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Ali meets Ali

Yes, it is hard times out there. You know what I mean. But before the hike in petrol prices, most people I know have borne…

Yes, it is hard times out there. You know what I mean. But before the hike in petrol prices, most people I know have borne it with brave smiles on their faces, looking beyond themselves and the hardship this abrupt shock brought to their lives, to instead focus on the big picture.

We all seemed to have found it in our hearts to move on, to for once trust the government qualification narratives for unpalatable economic policies even if with bated breaths. Without ceremony, we have somehow disabused ourselves of the petty concept of a patron saint who will show up, decapitate our enemies and carry us off to Shangri-La on a winged horse.

After eight years of PMB, we all know ‘what’s up’. We have more practical perspectives on engineering a functional culture of governance and our own responsibilities under it. One hearkens back to the apocalypse that stalked the nation for weeks in 2012 when the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan made moves to terminate the subsidy regime. And that was when the greenback was about N200 apiece and the minimum wage has at least a wishful chance of sustaining a family of four through the month.

This is just a passing background on the chain reaction of the “Buhari Disillusionment” that is making pragmatic realists out of Nigerians, having arrived at this threshold the hard way.

I count myself among the cheerleaders of this administration, but that is because of SOME of the principled and constructive policy decisions it has made thus far are the obvious things that have been missing in the pot all this while. Maybe I am being a moral narcissist for saying all of this, but then I also believe that if you compromise one measly detail of a well-meant equation, it will culminate into a compromised end. No two ways about it. The minute you concede one inch to the dark side of the force, then there can be no redemption.

Our problems do not begin and end with corruption or graft in particular. I believe that this was the point former President GEJ was trying to make when he declared that “stealing is not corruption” …but GEJ was not a good orator, and many of us are given to mischief sometimes so it became on the record that Goodluck Jonathan does not believe that stealing is a bad thing.

Our problems start and end with the violation of the law in whatever form or guise and for absolutely whatever reason. They start and end with everything from bribery to extortion, nepotism, fraud and the subordination of public interests to private objectives; it starts and ends with the violation of the demands of duty highlighted by secrecy, betrayal, deceit and the egregious disregard for consequences to be borne by 200 million Nigerians today or in the remote future.

Our problems begin and end with the institutionalisation of dishonesty such that society no longer requires anyone to feel any shame in making overtures or soliciting favours that are every bit as condemnable and shameful as the taboos we wouldn’t be caught dead entertaining. Our problem is that the structure of our social interactions is typified by what the Hausa call the “Ali yaga Ali” or “a scoundrel meets another scoundrel” dead end. So, who will police whom? And after that, who will judge whom? A dead end at the start line.

One recalls the odyssey of the DSS and the suspended CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, who was forcibly taken from another institution of the law, the Nigerian Correctional Service, following an order of a court that Emefiele be remanded in a correctional facility. This was a judge appointed by and is in the service of the same state the DSS said it was also a department in service of. What do you expect when you serve a state by day and then terrorise it by night?

I am one of those who have a lot of confidence in the belief that Tinubu is well suited to be Nigeria’s big break. But not like this. I am one of the 99 per cent of the Nigerian population who agonised, yelled and hurled “Allah ya isas” during Emefiele’s malfeasant heydays in the glass fortress of Abuja, and I am one of those who will have him hanged for his crimes. But not like this.

I do not want to see Emefiele hanged as an exercise in vengeance or tyranny. I do not want it that bad and find it offensive. I do not want it if it comes at a cost, I am not willing to pay – at the cost of my conscience and strategic interests as a Nigerian who does not want to see the sovereignty of the law breached because that is the only thing that also protects me from what I am defenseless against. I do not want it if I have to call Emefiele Ali, and then have to look at another Ali in the mirror every morning.

I would advise the president to not let himself be fooled or carried away into believing that there is a shortcut to paradise lost. We are already black and blue from the violence inflicted on us, so if he really means well for us, he will give us a break by respecting the law when it serves him as much as when it hurts him.

He is the dawn of a new and exciting chapter of a new political era and he has the goodwill such beginnings come with. He will do well to administer that goodwill productively and that requires ethical rectitude in speech and in practice. He has shown every Nigerian of every hue and colour that he is not just a more dangerous Ali… one with the awesome powers of state.

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