Some of our fellow country people have made a nasty habit of finding justification for virtually every instance of vulgarism. Whether such vulgar act revolves around power abuse, lack of accountability code, ethical violations, or any other random act of indecency, these people will insist on its propriety. They can be so fiery in their stances they make you wonder how someone can dip their pen in their veins just to write some justificatory nonsense. Often motivated by partisanship, these people have primed their instincts to defend any action as long as it affirms their favourite political leaders’ power and privileges. These people do not seem to appreciate that the constant deployment of their mental and psychic energies towards helping the political class maintain their hold on power dull their respective instincts to anticipate and astutely prepare for when and how the force of the power they seek to preserve might be used against them.
Such people should take a lesson from the case of Aminu Adamu, the young man who purportedly insulted the First Lady and suffered for it. While his plight was ongoing, it unfolded that Adamu himself had previously made some insalubrious comments about Deborah Samuels, the young woman in Sokoto, who was killed by her maniac classmates for using her inalienable right to free speech. Like most people who justify power abuse to shield their chosen politicians from scrutiny, Adamu probably never imagined he would ever need the generosity of spirit he denied Samuels. Most naïve people somehow assume that if they prop up the infrastructures of repressive power well enough, the worst it will ever do is hurt others. Their gain would be to take a vicarious delight in seeing others’ pain.
The First Lady might have pulled back from her ill-advised punishment of Adamu after getting a blowback, but it remains quite disturbing to see people insisting the young man deserved his plight. For Aso Rock to have offered Adamu VIP treatment, even they knew what they did to him was all shades of wrong! Despite this desperate attempt at face-saving by Adamu’s oppressors, some of these justifiers still did not retrace their steps. Mere days later, they were back at it, hailing Olaiya Igwe’s butt as a dignified show of appreciation. Then their presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, went to Chatham House on an errand no one had sent him. Evidently, an unprepared candidate who could not be bothered to prod the recesses of his own mind to answer questions that would have demonstrated his readiness to serve, Tinubu had to outsource some responses to his lackeys. Right on cue, this tribe of justifiers jumped up and hailed again, saying such irresponsibility was teamwork. If that is how teamwork works in electoral processes, then why do ballot materials bear the name of only the candidate?
While the case of Adamu ended in an anticlimax—I wanted to see the First Lady appear in court since she was listed as one of the witnesses—it still holds several useful lessons for the rest of us, especially those who habitually justify blatant abuses of power.
First was the bewildering realisation that Muhammed made the supposedly offensive comment in June during the extended strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities. For him to be arrested in November, it meant the security officials waited for about six months—until the university resumed operations and students were about to start their examinations. That level of malevolence can be justifiably equated to witchcraft!
Second, and according to the reports of the court proceedings, a police detective in Nasarawa State, Festus Josiah, revealed that he was contacted by the First Lady’s Aide De Camp, one Usman Shugaba, concerning Adamu’s tweet. He testified that the police team travelled to Jigawa State where Adamu’s university was located. They spent three days trailing him before they apprehended him. Then they took him to the Federal Capital Territory State Criminal Investigation Department, and his confiscated phone was sent to the Terrorism Investigation Branch, Force Intelligence Bureau in Abuja “for analysis” and “evidential value.” You read all that and marvel at how far these guys would go to punish what is, at best, a mere civil offence. The worst Adamu should have received was a court summons from a bailiff, but they treated him like he was an actual terrorist.
The efforts invested in arresting Adamu should worry everyone, including those of you who thought he deserved the reprimand. These detectives have not found the person they declared wanted over the assassination of Deborah Samuels, but look at the diligence they devoted in pursuing the person who merely insulted the First Lady? You can see why security agents in Nigeria never catch the actual terrorists. They expend so much time and resources on petty grievances! They even deposited Adamu’s phone with the police unit that investigates terrorism while actual terrorists make videos and circulate them on WhatsApp. Just a few days ago, notorious bandit Bello Kachalla phoned in during a live television show to mock security agents’ serial failure to catch him. So Kachalla has a phone with which he plays “catch me if you can” games with security forces, but the person who made a silly tweet is the one whose phone is subjected to forensic analysis?
Those whose instincts are regularly cultivated to justify the vulgar use of power need to learn from this episode. People who have made it a habit to demand severe punishment for anyone whose exercise of free speech makes them uncomfortable had better wake up. The fatwa-ists among us, those always demanding censorship or asking for more laws to curtail the boisterousness of people on social media should take a lesson from this affair. Like Adamu who probably never imagined that a day would come that he too would be punished for using his freedom of speech in the same way he advocated against someone else, it is only a matter of time before the force of the political power they are valorizing turns its fangs on them.
Those who know how to think about things like this should take the Adamu episode as a cautionary tale. The government that asked to register our SIM cards and gathers the data of our names, addresses, images, date of birth, fingerprints, bank account number—and maybe even our blood pressure—to purportedly ease surveillance of criminals turns around and ambushes a random guy over a non-criminal offence. Who knows when and how the rest of us will suffer a similar fate?
Meanwhile, given that Adamu was reportedly invited to Aso Rock by the president after his release, one cannot take it for granted that he learnt any valuable lesson from his plight. It is possible that if he gets another opportunity to advocate murder against someone accused of blaspheming his religion, he will jump at it. The examples of people who passed through fiery situations but never develop the sensitivity to empathise with others are countless. Depending on what the president tells him or how they related to him in Aso Rock, he could even come off that experience convinced about his specialness, that he is part of the group given the privilege of regulating life and death. It is also possible that he will come off the experience more humane and more reflective of the nature of the human spirit and the freedom it craves, who knows? Anyhow, whoever and whatever he becomes after this episode is entirely up to him. ,
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