The details don’t matter.
Whatever you heard, from a blog, a WhatsApp group, from your neighbor downstairs, who saw snatches of it on television, or at the beer parlour down the road, it cannot be worse than what actually happened: men from Nigeria’s security forces, – in a democratic nation with laws and conventions, and men and women of decency – had the audacity to invade a court of law, cock a gun, disrupt the flywheel of the law, and seek to abduct a citizen of the country already declared free by a court of competent jurisdiction.
And all of this happened in daylight, in the front of cameras and spotlights, before friends and foes, without fear or shame, at a Federal High Court in the nation’s capital.
If you ever were a supporter of this president and his party, today is a day to bury your head in shame. This cannot be defended; this cannot be explained away, and this violates every pretense that this government – the same one that sought to abduct a Senate President; the same one that refused to follow the spirit of the law in the sacking a Supreme Court justice, the same one that has not yet explained where prominent critics have disappeared to under the guiding hand of its officials – might have about respect for rule of law, about civil liberties, and about common sense.
That in a democracy, with a judiciary, a legislature, a free press, and a rambunctious opposition, a sitting government can have within its ranks such unhinged men (they were all men, in this case) who would order and execute the worst kind of banditry, possibly illegal, borderline unconstitutional and certainly tasteless proves what many already knew and others dreaded admitting: President Buhari and the men and women around him, do not understand how a democracy works, what a democracy means, and why a democracy matters.
Here is what is apparent from the deep back-end reporting that we have seen: This president is functionally absent from his duty post, his vice president is isolated and on his way to being of full irrelevance, his wife is sidelined (and rendered incoherent through doublespeak) by those he trusts to run the country in the absence of his cognition, activists have lost the collective bite that held Goodluck Jonathan accountable, and those in his party who would stand up to him are frozen by their own political calculations, hoping that the reward for their disciplined silence will be seen as loyalty by a man who has shown he really cares for no one but himself.
In the absence of the traditions that should keep the peace, and maintain the balance of sanity, hoodlums in the presidency, who believe that power matters above all else and who do not understand the price at which our democracy was hard-won continue to trample upon rights, liberties and sensibilities. This has been happening steadily for the past five years. They have now made it official.
They don’t care what happens to democracy, they don’t care what Nigerians think or say. All they care about is power.
And they are able to display that tasteless insanity because we have a president who won the vote twice even when the sensible thing to do was to step aside and let those who are fully alive and able to do their jobs to take over the steering wheel of a tottering nation.
What yesterday’s event has proven beyond any reasonable doubt is that the cost of keeping Muhammadu Buhari as president has become too high. The dangers that his grip on our necks pose are now limitless, and the slide that his irresponsibility has engendered has no stop button.
The detainee in question, Yele Sowore has taken the first step in making clear to all of us in a way we cannot ignore the dangers that we have faced for months and years now, and we, as a nation, owe unending thanks.
It’s time for us to pick up the baton Sowore has graciously handed to us.
Nigeria might not survive another two years of this presidency-gone-mad.