By Dele Sobowale “He who sets out on revenge must first dig two graves.” Chinese Proverb. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 215).

The Chinese philosophers apparently wiser than those who believe in the principle of “an eye for an eye” advised mankind to eschew seeking revenge for wrongs done to us personally. But, we don’t always listen to good advice. That is why the world is in such a mess – which gets messier every time. Later, another sage, Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948, had warned us that “an eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind.” But, individuals and those in political power can still not resist seeking revenge. While avenging real or imagined wrongs might be excusable in private life, it is to be condemned when those in power are perceived to be using the mandates given them to govern to exact revenge for a private injury. 

Last week, the focus was on El-Zakzaky – the Shiites leader being held in detention despite a court order allowing bail. The week before, it was Kanu – leader of the pro-Biafra group whose bail was being canvassed. Coincidentally, early last week, Amnesty International, AI, carpeted the Federal Government of Nigeria for gross violation of the rights of some of its citizens. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a rejoinder to the AI report claiming that Kanu and his group were threats to Nigerian security; while El-Zakzaky and the Shiites were declared “terrorist group like Boko Haram”. The Honourable Minister for Foreign Affairs who must have authorized the release of that rebuttal failed to demonstrate adequate grasp of the tenets of democracy and our constitution to which the Ministry referred in the ill-considered press release.

A democratic society is a country where the Executive, Legislative and the Judiciary branches have well-defined roles. The Executive can accuse anybody of any crime under the sun. It is the judiciary which determines guilt based on the interpretation of the country’s laws. Where the Executive accuses, detains, prosecutes, judges and sentences individuals, democracy has fled that nation. What the AI and people like me are saying is simple. Kanu, El-Zakzaky and Dasuki were apprehended, detained, accused and are being prosecuted by the Executive branch. 

The Constitution stipulates that the accused should be taken before the Judiciary and evidence of the offences committed should be laid before the judges who will then determine guilt or innocence. The first order of business is the matter of bail for the accused. The Executive branch is entitled to argue against bail being granted; the accused is entitled to request for it. The power to grant bail had been given solely to the Judiciary and there is no provision for refusal by the Executive branch. That was why a “so called judge” in a state court in America could order the suspension of Trump’s Executive Order and the court’s order was obeyed. That is a true democracy. 

Trump also based his order on “security” – whatever that means – but the court was not impressed. The Federal government is basing its defiance of court order on the same claim and court order is ignored. The question is: is the refusal in the national interest or are in individuals now in power using the powers given to them by the people to subvert the law and settle personal scores? Even a child remembers the main causes of the Civil War – mainly the massacre of thousands of Igbos in the North. Till today, the wounds of that war have refused to be healed simply because the rest of Nigeria has not “forgiven” Igbos. Each time the word Biafra comes up, it is like waving a red flag before a raging bull for some people. So, their activities are branded treason. 

Well, why not prove it legally? When the Foreign Ministry branded all Shiites as terrorists, it threw Nigerian headlong into the Islamic sectarian conflicts ravaging the Arab world and paved the way for Nigeria to experience the horrors of Suni/Shiites immense bloodletting globally. The statement was irresponsible because it has placed all Nigerians – including non-Muslims — at risk by implying that the Federal Government supports one Islamic sect. Yet, our Constitution forbids state religion. How can El-Zakzaky and Shiites ever obtain justice given the stated bias by the Ministry?

Colonel Dasuki (rtd), former National Security Adviser, NSA, to former President Jonathan is the third in the series. And, the references to revenge pertain more to him than others. “Even God cannot change the past”, said Greek playwright Agathon, 447-401 B.C. If the Almighty cannot do it, no power on earth can. It is part of Nigerian history that Dasuki was on the side of those who staged the coup which brought Buhari’s regime to an abrupt end in 1985. 

He was only obeying orders and, perhaps, trying to save his own life as well. Even now Buhari still bristles with anger whenever he touches on the subject of that coup. With all the others safely out of reach – at least for now, unless we return to full blown dictatorship – the only one to “pay” for the historical humiliation is Dasuki. Like the last cow on the other side of the highway when others have crossed, Dasuki now receives the whip. Not necessarily because he did anything particularly wrong, but, because holders of transient power in Nigeria must have their pound of flesh. 



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