By Rotimi Fasan
There is hardly any doubt that Mr. Lai Mohammed, the Information Minister, has for some time now been sounding like a repeating if not a broken clock. His responses to issues of national importance, especially as they pertain to the government being led by President Muhammadu Buhari, are not only predictable.
They are also either excessively adulatory or offered as a rebuke of criticisms of the government which are written off either as hate speech or fake news for which some members of the governing party have been proposing specially-conceived punitive bills. It is a clear sign, if no other, that Lai Mohammed, like other paid hands of Abuja, has run out of both ideas and excuses for the government he is part of.
It is also evidence of how bad the product they hawk in the form of the outcome of the mismatch between the policy utterances and the action of the Buhari government has become.
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Without appearing to have reflected on any real or apparent criticism of the government, these spokespersons of government or the president, rush out parrot-like repetitive responses that amount to begging the questions raised.
While Lauretta Onochie appears to be smarting from the clamorous rejection that followed her nomination as an electoral commissioner by President Buhari and has, therefore, taken a back seat (perhaps in a bid to rescue her offensive nomination) in launching unguarded attacks at critics of the government, however well-meaning, the troika of Lai Mohammed, Garba Shehu, and Femi Adesina has been steadfast but ineffective in their role as spin doctors. But compared to Lai Mohammed, Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina were slightly late arrivals to the role.
Lai Mohammed was a highly effective spokesperson of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, that morphed into the All Progressives Congress, APC. His Joseph Goebbels demagoguery was incipient, incremental and would only grow full-bloom apace with the missteps of the Buhari administration. He had an endless treasure trove from which he could source materials to attack the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as it stumbled like a drunken vagrant from one mishap to another, especially in the last years of the government it led.
His criticisms of the PDP or Goodluck Jonathan, the likes of which he now labels fake news or hates speech, we’re fast, sharp and on point. He let no opportunity to take on the government pass. Weekdays or weekends, day or night, rain or shine, Mohammed was as sure as a fire in the manner he responded each time the ruling PDP or President Jonathan danced as if with two left feet.
Such was his effectiveness as a critic of the PDP that he became more or less the face of the opposition. His future role as the Minister of Information was assured without any contest from that moment.
By the time the APC had ousted the PDP and he was nominated as minister, his PDP adversaries during his ministerial clearance at the National Assembly were more curious to understand his enigma than angered by his antics.
Soft-spoken and feline, characteristics that were at odds with his furious attacks, Lai Mohammed was a person of immense interest to PDP legislators. There was no doubt they would have wanted him in their corner.
But all that effectiveness began to dissolve and ultimately ended in proportion to the degree President Buhari came under the ministration of the cabal that has taken advantage of his retiring and hidebound nature.
It was in the heat of the presidential miscues that followed that Lai Mohammed started offering excuses for the government’s failure, began his quest for a gag order in the form of so-called legislation against hate speech.
With too many excuses, spiels, and alternative facts to offer, he became an exhausted spokesperson, gaunt and condemned to repeating tired and repetitive responses to both similar and dissimilar situations. It is the reason for his latest malarkey against religious leaders who he accused of promoting regime change and spouting hate speech against the government and person of Buhari.
This came in the wake of the Christmas sermon of Reverend Father Matthew Hassan Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese and unabashed critic of the Buhari administration.
In his Christmas sermon the Bishop had condemned what he described as Buhari’s institution of nepotism and his attempt to entrench a northern leadership hegemony in Nigeria by his skewed appointments. Kukah by this remark said nothing neither he nor others had not said before.
The only thing that stood out was his bold assertion that if any other Nigerian but a northerner like Buhari had committed a fraction of Buhari’s wrongheaded errors, such would have been ousted in a coup.
This was what Lai Mohammed called hate speech and an invitation for regime change rolled into one. This, even as he acknowledged the right of religious leaders to speak ‘truth to power’.
Somebody could, indeed, see Father Kukah’s statement as a call for a coup. But such would be either an uninformed Nigerian or one full of mischief. Anyone able to read between or understand beyond the cold prints of Kukah’s words would understand his reference to a coup as this was the major means for regime change in a bygone era.
A coup now is an untenable and unacceptable option. Not in the Nigeria of today or in the new world order. Democracy in Nigeria is maturing and the Nigerian electorate has to mature willy-nilly. They must, like adults, learn to live with the choices they have made until such a time when a democratic change is possible.
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Nigerians once embraced coup-spawned changes. They celebrated them. But no more. We must all live with the choices we freely made and I have no doubt that Father Kukah understands this.
That he stated his point in the bald manner he did is indicative of his awareness of the impossibility of a coup as an acceptable option. But it also underlines his awareness of how some northerners would have viewed the options open to them with a different leader. What with the insecurity issues signposted by the kidnapping epidemic across the country? How about the issues of insurgency, banditry, rape, cattle rustling, and farmer/herders clash? How would the northern oligarchy have responded were Goodluck Jonathan or any other southerner still in power?
To ignore the lopsided nature of President Buhari’s appointments or act as if it does not matter is to live in a denial bubble. But given the reality of northern domination of the military, paramilitary and civilian leadership of Nigeria in this present time, how would the north have responded had a southern Christian been president? This is the point of Father Matthew Kukah’s sermon. It is not a call to arms.
Vanguard News Nigeria
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