By Chukwuemeka Otuchikere
‘When the cat’s away (rats will play)’
What appeared like another boring week of watching the maverick musician, ‘Charlie Boy’ lead a rather nerve racking demonstration by a group called ‘Our Mumu Don Do’ (OMDD) within Abuja the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Nigeria. It was nervy because the police was always lurking around and squaring up to go against the protesters. OMDD was marching and peacefully protesting the long absence of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) from his duty post at Aso Rock Presidential villa the official residence and seat of the Nigerian presidency.
Many felt that the long absence of PMB from the country without officially transmitting powers to the Vice President was not in the national interest. More so, many others speculated that the president had exceeded the constitutional provision for a leave, having stayed away from office for more than 90 days. However, a lot of the protesters could not cite the appropriate section of the constitution that stated that the president could not be away from the country beyond three months.
As the protest seemed to gain momentum and more people joined on day two of the March at the Freedom Park, Abuja, OMDD was in for a shock treatment. The policemen who had, hitherto, appeared to be escorting the protesters, opened fire into the air as they detonated tear-gas canisters in a bid to disperse the crowd. The convener, Charlie Boy Oputa and his key supporters were left with no choice but to scamper away in different directions.
After what appeared like a frustrating outing in the streets of Abuja and threats of further consequences if they congregated the next day being day number three, the group re-strategized and extended the OMDD protest to the United Kingdom (UK) where PMB was receiving medical attention. Using Nigerians and people of Nigerian origin resident in the UK, a protest was initiated against Abuja House London where PMB was observing bed rest and recuperating.
On their very first night in London, OMDD succeeded in disrupting the presidential medical vacation. Members of OMDD London were camped outside the Abuja House. The protesters carried placards and were chanting – ‘resume or resign!’ they were loud and insistent as they made their demand. The protest started to gather more media attention from the world press. CNN, BBC and others gave it airtime on their networks, while the social media was abuzz with OMDD in London.
In some quarters OMDD was celebrated as citizens demanded for accountability and good governance from their elected leader. On the other hand, another group felt that they were absolutely impudent to demand for the resignation of a sitting president, especially when he had ‘duly’ taken leave away from office on medical vacation. This group argued that the time frame he could stay away was at the discretion of the president’s physicians. A third group mainly on the sidelines felt that the president was on vacation in London away from epileptic power supply, poor health facilities, Boko Haram, IPOB, bad roads and lately, kidnappers. They posited that Mr. President had access to world class medical facilities, entrusted to the care of capable and well-trained doctors such of which majority of Nigerians can only dream about.
The more presidential handlers kept reassuring Nigerians of PMB’s speedy response to treatment, the more Nigerians were becoming more restive; justifiably so, as the president had not addressed Nigerians in over than 60 days. The president’s silence was pregnant with suggestions of ‘another’ hijack of the apparatus of power by a suspected cabal. The presidential spokespersons after a while, began to release pictorial evidence of a president in clearly cheerful mood, photographs were posted by these handlers on social media. This gave the supporters back home hope, but the opposition was not deterred as they accused the handlers of doctoring the photographs.
The then Ekiti state governor, Peter Ayo Fayose encouraged by the local rags of Lagos and Kakawa Street, had created the rather gloomy picture that Mr. President was possibly on life support machines, after so many days of presidential silence.
Easy and unfettered access to social media by all segment of Nigerian society did not help matters. Indeed there are some that could be addressed as the ‘cyber rats’ these churned out all manner of mis-information and hate speeches.
Too many legs, it appeared, had already crossed our ‘national red lines’ by way of hate inspired speeches. Some also posited that our speeches should be within safe boundaries of talking about baboons, dogs and other such domesticated primates and canines.
However, as London protest entered day 2, after the first night of chanting and shouting, those pesky irritants called OMDD may easily be classified as ‘ubiquitous rats’- men who have only succeeded in exporting ‘mumu‘ from Nigeria to London. The news on the next day or day 2 in London, was that Mr. President was already airborne on his way back to Nigeria. The ‘London mumu protest’ appeared to have yielded instant result as the slogan ‘resume or resign’ was promptly heeded by Mr. President or rather, the president’s ‘oyibo‘ doctors on whose orders PMB hopped into his waiting presidential jet with cumulative of over 100 days ticket parked in a UK airport.
With hindsight, one can confidently say that the problem was not PMB’s all the while, but his physicians who needed some prodding from OMDD protest under the president’s window in London to realize that the time was ripe to quit the photo sessions and discharge their patient who had a job waiting for him at Aso Rock Abuja.
The guys who almost stole the show from OMDD was the mammoth crowd mobilized from Nasarrawa and the adjoining states to line up the route from Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport (NAA) all the way to Aso Rock Presidential villa. Shouting in animated ecstasy ‘Sai baba, sai baba! oyo-yo!’ Not wanting to be out done, another group, the Coalition of Presidential Office Rats and Rodents (COP-ORR) had helped themselves to the presidential office furniture and air-conditioners. This was reported by presidential spokesman Mallam Garba Shehu (MGS), who let the cat out of the bag. To the consternation of the general public, he announced that rodents had hijacked the presidential office. In what appeared like a well orchestrated invasion, to let the home – coming president know the magnitude of hunger in the land, and that scraps of food – suya, kulinkulin, dawa, kosai, dan wake, and other such delicacies had been in short supply. They were left with no choice than to attack the office mahogany, obeche, wood and leather furnishings.
However, presidential directive was immediately given for complete overhaul of the interior decorations including replacement of all damaged air-conditioners and doors vandalized by the ravenous rats. A more enduring and enhanced security architecture has been recommended to forestall future invasion by these vermins and other unwelcome pest within the fortified precincts of Aso Rock Presidential villa. All these are to take place within a 90 day time frame.
Meanwhile with Mr. President back at the steering wheel, all the disgruntled and displaced rats can do well to get back to their own holes or find new holes as there is no vacancy in the villa.
It is only proper to mention that an extensive fumigation program otherwise known as War Against Rats and Rodents (WARR) is in progress. Trespassers do so at their own peril.
Chukwuemeka Otuchikere, a geologist and Businessman contributed this piece from Calabar.