Oby Ezekwesili: Heroine or Villain?

Jun 29, 2018

Former education minister, Oby Ezekwesili, during her protest march to Aso Rock over the Plateau Massacre. Image, courtesy of Channels TV

Last Tuesday, June 26, former Education Minister and one time supporter of Nigeria's president, Muhammadu Buhari, Oby Ezekwesili, stunned the nation when she staged a solo protest march to the nation's seat of power at Aso Rock Villa. Her mission was to protest the massacre in Plateau State two days earlier, by suspected herdsmen which had claimed scores of lives. Although the country's security apparatus had put the number of deaths at 86, unofficial figures from many sources put the death toll at between 150 and 200, Jude Atupulazi reports.
Dressed in what was seen as a symbolic red attire, she carried a banner which had inscriptions like, ''Help!'', ''#EndTheBloodFlow'', ''#EndThe Killings'', ''#WeWantJustice''.
But before she could gain access to the villa, security personnel manning the gate to the Presidential Villa stopped her.
But undeterred by her ordeal, Ezekwesili, who alleged that she was harassed by the security operatives, opened up to the press thus: 'In other societies, it would be the president that would go when even two people are killed. But in our case, the president felt too much to go to Benue, Plateau, to commiserate with the families he had let down.
'I am here to deliver this message loud and clear to you. The blood of the innocent will cry. They cry to be avenged. The blood of the people of Plateau, Nasarawa, Benue, Taraba, Enugu, Ebonyi; everywhere that the terrorist herdsmen have killed our people, the blood of innocent Nigerians is crying for vengeance, and that vengeance shall come.'
She also called for all the security chiefs to be relieved of their duties following their failure to protect the lives of their compatriots.
Ezekweisili's action has been generating a lot of reactions from Nigerians, both on the social media and traditional media.
Some of the twitter reactions went thus: @abangmercy, “thank you for stepping out all alone when the rest of us are behind our phones and laptops tweeting”.
Peter Hesketh @peterhesketh
''The only way to end the inhumane separation and imprisonment of innocent children is to down tools and march on the whitehouse screaming until something gets done. It's being done in your name - stop waiting for someone else to do something about it and stand for it no longer.
Saleemah @_yewandeb
''The one thing Nigerians are afraid to do is what other countries are openly doing. And when a group of people come out to boldly protest, some idiots at the back will just be making noise up and down.
If you can't protest, the least you can do is support them or just shut up!''
Fides also sought the views of some Nigerians on the action of Ezekwesili. While some hailed it, others saw it as self-serving.
For Uchem Obi, a politician, Ezekwesili did what many high profile Nigerians could not muster the guts to do. According to him, the spate of killings in the country questioned the true intentions of Buhari and his administration.
'The security chiefs should not wait to be changed. In other climes where morality is a genuine burden of responsibility, they should all have resigned.
'That they are confidently keeping their offices further questions President Buhari's appropriateness to assume the position of Nigeria's president and commander-in-chief. It is not correct to assert that the president is thoroughly overwhelmed by the governance of the country,' Obi stated.
For Emeka Umeagbalasi, social critic and chairman of International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), Ezekwesili was not wrong in her protest.
However Umeagbalasi reminded Ezekwesili how she 'partook in part or in whole in foisting this colossally failed central government in Nigeria, particularly the installation of Rtd Major Gen Buhari, as the country's sixth civil president.'
Umeagbalasi accused her of joining those he called senior comrade activists in the plot in the guise of change despite knowing that Buhari could not give what he did not have.
'Now the chicken has come home to roost. He outcry, including those of others like hers, is a fire brigade approach,' he said.
The civil rights strong man however said the reasons for Ezekwesili's protest could not be said to be untenable, noting that Buhari's Administration had crossed the red line and that nothing good could ever come from government again.
For Jos based Nduka James, to have a protest was in order if that was what Ezekwesili felt comfortable doing at this time.
According to him, the nation's constitution provided for such, as long as it did not infringe on another's right.
'But, why is she protesting against the spate of killings now?
How many of such senseless killings have taken place in the past four yours? What will her protest do to the killers, the dead, those being killed or the various tiers of government who supervise the immorality?
'Is it the case that some people at some time feel that they are losing relevance and so, would find it expedient to cash in on any situation to get noticed?
'How many other issues affecting the average Nigerian have been going on with impunity? Can't the legislators speak up on the issue of appointment?
'What efforts has she made to see that Igbo people have a common front/voice/agenda? Let's look at this issue critically...
'Bringing the MDGs and SDGs to the front burner, what has been said about them? Let's look at the few secret employments that have taken place over the period; who has checked the statistics of the Federal Character commission to know our spaces that are unfilled or even sold? What opportunities are available to our youths that our people in positions of authority have not presented to them?
'Issues about affirmative action are not just about women; the physically challenged or people with special needs, the vulnerable are also part of it. How many of our physically challenged are given immediate employment upon graduation. Can't we speak up?
'If I continue, it will stretch into a litany. Much as they say it is better late than never, I rather would look at the reason for this protest at this time. Could it be the case that the present administration is more like a leper and so everybody dissociates from it, paving way to embrace a possibly new administration.... eyes on Ministerial or Ambassadorial appointment.
'I can summarise by saying that I will not applaud anyone who has been watching all the ills and never spoke up until now that 2019 election has been scheduled.
More bashing came from Reno Omokri, social commentator, who urged Nigerians not to cry for Ezekwesili.
In his words, 'She helped cook the soup that she and other Nigerians are not finding delicious today. Can you remember March 7, 2014 when as the keynote speaker for APC she bashed Jonathan and hailed APC? Now APC is bashing her. It is highly hypocritical for an Oby who helped to cook the Buhari soup of change to now complain about the taste. As she Oby made her bed, so shall Oby lie in it.
'Oby is not crying for you, the masses. She is crying because after she helped APC make the soup, they shared it without giving her her share!'


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