Retired Colonel Hameed Ali, the comptroller-general of the Nigerian Customs Service, is a proud and stubborn man. His disdain for others and insufferable arrogance is not only vexatious to the spirit but also downright nauseating.
Someone should remind him that the Holy Bible says “the Lord resists the proud and exalts the humble”. Another should tell him that, according to Greek mythology, nemesis always follows hubris. If he doubts that he should find out what happened to a character called Icarus.
Clearly this obnoxious and cantankerous little man needs to be brought down a peg or two and pulled off his high horse.
I say this because I cannot but wonder how any reasonable, right-thinking and responsible person can refuse to wear the uniform of an agency that he heads and leads.
This is especially so when the Nigerian Senate has, for the second time, asked him to do so when appearing before them.
The first time he apologised and promised to do so and the second time he stubbornly refused and was consequently and appropriately thrown out of the Senate Chamber.
There may be no law in our statute books that constrains or compels him to wear his uniform but humility, good manners, morality, wisdom, custom and decency most certainly do.
How does he and those that support him expect those working under him in the Nigerian
Customs Service to feel when he refuses to wear their uniform?
Is he not indirectly telling them that he is superior to them and that he is too good for them? This is a service that they have dedicated their lives and careers to. I wonder how that affects their morale?
And in any case what signal is he sending to the Nigerian people and to the rest of the world? Such a thing has never happened before and the truth is that such open and obvious contempt being displayed by a senior government official and the head of a paramilitary organisation and government parastatal towards his underlings and the agency that he heads is rarely seen.
Ali has contempt for his Minister who he is meant to report to. He has contempt for the government agency that he purportedly leads. He has contempt for the people that work under him in that agency.
He has contempt for the Nigerian Senate. He has contempt for the government that he serves and finally he has contempt for the Nigerian people.
By his open defiance what he is really saying is the following:
“You people just don’t get it. I belong to the small circle of those who OWN Nigeria and you people and your customs, rules, regulations, practices, conventions and norms do not matter”.
He is saying,
“You are nothing before us and you can shout and scream as much as you like. At the end of the day, whether you like it or not, we are in power, we were born to rule and we OWN you all so just shut up and sit down!”
That is his mindset and it is simply appalling. And with him this has always been the case. If anyone doubts that they should find out a little more about his antecedents and what he stands for. They should find out about his history and record in and outside of the military.
They should do the research and find out what he did as Military Governor of Kaduna state during the regime of General Sani Abacha and later Sec. Gen. of the Arewa Consultative Forum.
They should read the derogatory and incendiary statements he made about the south, the Middle Belt and all those that opposed the agenda of the ACF at the time.
To say that he was arrogant, overbearing, racist and tribalist and that he is a bigot would be an understatement.
And worst still he is a total and complete creation of President Muhammadu Buhari. He was his Chief of Staff during numerous presidential campaigns and the President loves him as if he were his own son.
That, together with a streak of sadism, explains Ali’s sheer impudence and supreme confidence on this and so many other issue.
He is reported to have said that he will not wear the customs uniform because he is a retired officer of the Nigerian Army and the only uniform he will ever wear again is the military one.
Does this man have a brain?
One wonders what infantile nonsense this is? What misplaced arrogance and childish verbiage? What absurd and good old fashioned gobbledygook? I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
If Ali was not prepared to honor and respect the conventions and norms of the Nigerian Customs Service why did he accept the job?
Since when did things degenerate to this level in our country? Has Nigeria turned into a land of misfits, comedians and Tolkien-like orcs and goblins or are we still a nation of serious-minded and sensible human beings and precious souls?
Are we a giant army barracks where only senior military officers and commanders are respected or a sovereign and independent nation-state where the will of the people holds sway at all times and in all matters.
Are we a zoo that is populated by wild animals and ravenous beasts or a land of honorable men and respected mortals?
Does Ali not know that military rule ended in Nigeria 18 years ago in 1999 and that the Nigerian people are not interested in it EVER coming back or of being reminded about its traumatising and barbaric excesses?
Does he, like a small handful of other hard-line, ultra-conservative, core northern retired army officers, see Nigeria as nothing but a vassal state and subjugated colony that was conquered by his forefathers, elders, leaders, mentors and seniors in the military after the “northern officers revenge coup” of January 29th 1966?
If this is the case then he is still living in the distant past and he is certainly in urgent need of psychiatric attention. He also needs a series of powerful all-night prayer sessions for deliverance from the malevolent demons that control him.
His attitude and disposition certainly throws up a lot of questions? Amongst them are as follows:
Firstly does Nigeria live for the military or does the military live for Nigeria?
Secondly if he had come from the southern or Middle Belt zone of the country would he have dared to pull this stunt and, if so, would he have got away with it?
If he had not been from the core north and a member of the President’s inner circle of untouchables would Buhari have tolerated his irresponsible behaviour and his sheer indiscipline.
If he had not been Buhari’s soul-mate and kinsman would the President have endorsed his not so subtle refusal to bow before civilian institutions and to submit to civilian authority.
In any case who the hell does Ali really think he is? Does he believe that he is the reincarnation of Usman Dan Fodio of the Fulani Caliphate or the living manifestation of Salahudeen Yusuf of Egypt and Syria?
He was retired as a colonel in the military many years ago and there was nothing that was particularly distinguished about his career. He was certainly not a blue-blooded, swashbuckling, gallant, courageous, good-looking, principled and polo-playing Col. Abubakar ‘Dangiwa’ Umar.
And neither can he compare himself to the great Major-General Hananiya who retired as a Major-General in the Nigerian Army and yet who proudly wore the uniform of the Federal Road Safety Commision after being appointed as the head of that agency?
Whatever misplaced, vain and inconceivable notions that he has ought to be kept to himself and if I had been his Minister I would have insisted that he not only wore his uniform to all official functions and meetings but also during office hours.
The man is really very strange. He has what I would describe as the “Cassius look”. Like the character Cassius in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ he is lean, mean, spartan, silent, hungry and dangerous. This is a cold man with a dark soul: a man that is as hard as nails and who finds it difficult to smile.
He is what the British refer to as a “strange fish”. He is reticent, reclusive, nocturnal, limited in knowledge, stunted in intelligence, very thuggish and, worst of all, he sees and says “AREWA” before anything else.
My friend and brother, Oloye Yinka Odumakin, the spokesman of Afenifere and a leading columnist and writer in Nigeria, wrote the following as part of his contribution to the debate. He said,
“Ali answers to the Comptroller General of Customs title. He lives in the official residence. He takes the pay. He uses the official cars and takes ALL the privileges of the office. But he rejects ONLY the uniform!”
This is a pertinent observation. Odumakin has hit the nail on the head.
In his own contribution Bashorun Akin Osuntokun, one of the most respected and courageous columnists in the country and a formidable historian and veteran politician, said:
“One problem of our people is exasperating political naivety and lack of strategic thinking. This Ali man was the most truculent secretary of Arewa Consultative Forum. His recent behavior is a typical manifestation of the northern hegemony syndrome hence a strategic enemy of our vision of an egalitarian Nigeria. And here is an opportunity to advance this objective – and what do we do with it?”
How right Osuntokun is. And for the benefit of those that are defending Ali on the specious grounds that the law does not compel him to wear the uniform he went on to ask:
“Is there any law that says we must rise when the President enters a gathering? Or is there any law that says we must play the National Anthem at official functions?”
Osuntokun’s point is well served and well taken. These are pertinent questions that he has asked. Both he and Odumakin have done justice to the matter.
Their words appropriately and adequately reflect the sheer arrogance and impunity of Hameed Ali and the ignorance and naivety of those that are encouraging, defending and supporting him.
Osuntokun’s earlier point particularly reflects the fact that there is a terrible weakness and a lack of fortitude and courage coupled with a deep and grave affliction buried deep in the souls of those that truly crave for a just and egalitarian society in Nigeria yet who, when they see a man like Ali beating his chest like an alpha male gorilla, either openly support him in his scandalous tomfoolery or they remain silent in awe and trepidation of him.
Nothing is more shocking and disappointing than the disposition and behaviour of such people, many of whom ought to know better.
Essentially the problem here is that many that have been turned into slaves in our country do not even know that they are slaves anymore because they have gotten used to it and they see it as the norm. This, surely, is the worse form of bondage and servitude.
Permit me to share an example of such a twisted and warped mindset and disposition with you here.
During the American civil war you actually had some black slaves fighting for the southern Confederate forces of Dixie despite the fact that those same forces were fighting to perpetuate the institution of slavery.
That is how I view those that constantly support and encourage the arrogant hegemonist monsters that live amongst us and those who cannot comprehend the damage that they are doing to our collective cause and pysche by doing so.
That is how I see those that are quick to endorse and applaud the shameful challenge and affront of Hameed Ali to the Senate and to the Nigerian people.
They are the tragedy of Nigeria and without their support conflicted personalities like Ali would not get away with the kind of things that they are getting away with.
May the Lord deliver us from power-mad and arrogant men who attempt to play God, whose time is short and whose clock is ticking fast. Shalom.
Femi Fani-Kayode is a lawyer, a Nigerian politician, an evangelical christian, an essayist, a poet and he was the Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to President Olusegun Obasanjo from July 2003 until June 2006. He was the minister of culture and tourism of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from June 22nd to Nov 7th 2006 and as the minister of Aviation from Nov 7th 2006 to May 29th 2007. He tweets from@realFFK.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.