While we agree that the president is the father of all, but decisions around him should be well thought out. Some things should be done in secret, if circumstances warrant an unpopular approach.
For lack of a viable alternative, we have chosen democracy as a system of governance. The problem with our kind of democracy is that it’s all about numbers. The winner takes all! The composition of those who make it win does not matter. It is despicable, but that is the reality. Political parties are not meant for good people alone. It’s for everyone: the good, the bad, and the notorious.
But parties should have boundaries. They should be driven by manifestos built on philosophy, ethics, values, and principles to guide members and persuade people to join them. If one is joining a party, there should be a rational reason. If a party is accepting members, there should be a benchmark. Unfortunately, too, our current political parties are not driven by philosophies. It’s all about how to acquire power first and then decide on what to do with it later.
How any party will accept Femi Fani-Kayode (FFK) as a member beats my imagination. For what purpose, I ask? Is it for political value or nuisance value? I doubt if he can deliver his ward in any free and fair election. For being a nuisance through his well-documented unacceptable behaviour – being abusive to journalists, regular conjuration of hate speech, incitement and bigotry? Who would ever want such a baggage? So why would a party in power accept a member like him? Does he have a future political value, or its all part of mass mobilisation? It’s their prerogative, and they owe no one an explanation, but then, he is even taken to see the President! What message are they sending to the public? This is where it involves you and I.
Some years ago, U.S. President Barack Obama had to cancel a meeting with controversial Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who had earlier called him the “son of a whore”. The Philippine leader, known for his ‘colourful’ language, had insulted prominent figures before, but it had diplomatic consequences when such a meeting was scheduled. Citizens were not happy, despite the magnanimity being exhibited by President Obama. I recall an episode where Senate President Ahmad Lawal hired a qualified individual to be his aide. But due to the vexatious past of this individual, the appointment had to be rescinded. But that’s someone with a conscience that had the mental capacity to reflect.
Femi Fani-Kayode is an highly divisive figure who has been oscillating from regional to ethnic chauvinism, extreme bigotry to tribalism, to very opportunistic nationalism as a minister, irredentism of the most pernicious form, to insufferable rascality. It’s the president’s choice and within his freedoms on who he chooses to associate with, and we sympathise with his ordeal. We all have different inspirations and are entitled to live our lives the way we deem fit. But the party’s actions and the giving of an audience with our president fo Fani-Kayode affects those who mean well for this country. It’s a bad example and a wrong message to the young ones.
As parents, we usually try to regulate who our kids meet. We even try to control what they watch on TV and YouTube – and there are logical and rational reasons for that. As adults, we are wary of public perception. We avoid issues that would put one to seem to be in a compromised position. Illicit behaviour is engaged in with caution. People don’t even want to be seen as identified with certain toxic persons in society. In the streets, we avoid people with mental disabilities.
While we agree that the president is the father of all, but decisions around him should be well thought out. Some things should be done in secret, if circumstances warrant an unpopular approach. Even when the Americans are meeting with the Taliban, they do it at night. That’s why most politicians hold meetings in the small hours too. It’s not purely out insomnia, but strategy – to keep dark many things where they belong. This meeting should not have been held, and if it had to, it should have happened behind the camera.
In more intense democracies, details of meetings are requested by the public. Imagine if the president had a meeting with Abubakar Shekau or Nnamdi Kanu. Citizens would want to know why. On this meeting, some are so horrified that they would rather not know the details. We hope it was done in the best interest of the country.
•Umar Yakubu is with the Centre for Fiscal Transparency and Integrity Watch. Twitter @umaryakubu