I cannot imagine that the erstwhile dictator and national plunderer, General Sanni Abacha, was one of those honoured in the just concluded centenary celebration in Nigeria. But is the President thinking by himself or being ill-advised? This continual dance of insincerity is just too much: he talks of fighting corruption in the country and immediately later he sets free one of the publicly known fathers of corruption, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, in the name of a stomach-churning Presidential pardon! He talks of doing everything to rid the country of a Boko Haram force that is burning and killing students (as horrible to write/read as its very facts) and abducting tens of girls to a life of sexual slavery, yet he is slow and taciturn in putting the full weight of executive powers against individuals (like a serving Senator, can you as much as believe that? yeah, it happens in my jungle) and groups linked with this singular destructive organization in the country. He talks of re-inventing a new beginning for the country (obvious to all of us as a necessity) yet sets along this absurd way of crowning the actions of such a dictator and killer like Sanni Abacha? But who are the advisers of our president? If nothing at all, such actions as this last irresponsible inclusion of Abacha as one of our celebrated heroes in the country shows how insincere the President is in his many “talks” of willingness to bring meaningful change to this country. Talk is cheap.
These and many other irresponsible actions put in brighter light what the present speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, reflecting on the President’s actions on corruption, described as his deceptive body-language. This recent charade of centenary honour-list makes such an accusation of an ambivalent body-language not only restricted to corruption but to many other recent executive judgments.
Yet, the next thing we might soon here is a declaration of an intention to contest for a re-election to the Presidency. Or rather maybe I should say these aforementioned actions or inactions are actually intended to pacify some vested interests and therefore pave a way for such a presidential re-election. I seldom make categorical statements but I do think, in the light of all these, such a re-election would be a big disservice and a gross injustice to this country. To become a meaningful and effective leader, it is not only important to make positive decisions with regards to several exigencies like those that abound presently in the country. It is even much more important to be able to display a capacity to repel pressures to take wrong decisions which would bind on the nation. And to argue that such a decision as the nomination and ratification of National centenary honour-list has nothing to do with the Presidency is to play the absurd.
Much more absurd is the federal government’s purported argument that Abacha was honoured because he increased the national foreign exchange reserves. Where is the same foreign reserve increase? It is languishing away in some international bank accounts, subject of international litigations while several legitimate needs at home suffer lack of funds. No, this is a theater of the absurd and another major gaffe of this government. But on the other hand, as someone right mentioned, Abacha is not the only one who dirtied this infamous national honour list. Others who now parade themselves as national fathers are as contributive to our unfortunate national state as Abacha, each in his own particular way. We know at least of one who instituted corruption in this country and frittered away the gains of a much-needed oil windfall. It is unfortunate that these are now our national heroes.
As we struggle to make headway even from within our national rubbles, we cannot afford to give indications that things which we have done wrongly in the chronicle of the Nigerian history are worth celebrating. The choice of General Sanni Abacha as one to be honoured in Nigeria, now or ever, totally negates a presumption that the present government cares a hoot about the last point. As Wole Soyinka rightly noted, placing a man like Sanni Abacha in a national list of committed democrats, professionals, humanists and human rights advocates “is a sordid effort to grant a certificate of health to a communicable disease that common sense demands should be isolated… a disservice to history and a desecration to memory”. It is unacceptable, a slap on the face of our national dignity and a retrogress in our efforts to move forward under the heavy moral burden of our history. The greater evil which such a gesture portends is a beatification of the years of terror, thievery and irresponsibility under General Sanni Abacha. And if such are beatified, why should future leaders not emulate a saint?