Full Text of Book Review on the Occasion of the Public Presentation of “The Vanity of ‘Change’ and the Audacity of Truth (A Collection of Uncompromising Essays)” Authored by Mr Jude C. Ndukwe, on Wednesday, 24th of May, 2017, at Merit House, Aguiyi Ironsi St, Maitama, Abuja.
I feel deeply honoured and privileged to stand before this special gathering on the presentation of ‘The Vanity Of Change and the Audacity of Truth’ a book authored by one of the rising champions of democracy in Nigeria today.
My speech will be a departure from the typical book reviews in these parts. I will not spend so much time talking about the book as I will talk about the importance of the role people like Jude Ndukwe play in tumultuous societies such as Nigeria.
I met Jude Ndukwe, long before I met him in person. As a matter of fact, I met Jude in person, interacted with him a number of times without knowing he was the fearless Jude Ndukwe who wrote articles that rattled members of the Nigerian establishment. Such is the power of the media.
When Jude told me that he had selected me to review his book, The Vanity of Change, a book that is already creating waves, rocking ‘the boat’ of the power elite in Nigeria, if you will, I felt humbled to be chosen from a long list of people I would consider more qualified than I to play this important role..
The author of this book and I met online in the course of staring tyranny in the face. We met in person months later, still in the course of working in the trenches to defend our democracy from assault. The truth of the matter is that I cannot recall any major happening in the political landscape of this country from May 2015 till today that we have not engaged at the level of ideas. Sometimes we are aghast, sometimes we find political scenes created by this government quite comical, and most times, we share a mutual anger about the current state of Nigeria’s democratic experiment. Because, we both know that so many things that have gone wrong with Nigeria in the past two years could have been avoided if we had enough Nigerians who really cared about their country.
For the past two years, Jude and I have been in the trenches demanding for good governance, resisting the tyranny of the Muhammadu Buhari regime, and demanding for social and economic justice for the victims of the brutality of this government. In the course of the struggle, I have found him to be a formidable ally and a fearless warrior and it has been an honour to have walked with him on this journey to making Nigeria great for every citizen..
The journey has been mostly unpleasant, I must say, largely because of the draconian character of the current Nigerian government..
Just so that you appreciate what we have been up against in the course of working to defend our democracy, let me share the details of a story that continues to shock the global human rights community.
In December 2015, a religious minority group carried out a parade. This is an annual event in the town where the organization is headquartered. The event is a one-day affair and pretty much in the class of the Calabar Carnival or the Eyo Festival. Everybody living in this town knows that on the day of this parade, it might not be a good idea to go out or if you do, you may need to avoid the parade.
I spent part of my childhood in a small town in Illinois in the United States, street parades are common in America. On those days, you either stay at home or come out and join them. But, never does anybody deliberately confront the procession. No matter who that person is.
But in December 2015, General Tukur Buratai, Nigeria’s chief of army staff, decided that he was going to break the parade and visit a school across the town that day.
In what appears like a premeditated provocation, Buratai’s team which curiously, included the spokesperson for the Nigerian Army, now Brigadier General Usman Sani, armed with cameras, approached an obscure part of the procession to demand that they be allowed to pass through the parade. One wonders why the army chief did not call the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria to make his demand. I also wonder why a colonel in the Nigerian Army would decide that people who looked like street urchins, who in no way represented the group staging the parade, were the best people to engage over such a matter.
It is important to note that this is a religious parade. It means something to the organizers much more than a cultural street carnival. Any reasonable person knows that once an issue dovetails into the realms of man and his God, such issue should be handled with utmost sensitivity.
Instead of the army chief to remember that he swore an oath to protect and preserve the lives of Nigerians and that those young men who insisted that the parade must go on without interruptions were Nigerians whom he swore to protect, he decided that the best course of action for an army general was to bulldoze his way through a religious procession. The army spokesperson admits that soldiers killed some of the Shi’ite boys as his chief passed through the procession, but he made a dubious claim that there was an assassination attempt on the life of General Buratai.
According to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the very constitution from which Buratai draws his legitimacy, authority, and importance, the now-exposed-to-be-phantom assassination attempt is meant to be reported to the Nigeria Police Force for investigation and possible prosecution. He didn’t do that. Oh, no. He’s a soldier with armed troops under his command and ‘How dare those boys stand in his way!?’