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FRANK OFILI

HEART OVER HEAD 

By Frank Ofili

I have just heard with one ear (sorry Prof Adesanmi, I need to borrow that phrase again) that James Onanefe Ibori, former governor of my beloved Delta State and the Ogidigbodigbo of Oghara community, has just completed his jail term in the UK and has been released.

No wonder, I have been reading all sorts of congratulatory messages to the burly fellow for making it out of the UK prison. You would think serving a jail term in UK prison was an achievement worth commending someone on. Honestly speaking, some people have lost it in this country of ours. What ordinarily should elicit a feeling of shame and remorse has now become something to be proud of and celebrated. It says something about the moral health of some of us Nigerians.

Anyway, back to the reason for this piece. Just as Ibori was walking out of the comfort of his prison cell, he was re-arrested on a different charge. Re-arrested? How? 

And that is the point. Yes, he was re-arrested, but those who have been celebrating what ought to be their shame did not mention that he was re-arrested. They remained silent on that score. 

But why re-arrest Ibori? And why are the Heavens not falling over the UK for his re-arrest? Where are the UK lawyers and human rights activists? Why are they not bombarding us with the charge of impunity? WHow could they not know what is law and human rights? They should take a trip down to good old Naija for lectures on human rights, rule of law, impunity, and illegal arrest and detention.

If Ibori was detained in Nigeria, released and later re-arrested on a different charge, a storm of sorts would have fallen over the country by now. That is how we roll on this side of the globe. We know so much about law and human rights but we are often the first to trample on them once we assume one small office with some measure of authority. 

Now check these out. Nigeria’s modern day Santa Claus, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), the de facto immediate past president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, was arrested for illegal possession of arms. He was granted bail; he met his bail conditions and was accordingly released. On the day he set his foot out of detention however, he was re-arrested on a different charge entirely, this time for laundering $2.1 billion meant for procurement of arms and munitions to prosecute the war against Boko Haram. And Heaven started falling over Naija. 

Emergency lawyers and human rights activists started lecturing us about rule of law and all that. Sponsored journalists started reminding us of Buhari’s first sojourn as military head of state and how Dasuki led a band of coups to arrest him in a palace coup. These brown-envelop men of pen insinuated (they actually still do) that the President was on a revenge and witch-hunt mission. But they forgot that there has to be a witch first before it can be hunted. If Dasuki did not have skeleton in his cupboard there wouldn’t have been need for anybody to look in his closet. Dasuki has since named names, and those named have not exactly denied it. Some have even returned some of the stolen money. Yet the wailing wailers and their cohorts insist the government is on a witch-hunt.

As days and weeks got by, these enemies of the people, especially those of them from the South-south and South-east who control a large segment of the media, changed the slant, craftily manipulating attention from the offenses for which Dasuki was arrested, detained and now being tried, to what they called the persecution of PDP and President Jonathan’s men.

A South-south senator and owner of a large media conglomerate has practically appropriated the Twitter airspace in Nigeria with his less than common sense tweets. Olisa Metuh, the Josef Goebbels of PDP, added verve to the media manipulation when he sought to procure from the public, an equivalent of a Stockholm Syndrome with his melodramatic public display of handcuffs placed on him by the EFCC. Before the drama of the handcuffs was another drama involving an attempt to turn his otherwise fine set of teeth to a paper shredder. But that is story for another day.

Next, Nnamdi Kanu, the neo-Biafra warlord and leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra who had been threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria via his pirate Radio Biafra. Kanu landed the shores of Nigeria in November 2015 and was promptly arrested. A high court judge granted him unconditional bail following the application for withdrawal of the charges against him (then) by the Department of State Security (DSS). However, just as Kanu was walking away a free man, he was re-arrested on fresh count charge of treasonable felony amongst others. Again, Heaven started falling over Nigeria.

Charge of impunity, human rights abuse and disregard for court order have been renting the air against President Buhari. Those who claim to be Biafrans, and not the “zoo” Nnamdi Kanu told them was Nigeria, have been shouting about their right to secede and determine their political future. They shout right to self-determination but curiously they see nothing wrong in their virtual forceful annexation (in a manner of speaking) of non-Biafra territories into their fantasy.  

Urhobo, Itsekiri, Isoko, Anioma, Bini and other indigenous nations historically never known to be part of Biafra, suddenly found themselves in the map of the new Biafra. Never mind that the original author of Biafra, Chief Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, the Ikemba Nnewi and Eze Igbo worldwide, had himself renounced Biafra long before he passed on to the great beyond. Ojukwu himself severally declared that he would wage war against anyone who attempted to divide Nigeria.

But these neo-Biafrans probably had other plans. They did not just stop at shouting self-determination. They also took to the streets in protest against the detention of Kanu. In the process, some people lost their lives when security forces attempted to disperse them. They say the DSS must obey the court order releasing Kanu from detention. It never occurred to them that that court order has been obeyed but the young man was re-arrested on another charge entirely – this time treasonable felony among other offenses. Nor did they care to know that a man who threatened to levy war against his country should not be left to walk free. If Kanu were in the United States of America, he would have been in solitary confinement in Guantanamo Bay.

 And that is the essential difference between us and the civilized world. While the civilized world is rational, not easily swayed and would only act based on facts, we act out of emotions. And these emotions are always either ethnic, religious, political or self-interest based. We put our hearts over our heads. We are hardly rational; we hardly ever make any effort to get facts before we hit the streets, or the airwaves. We do not ask questions; we do not question motives as long as our ethnic, religious and selfish interests are served. We act with our heart instead of our head. We judge someone based on an “offense” he has not committed. We have so much distrust and lack of confidence in ourselves. We believe that anyone leading us who is not of our tribe or religion must have a hidden agenda to either Islamize us, northernize us or marginalize us. And this mind-set defines our relationship and how we see things. 

That is why any time those who actually committed offence while in office are being brought to account, we often ask “are they the first? What of A, Y and Z who were there before? Why not start with them? Indeed, why not start the probe from Lord Luggard?  We often ask these questions when those of our own are involved. This is how we roll in this country. So much ignorance, even among the educated. Little wonder we often fall easy prey to the likes of Nmadi Kanu, some category of pastors, imams and anyone and everyone who has a very smooth tongue.

But I digress. Ibori was acquitted of corruption by our court. But the UK justice system thought otherwise. They arrested him, tried him and jailed him, thus making a nonsense of our justice system. Ibori has now served out his jail term and has been released. But he has equally been arrested on another charge, and I have not heard that anybody in the UK is making needless noise about his release and re-arrest.  Nor is anybody protesting. This is because they know as a people what corruption can do to a nation. So they go to great length to eschew it like cancer. In our case, we actually extol corruption. That is why someone would be so shameless as to celebrate Ibori’s released from a UK prison and even question if the UK had been fair to him. This is the same thing they did when D.S.P Alamieseigha jumped bail in the UK and landed the creeks of Delta with funfair.

 It is only in Nigeria, a lawyer who has not won a single case in court since he left law school would busy himself wailing about human right abuse even when the facts are clear to him. He didn’t wail when the looting brigade were busy looting and denying the rest of us our own rights through corruption.

These pathetic wailers seem to have now taken their wailing to a new level. They now do everything to make the government fall. They now cook up stories, engage in misinformation and disinformation. They do not care about Nigeria and her people; they only care about what they get out of her. This is perhaps what my friend Lawrence Ibeh meant when he wrote that “……they are busy now supporting, sympathizing and entering into an unholy alliance with corrupt people in order to undermine the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration’s drive to curb corruption”.