Recently, I read an extensive interview – at least, it seemed like it – granted by former Aviation Minister (among many other offices) under the Obasanjo administration, Femi Fani-Kayode to Adewale Aladejana of Aside from Femi, some other former members of the Obasanjo administration have, through diverse fora, expressed disappointment at the course the nation has taken under the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan. They have repeatedly lamented what they see as a regression of the perceived progress made during their terms of service.

In reaction, the attack dogs of the current administration, referred to as today’s men, have,  in occasionally uncharacteristic manner, dismissed these concerns as the ranting of yesterday’s men who could not come to terms with the reality of their current lifestyle as just common ordinary Nigerians (like the rest of the 159.9 million of us). However, a quick reminder that today’s men, when tomorrow comes, could end up as yesterday’s men, seem to have put and end to such childish name-calling.

It is common knowledge the world over that former members of an administration would always have something to complain or criticize about those who took over from where they left off; look at all the former governors in cat-fights with their replacements who, ironically, used to be their assistants or political sons, over various reasons, ranging from the serious to the mundane. What struck a chord with Femi Fani-Kayode’s lamentations was the level of bitterness expressed therein, and the direct accusations and ominous pronouncements made against both the living and the dead. It reminded me of the bitter and curse-laced vituperations of the late Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, after the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) brazenly stole the 1983 general elections. Dr. Azikiwe, outrightly, placed a curse on the NPN, the Shagari administration, and elder statesmen who kept silent while the nation burned –at least, Ondo state did. By December of that year, three months after being sworn in, the second term of the Shagari presidency was violently terminated, and many prominent Nigerians found themselves cooling their heels in moldy jail houses, along with their political opponents.

Now, thirty years later, we have an ex-Minister, though not on the same level as the Owelle; however, a younger one, in a society where his friends and peers are busy devising ways and means to defraud the government in a more mechanized way than ever witnessed in the history of the nation; in a society where people serve in government to line their pockets and service their immediate families, someone this young, with years of fruitful (?) service to his nation still ahead of him, feels so wronged by his observations of the bungling of the current administrations that he would make doomsday pronouncements about the nation and people of Nigeria. He felt so frustrated by the slow pace of progress (if any) that he would, pointedly, accuse the president by name of being weak-kneed and running down the country.

Did Femi Fani-Kayode go too far? I have been pondering the answer to that question since I read the interview. Listen to him, though waxing spiritual, quoting bibles and making references to stories showing a Godly order of doing things: “there will be a change in Nigeria, whether anyone likes it or not. It will be a brutal change”. He went on to call attention to the high poverty rate, unemployment, crime rate, corruption which has grown exponentially under the current administration, and insecurity;  all perennial problems which are not particular to the Jonathan administration. He directly accused the president of incompetence, wishy-washy, weak, indecisive, and ineffective towards the security situation pervading the northern parts of the nation. He even placed the death of, according to him, 4200 Nigerians in the hands of Boko Haram on the feet of the president. All these are, unfortunately, appendages frequently tagged on the president by many Nigerians, regardless of party, gender, and ethnic origin.

At a point, the criticism takes a funny turn; at least in my opinion. H e accused the government of using the EFCC, SSS, and other security and regulatory apparatus to harass people who dared to criticize it; something which was the norm under the Obasanjo administration which he served. One is left wondering why Femi did not object then, even mildly, as he is doing now to the Jonathan administration. Many state governors, Ministers, senators and PDP officials are living witnesses to Obasanjo’s use of the national security tool to destroy people. I am sure Femi needs no reminding that what goes around comes around; also, that in some legal parlance, silence is akin to acquiescence. Or, closer to home, his brother’s famous statement in the novel, The Man Died, that evil thrives where good men keep silent – something like that.

On the late Yar, Adua, Chief Fani-Kayode practically called him an evil man, and appeared to gloat over his passing. He complained how the late president hounded and haunted his family with the EFCC and other state security apparatus, because he dared to speak out. According to him, Yar’Adua had no business being president of a nation like Nigeria. Ironically, this is the same man who admitted privy to all the manipulations that imposed the late president on Nigerians; it was the same Femi who, after the anointing, took Yar’Adua to meet with the late Libyan dictator, Khadafy. It was the same Obasanjo’s political manipulation that threw up an obscure Jonathan to the position of the vice presidency, thereby producing a weak president and a weaker vice president. In all this doing, good men like Femi who had front row seats in the Obasanjo administration, kept silent while this evil thrived.

In a way, the blame for the current state of the nation lays partially on Femi Fani-Kayode’s feet. He was there when Obasanjo took control of the PDP apparatus and weakened its leadership; he was there when the same Obasanjo selected a sick, weak man as president; he was there when the same Obasanjo hounded good men like Audu Ogbe, and Barnabas Germade out of the PDP, threw Olabode George into prison, sent Arisekola-Alao and Otunba Balogun to their knees, and ran many governors, senate presidents and House speakers out of office for daring to have a mind of their own. Yes, Femi Fani-Kayode was there when Obasanjo sought an unconstitutional third term, and he said nothing.

I am neither a historian nor as religious as Chief Fani-Kayode has proven to be in his interview, but I read something somewhere that went like this (I am sure Femi knows it):

First they came for the communist,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me

Yes, like every Nigerian, Femi has the right to complain and lament the current state of Nigerian affairs; what he does not have is the right to blame it wholly on the current administration, which many of us are not fans of. I also believe that one should always come to equity with clean hands; in this case, Femi’s hands are not clean. Though he may have, on his own, done his best to improve the lives of the ordinary Nigerian when he was in government, he lacked the same courage and decisive action he now expects from Jonathan and his lieutenants when his own boss was laying the foundations for the current state of our nation.

Felix Oti

Arlington, TX

[email protected]

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