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Authoritarian democracy

By   /  April 23, 2018  /  No Comments

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We cannot call it a coup. Not in the classic sense, although the symbol of power yields its pride to a raft of never-do-wells. For those who have the time to see the video, it has a whiff of comedy. A senator walks in, the whole chamber in a routine stir of lawmakers in pre-session mode. Some are chatting, others about to sit. A halo of a smile here, a shadow of a mood here, a hand gesture there. A few others, like Ovie Omo-Agege, are dabbing to their seats. That is not funny. It is the stir before the storm. Until, of course (or curse), the sudden burst of a light-coloured shirt on the high table.

In a parody of an athlete, he lofts the mace like a trophy, and trots up the steps. Somebody is stealing democracy. There are more lawmakers than hoodlums. But they cannot hold their own against a democratic felony. They cannot fight for the people’s system. They look on, paralysed, dead in the limbs, spectators of their own misfortune. They become like stargazers as though watching aliens vacating a hallowed room. Ben Bruce exercises common sense and knows better than to stop the hoodlum.

They who have too much money. They who fatten on allowances, a la Shehu Sani. They whose homes are a fable of luxury, whose cars a motion of dreams, who eat without work, peacocks of a bedraggled republic. They gape on while the ragamuffins leave.

Not far away, outside the building, Senator Solomon Adeola, otherwise known as Yayi, gets into a drama of his own. He is shoved into a vehicle owned by the thieves but luckily forces his way out minutes later.

So, shall we say this is a mini coup? The removal of a mace is not necessarily a change of government. Unless we recall what happened in England centuries ago when boisterous Oliver Cromwell storms the parliament in the throes of overthrowing King Charles. The lawmakers are sacked, and he sees the mace, standing, with nothing of its grandeur. “Take away that fools bauble, the mace,” he orders giddily. He smashes the symbol through the floor.

Our lawmakers soon found their tongues. They who could do nothing about an hour earlier. They suddenly waxed into rhetoricians for the public good. They started speaking for democracy, for the rule of law, for the restoration of the mace. They bore the outraged beauty of the law. News reporters who looked but did not see immediately announced that Omo-Agege brought the thugs. A certain lawmaker in Babaringa also thought so, as he kept gesticulating in suppressed indignation in Omo-Agege’s direction. He, too, had looked as the visitors brushed off with the gem of authority.

The Senate elite suddenly felt righteous against their foes. The police arrested and freed Omo-Agege, who has sworn he did not bring the bad guys. I called him and asked him what happened, and he said he came to the Senate on his own. He said he was not so foolish as to deposit chaos with thugs in the first law chamber in the land. He believed he had been suspended illegally, and the cases of Ndume and feisty Dino Melaye had proved that no lawmaker had the right to suspend his or her colleagues. He came to the chamber to affirm the majesty of the law of the land.

What occurred to me as the news unfolded was not so much the impunity of the young men, which is reprehensible. The senate elite was getting a bite of their own lawlessness. Was it not the clique led by Bukola “Eleyinmi” Saraki, who hatched out a coup in the dawn of this 8th senate? They gloried in the rascality of that pre-dawn disorder. They now suspended a fellow senator. But worse, they evaporated a democratic group’s right to exist, because they supported Buhari over the order of the 2019 polls. They asphyxiated the right to assemble and associate.

This is a lawmaker’s case against the law. The senators led by Eleyinmi were irresponsible, brutish, and a constant threat to the sanity of this democracy. They head a democracy but their minds hark back to the caveman’s malignity, to a bumpkin’s logic, to the morality of a soldier of fortune. The Eleyinmi of Village Headmaster bowed to the Oba’s restraint. He subscribes to what French president condemned as “authoritarian democracy” rather than the “authority of democracy.”

Questions still trail what happened? How did the man get in and beat up a sergeant at arms? How did they miss the array of top security in the country? We need to know if it was carelessness, and that needs to be punished. If the IGP got away from disobeying the president’s order, the SSS persons who let this thugs reign ought to be put answer to the law. As Oscar Wilde wrote, “if one tells the truth, one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.” Some of the participants in this drama have told the truth without knowing it.

A question has arisen as to whether this was a response to the call to fire the service chiefs. Yayi had led the chorus to dump the service chiefs who have been coddled for no reason by the president. The service chiefs have outlived their stay in office. Winning teams often are allowed to stay because they are doing a good job. But this set of chiefs are a bumbling lot. They cannot secure us against the foes of herdsmen and the resurgent Boko Haram.

So many are asking questions and so few answers. If this turns out to be a continuing war between law makers and the presidency, then it is not a way to go about it. It only shows that democrats have lost hope in democracy. Just as the dominant party, APC, has acted as though under the spell of the army era, our democracy has not flagged to exhibit its culture of the diktat.

One of the intrigues of this country and its democracy is how we wheel from one cycle of bad judgment and incident to another as though nothing happened. The drama would soon fizzle out and our consciences and memories will be numb again to tragedy.

In a sense, we are like Oscar, the anarchist dwarf in Gunter Grass’ novel Tin Drum. He, like us, never gets tired of shattering things because it seems to change nothing. So, we enter a new week, thinking a new lease has arrived and we need new drama to reawaken our thirst for adventure.

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