Essay from Ayokunle Adeleye

Saraki in Our Democracy

On the twenty-fifth of March, in the heat of the Presidential campaigns, yours truly released The Beauty of Democracy. That innocent article had been borne out of concern on the increasing lust for blood that fellow compatriots were displaying, and unabashedly too. They had seemed eager for justice and more; they had in fact seemed ready to take justice into their own hands. And I was concerned, as anyone should.

A change in regime had been imminent, the finger-pointing that customarily accompanied such regimes was gaining innervation; but the
excessiveness that the propaganda of the incoming band was preaching was beginning to gather much more momentum than could be needed to
oust the incumbent and Change! the nation. And so my fear had been: What would happen to the excess?

As it turns out today, one human gestational period later, that excess momentum has birthed vengeance, blind vengeance; vengeance blinded by
the propaganda for Change!, and nurtured by the myth that every rich politician is corrupt; vengeance ignorant of the simplest of political
truths: only the rich succeed in politics, as of today, when mere nomination forms cost tens of millions of Naira so as to “separate the
men from the boys”; and vengeance that has made a man yet on trial to be stoned as though guilty.

How visionary that humble, and largely unpublished, article has now turned out to be! For, in a bid to paint the former band of politicians as thieves, the propagandists conveniently forget that they themselves are politicians no different than the former, at least to the naked eye and to the vengeful minds of the awakened masses now thirsty for blood, any blood at all. A sentiment that now endangers our budding democracy, more than ever, as I had then opined nine months ago:

“Democracy is slow, democracy is cumbersome, democracy is imperfect, and it is apparent that the Opposition will, in their present stride,
taint our budding democracy in a bid to satiate the lust for blood that the gaping mouth of our populace desires… The supporters of the Opposition have taken it upon themselves to be plaintiff, judge and jury; to label every dissenter as cheap, corruptible, and shameless; to gang up and degrade the humanity of anyone speaking in defence of the defendant. They condescend, they insult; to them only the dumb and clueless will support his [Senate] President. Yet, the beauty of democracy is that defence is a fundamental human right, even to the accused, even to the allegedly guilty; and remains so, even in Nigeria, even now!

“We can all be misunderstood; I usually am, and anyone that is often misunderstood knows that nothing hurts more than the hypocrisy and sanctimony, the judging gazes and condemning sneers, the pre-emptive guilty-as-charged attitude and misplaced condescension.… For, the
beauty of democracy is that however wrong, guilty, [insubordinate, wealthy,] or clueless the defendant is, he must not stand alone. And
whoever chooses to stand by him, pardon his misdemeanour, and believe in him, must not be ostracised, not for his humanity.

“[Saraki’s] assailants go about the tents of democracy, with shrouds ostentatiously bearing the insignia of Change!, and with vengeance in
their proud stride. And as they do, they look down upon, and alienate, those of us preaching caution lest we find ourselves right where we
are, four years hence!… For, the beauty of democracy is that the leader be tolerant, father to all, and compassionate; that his followers be empathetic, accepting of others, and friendly to dissenters; that people are not maltreated in their own land because they disagree with popular opinion.

“[But it would now seem that Saraki’s assailants are prepared to] run our democracy off, or over, in their quest for applause… [and that
their] supporters have little regard for democratic freedoms [including the belief in the rule of law administered in a fair trial; as they themselves are] intolerant folk… [It would seem that we have alas voted] the inquisitors and the chips [are falling:] there [is] little tolerance for sympathizers, for due process, for proper defence; those of us who are apt to stand for the Constitutional Way will become targets, those who habitually dwell on the fence will become collateral damage, and no one will be safe. There will be no room for neutrality, caution or commonsense. And there will be no room for friends. Yet, everyone needs a friend at least; no one deserves to stand alone. For, that is the beauty of democracy: the right to the
freedom to opine, decide, associate, disassociate; to live, and let live!

“And if [rather than insist that due process be followed,] we keep quiet, if [rather than advocate the rule of law,] we hide our heads, if we [support rather than enlighten] the coercionists, then not only will our democracy lose its lustre, then not only will autocracy take over, and dictatorship in his wake, then not only will we suffer for our gullibility, but we will leave Nigeria worse that we found it: bound.

“I have thus stood by the weaker, more aggrieved side… You may psychoanalyse me as much as you want; only, I have done so for balance, I have done so for fairness, i have done so despite enormous pressure and grave threats. And I yet do [and as should you… I have thus and since taken it upon myself to defend the defenceless. For I am not a populist, and someday, it shall be me in the dock, and I shall hope to be shown the same mercy I have shown those before me: a laudable defence, and a fair trial.”

The exact thing every Nigerian deserves during trial. The exact thing you would expect if peradventure you are on trial. The exact thing Senator Bukola Saraki deserves; not a witch-hunt, not stoning, and definitely not jungle justice. Oh, Lord knows we have had enough of those!

Ayokunle Ayk Fowosire.
Sagamu.
@adelayok

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