CHIEF MIKE OZEKHOME, SAN.
I just had, most humbly, the misfortune , of reading the 27 paragraph national broadcast by president Muhammadu Buhari. I had guffawed when many Nigerians awaited the speech with great expectations and bated animation, believing erroneously, that, like I had humbly advised president Buhari, he would roll out drums of empathy for our slain innocent youths and their grieving families. I told them not to expect any calming or balming speech of reconciliation and empathy. Buhari did not disappoint me. His national address was devoid of sympathy, empathy, fatherly feelings, or even the mere milk of human kindness for a nation on the dangerous precipice and cliff. His speech was unfortunately insensate and insensitivite.It epitomised a sorry and pathetic disconnect between the government and the people Mr President governs, or pretends to govern. The speech was more of a military dicta, a ferocious barracks riot Act, read to some unruly riotous mutineers and insurrectionists, to bring them to book. He simply talked down on Nigerians, not with Nigerians. I felt quite depressed and saddened. He lost a rare golden, momentous and historic opportunity to unify a profusely hemorrhaging and badly fractured nation. He spoke more like an Emperor addressing cringing servants, nay, slaves in bondage. Buhari reeled out what he considered to be his government’s presumed economic innovations to tackle the travails of a decaying nation. He found time to “pay tribute to officers of the Nigeria Police Force who have tragically lost their lives in the line of duty” ; but found no single word, phrase or sentence , to console or condole with the mourning families of the youths that were mauled down in cold blood by the same trigger – happy officers. He never found a word of empathy, or even sympathy, for the innocent Nigerian flags – waving peaceful protesters who were hacked down in their hundreds across the nation. Who did this to us as a country?
He threatened that “under no circumstances” will anything that “amounts to undermining national security and the law and order situation. …be tolerated “.
Mr President was not yet done. He blamed the “spreading of deliberate falsehood and misinformation through the social media in particular ” as amounting to a “ploy to mislead the unwary within and outside Nigeria into unfair judgment and disruptive behaviour “. Mr President Sir, we all live in Nigeria here, a big prison yard. We do not need social media to educate us about our grinding poverty, mass unemployment, lack of basic social amenities and non availability of light, educational, medical, water and security environment. Nigerians do require the social media to tell them about Police brutality, extra- judicial killings, increased corruption, a parlous economy, an inequitable social justice system, non observance of the rule of law, human rights, obedience to court orders and the general environment of despondency, haplessness and hopelessness
Mr President agonised over disruption of travel plans, destruction of public and private properties and invasion of the international airport. Yes sir, I agree that these acts are condemnable, and I hereby also firmly condemn them in their entirety. But, Mr president sir ,was it so difficult, like rocket science , to at least, acknowledge the lost lives of harmless youths who were unarmed ,but brutally cut down in their prime? Just a word sir? Was it necessary that the very second paragraph of a presidential speech to a nation under tumult, rather than bandaging raw wounds, was threatening fire and brimstone, such as to “warn those who have hijacked and misdirected the initial, genuine and well – intended protest of some of our youths in parts of the country…” ?
Who did the hijacking sir? Who were the shadowy persons who prompted fully armed security personnel to open hot lead on flag- waving and unarmed Nigerian youths at the Lekki toll gate? Mr president as the Commander- In – Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, didn’t wonder , like the international community has been doing , how and why fully armed military operatives were involved in a non – violent civilian protest. Who deployed them? I didn’t read anywhere Mr president indicated that such errant officers will be brought to book, or tried in appropriate military quarters, or before courts of law, so that the ends of justice shall be served. I searched in vain to see any mention about those hoodlums that unleashed mayhem on innocent and peacefully protesting Nigerian youths, or how the entire security apparatchik of Nigeria will be accorded a total overhaul and rejuvenation. No.I never read anywhere Mr president talked about compensation, restitution for ,or apology , to the families of youths plucked down in their prime, in cold blood ,and those still battling for survival in various hospitals across Nigerians. Not only did the entire speech fail to inspire Nigerians, or rekindle whatever remains of their dwindling hopes and disappearing faith in Nigeria as a nation, it was rather imperious, provocative and condescending. Nothing new was said about how to pacify the righteously angry Nigerian youths (whom he once described as “lazy Nigerian youths” ), with fresh educational, job and capacity-building opportunities. Was it too much for Mr President, for once, to climb down from his high galloping horse, to cuddle (even if pretentiously), the Nigerian youths, with a warm fatherly embrace? Haba!!!
Pix: Mike Agbedor Abu Ozekhome is a lawyer and human rights activist, holding the rank of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. He is known for his work as a constitutional lawyer.