There is something tellingly uncanny about the fact that President Goodluck Jonathan exposed his personal capacity for malevolence on the day in history when he was born naked. The onslaught he authorized against Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, on November 20, 2014, the President’s birthday, represented, at least, nudist display of predation. And one must concede that the power porn fulfilled its purpose: it showed the otherwise concealed private side of the President and it flattered the infinite reach of a tiny fraction of his omnipotence.
The philistine assault on Tambuwal should never have happened. It should never even have been imagined. Yet, it exemplifies the nature of inspiration the man at the top of the pyramid of leadership in Nigeria can entertain.
Even if it was a play, written only for reading, the fiasco would still have had the oomph of revulsion. The script, if it had not materialized, would still have qualified the mind that incubated the acts for indictment on the charge of brutishness. But we witnessed that ostentation of sadism as a real-life social experience!
To be sure, President Jonathan violated the dignity of Tambuwal and others, through the agency of the police. There was absolutely no justification for shutting out mandated representatives of the Nigerian people from their workplace and overwhelming them with a thick cloud of teargas.
To answer those who may readily absolve Jonathan and point at the IG, the police did not embark on that treasonable adventure on their own volition. The attack required the unambiguous nod of the head of state. Except we have a derelict presidency, such flirtation with anarchy could not have happened without Goodluck Jonathan’s express say-so.
Nigerians have a spacious accommodation for outrage. We are gracious and forgiving because we recognize the similitude of our own weakness in the flaws of our leaders. But there is a vestigial character benchmark in our indulgent leniency, though it is low and barely discernible. We excuse corruption and stealing but we feel entitled to expect our head of state to embody some nobility. President Jonathan breached this standard. He acted below the minimum decorum required of his office. He projected pettiness and paranoia. He would have emerged better off if he had baptized himself in mire.
Foremost, it is quite shocking that the arena was the National Assembly. That show of shame would have been no less despicable if it had happened elsewhere. In these days when Boko Haram is annexing large swathes of land, at a point estimated to be the equivalent of three states, it would seem that we can boast of some sacred grounds. But the chaos that sprang up from the premises of our parliament indicates that we have lost even the moral ground.
Apparently, Nigeria has now converted to terrorism. The Presidency, seeing that the renaissance of terror is increasingly magnifying her ineptitude, has elected to assert its muscles by transferring frustration to the citizen. This is a sufferer of terror, notoriously incapable of answering the expanding dent on her territorial integrity, overcompensating by picking a high profile target and inflicting harm on him.
This might well be Boko Haram’s ultimate victory: the Nigerian government so envies the terrorists now that it has turned to plagiarism, mimicking the terrorists’ cowardly strategy of using arms to express their rightness. The civility that should characterize the state’s relationship with (her number four) citizen has vanished.
That spectacle did not dehumanize Tambuwal; it diminished his bully. One instantly recognized the adversary’s contempt for honor in the desperation to strip Tambuwal of public value. The humiliation failed to establish the notion that the victim had earned the embarrassment. Instead, it shamed his oppressor and created a martyr.
The fiasco confirms the establishment’s power to admit and exclude. Their weapon of control is the discriminatory screens that welcome those who belong and bars others. Theirs is a parallel closeted universe that does yields access only to personal recognition.
Speaker Tambuwal was surprised that he now needed to introduce himself to the gate of the National Assembly. While he maintained the right affiliation, his open sesame invocation was effectual for every conceivable gate in Nigeria and he probably took that privilege for granted. Now out of the ruling party’s favor, he is discovering that he had belonged to a cult; that even mundane breathing constitutes difficulty for outlaws. He did not know that the price for not belonging is begging at the beautiful gate. But that is where millions of us live…
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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