By Sunny Awhefeada
Power exhibits a character that hinges on what structuralism codified as binary opposition. The duality of the essence of power bestrides the two extremes of good and evil which ironically are divided by a very thin if not nebulous line. Power, when deployed for good has an unquantifiable propensity to multiply and positively affect all. A destructive reverse of equal magnitude becomes the case when power is directed towards an evil end. Philosophers and politicians have across the ages understood these creative and destructive essences of power. It was for these reasons that measures were evolved in order to check and balance the excesses of power. The gradual erosion, and in some cases the dismantling, of the monarchical system in Europe and other civilizations were part of the deal to check the evil associated with unbridled power, especially when it is absolute.
When Charles-Louis de Secondat better known as Baron de Montesquieu, judge, writer and philosopher, authored The Spirit of the Laws he made far reaching submissions on the imperative of the “separation of powers” in order to stave off the temptation or tendency to abuse power if concentrated in one hand. Other political philosophers whose interrogation of absolute monarchy and unconscionable use of power include John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Rene Descartes, Denis Diderot, Voltaire and more. Their submissions fostered the spirit of enlightenment and confined absolutism to the dim past.
It is by no coincidence that the aforementioned philosophers who championed the “rule of law” rather than the “rule of man” were of Western provenance. Their efforts entrenched the cause of democracy and empowered institutions that stabilized their societies. Thus, while Africa remains tragically entwined by the Kabiyesi mentality and Ogiso masochism, Europe enthroned a system that leveled humanity irrespective of class or position. Infractions are clearly spelt out and they are met with commensurate sanctions, but not so in Nigeria, nay Africa. The rich and the powerful are untouchable. They live and operate above the law. The rule of law is alien to them and they ride roughshod over the helpless citizenry.
They see power as an intoxicant and not as a tool for constructive engagement.
It is the intoxicating essence of power that the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal demonstrated a few days ago when he threw caution to the wind and jettisoned the etiquette of his profession and position and acted in a bolekaja manner at an Abuja mall. His almighty lordship had gone to the mall for whatever reason and a security man tried to direct him to park his car properly. His almighty lordship felt insulted, got provoked and gave the hapless security man thunder in the face. Slap after slap resonated in the video that captured the ugly incident. Did his almighty lordship get away with the act? No! The hoi polloi responded by attacking him and in spite of the braggadocio he had earlier displayed, he scurried into his car and fled the scene under police escort.
To make matters worse a badly crafted press statement popped up from his almighty lordship’s stable to clarify what happened from his jaundiced perspective. The statement was a disaster as it not only read like a kindergarten script, but pointed at the intellectual hollowness of those who now prance about as ministers in the temple of justice. The ill-fated statement mentioned “Biafran boys” as those who attacked his almighty lordship. And one is bound to ask questions about not just the mental state of the fellow who drafted the statement, but also what his intention really was. Is there a phenomenon known as “Biafran boys” in Abuja? And what does the concept of “Biafran boys” mean? Is the victim of his almighty lordship’s pugilism a “Biafran boy”?
One is wondering how his almighty lordship would feel on watching that video of shame. He would shudder not at the shameful act, but at the thought of him being lynched by the angry mob that was already gathering, but for the quick and professional intervention of the police. The policemen at the scene must be commended for the civil and professional manner they handled the situation. Although, his almighty lordship was ferreted away to safety, his act of indiscretion arising from power drunkenness and the zeal to oppress the lowly has done irreparable damage to his personality and image. Yes, attempts will be made to explain things from his point of view and exonerate him, but what is clear is that he put up an act of infamy. Unfortunately for the poor and fortunately for his almighty lordship Nigeria does not punish infractions especially when it parades the face of the rich and powerful.
A few years ago a lawless lawmaker showcased his power drunkenness when he beat up a salesgirl in an Abuja sex shop. The poor girl’s offence was that she answered a phone call when the sinator asked her a question. The outrage that followed that shameless act made the police to announce that the matter will be investigated. The senate also made a similar declaration. What came out of those declared intentions remains in the realm of the unknown. As I write the sinator is neither in jail nor thrown out of the red chambers. He is now a member of the ruling political party and remains a babanriga wearing sinator doing nothing, but collecting fat emoluments at the end of every month.
The symbol of oppressive power in Nigeria remains the ubiquitous police force in whom the public has not the least iota of confidence. Nigeria’s powerful men and women and their minions often go around with armed policemen and other security agents. Had his almighty lordship or the sinator been alone with the security man or the salesgirl would they have had the gumption to slap them? A local government chairman once rained slaps on a helpless driver who all the same went down on his knees to placate the thug of a chairman. Less than a year later, the thug-chairman was out of office and with that went with police escorts and thugs. One day he yelled at a young man at a burial ceremony and the latter cautioned him. Our enraged thug-chairman then asked the fellow, “make I slap you”? The young man’s response was, “you, you wan slap me? You die well today. Cross this line wen I draw for ground if I no go kill you for here today”. Our thug-chairman immediately developed withered hands and quietly walked away a coward.
Yes, only cowards without balls act the way his almighty lordship, the sinator and thug-chairman acted. The story has been told of a former deputy premier of the old Western region whose notorious sobriquet was “Fani Power”. He went about town with police and thugs from whom he derived Dutch courage.His goons maimed at his pleasure. All he needed to do for you to be clobbered was to point at you. His fear became the beginning of wisdom. Then came that fateful morning of Saturday 15th January 1966 when mutinous soldiers got hold of him. “Fani Power” became lily-livered and burst into tears. That saved him. The giddy soldiers frog-jumped him and hauled him into the back of their roaring land rover.
“Fani Power” left the world a son who has also been very unkind to the powerless. He bullied a journalist sometime last year. He has also been mentioned in cases of wife-battering, nanny-battering and housekeeper-battering. Yet, this fellow claims to be an advocate of a better Nigeria. It is well.
The powerful that are trampling on the poor should draw a lesson from the resistance that followed his almighty lordship assault of the security man. The resistance is an emphatic rejection of interclass oppression. This also tentatively manifested during the ENDSARS riots of October 2020. The anger the youths unleashed on the ruling class was not unpremeditated. It was a calculated reaction against the iniquities of the rich and powerful. Those intoxicated by the madness of power must cure themselves of it now or it will consume them. Only time it will take.