How do you reach anything resembling a consensus in such a polity – the consensus without which it is impossible to build enduring common purpose?
Back when there was media consonance, the task was challenging enough. In the age of media fragmentation, when anyone who has access to a computer and can work an electronic mouse can publish by word, sound or image his or her fancies and fantasies and prejudices and abiding hatreds to thousands of undiscriminating Internet users dispersed across the world, that task becomes well-nigh impossible.
To this day, more than 30 percent of Americans still believe that the late dictator Saddam Hussein had a stockpile of “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq. No such weapons existed; none were ever found. Yet the existence of such weapons was the advertised reason for an invasion in which hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed and the most advanced country in the Arab world destroyed.
Going by the Internet traffic, you would think that President Muhammadu Buhari’s formal education ended in primary school. The more generous commentators allow that he might have attended secondary school but certainly did not qualify for the West African School Certificate. To them, he remains the “Certificate-less One.” The West African School Certificate (Division II) that bears his name is to them a forgery protected by the Federal Might.
And so, it is no surprise that all kinds of stories have been circulating about the state of his health. The more benign has it that he can no longer talk or eat, and has to be fed intravenously. The more sensational has it that he is in a vegetative state, tethered to a life-support machine.
In mediaeval times, and even as recently as the time of Dr Kamuzu Banda in Malawi, it was a capital crime to compass the death of the king or the chief of state. But we live in a democracy, where some have argued that freedom of thought and speech, including the freedom to compass and canvass the death of chief of state, is constitutionally protected.
To be sure, the moral law within us forbids such conduct, and so does the hallowed tradition of our people. To the hard men and women engrossed in this game, however, it is realpolitik pure and simple.
And so, even after a delegation of the Federal Government and the ruling APC Governors visited the President where he is convalescing in the UK and returned with reports that he was hearty even if not hale, the dark rumours and dark wishes persisted. The picture that came with the story of the visit did little to resolve the matter; it had been taken a while back, in Nigeria, at a different occasion, they said.
Plus, why was there no video? And if there was nothing to hide, if the authorities were actuated by transparency, why were members of the political opposition not included in the delegation.
And so, in the spirit of democratic transparency, a delegation of the political opposition went to the UK, saw the president and on its return corroborated the report of the earlier delegation.
But this recourse, I gather, has elicited only murmurs in local government circles, the third tier that caters to the grassroots. The first delegation and the second were drawn from the first and second tiers. It is emphatically the turn of the third tier, spokespersons for local government chairmen have been saying.
Not so fast, says the Judicial Branch. The delegations aforementioned were drawn from the Executive and Legislative branches. What of the Judicial Branch, which is co-equal with the other branches, and has at least as much stake in the president’s health and well-being.
Surely, the president would welcome a comprehensive brief on the state of the rule of law and the fight against corruption, both of which are very dear to his heart. And which Branch is best placed to do the briefing?
“First things first,” the police high command weighs in. Law and order come before everything else, and those charged with maintaining law and order cannot be expected to defer to any other group when it comes to presenting a true and accurate picture of the state of the nation and the attendant challenges to the president.
To which the Joint Chiefs of Staff, barely suppressing a snicker, rejoin: “The police? This democracy thing has gone too far. Who do they think they are?”
Were it left entirely to them, the Joint Chiefs would have gone to visit the President immediately on the return of the Vice President. Esprit de corps demands it. After all, he is their Commander-in-Chief. He needs to know how the war against a resurgent Boko Haram is being waged, with what results and constraints. The military in turn will draw fresh inspiration from the meeting and profit from his personal experience in the area of strategy and tactics.
The two delegations that had gone see the President had no strategic purpose, the Joint Chiefs maintain. The jamboree has to end. It is now their turn to meet their C-in-C, they insist. The point is not negotiable.
“Foul,” the Committee of Vice Chancellors of the 42 federal universities is crying out. The President is their Visitor, and they need to bring him up to date on the state of the universities in particular and higher education in general. Discussions will explore but will not be confined to such perennial issues as funding, cultism, proliferation of first-class degrees especially in private universities, and implementation of protocols long agreed.
Our monarchs, royal majesties in their own rights, have been told that it would strain the capacity of British diplomacy and Buckingham Palace to have so many of them descend all at once on those sceptred isles, and have graciously agreed to stay in their domains for the time being.
But civil society groups, cultural associations, professional and occupational groups, and student bodies are pressing the authorities to arrange for them to meet with the president at the earliest opportunity.
While the debate rages as to who has the most compelling case for visiting the president, First Lady Aisha Buhari is reported to have expressed concern about the effect of further visits on his health and prospects for full and complete recovery
Personally, I understand her anxiety, since those “jackals and hyenas” still lurking in the corridors of power — operatives whose goodwill cannot always be taken for granted — play a large part in determining who gets to see President Buhari.
Meanwhile, speaking on deep background, meaning that I can use the information only in outline but must under no circumstance attribute it to an identifiable source, well-placed insiders tell me that the most insistent and most demanding request for clearance to visit President Buhari has come jointly and severally from Ekiti Governor Ayo Fayose and Femi Fani-Kayode, most recently spokesperson for former President Goodluck Jonathan’s groundbreaking re-election campaign.
They say they want to see Buhari with their own eyes, talk to him with their own mouths and touch him with their own fingers.
They plan to take along at their own expense, a panel of experts from the World Health Organisation to establish with scientific finality what they have known and have been saying all along, namely, that the creature purporting to be President Muhammadu Buhari is a transparent clone.
Given Fayose’s and Fani-Kayode’s iron-clad reputation for probity and veracity, to say nothing of rationality, who will be foolish enough to bet against them?
Olatunji Dare is a columnist with PM News where this article was first published.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.