Oby Ezekwesili and the Rest of Us

By Jude Atupulazi

On Tuesday, June 26, former education minister and one of Nigeria’s most outspoken citizens, Dr Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, staged a solo protest march to the seat of power at Aso Rock. She was protesting the gruesome killings in Plateau State which claimed up to 200 lives.
Although she was not allowed to enter the Villa, she was able to leave a message to the world and that message was that Buhari was not doing enough to stem the wave of killings across the country. That was even as she called for the appointment of new security chiefs following their failure to protect life and property.
Expectedly, her action elicited several responses from Nigerians, ranging from those that hailed her courage to those that not only accused her of subtly seeking to ingratiate herself in an expected new government, but crying when it was too late after contributing to the emergence of Buhari.
Well, Nigerians have had their say and given her actions their own interpretations. But one thing I can hand to Ezekwesili is courage. Courage to accept her mistake, and courage to do what many in her position can, but will never do.
Yes, in the height of the government of dethroned People’s Democratic Party, PDP, many Nigerians had felt the need for change. While some wanted change because they felt Nigeria needed a better deal at that time, others just wanted change for the sake of it.
Muhammadu Buhari was the obvious alternative for many people based on his perception as a no-nonsense fellow and as a disciplinarian. They thus built him up as the Messiah, the man with the magic wand to take Nigeria to Eldorado.
Happily, I was not part of the Change Apostles. I saw Buhari for what he was: a no-nonsense defender of his Islamic faith without the intellectual capacity to drive the nation to her desired destination.
At the time, everything about Buhari, including his body language, cried out that the man wasn’t equipped to do the job. I did all I could to make many see Buhari for what he was; to let them know that Buhari could not give what he did not have, but the ”wind of change” was too strong for my voice to be heard.
People like Ezekwesili and Dino Melaye were in the forefront of the anti-Jonathan campaign. Ezekwesili even chose that time to launch her #bringbackourgirls campaign that portrayed the Jonathan Government as some monster that was insensitive to the feelings of Nigerians, as well as being incompetent to remain a day extra at Aso Rock.
Eventually the wishes of the anti-Jonathan group were granted as Buhari took over. When at his inauguration he made the famous speech of not belonging to anybody and nobody belonging to him, even the few people opposed to him began to believe that perhaps the man would be good after all. It was such an impressive assurance by Buhari.
But some months into the new regime, people began to question Buhari’s integrity. They did not see any integrity in the way he was doing his appointments. Neither did they see any in the way he was treating some sections of the country, projects wise. There was nothing in his anti-corruption fight to show anyone that he was fair. Under his watch, Nigeria’s ethnic and religious differences began to manifest as they had not done in recent memory.
Then slowly came the killings by herdsmen. Like a stealthy thief, unsure of what awaited him in the house of his victim, the herdsmen appeared to initially test the waters with probing attacks. The victims shouted and cried but did not go beyond that. The federal government also did not act as it should. Then slowly again, the herdsmen’s activities gathered momentum and began to spread beyond Benue, while still dealing with Benue. Several massacres followed amid outrage by the citizenry, but the citizenry might just as well be crying and shouting like the mother hen whose chick had been taken by the kite. The cries of Nigerians and their noise were of no effect.
It was then that some people began to talk; people like Olusegun Obasanjo and Theophilus Danjuma. But then, it was equally late in the day. I remember asking them where they were when Buhari was building a formidable ethnic and religious wall around his government by appointing only his people to man key positions, including the military. Now that Buhari has finished that wall and even appointed his brother as chairman of the electoral body, Obasanjo and Danjuma started talking.
Perhaps this was why many people did not take kindly to Ezekwesili when she embarked on her protest. But then, to me, no time is late. Ezekwesili may have contributed in bringing us to our present situation but at least, she has been bold enough to own up to her grave mistake; something many others aren’t likely to do any time soon. Who are those others?
Any Christian or Southerner who serves in the Buhari Government but who has been unable to condemn what is happening is an accomplice. It begins with the vice president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, down to the ministers.
Even Audu Ogbeh who is from Benue, has not been talking. He stays put in a government that kills his people daily, even after he ought to have been tired of being in government. I grew up hearing of Audu Ogbeh. Rather than government giving opportunities to the youth, it is recycling old politicians who would rather die in power than say anything that could prove risky to their meal ticket. Let me come home.
All the Southeast ministers and federal aides who have been seeing the marginalization of their people in all forms and still keeping mute should be blamed too. These are people who should have resigned their appointments. One of them is our own brother, Senator Chris Ngige, Labour Minister.
He and other Southeast ministers were there when the Southeast was excluded in the ”National” Rail Project. They said nothing. They did nothing. They were there when their brothers and sisters were killed in Nimbo. They said nothing. They did nothing. Yet, these people will soon come to disturb us during the campaigns to vote for Buhari.
If these people have any shame, they should just feign sickness during the campaigns and travel abroad so they won’t come here and add salt to injury.
This is the bane of public office holders in Nigeria. They love their jobs more than the well being of their people. As long as they hold onto their jobs, the other people can die; it doesn’t bother them. And in a bid to hold onto such positions, they are ready to stomach any nonsense, even when it is against their people. Is it any surprise then that these people are not raising a finger in these trying times?
This is why the action of Oby Ezekwesili should be celebrated. Yes, she may have ”sinned” against the nation when she drummed up support for Buhari, but that solo protest has obliterated all those sins. It takes raw, unadulterated courage to do what she did against a government that sees any dissenting voice as a threat to whatever agenda it is executing.
As I watched Ezekwesili on TV walking briskly towards Aso Rock Villa, my heart melted. I saw a patriotic Nigerian who would stand up to the truth whenever she felt that things weren’t going according to plan, a Nigerian who wouldn’t care what happened to her so long as she stood with the people, a Nigerian who was bold enough to accept the mistake she made nearly four years ago by supporting a visionless and sadistic man. Ezekwesili represented all this and more.
It is not falling down that is the problem, as our people say; it is falling down and not getting up. Ezekwesili fell down and got up and that is what I expect others still hedging and coveting their jobs to do rather than see Ezekwesili as an opportunist or schemer.
To me, Ezekwesili is the Nigerian of the moment for daring to do what others are mortally afraid to do. If more people like her do what she’s done, I’m certain that the ”monster” that has taken over Nigeria will be expelled in no time.