Democracy Day was celebrated on 29th May, 2009 when Nigeria attained 10 years of sustained democracy. It is delightful that citizens and politicians aired their views on the journey so far. Statesmen congratulated their leaders in advertorials; some through direct letters with suggestions on the way forward. The ‘cancer’ that had been destabilising Sokoto State polity has now spread to the Presidency just because PDP controls the centre and Sokoto State.
Ex-Governor Attahiru Bafarawa chose the pages of newspapers to berate President Yar’adua in his usual know-it-all fashion. Governor Wamakko of Sokoto State was the first victim of Bafarawa’s style of ‘Open Letter’ politics. In spite of subtle reactions from interest groups that counselled him on normal and decorous official communication for someone of his stature, he still re-enacted the episode in the recent “Open Letter to President Yar’adua.”
His alibi of President Yar’adua’s busy schedule is porous because he failed to tell the readers whether Yar’adua denied him audience on application as buttressed by a loose statement, “I had planned to meet face-to-face with you so that we could, as compatriots, reflect on issues of national interest and concern, but I could not achieve this objective owing to your very busy schedules”. As in the case of Sokoto State, this statement does not show that Bafarawa officially sought audience with Yar’adua and was ignored. Moreover, he did not say he wrote Mr President on the “very germane issues” and did not get a reply or was accorded inappropriate attention.
The third paragraph of his letter shows the misnomer of a politician who could have addressed the nation and its citizens as a presidential candidate and leader of a political party, but chose the path of teeth-gnashing against Yar’adua to commemorate Democracy Day and the country’s 10 years of its sustenance. Thus, it is opprobrious to state, “which is why I decided to write you so that I can join you and other Nigerians to give this day the special recognition it (democracy) deserves”.
Pathetically, politics blinds some people to outrageous falsehood and vainglory. Bafarawa eulogised eminent personalities that fought for the enthronement of democracy in the present dispensation, but failed to say that he was a major beneficiary of the military government that brought him to limelight through petroleum business patronage. His story about his encounter with the late Shehu Musa Yar’adua is one of his emotional antics designed to create a new image rubbished by the gradual sink of DPP in Sokoto State and at the national level.
Our basis for reacting to his letter is his political antecedents as governor of Sokoto State for eight years. The Executive Council was a “yes” court to his prepared papers. Any dissention was met with unusual brutality. It was the era that witnessed the annihilation of political parties, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) when Sokoto politicians in opposition were asked to leave to find their food elsewhere. Civil servants were told in clear terms to either tow along or resign their appointments. It is, therefore, in the light of what we know of Bafarawa that our cynicism is heightened by his letter to Yar’adua.
He is not a democrat and should not create the aura of one. His letter is misplaced because it is not conscionable. We are miffed at his newfound love in rule of law, due process and democratic sentiments of electoral reform, free and fair election and equitable distribution of opportunities. These elements were absent in Sokoto State throughout his period. If he is reasonable enough, he could have admitted that “you are being told by sycophants and professional praise singers that you are THE ONE AND THE ONLY ONE that can take Nigeria to the Promised Land” is defeatist rendition (emphasis as original).
He entrenched these as passion in his leadership as governor of Sokoto State, and perhaps he must have admitted the catastrophe as undoing his administration when he stated that it was the bad experience of past leaders. If he’d listened as he is now advising Yar’adua, his political peers could not have deserted him, as recently happened. The hard fact is that Bafarawa does not believe in or tolerate opposition or contrary opinion. It is then quite surprising that he’s portraying himself as a democrat on the pages of newspapers.
A man that least tolerated criticism is now enjoining, “Please note that no serious government can perform well without dispassionate and constructive criticism. It is only a government without purpose that would aim to surround itself with ‘yes men’”. But he too practised this system and those who dared him paid dearly. Mr President and Nigerians should be careful about wolves in sheep’s clothing. Such, according to Shakespeare, can be dangerous.
Garba is the President, Democratic Vanguard, Sokoto, Sokoto State