Let me hasten in congratulating Prof Ibrahim Gambari, the newly appointed Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, who replaces the late Abba Kyari. As jubilations all over the place continue, it is important to sound a note of warning to all Nigerians that it is not yet uhuru. Truly, Prof Gambari is an experienced diplomat. However, I feel it impulsive to remind Nigerians that we must never throw caution to the wind; there is a looming danger ahead!

As a citizen, who is most concerned about how our country’s leadership upholds the sanctity of the rule of law, constitutional democracy and respects for human rights, I have since become very buffled about the appointment of Prof Gambari. My fear is premised upon the facts that: one, the Buhari administration is notorious for gross human rights violations and the subversion of our hard-earned constitutional democracy and two, Prof Gambari’s records on human rights matters, democracy and the rule of law are too gory for the sight of history.

Prof Gambari, a brilliant and intelligent man, was a staunch supporter of the draconian regime of late General Sani Abacha when he served as Nigeria’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations. He never for once pretended in his supportive positions during the locust years Abacha almost destroyed Nigeria. He was busy making conscious efforts in painting the devil a saint in the international scene.  FILE PHOTO: Prof Ibrahim Gambari

He supported and justified the judicial murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and others fighting for the environmental rights of the Ogoni people. He defended the evils of Abacha and described the executed activists as “common criminals”. Despite all the repressions, dehumanisations and sponsored assassinations, Prof Gambari told the whole world that Abacha “has not oppressed anyone”, adding that the activists fighting for the democracy we are ‘enjoying’ today, were being arrested “because the survival of Nigeria is paramount”.

He defended and supported the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election, the most transparent election in our national history that was victoriously won by the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola, who was later killed by the Nigerian state. In fact, he was not in support of Nigeria’s return to democracy at a time when the whole world was agitating that the people of Nigeria should be entitled to determine who lead them. In the heat of dictatorship, Prof Gambari held the opinion that Nigeria was not yet ripe for democracy. He said “Nigeria’s problems are not fully understood by those who ought to know better. You cannot bring democracy overnight. You cannot export democracy”.

Worryingly, he openly opposed the renaming of a New York street after Kudirat Abiola, who was assassinated by Abacha boys. That is to show the extent he went to protect the satanic interest of the most brutal dictator in the Nigerian history.

I can continue to point out his disdain for the rule of law and constitutional democracy. I can continue to talk about his love and support for dictatorship and abuse of human rights. But, I will stop at this juncture because the few instances I highlighted above are enough to drive home my point. For someone that supported the judicial killing of human rights activists and opposed anything that has to do with democracy and human rights, we all have reasons to be afraid of the years to come.

I am making this piece for the interest of my generation, who knows little or nothing about the Nigerian history. History, they say, justifies confidence. Unfortunately, the rulers of our nation deliberately expunged history from our school’s syllabus so that the coming generations would not be aware of the evils they have perpetrated and how they brought the nation to its knees. The “de-weaponization” of history, I call it! Little wonder why my generation is weak, too conforming and appears ‘uninterested’ in how the country is being run. Blame them not; a generation that was deliberately made ignorant of history will inevitably be infected by cowardice and docility.

Whether President Buhari is right or wrong in appointing an old man like himself as Chief of Staff is not my worry. I really do not know why Nigerians are still surprised that a gerontocrat went extra miles to pick someone who would dance to his despotic rhythms. Being a despot is the only road Buhari knows, one expects he follows the easiest route. 

What will be the state of human rights, rule of law and constitutional democracy in Nigeria in the next few years with the appointment of a renowned supporter of fascism, bearing in mind the fact that the above mentioned are the pillars of democracy?

Being brilliant or being an experienced intellect is not enough criterion to be a democrat; believing in the ideals of democracy and having a record of supporting same is the only criterion I know. 

As much as I wish Prof Gambari well in his new position, I will rather choose to be realistic than optimistic about my expectations of him. Well meaning Nigerians and conscious activists should be well prepared for the years ahead. 

In the end, may Nigeria win.

Festus Ogun is a lawyer-in-equity and human rights activist. [email protected]

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