By Idang Alibi
Our president, Muhammadu Buhari, looks so aloof, so deadpan serious and so expressionless that one genuinely wonders whether he ever makes jokes at all and if he doesn’t, whether he ever laughs heartily if some funny bone cracks hilarious jokes in his hallowed or holy presence. If the President sometimes laughs like we ordinary Nigerians do, I want to invite him to laugh a little over a very serious command which he gave to Nigerians recently which was a quarter to a serious presidential command but a little above a mere suggestion or statement.
The trigger for this piece is that just yesterday, I, once again, watched, for the umpteenth time, with both horror and faint amusement, that video clip in which Buhari, with deadly seriousness on his face, gave an explicit order to Nigerians to shoot anyone found in possession of an AK-47 assault rifle.
If the president sometimes relaxes with a smile on his face, I want to liken his order or suggestion to a move in the beautiful game of football, which is enjoyed all over the world by kings, princess, princesses and billions of ordinary people on earth, called ‘’an epileptic pass’’ by polished football commentators and ‘’a hospital pass’’ by mischievous football followers in Nigeria.
An epileptic or hospital pass is a kind of pass which a teammate makes to another teammate with the intention of generating a momentum for an offensive charge at the opponent’s goal mouth if their team is losing or desperately wants to equalize and even win. It is also one meant to slow down the game if a team is winning or is comfortable with a draw so it can afford to while away time, playing but not actually playing but seeking to frustrate, dispirit or demoralize the opposing side until the referee blows his whistle to signal the end of the friendly hostiles.
But the power behind such a pass is so lame, so weak, so lifeless that the ball is not likely to travel to the targeted teammate in good time. Sensing this, the intended teammate and an opponent nearby have to increase their pace to reach the ball and both charge furiously in order to get at it first. The result of that charge is that, quite often, both players collide violently, sending one or both of them to hospital, especially an orthopedic one, with either or both suffering bone dislocation, twisted ankle or bruises or some other fairly serious injuries, hence, a hospital pass.
First, to whom, exactly, is this presidential order or suggestion or mere remark addressed? Is it to journalist, farmer, pastor, ordinary citizen Idang Alibi who cannot distinguish between a dane gun and any other type of gun?
Second, I will also liken the President to Eshu, the Yoruba god of doubt and confusion. Eshu will wear a pair of trousers with one leg white and the other red and walk through a crowded popular market place from one end to the other. Those who saw his dress from one side will swear he wore white while those who saw him from the other side will swear by their dead bodies that he wore red. This debate will grow from animated doubts to deadpan certainty on both sides that he either wore white or red. The deadly certainty of each side to stick to their guns will eventually lead to fights with deadly consequences.
In giving this order, is the president on the side of Fulani herdsmen, bandits, kidnappers and other serious criminals who wield AK-47 illegally or is he on the side of ordinary citizens, say farmers? The order, advise, statement or whatever it can be called, can also be likened to a kind of trousers-like dress worn by men which we children used to call ‘’a quarter to trousers, half past knickers’’. The dress is too short to be called trousers and too long to be called short knickers. It is just like that, hanging, like The Hanging Garden of Babylon. Is the president asking Nigerians to form a band of AK-47 bounty hunters, bringing down without asking question of anyone with an AK-47?
Should a sufficiently aggrieved farmer and hunter obey the president and bring down a Fulani herdsman and his co-travelers in banditry with an AK-47, what will the law, the police, say to the farmer? They will hug him and say he obeyed the president?
I am now convinced it was a mere presidential statement and not an order because if it was intended to be one and to be taken seriously, it should have been properly addressed to soldiers or a special security force formed to tackle the menace. So I will also liken his statement to the type we children used to say a person in position of authority said it ‘’in order to please the situation’’.
Buhari was forced to speak because a president must say something on the issue of so many dangerous weapons in the hands of so many who are not authorized to use them. The matter is too serious for a president to continue to keep quiet about. But in saying something the president realized he is too involved, too partisan in the conflict that he cannot say something that will hurt the side he is known to favour. And at the same time, he must say something to offer some succor to victims of the carnage wreaked by illegal AK-47 wielders. Who, in his right senses, will shoot a Fulani herdsman possessing an AK47 with a dane gun and hope to live to be garlanded for bravery?
When a President, Commander –in-Chief of the country’s armed forces gives this type of order what are we supposed to make of it? Is it not worrisome? How can he in effect be speaking contradictory things from the same mouth? On the one hand, the man sounds like a strict constitutionalist who is out for law and order in his country. On the other hand, he also sounds like a frustrated C-in-C who will not mind jungle justice if that will solve a serious security challenge on his hand. But how can a president give this type of order? Does not know what to do? Does he not know to whom he should give order to rid society of illegal fire arms? Has he found out that the duly constituted law enforcement agents whose duty it is to address the type of challenge agitating Mr. President’s soul are either incompetent or unwilling?
Was that a serious command expected to be obeyed by law-abiding Nigerians or criminal elements who have dexterity in the use of guns? If you can fall a guy with an AK47 assault rifle then you have to explain to us how you acquired the expertise. You will end up self-incriminating. It is like a victim of 419 who Bishop David Oyedepo says is either a 4-1-10 or a 4-1-8 himself. As the police will say, you would have established a prima facie case of being a criminal against your goodself.