The Muhammadu Buhari administration is at the centre of a storm. So much is taking place in the land. The El-Zakzaky protests paralyzed Abuja the other day. Government was sufficiently rattled. Now, it is about to obey the court order, which it had consistently defied. Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky will be released on bail. His teeming supporters have finally wrestled government to the ground. Force has finally forced its hands open. If only Col. Sambo Dasuki had his own private army, they would have held government hostage. They would have forced it to obey the order of the courts on his release.
Then enter the Sowore revolution. I do not know what prompted this sudden romance with revolution. Omoleye Sowore was a presidential candidate in the presidential election that held less than six months ago. He went through the entire process of electioneering and seemed satisfied with it. I do not know what went wrong, why the activist had to pit himself against the government. Whatever may be the case, we just cannot overlook the fact that we are at a crossroads. Those who installed Buhari for a second term in office are suddenly up in arms against him. They seem to be coming to terms with the Buhari persona. But I hardly can understand that. I am yet to come to terms with the undercurrents behind the current upheaval.
But it is amusing that some Buhari apologists are the ones shouting their voices hoarse. Prof. Wole Soyinka said a few days ago that Buhari was behaving like Abacha. That was a strange pronouncement, coming from someone who described Buhari a few years ago as a born-again democrat. It may well be that Soyinka’s earlier characterisation of Buhari was not well thought out. It was made to justify the groundswell of resentment against the Goodluck Jonathan presidency that led to his ouster by Buhari.
But it is really sickening to see flippancy take the better part of those who should know. Those who pose as social crusaders should save us from avoidable agony. They should grant us the right to think and have our own opinion. Why do they always consider their position on any issue inviolable? That is sanctimoniousness at its most banal. We hardly can make progress with such pretentiousness. That is why government is having a ball over the Sowore affair. It is accusing those likening Buhari to Abacha as engaging in doublespeak.
But whatever the government says or fails to say, the fact remains that it is in the eye of the storm. It has destroyed the social fabric of the land. The regime has acquired a certain notoriety. It will be remembered as one government that tore Nigeria into shreds. Under the present order, life has become so cheap. Killer herdsmen have taken over the country. They kill and maim at will. Government looks helpless. They have desecrated the land with blood. Could that be the reason why Sowore is calling for a revolution? We really have so much to worry about. It is worse for those of us who are social commentators. We agonize on a regular basis on behalf of others. I have lamented for well over two decades.
But it looks like I am going on temporary hibernation. Let me, at this point, inform you, esteemed adherents of BROKEN TONGUES, that I am about to switch roles again. The column is about to take a bow again, just as it did 10 years ago when I was appointed as Honourable Commissioner by the then governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim.
After my tour of duty in 2011, the column returned to this newspaper and has been running since then. But another recess is about to take place. A little over three weeks ago, the governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha, named me as the director-general of the Ahiajoku Institute. The institute, for those who may not know, is a research and cultural centre on Igbo culture, civilisation and worldview. It is an offshoot of the Ahiajoku Lecture Series, an intellectual harvest that underpins the contributions of the Igbo to world culture and civilisation. The lecture series is in its 40th year and one of the innovations being brought to bear on it is the elevation of the yearly festival to an institute. The Ahiajoku Institute, by conception, is modelled after the Goethe Institute in Germany and the Italian Cultural Institute. It promises to be the intellectual resource base of not only the government and the state but also the entire Nigerian state.
As I return to public office in the service of my state, I cannot but look back in time. As a commentator on national and international affairs for close to 25 years, I have encountered Nigeria in its rawness. I have seen and experienced the best and worst of the country. I have interfaced with governments. I have encountered men and women of power and influence. I have been a dissector and interpreter of situations and societies. I have experienced frustrations and disappointments. In fact, those of us who do this unenviable job have nothing to cheer. Nigeria has been busy standing still. The country’s situation has hardly improved. If anything, it gets worse by the day.
Regardless of this unpalatable state, the commentator remains addicted to his job. He carries out the assignment with near effortless ease.
BROKEN TONGUES, the platform through which I have been fighting the rough battle with society, has been my muse. It is has been the inspirational tool that goads me on. I came into the orbit of social criticism some two and a half decades ago. As the Features Editor of an Ibadan-based newspaper called Third Eye in 1995, I had written my first column for that newspaper. I combined my job at the newspaper then with column-writing. But the experience did not go beyond six months. I returned to The Guardian from whence I went to Ibadan after the de-proscription of the newspaper by the repressive regime of General Sani Abacha. I was to resume column-writing at ThisDay in 1998.
But BROKEN TONGUES made all the difference when it came into the mix. The column first appeared in ThisDay in September 1999 when the back page column was first introduced into the Nigerian newspaper industry. The column ran in the newspaper without a break until 2003 when I joined The Sun. The column has been a menu to a significant number of newspaper readers in the country. Some of them have even taken the liberty of changing my name to BROKEN TONGUES.
However, I leave you with one assurance. This column may no longer be in use here for now, but I know that I am not leaving Nigeria alone. I will continue to intervene in national affairs through other means. I cherished the experience while it lasted. I salute all loyalists of the column. You were the inspiration that shot me into stardom. I thank The Sun crew, particularly the publisher, Orji Uzor Kalu, who ensured that this column was sustained. Thank you, the boss. We will continue to interface through other means.