“Gani Fawehinmi, Nigeria’s conscience, dies at 71”, read The Guardian’s apt front-page headline. In less than a decade after his death, Gani’s legacy has crumbled: Mike Ozekhome grew fat defending government thieves; Femi Falana tactically withdrew from popular advocacies; Festus Keyamo, from embracing political foolery, finally came to be defined by it.
On the surface Keyamo is entitled to his political choices. Beneath that surface, however, is a failure of principle: Festus Egwarewa Adeniyi Keyamo built his name with public goodwill, stolen, as it has turned out, from Gani’s large populist supply. The philosophy was Gani against the institution of state on behalf of the masses of Nigeria. His lawyers inherited the love we had for Gani, turned around and broke our hearts. Keyamo comes from a constituency that has the right to feel betrayed.
So odious was his current appointment he had to explain it in 2,740 words. It was the rambling of a man at war with his inner self never mind his facade, a meaningless rhetoric from a heartbreaker to a broken lover. A shame seeking laundry in tortuous narration.
Upon the return to democracy in 1999, Nigeria’s civil society landscape became a training ground for partisan defections. That civic space became almost entirely eroded between 2011 and 2015, with activists mutating into blatant mascots of power. Reuben Abati. Yinka Odumakin. Joe Igbokwe….Nigeria is now a totally unloved idea, so much that, at the dangle of monetary carrot, everyone is ready to abandon it.
But democracy needs a virile, nonpartisan civil society engagement, one that overwhelms possible bias with a fiery patriotic spirit. The masses need iconic figures of conscience to lead their agitations. Between 2015 and now, none exists, not institutions like the NLC, not faces like Wole Soyinka—who, from age and length of unbroken interventions, is said to have reached exhaustion. It is now a nation of orphaned masses who are entirely on their own. A nation in which few have genuine faith, so hated everyone just wants their share of the largesse for self and family. What is left for civic oversight is the toxicity of social media, a free-for-all wherein the masses, rather than the politicians, get ripped apart.
Keyamo’s new job further deepens public distrust in civil society. Taking up an appointment some years ago, a certain political activist completely denied he was ever one to begin with, just so the public could withdraw its moral censures and expectations. Keyamo embraced his own shame, saying he is still on the side of the masses by “serving” in the government. But over the years is a man who has shed his previous identity one tweet at a time. This appointment is a watershed to his final unraveling as a looter of Gani’s socialist treasury, a man who, in the coming months, will fight and subdue the remnants of his conscience, fight against former colleagues and against the masses of Nigeria, barking and tweeting wildly to disown his past and accept his new definition—a morally defeated government apologist once a face of libertarian truth.
Published as posted on author’s Facebook page (Title assigned by inquizimedia.com)
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