Home Opinion Long walk from Safari Park Hotel: Any lesson for Nigeria?  (I)  

Long walk from Safari Park Hotel: Any lesson for Nigeria?  (I)  

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Ahmed Yahaya – Joe

Nairobi, the Kenyan capital is an extremely beautiful city discounting the massive slum located on the outskirts of Kiberia. Created in 1899 by the British, the scenic metropolis derives its name from a Maasai phrase, “place of cool waters.” The location of a major railway intersection, it replaced the coastal city of Mombasa as that nation’s capital in 1907 decades before national independence in 1963.

The magnificent Safari Park Hotel is one of the jewels in the crown of Kenya’s famed hospitality industry. Originally, a sprawling British colonial army resort and watering hole, characterized by a recurring traditional African hut design theme, ambient grounds interspaced with beautiful well-tended gardens, exquisitely manicured lawns, and cascading pools.

Formerly known as Spread Eagle, it was acquired by a white Kenyan family in 1967 and converted into a more expansive oasis of serenity and sartorial elegance since 1974. It is arguably to the high falutin elite of Kenya what Peduase Lodge at Aburi is to the political cream in Ghana.

Not surprisingly Safari Park Hotel was the venue of the landmark reconciliation between the hitherto bitter political rivals, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta b. 1961 (center), Raila Amolo Odinga b. 1945 (right) and William Samoei Ruto b. 1966 (left).

Despite their bespoke suits and silk ties, there wasn’t the slightest iota of mutual tolerance between them ahead of the August 8, 2017, presidential election even after the Supreme Court ruling that canceled same. A reported 92 Kenyans had died according to official sources in the ensuing period due to intense political acrimony chiefly ethnic.

“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.” – Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India 1966-1977, 1980-1984.

Kenyatta first became president in 2013. Before then he was the main opposition leader, from 2003-2013. In 2017, as an incumbent, he contested against the veteran Odinga who had been Prime Minister, from 2008-2013. After the Kenyan presidential election of 2017, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announced that Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party had beaten Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) by a margin of 1.4 million votes. Interestingly, after that highly disputed election, the international observers from the European Union, AU, and even US declared there was no major fraud beyond minor irregularities and urged Mr. Odinga to concede defeat. He refused and headed for the courts. 

Then Chief Justice of Kenya, David Maraga in his lead judgement not only declared that the election had not been, “conducted in accordance to the constitution” but IEBC had, “committed irregularities in the transmission of results” going on to declare the election, “invalid, null and void.” 

Meanwhile, the dissenting judges in their minority ruling held that ODM had failed to provide tangible evidence that the election had been rigged.

President Kenyatta was livid referring to Justice Maraga and his fellow consenting judges as, “waroka” (crooks in Swahili) he even threatened, “Do you understand me? Maraga should know that he is playing with a serving president.”

Expectedly, Odinga’s reaction was full of delight remarking the judgement was, “A historic day for the people of Kenya and by extension for the people of the continent of Africa,” adding, “It is now clear that the entire IEBC is rotten. The real election results were never shared with Kenyans.”

As ordered by the Supreme Court of Kenya a presidential re-run took place on October 26, 2017. The ruling Jubilee Party prevailed.

Can that same kind of judicial courage play out at the Supreme Court of Nigeria over the appalling polls of February 25, 2023?

“Conscience is an open wound, only the truth can heal it.” – Sheikh Othman dan Fodio (1754-1817)

On May 31 2018, at the National Prayer Breakfast held at Safari Park Hotel eight months into his second term, President Kenyatta directly addressed Odinga on stage, “We have campaigned against one another. We have said nasty things about one another. We have hurt one another. On my behalf, I ask for your forgiveness and I tender my apology.”

After a round of warm handshakes and hugs, Raila replied, “I want to thank my brother Uhuru Kenyatta for what he has just done. We have had a very long discussion, we went down memory lane where the rains began to beat us as Kenyans. We said the divisions, the hatred, the tension that has been for generations must end with us. Never again shall a Kenyan die because of an election. Never again shall a Kenyan be deprived of his birthright because of an election. That is the meaning of our handshake today.”

Then VP Ruto now the incumbent president, “As my brother, the President has said I am the one who is most accused, I want to say that for all the things that I did say or did on behalf of our teams, I want to ask that you forgive me. On my behalf, and all those behind us I tender my apology.”

Earlier, Kenyatta had emphasized, “A thief is a thief. He is not Luo, he is not a Kikuyu, he is not a Kalenjin – he has a name.”

More handshakes and more hugs with former Chief Justice David Maraga in attendance including then Somali President Mohamed Abdullah Mohamed. Kenyatta is Kikuyu, Odinga, Luo and Ruto, Kalenjin. Their East African nation has a 2019 official population of 51 million.

Can a Safari Park Hotel rapprochement take place in Nigeria?

The question is pertinent because of the likes of Bayo Onanuga who recently Tweeted from his verified handle, “Let 2023 be the last time of Igbo interference in Lagos politics. Let there be no repeat in 2027…. Mind your business.”

The media aide to our legitimacy-deficient President-elect, founding CEO, and editor-in-chief of TheNEWS is actually a notorious “regular customer” in propagating ethnic jingoism and identity politics on an industrial scale in Nigeria to the extent that Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman and Prof. Alkasum Abba in their 2005 edition of The Misrepresentation Of Nigeria even dedicated an entire chapter (Chapter Thirteen) on the antics of Mr. Onanuga who President Buhari appointed as managing director of News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in 2016;

“The cover story 15th May 2000 edition of TheNEWS was Panic in the North: Igbo and Yoruba Flee. The story is anchored by Sunday Dare, with reports from nine correspondents. The title of the main story is, To Your Tents Oh! Nigerians, and together with the accompanying interview it takes up nine pages. The story is very educative because it is a very good example of the sort of news without the news used in the campaign against the corporate existence of the Nigerian nation-state.

It is also one of the most recent examples of the deliberate and systematic misrepresentation of the contemporary realities of Nigeria and of their historical antecedents, by some of the country’s newspapers and magazines. This is not the first time TheNEWS and others like clearly aimed at generating insecurity, fear, and distraction between various ethnic and religious groups in the country.”

 Mr. Sunday Dare is the outgoing minister for Youth and Sports and also a one-time head of the Voice of America (VOA) Hausa service.

 God forbid, the type of ethnic triumphalism that openly pervaded Lagos last Saturday metastasizes across the nation going forward.

Lest we forget in 1965, Nigeria’s Prime Minister had to draft soldiers into the University of Lagos fall out of the vice-chancellor tussle between the eminent botanist, Prof. Eni Njoku (1917-1974) and accomplished historian, Prof. Saburi Biobaku (1918-2001) to keep the peace after warring ethnic factions of students and staff overran a police anti-riot detachment sent to Akoka campus. 

Continued in (II

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