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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

A Swipe at the Culture of Impunity



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By Tochukwu Ezukanma

Over the years, I heard of Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka, especially, about his then long running conflict with Chimaroke Nnamani, the then governor of Enugu State. Lately, for the first time, I listened to a few of his CDs. They are usually a combination of songs, exhortations and sermons.

I found them very impressive. I was captivated by his directness and candor. I have always respected and admired those who can honestly express themselves: saying things the way they see it or feel it. These are the exceptional few, the courageous and honorable few, who can live their lives not swayed by promises of reward or threats of punishment.

Courage comes from God. Therefore, every true man of God, that is, those with the calling and unction of God must be courageous. Any priest, pastor, evangelist, etc that professes Christ but remains gutless and spineless and is tossed about by fear of possible punishment or anxiety over potential rewards is an impostor – a con artist and a pathological lair. Such a “man of God” does not have the calling of God, but took to the ministry for pecuniary and other incentives.

Secondly, Ejike Mbaka’s message is a refreshingly different from that of most Nigerian preachers. It goes beyond the usual trite palliatives of pay your tithes and sow your seeds, and then, prosper and the prosaic doctrine of get born again and inherit eternal life in the hereafter. He addresses the problems of the day, issues that affect us directly in this world.

He indicts the power elite of their multitude of wickedness, theft, corrupt dealings and abuse of power, and urges them to mend their evil ways. As I listened through his songs and unequivocal and defiant sermons, I was fascinated especially by one song. It was his rendition of a song by the people of Imo State against an unbridled act of impunity:

Onye ahu tiri father ihe (He that beat up a Reverend Father)

Chorus: Ogahi achi anyi oso (He will not govern us again)

Ohakim tiri father ihe (Ohakim that beat up a Reverend Father)

Chorus: Ogahi achi anyi oso (He will not govern us again)

The song expressed the prevalent mood in Imo state after Governor Ohakim’s security men, at the direction of the governor, beat up and detained an elderly priest. The priest’s only crime was that he did not hurriedly drive his car out of the way as the governor’s siren blaring motorcade sped through.

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The people of Imo state were outraged by what was by any standard a sacrilege. It was a behavior that smacked in the face of everything the people of the state held dear. And they vowed that he will not govern them again. Refreshingly, Ohakim did not govern them again, they voted him out. In Nigeria where elections were previously fixed by political godfathers in total disregard for the electoral preferences of the electorate, this expressed power of the electorate in removing an unwanted governor is exhilarating. For once, the real essence of democracy triumphed over the forces of arrogance and insensitivity in Nigeria.

It must have taken utmost recklessness and total “I don care” to beat up an elderly priest in a predominantly Catholic State. It was the height of the arrogance of power, disdain for tradition, and scorn for the beliefs of the people and total contempt for the Catholic Church.

In the old Igbo tradition, to beat up someone older than you was awful. To beat an older man who is also a priest was abhorrent. And to do it for no legitimate reason was abominable. It was an act that must have deeply offended the sensibilities of the people of the state. But that was not the first time that Nigerians were profoundly affronted by the excesses of the Nigerian power elite. However, generally, they helplessly stomached such affronts because the power of the vote was emasculated by an ignoble oligarchy that disregarded the people’s electoral choices. To successful wield the power of the vote against a governor for bruising the sensitivity of the people is very new in Nigeria.

It was Ukpabi Asika, as the administrator of East Central State, who once said: nobody put me in power and nobody can remove me. Arrogant parlance it was, but then, that was under military rule. He served at the will of gun tooting soldiers that shot their way into power, and held the people in submission to the gun.

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But then, even under democratic dispensations in Nigeria, such supercilious choice of words was not uncommon because most elected officials served not at the will of the people, but at the pleasure of the political godfathers. For example, Chimaroke Nnamani, at the height of his murderous binge, in Enugu State, could have made a similar statement because he needed not the people’s accent, but his party’s dexterity in electoral fraud and the approval of his political godfathers, to remain in power.

Having been rigged into power by a corrupt collusion of the People’s Progressive Alliance (PPA) chieftains and Morris Iwu led Independent National Election Commission (INEC), Ohakim must have been buoyed by a similar mindset. So, as he (through his security men) assaulted and humiliated a priest, violated the sacrosanctity of the Catholic Church, and by extension, insulted the susceptibilities of the whole Catholic votaries of the state, he must have felt that nobody put him in power and, as such, nobody could remove him from power. Poor Ohakim, he failed to realize that times were beginning to change. And that the Nigerian electorates, for once, will effectively exercise the power of the vote. Thanks to Goodluck Jonathan and Attahiru Jega.

This new found power of the vote in Nigeria is remarkable. If wielded strategically, it can begin the process of sanitizing the democratic process by weeding off the undeserving and undesirable elements that suffice the Nigerian corridors of power. As we can now insist and actualize that as for those greedy and indolent legislators that make 10 times as much as the United States of American senators and 4 times as United States’ president by saying yays and nays; they will not legislate for us again. That those voracious and underperforming governors steep in the theft of public funds; they will not govern us again.

In addition, we can also demand and effect that that ineffective president, purposely chosen, by his political godfathers, for his docility, who cannot tackle the problems of the country, but wants to elongate the president’s term of office and remove the fuel subsidy; hewill not preside over us again

Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria


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