“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Prior to 2015 general election, former President Jonathan told anyone that cared to listen, that his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian. As a true democrat, he emphasised repeatedly that the process of election—which guarantees freedom of choice and expression of opinion, that epitomizes democracy, is more important than its outcome. On this political philosophy, he conceded victory when it was politically incorrect to do so. He towered above partisan inclinations and pressure from aides and kinsmen—not to concede defeat, to sustain democratic tenets and ethos which elevated him as the greatest democrat Nigeria has ever had.
Ironically, the ruling APC—the beneficiary of President Jonathan’s democratic principles and values saw these historic sacrifices, as traits of weakness and political naivety. The PDP lost presidential election, but the APC saw it as a lost war, therefore every stakeholder who indirectly or directly campaigned for President Jonathan’s second term aspiration must be framed up and imprisoned unconstitutionally as war slaves and their properties confiscated as bounties recovered from conquered territories. The PDP chieftains became endangered species that must be preyed upon by rampaging predators of dictatorship—which plans to strengthen its grip on power, by destroying opposition, in the guess of anti-corruption fight.
In foregoing context, the PDP family has become bewildered, ravaged, traumatized and desolate shadow of itself as a result of political strangulation of opposing views in the country on the altar of lopsided anti-corruption onslaught. The hitherto biggest political party in Africa has become victimized symbol of persecution and political witch-hurt. Free, fair and transparent election it instituted became its albatross. Its campaign funds provided the ruling APC needed tool of oppression it wanted—as if President Buhari’s election was not also funded with public resources. No APC member has been arrested for funding President Buhari’s election via public purse, but the PDP stakeholders are being detained indefinitely, at the whims and caprices of ruling party.
Like a soothing balm of consolation and encouragement to incarcerated PDP chieftains, the august visit of Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu to EFCC detention facility on 27th October, 2016, gave hope to them and PDP supporters across the country. The courageous aspect of this visit is that, it came when it was politically incorrect to identify with perceived enemies of the State—being detained not for judicial sentences, but political choices they made in 2015 election and continuous criticisms of unpopular policies of the government in power. The striking aspect of Sen. Ekweremadu’s visit is that, it came from a leader that has no immunity against arrest, even when PDP governors that have immunity are dreading visiting their fellow party stakeholders at EFCC’s cells, for fear of being branded rebels.
One of the lessons learnt from Sen. Ekweremadu’s show of leadership to PDP family, at this trying time, is that real empathic and selfless leaders emerge during the moment of oppression and persecution of his people. A true shepherd does not abandon his sheep for palpable fear of being preyed upon by invading predators. As a student of Martin Niemoller’s school of thought, embodied in his above stated historic poem, DSP Ekweremadu believes that an infringement on peoples’ rights of freedom, in whatever guess, is an assault not only on the democratic spirit cum provisions of our grand norm—1999 Constitution, which binds us together as a nation, but society at large. Therefore, keeping mute or playing ostrich game, will amount to an act of cowardice—which weakens democratic foundation as entrenched in principles of rule of law, and inversely emboldens tyranny, that will ultimately propel Nigeria’s hard-earned democracy on the inglorious path of obliteration.
In a democracy like ours; that runs on rule of law, there is no justification to keep detaining people indefinitely without being convicted by court of competent jurisdiction. Those whose graveyard silence, are tactically lending credence to jaundiced impression being created by EFCC that these men are being held without bail, because they are ‘unpardonable looters’, will wake up one day, to their utter most chagrin, and discover that, like Pastor Martin Niemoller’s (paraphrased) poem said, “First they came for the Dasuki and I did not speak out because I was not a former National Security Adviser (NSA). Then they came for Bukola Saraki and I did not speak out because I did not contest senate presidency seat against the permutation of party godfathers. Then they came for Ike Ekweremadu and I did not speak out because I was never a senator—let alone, wrongly accused of forging Senate Standing Rules. Then they came for Femi Fani-Kayode, I did not speak out because I never participated in presidential campaign of former President Jonathan. Then they came for Judges, I did not speak out because I was never a Judge. Then they came for Bala Mohammed and I did not speak out because I was never FCT Minister. Then they came for Reuben Abati and I did not speak out because I never incurred the rot of ‘Aso Rock Demons’.
Then, when they will eventual come for me—when the soldiers of Nazist regime will be at my doorsteps calling, no one will be left to stand up for me”.
Until the ruling the APC explains to conscious Nigerians how President Buhari’s Presidential Campaign was funded, every action taken by this administration to probe campaign funds of the PDP, will be seen by discerning pundits as targeted persecution cum selective anti-graft battle, meant to decimate opposition, ahead of 2019 general elections. What information is EFCC still extracting from Femi Fani-Kayode that it could not dig out, for almost two months the ex-Aviation Minister was confined in EFCC custody, to necessitate his second arrest. It is obvious that he is being incarcerated for hard truths he marshals out via his thought provoking articles.
Like Deputy Senate Ike Ekweremadu did, the time is now, for every lover of democracy and rule of law to stand up and be counted. Fascism is slowing creeping in our midst. Pastor Martin Niemoller’s poem, of which this piece is anchored on, was about the cowardice cum unhealthy silence of German intellectuals and civil rights activists following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, perceived opposition leaders, one after another.
Nwobodo Chidiebere writes from Abuja.