By Ikechukwu Amaechi
Wole Soyinka once described the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a “nest of killers”. That was at the height of PDP’s power when former President Olusegun Obasanjo held sway and prominent political personalities were gruesomely murdered in their bedrooms, on the streets and other unimaginable places.
Many, including the Nobel laureate, construed those killings, rightly or wrongly, as politically motivated. He was particularly incensed after the brutal murder of his childhood friend, Bola Ige, who, as the attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, was the country’s chief law officer. The lethargy that characterised the investigation of Ige’s murder didn’t help matters.
Soyinka is yet to put a sticky tag on the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which he helped elect in 2015 by unreservedly endorsing its then presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, a man he had had issues with since his first coming as military head of state on December 31, 1983. I doubt if Soyinka will do so very soon, considering that he will be hard put explaining to Nigerians what has changed.
If the PDP was a nest of killers, the APC is a nest of liars. The party, like the swashbuckling United States President, Donald Trump, came to power by serving the people cocktails of lies, and it has sustained itself in office for 21 months by upping the ante, feeding the people more egregious lies.
That is expected. Unlike truth that stands on the parapet of facts, realities and evidence, and therefore needs no further propping, lies stand on nothing. And because lies stand on nothing, for sustainability, they must be hoisted on an effigy of more invidious lies.
That is the story of the APC. Truth is anathema to it. Its officials take pride in worshipping at the altar of mendacity.
Nothing illustrates this more than the stories the party and its government officials have been dishing out since Buhari proceeded on an impromptu 10-day winter vacation in London, his third in one year.
The vacation, which began on January 19 and was to end on February 6, was so sudden that Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, the man Buhari temporarily handed power to, had to abruptly end his participation at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, to rush back home. Yet, whatever was the matter with the president was so serious that he could not wait for the arrival of Osinbajo before leaving. It was that bad.
Nigerians were told he was going to rest after working so hard. For someone the Financial Times of London described last week as “the man supposedly in charge of the country” who has “been literally sleeping on the job,” hard work must have a new meaning.
Buhari was hardly airborne when the stories started making the rounds that there was more to the trip than ordinary vacation. And the lies started pouring in.
First was the picture of the president, with his leg on the table watching Channels Television (his favourite television network, we are told) and making a call. Yet, many Nigerians were still prepared to give the APC the benefit of the doubt, believing that the president was, indeed, resting.
But Buhari failed to come back. Instead, he wrote another letter to the National Assembly (NASS) on Sunday, February 5 seeking an indefinite extension of his leave. And the lies continued to pour in.
“Let me first say the president is hale and hearty,” Osinbajo told reporters in the State House on Tuesday, February 7. “I spoke to him just this afternoon and we had a fairly long conversation, he is in good shape and very chatty.”
House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, took his own turn at the altar on Thursday, February 9 when he claimed to have had a telephone discussion with Buhari the previous day. “Buhari called me yesterday evening. He talked about what the executive/legislature must do to ensure food security for all Nigerians,” Dogara disclosed.
On Wednesday, Information Minister (and Dean of the APC School of Lies), Lai Mohammed, upped the ante after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
“I can say without any hesitation that Mr. president is well, is hale and hearty. No question about that,” Mohammed reiterated.
He said the fact that all ministers were working optimally was proof of his assertion. “Do you think we will be conducting our business like this if Mr. president is ill?” he asked rhetorically.
“He (pointing at Minister of Power, Babatunde Fashola) was in Anambra last week, I was in Kwara yesterday, all our ministers are busy doing their work. Mr. president is well and is absolutely not in danger.”
Lies. Lies. And more lies.
If Buhari is hale and hearty, then what is he doing in London after his vacation? Has he absconded? If he is hale and hearty and yet refuses to speak to Nigerians or return to work, is that not truancy? Is he now governing Nigeria from London?
The goings-on in the country in the last three weeks are sobering. They remind us of the last days of President Umaru Yar’Adua. They make an unequivocal statement on the negative tendencies that have stultified Nigeria’s development.
The happenings bring to the fore our predicament as a people and why it is almost impossible to realise the dream of a Nigerian nation.
For a septuagenarian who, despite all protestations to the contrary, does not seem to enjoy the best of health, it is not difficult to fathom the reasons for the death rumour swirling around him.
Some people have asked why Nigerians are overtly interested in Buhari’s health. The simple answer is that he is not an ordinary Nigerian. He is the president.
I am saddened that some people seem to be bubbly about his health crisis. The way the death rumour swirls seems to suggest that some people actually think that they will be better off if the man is dead.
But Buhari is first a human being before being president. He has a wife, children, relations and friends who care for and love him and naturally want him to live. We should join them in prayers that God, the Ultimate Physician, should heal him and restore him to good health. We all lose our humanity whenever we wish others dead, because the death of one diminishes all.
Nonetheless, the president’s health crisis has seriously incapacitated him and diminished his ability to govern although some believe, as the Financial Times poignantly put it, that dead or alive, Buhari makes no difference.
“The tragedy for Nigeria is that policy making has been so ponderous during the 20 months since Mr. Buhari took office that, dead or alive, it is not always easy to tell the difference,” the newspaper wrote.
I totally agree that the biggest tragedy to befall Nigeria in recent times is the election of a man who has neither the mental/intellectual nor physical capacity to govern.
The result of our collective folly almost two years ago is that we have on our hands an administration gravely hobbled. At the best of times, Buhari is the archetypal definition of cluelessness. More so now because of his health challenges.
The government deludes itself that it can solve Nigeria’s problems by believing its own lies.
And by telling new lies to cover up old lies, it pretends, annoyingly, to be working very hard at tackling the myriad problems facing the country when it is now obvious that even if Buhari is hale and hearty, as the APC would want us believe, politically, “rigor mortis set in quite some time ago,” as the Financial Times put it.
But because this is Nigeria where lying is seen as an art of political sagacity, the same process that brought us to this sorry pass may be repeated in 2019.
*Ikechukwu Amaechi, former Editor of Daily Independent, is the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of TheNiche, a weekly newspaper published in Lagos every Sunday. (email@example.com)