose Garden of the White House and announces without an iota of shame that he wants to protect peaceful protesters. At that very time, just down the street, his security forces, some of them on horseback, are attacking a peaceful protest with tear gas and rubber bullets. A moment later, he characterizes the demonstrators as terrorists and characterizes their protests as crimes against God.
He has the pictures to prove it: the fleeing young people, the clouds of tear gas, the line of horses advancing in the name of the Law. If there’s one thing Trump knows, it’s how to construct an image the cameras will like.
This man who, before he got his present job, was almost never seen inside a house of worship, then holds up a Bible outside a church to demonstrate his piety, and if the bishop of the diocese denounces him soon after, accusing him of misusing the church in the service of “a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus,” what of it? Once again, he has the pictures, and they speak louder.
We are so inured to the behavior of this man, so used to his lies, his inexhaustible self-regard, his stupidity, that maybe we are tempted to think of this as just another day in Trumpistan. But this time, something different is happening. The uprising that began with the killing of George Floyd is not fizzling but growing. The man in the White House is scared, and even, for a time, takes refuge in the basement and turns out the lights. What is such a person to do at such a time?
If he is allowed to use the actions of a tiny minority of criminals and white extremist infiltrators to invalidate the honorable protest of the vast majority against the murder of Floyd, the violence of the police toward the black community and the entrenched power of American racism, he will be on his way to despotism. He has threatened to use the Army against American citizens, a threat one might have expected from a leader of the former Soviet Union, but not of the United States.
In my most recent novel, “Quichotte,” I characterized the present moment as the “Age of Anything-Can-Happen.” Today I say, beware, America. Don’t believe that it can’t happen here.”
Thank you, Sir. Nothing more to add with respect to the reckless and dangerous bully that Trump is. For me, his day or reckoning is imminent, and he will get his comeuppance very soon at the conclusion of the November 3 election in America. Maybe then, the scales will fall from over the eyes of those black people, particularly Christians, who see Trump as some sort of Messiah who has come to provide them salvation from the heathens that other Americans represents to them. On the contrary, for me Trump is the archetypal Anti-Christ doing exactly as the Bible predicts and deceiving the shallow and the unwise.
However, it is important to draw lessons from the above piece by Rushdie for African leaders who think they can rule in perpetuity by using ethnicity and religion to divide their people. It may work for them for some time, even a long time in some countries, but that time will finally end and the people will suddenly realise how much they have been brainwashed, hypnotised and hoodwinked by these selfish and unpatriotic leaders. The day is therefore coming, and very soon too, when the people of Africa will wake up from their deep slumber and reject the primordial sentiments, packaged as parochial bigotry and prejudice founded on the insular and divisive tenets and platforms of sectarianism, ethnicity and religious intolerance. Unfortunately, these divisive policies have kept most of us in Africa in bondage almost forever.
Those who have ears to hear and eyes to see should watch out, listen, and see how the death of one man can ignite the fire of togetherness and unity across the world. There have been too many deaths before now. But this is obviously one death too many. The frenzy for equity and justice for George Floyd in particular, and people of colour in general, is reaching fever pitch all around the world. The fire will consume all in its wake who do not see the conflagration reaching out to tear the barriers, shackles, manacles, blinkers and blindfolds that have prevented Blacks from achieving real freedom, egalitarianism and emancipation for themselves. What is becoming clear is that Black people will not wait for these to be handed to them anymore, they will grab it themselves by fire, by force. George Floyd’s blood was not a sweet blood for vampires and, so, it has turned into poison coursing through their infernal veins and internally and eternally worrying and exterminating his killers and their ilk.
May George Floyd’s soul rest in peace…
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