PENDULUM BY DELE MOMODU
Fellow Nigerians, please permit me to start, uncharacteristically, with several preambles, rolled into one today. You will discover why in a jiffy. I’m out to establish some principles that drive and guide me. I hate any form of oppression regardless of who is concerned or affected. One of the reasons Nigeria has been in this monumental mess is due to the wickedness and vindictiveness of our leaders. Lest I forget, the followers, the so-called lumpen proletariat are not left out. Government after government seeks to outdo the other in doing evil to fellow citizens, and the hapless hoi polloi regale themselves with the tales of the unfortunate victim’s misfortune, forgetting that the dehumanisation of one person is the bastardisation of all.
I often wonder why we gloat and relish in the display of rabid hatred and pure evil by our leaders, to the detriment of our sense of fairness, good and justice. However, it seems that our make-up is such that the thought of harm and bad tickles our fancy so much that we are glad to vicariously experience the power of those who wield the baton. Our leaders spend ample time chasing irrelevances and looking for who next to destroy. We wittingly or unwittingly join them in this pursuit and by so doing encourage the damage they do to our psyche. It is as if they will ultimately obtain Olympic medals in how much pain they can inflict on their hapless victims. And we the so-called masses will collect the lesser medals by virtue of our tacit and complicit acquiescence. Shame!
The focus of my epistle today is very simple. I’m a good student of Nigerian history. If wickedness alone could build a nation, Nigeria would probably be the greatest country in the world. Unfortunately, that is the least important requirement for good governance, if at all it is. There is nothing force, or malice, can achieve that love and affection can’t get better and faster. Let me start with my personal example. I will try to summarise the evil event that changed my life.
In 1995, July 22, to be precise. I had gone on a visit the day before to my professional godfather, Chief Olusegun Osoba, in the historic city of Abeokuta, and was returning to Lagos. The battle for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993, Presidential election, which was clearly and most definitely won by Chief Moshood Abiola, was raging. Chief Osoba and I had spent the better part of the night chatting and ruminating over the pestilence that had descended upon Nigeria. Chief Abiola had been picked up the year before and detained in General Sani Abacha’s gulag. Not just that, Chief Abiola who was undeniably one of the most distinguished Africans of the 20th century, was kept incommunicado, for no justifiable reason. We were deeply worried about his personal safety and the state of his health. I left Abeokuta early and was looking forward to a blissful sleep on getting home because I was very tired. But this was not to be.
My dream soon vaporized and evaporated. My God, I never bargained for what awaited me. On my way home, I saw my wife’s car, which was strategically parked so as to make it easy for me to see it. That was it. My life would change from that of a free citizen to that of a refugee, just in a matter of days, something I never wished for my enemies. My wife informed me some men had come to tip her off about my impending arrest by the dreaded secret security agents. And anything and everything may be tried, including charging me for treason, was on their plates. I never planned to live outside Nigeria, in this my current lifetime. I had visas to several European countries but never spent beyond any booked days. On this particular occasion, things were different. There was a new Sheriff in town who was ruthless. So, I was advised to vamoose. No time for rigmarole. I dialogued with my feet and opened a new chapter in my book of life, rushing into the open arms of uncertainty because I had no choice.
On July 25, 1995, I escaped through the Seme border, like an inveterate smuggler. I meandered my way from Cotonou to Lome and from Lome to Accra that evening. I left Accra on July 28 and landed at London Gatwick on July 29, 1995. It was one of my saddest days on earth as I was journeying into the unknown amidst great insecurity. To cut a long story short, I would spend the next three years in exile. But this is not the main story. The real meat is what I managed to do and achieve during that period.
Many people laughed scornfully at the supposed foolishness of my support for Chief Moshood Abiola. “Are you Kola Abiola that you want to kill yourself for nothing…?” But truth was I was not fighting because of Abiola. He had the capacity to defend himself and family. I was fighting for the rights of man. If a man as fabulously wealthy and powerfully connected as Abiola could be so easily oppressed, then we were in big trouble! I needed to put up a fight, within my limited resources, for the sake of myself, wife and the future of our lovely children. I wish some of us woulcld have this mindset, albeit it is a bit selfish because in the end it will benefit all of us.
Many gave up on me, wrote me off, and concluded I was finally finished. But God was not done with me. He was ready to show me off to my critics as yet one of his miracles in progress. It was during this period of my excruciating travails that God handed me a beautiful and priceless gift, Ovation International magazine. And this taught me a lot of lessons, one of which is that if there is life, there is hope. Never give up on a man or woman who God wishes to favour. This has since remained my guiding principle.
Let me repeat, I hate oppression with all the fibres in me. This is why you will find me crying louder than the bereaved every now and then. Which leads me to my next preamble. Sorry, we are getting closer to our destination. I will be brief, please, because I know you can’t wait to get to the end of my salacious and sagacious tales today.
I’m sure you remember how Sanusi Lamido Sanusi launched a blistering attack on some banks and its management when he was governor of the Central Bank. While I thought our banks needed to be sanitised, I vehemently disagreed with the modus operandi being employed by Sanusi. SLS (as he is affectionately known by his millions of admirers) was hailed by the usual pepper-them-gang. “Kill them,” they chorused in unison. I’m sorry to note and confirm that many Nigerians suffer the kill-and-go syndrome. We all complain and grumble about corruption but join them as soon as we get the opportunity to be in government. In short, we are all saints, or seeking angels from outside, until we become one of the beneficiaries of the unethical and immoral practises, we so much frown against. That was one of the major attractions of the second coming of Major General Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. We often studiously ignore the fact that nations are not governed by saints but by PERFORMERS.
So, I took on Sanusi as he demolished the banks and scattered its owners to the winds. I wrote an article THE BULLY CALLED SANUSI. And all hell broke loose. Sanusi’s supporters came after me in droves. They claimed that I must have been paid by Erastus Akingbola and others. For some who knew that Akingbola came from the same neck of the woods where I had sojourned and grown up in Ile-Ife, their conspiracy theory was fulfilled. Never mind that it had been a long time since I saw Akingbola, and I simply had no business with him. Those who had no principle whatsoever saw like minds in their mirrors and mentality. All entreaties that we must defend and protect the rights of man fell on deaf ears. All they wanted was instant lynching. But I knew today will come sometime and some day. The same impunity you employ to catch a devil would be used against the saint. Impunity begets more impunity.
Sanusi and I would later meet inside the elevator of the Intercontinental Hotel in Lagos and he exclaimed: “Dele, your pen is very wicked, very wicked…” And everyone on the lift laughed. It was obvious he respected my boldness and audacity even if he possibly detested my guts. I was shocked when he asked his Assistant to give me his number. And that was it. I was later to learn that he never detested me at all but was appreciative of my constructive criticism. The hallmark of a true leader. I rarely contacted SLS and only sent him congratulatory and goodwill messages when the occasions arose. I later visited His Highness in the Emir’s palace in Kano. My best friend, Prince Adedamola Aderemi, and I visited him, and he gave us a first-class treatment befitting of Princes.
Let me give two more examples, but simultaneously. Here’s the story of two Mallams, Nuhu Ribadu and Nasir El Rufai. Once upon a time, they were the two hottest items, as Chairman EFCC and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, respectively. They wielded enormous powers. I wrote an article warning Nuhu Ribadu and assured him that he did not know Nigeria and Nigerians well enough. The person whose head is used to break coconuts hardly partakes in its eating. I knew the day would come when the hunter would become the hunted. And it came to pass. Both Nuhu and Nasir absconded from Nigeria and spent considerable time in exile, like me.
Early this week, the kings of impunity came back to haunt Emir Sanusi II and grabbed him by the jugular. I was not surprised because it was a prophecy long foretold. All manner of conspiracy theories soon emerged. The most popular one was that it was a strategic stunt by the North to ease Sanusi out of the gilded cage he’s been kept in the Kano palace and it was time to set him free. The object, the false prophets proclaim, is to make him extremely popular through the dramatisation of a charade of dethronement and then lead him to the next stage of his dramatic rise to the summit of Nigeria! Who knows? Nothing is impossible in Nigeria. All I know is that even if Sanusi wasn’t considering the Presidential contest before, the phenomenal surge in his popularity rating in the past few days must make that very tempting and possibly irresistible.
I wonder why Governor Abdullahi Ganduje couldn’t ignore nor tolerate the tantrums of Emir Sanusi, if indeed, he could classify his profound dissection of the problems of the North and the solutions he proffers as such. I still can’t fathom what Ganduje thought he stands to gain by sacking Sanusi unceremoniously. Now the cookies have crumbled. And the Governor and his friends must be wondering what happened. Nothing other than that the apotheosis of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is now assured and guaranteed. A man of adventure has been served his food, a la carte!
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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