Audacity is a word made popular in our own time by the erstwhile United States of America president, Barack Hussein Obama. A relatively little-known Black man, in a country still seething with racial discrimination against the people of colour – as Blacks, African-Americans, Latinos, etc were called – decided to go for not just the highest office in the land but the most powerful, most respected, and most feared in the entire world. He was not really a national icon at the time but a little-known state Senator just serving his first term in the US Senate. Though talented with oratorical and organisational skills coupled with commendable academic credentials and records of achievements in his short working and political career, Obama’s ambition was still audacious. The better-known African-American civil rights activist, Baptist preacher, and orator, Jesse Jackson, had tried but failed. Obama not only won his party’s nomination, beating the better-fancied Hillary Clinton, he went on to make history as the first Black man to be elected president of the United States of America.
There was no better way to describe it than the title of Obama’s own book, The Audacity of Hope. What hope? Hope that talent will not only be appreciated but would be allowed to blossom and flourish. That love would rise up gallantly and tower over and above centuries of hate. That equality would overshadow racial discrimination dating back to the Slave Trade era. Hope that it was time for Martin Luther King’s dream of a race-free, race-harmonious, just, equitable, truly free, truly righteous and truly great America to come to pass. That the day had truly come, as King dreamt, for America to “rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal (and that) the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood” And hope that now was the time, as espoused by Bob Nesta Marley, the iconic Jamaican reggae superstar, for “the colour of a man’s skin (to be) of no more significance than the colour of his eyes”!
Obama was not the son of a former slave; he was not an African-American or Negro, as they were derisively called; he was the son of an African migrant whose father, a Kenyan, divorced his white American wife (Obama’s mother) in the United States and returned to his native Kenya. Growing up, the boy Obama had his fair share of the disasters that usually befall children from broken homes; children lacking the protection and mentorship of father figures, coupled with the challenges that confront children of colour growing up in the white-dominated United States. He was even into drugs but the good Lord delivered him from it all. It was therefore truly audacious for such a child to dream of surmounting all the odds to perch at the very summit of American society. Obama’s hope was, really, really audacious.
Nay-sayers like Brad O’Leary tried to turn everything upside down by labelling Obama’s The Audacity of Hope as The Audacity of Deceit but it changed nothing. Obama made history as the first Black president of the United States of America. He repaired the American economy that was badly damaged by his Republican predecessor, George Walker Bush, and went on the win a second term in office despite the spirited efforts made by his political and skin-colour enemies to consign him into the dustbin of a one-term president – like the maverick Donald Trump that succeeded him.
Last week’s decision of the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a Muslim from the South-west of Nigeria, to name another Muslim, Senator Kashim Shettima, from the North-east, as his running mate, is audacious in every material particular, as they say. Before he made his choice, Tinubu procrastinated. He must have considered the justifiable opposition majorly from Christians and Christian groups against a Muslim–Muslim ticket. Noted for his knack to hunt for talents, he must also have given himself the ample opportunity to weigh politics against merit and to consult far and wide before eventually making the choice that could not but disappoint many. Tongues have wagged ever since – and expectedly so! This is not to say, however, that the situation would have been different had he chosen a Christian as his running mate.
For Tinubu, choosing a Christian running mate would have been as audacious as choosing a Muslim running mate. With one as well as with the other, he needs Obama’s audacity to sail through. A Christian running mate would have immediately exacerbated the run on APC by those party leaders defecting to the PDP simply because they want another Fulani/conservative Northerner and Islamic fundamentalist to take over from Buhari after eight unbroken years of the most dismal and brutal leadership this country has ever suffered – worse than Sani Abacha’s and worse more so than the government of an equally inept but peace-loving Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
But those equating Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket with that of MKO Abiola in June 12, 1993, presidential election miss the point by a wide margin. Yes, MKO and Tinubu have a lot in common: Same religion; same liberal religious disposition; same deep pockets; same generous spirit; same acquisitive tendencies; same national spread; same thirst for talents to surround themselves with; same uncommon devotion to objectives; same controversial figure amongst their own people; and both are as fiercely loved as they are loathed and hated. But is 1993 the same as now?
In 1993, few Nigerians cared about anyone’s religion but not so anymore; no thanks to Buhari’s rabid Islamic fundamentalist, destructive policies and tendencies that have ripped this country open and torn the people apart. “The falcon cannot hear the falconer/Things fall apart/The centre cannot hold/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world/The blood-dimmed tide is loosed/And everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned/The best lack all conviction/While the worst are full of passionate intensity” On these shores as far as religion is concerned, the ceremony of innocence is drowned in the blood of the innocent forever! For those who have been at the receiving end of rampaging jihadists-terrorists, the fear of political Islam is the beginning of wisdom!
Religion was not an issue in 1993 but today it is – and understandably so. Religion was not the cause of the June 12 impasse, as it was called. No Christian complained about Abiola’s victory. No Christian organisation asked for the annulment. In fact, many of the leaders and rank-and-file that fought to the death for the revalidation of June 12 were Christians. But the situation today is totally different; again, no thanks to Buhari’s unbending and unyielding pandering to tribe and religion. Yes, it is true that everyone has suffered from the horrendous bestiality of the terrorists, jihadists and bandits purporting to act in the name of Islam but Christians and animists have suffered more than anyone else. The Presidency itself said the holocaust at the St. Francis Catholic Church, Owaluwa, Owo in Ondo State was perpetrated by jihadists of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
How many pastors and other Christians have been kidnapped, beheaded, dehumanised, tortured, or have just disappeared without a trace? Whole Christian families have been decimated; entire villages have been wiped out with their land and property taken over; church, after church has been razed to the ground, and reports, are out there that the terrorists have specifically declared war on Christians. They have even ordered churches to close! In the face of all of these unremitted atrocities, are Christians not justified to be apprehensive of a Muslim-Muslim ticket? Put on the shoe and experience how it feels! In the face of the onslaught against Christians, the Government has proved incapable and incompetent to act to perform its primary duty of protection of life and property. If we are to believe Gov. Samuel Ortom whose Benue state has been the epicentre of a relentless pogrom mounted by a coterie of Fulani herdsmen/Fulani bandits/Islamic jihadists, etc, the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari has been duplicitous and complicit in the insurgency that now threatens even Abuja, the seat of power, itself. And we should believe in Ortom! For one, he who wears the shoe knows where it pinches. Rita, the widow of Bob Marley, says if you feel it, you necessarily will know it. Besides, Ortom has made the same allegations repeatedly and nothing has changed.
I have said it before and it bears repeating here again: We are down the slope, possibly on the road to Afghanistan! What with the ambush of the president’s own advance team by terrorists – a whole Commander-in-Chief? Prof. Jerry Gana, erstwhile MAMSER boss, said if you are Commander-in-Chief you must chiefly command well! Tell me, what is Buhari chiefly commanding with the onslaught on Kuje prisons right within the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, itself? With the advances, the terrorists are making day and night, and the havoc they are wrecking on Christians, can the Christians be expected to feel safe and comfortable with two Muslims at the helms of the nation’s affairs? Is their fear not reasonable and understandable? Do we then say that we have a better option in the PDP where Delta state’s Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa, a professed Christian, is running mate to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar? The answer, unfortunately, is an emphatic “No”!
(TO BE CONTINUED).
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