Noth­ing To Dis­cuss To­day

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - CITY FILE - Abra­ham Og­bodo 08055328079 (Sms only) abra­ham.og­

TH­ESE are per­ilous times. What con­sti­tutes a red line is so elas­tic and im­per­cep­ti­ble that be­ing care­ful alone is not enough safe­guard. Avoid­ing cross­ing one in the cur­rent times could be as dif­fi­cult as walk­ing through a mine­field. There is a noose called hate speech that can come around the necks of writ­ers. Yet, si­lence is not a so­lu­tion be­cause peo­ple will say, ‘oh he has com­pro­mised’ if one re­mains still. And so to­day, I am search­ing for what to write that will keep me within bounds. I had thought of do­ing some­thing on the Python that has been danc­ing in the South­east, but some­thing tells me to stay clear so that I am not ac­cused of sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism.

My good friend, Femi Adesina an­nounced on Fri­day that Pres­i­dent Buhari would leave the coun­try to­day for the US to at­tend

United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly meet­ing in New York and would re­turn through Lon­don. Adesina didn’t say if the Pres­i­dent would just be stop­ping over in Lon­don for a night or two; or sched­uled to start his third med­i­cal va­ca­tion. He just said: “re­turn through Lon­don.” He had also spo­ken with some gusto and was like say­ing, “I have al­ways told you doubt­ing Thomases that Mr. Pres­i­dent is hale and strong enough to take on all tasks. You can see now, he is fly­ing 12 hours across the At­lantic to the US and will re­turn al­most im­me­di­ately through United King­dom, which even in­creases the flight time to about 14 hours.”

Good. But if I write that hav­ing stayed away from the home­land for al­most the bet­ter part of his two years and four months pres­i­dency, Buhari shouldn’t jet out again so soon for any rea­son, in­clud­ing at­tend­ing United Na­tions meet­ing in New York, I will be ac­cused of hate speech. Sin­cerely, apart from the de­sire to be part of a global crowd of heads of gov­ern­ment, I do not know how the UN meet­ing and a side talk with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump as re­vealed by Mr. Adesina will change things at home.

For in­stance, is the en­gage­ment go­ing to teach Pres­i­dent Buhari new tricks on how to man­age the is­sues of dis­con­tent in the polity? If the an­swer is yes, I am hereby con­tribut­ing my next salary to the fu­el­ing of the pres­i­den­tial jet that will take him to and from the United States through the United King­dom. It is a very small sac­ri­fice to make for the good of this great coun­try and I know of many oth­ers with far fat­ter salaries that are ready to con­trib­ute to the cause. We only need to be con­vinced.

Mind you, I am still search­ing for what to write on to­day. One of the rea­sons Buhari gave for con­sign­ing the 2014 Con­fab re­port to the dust bin was that the con­fer­ence was staged with big money at a time univer­sity teach­ers un­der the Aca­demic Staff Union of Uni­ver­si­ties (ASUU) were on strike. It was a most pa­tri­otic thing to do. Why, in all sin­cer­ity, should for­mer Pres­i­dent Jonathan, act­ing like a drunken fish­er­man, spend so much to stage a talk show while Nige­rian youths, the next lead­ers of this coun­try after all the old men must have had their turns, were out of school be­cause gov­ern­ment failed to make it pos­si­ble for their teach­ers to work?

I do not think Buhari’s con­cern for the youths of Nige­ria has di­min­ished. It fol­lows there­fore that all mat­ters and im­mi­nent mat­ters of strike of univer­sity teach­ers and work­ers, doc­tors and so on will have been re- solved be­fore the Pres­i­dent leaves to­day for the US to join his col­leagues for the UN meet­ing. If oth­er­wise, from whom do I seek per­mis­sion to ex­press my hum­ble views so that I do not write hate speech?

An­other mat­ter is also both­er­ing me. I may also at­tend an in­ter­na­tional meet­ing some day and if in the course of events a col­league, from say Afghanistan, ask to know what has been ail­ing the Nige­rian pres­i­dent and how much has been spent to con­tain the ail­ment, what should I say? If I call Lai Mo­hammed to give me the an­swers, he will say that the nar­ra­tive on the Pres­i­dent’s ill­ness and what is cost­ing Nige­ria to keep him alive is be­ing con­trolled for se­cu­rity rea­sons. If I turn to Femi Adesina, think­ing both of us have come a long way and he would for old-time sake oblige, he is likely to say the Pres­i­dent’s health is a pri­vate af­fair and the aris­ing med­i­cal bills from his treat­ment abroad can be picked by quar­ters even un­known to the state.

You know jour­nal­ists are very in­quis­i­tive. An­other col­league from Kenya may ask what it cost gov­ern­ment to rout those dar­ing rats that took over the Pres­i­dent’s of­fice while he was away for 105 days in Lon­don on med­i­cal va­ca­tion. Mal­lam Shehu Garba would be needed here. It was he who pro­pounded the rat in­va­sion the­ory. But I doubt if he would be forth­com­ing. He is likely to di­rect all en­quiries to the min­istry of en­vi­ron­ment, which su­per­vised the fu­mi­ga­tion for the specifics of how much was spent and how many rats were liq­ui­dated in the end.

Should I write on that to­day or I jump on the band­wagon called ‘re­struc­tur­ing’ and use the op­por­tu­nity to ask why the APC, which had re­struc­tur­ing as a key item in its party pro­grammes is con­sti­tut­ing a com­mit­tee headed by Mal­lam El-ruf­fai to de­fine re­struc­tur­ing? The party is mak­ing the whole thing look like an English Lan­guage com­pre­hen­sion les­son in which ‘re­struc­tur­ing’ hap­pens to be among the new words, which have to be ex­plained thoroughly by the tu­tor to aid un­der­stand­ing of the en­tire com­po­si­tion. What will hap­pen if I say this? Will I be ac­cused of fur­ther heat­ing up the al­ready heated polity?

I am still search­ing for what to write on to­day. There is this un­re­solved knot be­tween the Depart­ment for State Se­cu­rity (DSS), the Se­nate on one side and the Pres­i­dency on the other side, which is mak­ing the act­ing chair­man of the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu look like an il­le­gal op­er­a­tor. Now, If I ask why the Pres­i­dency or more specif­i­cally, Pres­i­dent Buhari has not set­tled that mat­ter be­fore go­ing to New York, won’t peo­ple say that cor­rup­tion is fight­ing back?

Yet if I de­cide to­day to join Magu whole­heart­edly to fight cor­rup­tion and ask for the full im­ple­men­ta­tion of the re­port of the panel that in­ves­ti­gated the grass cut­ting con­tract and the mas­sive dol­lar re­cov­ery in Ikoyi, the same peo­ple will say I am black­mail­ing the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment. If I dare a lit­tle more to ask what be­came of the case of the half a bil­lion naira kick-back in the fine buy-back deal in­volv­ing a tele­com ma­jor, I could be branded a ter­ror­ist. And so, what should I write on to­day and be safe?

Ev­ery­body knows that it is the APC that is gen­er­at­ing the heat in the sys­tem but no­body is say­ing it for fear of be­ing branded hate speaker. If it is not the pres­i­dency ver­sus the leg­is­la­ture, both con­trolled by the APC, it is the pres­i­dency ver­sus it­self. Other times, it is the pres­i­dency ver­sus the ju­di­ciary. If I de­cide now to write that the APC is a rul­ing, rolling and an op­po­si­tion party rolled into one, peo­ple will say I am an agent of the PDP out to dis­credit the

APC and weaken its elec­toral chances ahead of 2019. What ex­actly should I com­ment on to­day? If I ad­vise that Pres­i­dent Buhari should be al­lowed to re­tire to Daura and not be bur­dened with a se­cond term if he pushes through to 2019, peo­ple will say I am be­hav­ing like the Jews who con­spired and killed the saviour that God sent to them.

As it is, I am not too sure any­more of what con­sti­tutes first-de­gree felony like ter­ror­ism in Nige­ria. And so, as a wise man, I have ad­vised my­self to re­main neu­tral to­day. Maybe some­thing con­crete and less con­tro­ver­sial may crop up next week. Make­u­nanorvex.

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