In Search of Disciples By Dele Momodu

imageFellow Nigerians, what should have been a special Valentine for Nigerians this year was cleverly terminated and postponed last week by INEC. The much anticipated elections would now start on March 28 and conclude on April 11, 2015. Not to worry, life continues. No matter the motives behind it, whether genuine or mischievous, it gladdens the heart that the decision was taken in good faith by all, albeit reluctantly.
In the spirit of that renewed determination to keep our peace before, during and after the elections, we must continue to run issue-based campaigns irrespective of who we support. I was sent a very irresistible article this week by Professor Kayode Oyediran, the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan. I found both his intervention and topic very relevant to the present situation in our country. I believe many of our young readers have a lot to learn and enjoy in this beautifully written piece which I couldn’t stop reading once I started. On a lighter note, it seems Taureans have the gift of the pen. Professor Oyediran and I share the same birthday of May 16.
Please enjoy my very special guest this week, a most distinguished scholar and administrator…
Four recent publications in several national dailies illustrate various dimensions of discipleship which has become a topical concept not only in Nigeria but globally. They are: “The chance of prosperity versus poverty of austerity” by Bola Ahmed Tinubu; “PMS pump price reduction and the economy: My take-away” by Babatunde Raji Fashola SAN; “Buhari vs Jonathan: Beyond the election” by Charles Chukwuma Soludo; and “Buhari has not satisfied the constitution – Adebanjo” being an interview of Chief Ayo Adebanjo. These publications addressed several current national issues, and gave insight into the perceptions, priorities and prejudices of the respective authors, and illustrated the various manifestations of discipleship.
Tinubu’s article is a well-researched critique of the macro-economic policy of the Federal government, and a spirited articulation of his preferred strategy for the creation of wealth and jobs. Fashola similarly presented a constructive critique of the government’s policy on the price of fuel. Soludo critically reviewed the economic policies of the Jonathan government as well as the proposed policy of the opposition party, APC. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the views expressed in the three articles, it cannot be denied that each addressed issues, and articulated researched, reasoned, balanced arguments; they criticized extant policy and practice, and presented alternatives. To that extent they were in the tradition of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Indeed in his article Soludo acknowledged this hallmark of the sage.
In his interview Chief Adebanjo declared his preference for President Jonathan and his aversion to General Buhari’s candidature in the imminent presidential elections; he admonished the people of the South-West to support Jonathan in order to avoid “making a big mistake and digging their own graves”; he emphasized that his position was based on “principles”; he explained that, because he and his colleagues in their faction of Afenifere are “strictly Awolowo’s disciples”, they do not “modify Awo’s principles for our(their) own interest”. He did not elaborate on the “principles”.
Chief Adebanjo’s choice of candidate – indeed the choice of any Nigerian – cannot and should not be questioned, and he need not proffer any reason for it. However if, as in this case, he decides to give reasons for his choice, it is legitimate to examine the reasons proffered. Therefore I wish to comment on four of the reasons presented by Chief Adebanjo namely: implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 national conference, the character of General Buhari, the qualifications of Buhari, and the suitability of Professor Osinbajo as Vice-Presidential candidate.
Chief Adebanjo stated that he is supporting Jonathan “because he is the only man who can implement the recommendations of the national conference which was set-up to bring equity to Yoruba land and Nigeria”. He asserted that the conference produced the panacea for Nigeria’s problems, and “—that is why I am insisting that all the recommendations of the confab should be implemented before the elections because the inequality this country has been suffering all this while has been rectified with the recommendations of the confab. All the things that could cause us conflicts have been rectified.” It is rather simplistic to suggest that, by itself, the recommendations of the 2014 conference – or any other conference for that matter – constitute a magic wand to sweep away all the problems of Nigeria. It is also internally inconsistent to insist that the recommendations of the conference must be implemented before the elections and simultaneously affirm that Jonathan, who is yet to submit the conference report to the National Assembly six months after it was presented to him, is the only man who can implement the recommendations. Could it be that those who described the conference as diversionary are correct? Could it be a repeat of a similar exercise during the second term of President Obasanjo?
Chief Adebanjo asserted that “as a NADECO man” he cannot support a former military dictator like Buhari. He described Buhari as a “fundamentalist” whose tenure as the boss of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) was tainted with corruption. I share Chief Adebanjo’s aversion for military dictatorship. However it is possible for a Saul to become a Paul. Buhari’s track record during the current political dispensation demonstrates that he believes in and submits to democracy and the rule of law. Furthermore Obasanjo was a military dictator who became President in a civilian democratic dispensation. His re-election in 2003 for a second term was supported by Chief Adebanjo and his colleagues. Obasanjo, who set-up two panels to probe the PTF, stated publicly that Buhari’s hands are clean, but Chief Adebanjo asserted that “—Obasanjo was trying to cover him (Buhari) up” because “—the issue of the N25 billion —is all in the report”. People like me who have not seen the report would have appreciated it if he had quoted the relevant parts. Corruption is a major endemic problem in Nigeria which should be fully exposed and condemned when and as opportunity permits. It is therefore unfortunate that Chief Adebanjo stated: “When they talk of corruption in Jonathan government, I won’t say the government is clean, but those who are talking about corruption, how clean are they themselves?”
Chief Adebanjo described Buhari as an Islamic fundamentalist, and “a man who said he was going to work for the operation of Sharia throughout the country”. I do not know whether Buhari said so, but I am confident that the pursuit of such a venture would be futile. I also recall that a widely publicized allegation that Buhari had said he would make Nigeria ungovernable turned out to be false; Reuben Abati and the Guardian newspaper published an unreserved apology to Buhari in the Guardian of 11th July, 2013. However action, it is said, speaks louder than words. It is instructive that when Buhari was the military Head of State he refused to make Nigeria a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC); he cut in half the number of Nigerian pilgrims going to Mecca for the Hajj, and directed that they should be given only their Basic Travel Allowance (BTA); the majority of his cabinet and of the military governors he appointed were Christians; he had and still has several Christian personal staff (personal assistant, cook, driver etc.). Clearly the available facts indicate that the description of Buhari as an Islamic fundamentalist is reprehensible scare-mongering. It is relevant to note that, whereas Nigeria became a member of the OIC during the presidency of General Babangida, the first and only incumbent Head of State to attend a summit of the OIC was President Jonathan on 6th February, 2013 in Cairo where his host was President Morsi of Egypt, the fundamentalist leader of the Moslem Brotherhood.
Chief Adebanjo questioned the qualification of Buhari to contest the Presidential election. He asserted: “What the law says is this; you must have a school certificate before you can qualify. ———Buhari has not satisfied the constitution.” Careful reading of the relevant sections of the constitution will demonstrate to even the proverbial ordinary Nigerian that these statements are most incorrect; the expositions of several senior members of the bar in the dailies provide confirmation. Coming from a man of Chief Adebanjo’s stature, the statements are surprising, disappointing and embarrassing.

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