It was my friend calling from Lagos.
In the twenty years that I have known him, he had never sounded so animated. I sensed immediately that he had something on his mind, something he thought I must know right away, at that unholy hour.
Perhaps the diehard revanchists and their confederates had obtained a midnight court injunction voiding the entire General Election, thus clearing the path to the setting up of an Interim Government?
“What’s up?” I asked him.
“Abuja,” he replied. In his excitement, he could only articulate one word in one breath.
“What is it about Abuja?”
“So, you haven’t heard?”
My mind raced through all the bad news, bad news and more bad news that came out of Abuja the previous week, and set me wondering which particular piece of bad news I could have missed.
“Heard what?” I asked.
“You haven’t heard that residents of Abuja Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have all along been super citizens without even knowing it?”
There goes another conspiracy theory, perhaps the latest in a very long line of conspiracy theories that have flooded the news media and the pseudo-social media outlets and polluted social discourse, especially in this silly season, I said to myself.
“I must confess i have not kept pace with the deluge of news out of Nigeria. Please tell me the latest about Abuja.”
“It is right there in the Constitution,” he said breathlessly.
That foundational document stipulates, he went on, that no candidate can become president of Nigeria unless he wins 25 percent of the votes cast in Abuja FCT in a national election. “It is there in black and white,” he said.
“Not even if the candidate fulfills every other requirement, such as winning an overall majority of votes cast, and meeting the two-thirds rule.”
“Not even then, sir. Regardless of every other stipulation, he or she has to win 25 percent of the FCT votes to be deemed elected. That is the learned consensus of the best legal minds. Call it the Iron Law of the Constitution.
“So, what is in it for you?”
“A great deal, sir. A great deal. Can’t you see the implications, sir? They are profound. To start with, it confers special status on the residents of the FCT, rich and poor, lawmaker and lawbreaker, homeowner and home watcher alike, over and above the status of ordinary Nigerians – like your good self, sir, assuming that after all these years in America, you still consider yourself a Nigerian. With this special status comes many special rights and privileges, at least by implication.
“The right to special treatment for Abuja FCT residents in the scheme of things. For example, it would follow that, in federal recruitment, appointments, contracts, and admission to federal institutions, FCT residents would be served first.”
Would that not collide with the equal-protection clause of the Constitution, which requires broad equality of treatment for all citizens?
“Not in the least, sir, since FCT residents are not ordinary citizens. They are super citizens. The Constitution itself says so.”
It would follow, then, by the same reasoning, that representatives of the FCT in the National Assembly and the FCT Administration can jointly and/or severally veto federal legislation on any whatsoever?
“Absolutely, sir. Absolutely. You are beginning to see things as they really are.”
“Why are they conferred with this special status, if I may ask? Is it simply by virtue of their residing in the FCT, or is there something transcendent about living in that space?”
“Good question sir. The framers of the Constitution did not explain how they came about the FCT’s special status. But they must have had it at the back of their minds that they were dealing with something new, perhaps unique even, and that the document should reflect that point splendidly and unambiguously. It had to espouse and honour the soul of Abuja.”
I did not tell him that, regardless of what the Constitution says, I have always had some doubts about Abuja. Maybe it is a different place now, but back in the 90s, I always felt that it was just a collection of masonry, bereft of “town-ness.” Whenever I visited, I always came away asking: “Where is the town?”
But if there is a soul to Abuja, it is only fair and proper that the Constitution should articulate it. What does that soul consist in?
“Like Nigeria itself, it is a work in progress. It speaks to the nation’s vast potential, about which there is no disagreement. We can also speak of its can-do, never-die optimistic spirit.”
“It seems like you are set to relocate.”
“You took the words right out of my mouth, sir. I am actually calling to tell you that, given recent revelations about the extra-constitutional status of its residents, I have decided to relocate to the FCT before a new Administration is sworn in on May 29, and to ask for your blessings.
It has been my experience that whenever younger folk seek your blessings, they are thinking of hard cash to help them in a new venture, not pious, incantatory chants. He is not that kind of chap. He is not asking too much of a retired professor living on a modest pension. My prayers will go with him.
His plans seem hazy for now. He has some money in the bank, and no constricting family obligations. Fortunately for him, he is no stranger to the place. He lived and worked there several years back, and knows his way around.
With Abuja’s new status, he can now see new opportunities he did not see even when they were staring him in the face, opportunities for self-actualization on a scale he and doubtless others never could have imagined
Is Abuja ready for the thousands of who will flock there to seek fame and fortune following the constitutional epiphany, and the brickbats that earlier residents who missed the tide will hurl at them?
All kinds of memes have sprung from the Obidient Movement and its insurgent sweep, most of them deprecatory. I will not repeat them here.
How I wish I could come up with a more polite term than Obidient Mess to characterize the drama surrounding Labour Party presidential candidate Peter Obi’s clandestine visit to the UK to celebrate Easter, his detention for questioning by the immigration authorities at Heathrow, his alleged deportation, the UK Government’s apologies for the inconvenience he suffered and his sepulchral silence since returning to base.