Rumours of My Assassination

RECENT rumours of my assassination are somewhat exaggerated. It will not be the first time my demise has been conspired on by other men. As with the first and second I was asked by many if I thought Nigeria was worth dying for. Even as clear as it was that I was not a masochist, my response was in the affirmative. The new form of the old question has been: why are you running for President in a country where the value of human life and the dignity of the human person is so low in the eyes of the power elite that the first reaction to their inability to engage on issues is to seek the death of an opponent? Some paraphrase by asking if Nigeria was worth dying for enough to abandon your comfort zone and risk so much. Without seeming to fly the flag or wave the patriots banner, my answer today remains as before. Yes, Nigeria is worth dying for; and, fear not those who can harm the body but cannot harm the soul.

This indeed was my reaction to newspaper reports of plans to physically eliminate some political actors including me. In a season that has experienced so many killings of political figures with no successful prosecutions it would be unfortunate not to reflect on the issue, especially as some consider private armies part of the equipment for seeking to be elected into public office. Private armies, as the state in some States, already indicate, may be the nuclei of tomorrow's warlords as in Somalia.

Following recent revelations by security agency leaders that top government officials were behind some of the politically inspired murders, the questions about the state of Law and Order, our Social Contract, and whether free and fair elections are possible in Nigeria in 2007, have risen to the top of the agenda of Nigeria watchers. Indeed these issues top the worries of Nigerians in the Diaspora who have been raising it with me as I travel through Europe and North America . One very upset Nigerian in the US in fact wondered if we should not be getting ready to try many of our leaders at the State and Federal level before international criminal courts as with the Charles Taylor experience. He found general agreement that many would be found guilty of murders but also of economic genocide against the people given how they abused the public treasury.

But why does violence persist? Really, what does it mean that violence defines our effort to determine what ordinarily should be our path to the Common Good. If what we have be democracy, that process should be about creating a market place of ideas which those voted for by the majority can draw on to provide pathways of light, away from the darkness past. I have always been a true believer in democracy and have, as the proverbial citizen of the Greek City-State strived to contribute ideas and to even serve with little thought to self gain. You may ask Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu who has used the word and meaning of the archetypal citizen to refer to me several times in the past in acknowledgement of my contribution to the efforts of his government.

As Femi Falana noted while making remarks at a Concerned Professionals event marking my recent birthday, my engagement in the public sphere has been essentially on issues. I have usually kept away from discussions of persons, despising none, and careful to recognise that the positions people take on issues do not necessarily make them good or bad people. Even when people have gone the ad hominem path, in response to my discussions, by attacking my person, I have usually either ignored the comments or struggled to embrace maximum charity in joining issues. Remarkably, though, this disposition has not prevented some people in the power game from feeling threatened enough by ideas I am associated with to find 'solutions' to differing viewpoints, in plotting my demise.

Since the ideas I have always advanced deal with extending the Common Good, Social Harmony, and Good Governance, I have always wondered if it is that these people so despise the good of all. Some have told me that it is because my ideas bring light to the possibilities if power was not abused the way many who wield it in our body politic have carried on. That threatens their very well being. Yet I am unable to come to an understanding of the view of man in society in which even that makes something as sacred as human life fair game even with no personal provocation.

It does define the crises of being in Nigeria, this treatment of God's ultimate gift with a slight of the hand. In many ways it also locates us on the continuum of human progress because you can measure the advance of a society by the kind of premium they place on human life. In some ways it also shows where Nigeria may be heading if the people do not rise and reclaim their country from their tormentors who masquerade as leaders. The doomsday prophesy of many a scenario planners about what has been called the fallen house of Nigeria may indeed prove more cataclysmic if nothing is done to stop the spate of political assassinations and bring to justice some who are responsible for the high profile political killings that have polluted this political season. But I remain optimistic and persuaded that what we will live out will be a Nigerian transformation that will come to be celebrated as the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

This triumph will come from more than just wishes that put beggars on horses. They will involve a mass movement for a values re-orientation, an ethical revolution that will see human life assume a high pedestal and the dignity of the human person assumes the centre place in the making of public choice and the private conduct of people in public life. Beyond the basic natural instinct for self preservation, my concern regarding recent speculation that I may have again made the list of targets of state terror or political killing, has been its effect on the trend to abandoning the public arena to thugs and scoundrels. At the personal level, I have said that standing up for my conscience is so important that if martyrdom be permitted by God it should be managed with dignity rather than abdicate duty to our shared heritage.

I have, in truth, said that if we had assurances that our blood would cleanse this land and guarantee all a future of peace and prosperity it should be gratifying to make that kind of sacrifice. Certainly if the killings of Funso Williams in Lagos, Daramola in Ekiti and others elsewhere as in Plateau were to have the intended effect of frightening off political contenders we can assume that the trouble of Nigeria's failed promise will further traumatize a new generation already quite uncertain about the future. Given how grave these consequences are we must act with the seriousness that recognizes that the road to Somalia started to be travelled in this way. Democracy demands that we learn to keep contestations at the level of ideas. To fail to come to terms with the end game here may be to risk the very democracy that we paid so dear a price to have. We can not afford to lose this priceless possession.