By Philip Agbese
Appearance can be deceptive. With his scruffy looks, one time deputy spokesperson for the All Progressives Congress (APC), Timi Frank, strikes the posture of someone in need of at least one of the social security interventions of the APC government. But that is as far as it goes. Timi Frank play in the big league, the kind that is bankrolled by a desperate opposition or a state sponsor of terrorism that is keen on exerting influence in a faraway land after losing out in the geo-political power play in its own geo-location.
But even the best of funding does not cure bad manners. Slush fund will only help the individual accentuate whatever it is that already ails them, distorted perception or an over bloated sense of self-worth. Frank has thus meddled in several national issues riding on the only credible credential at his disposal – that of a former APC spokesperson. One would think that if he is worth anything he would have by now appended a more relevant and current description to his person instead of being a yesterday man. Sticking to the expired APC position, currently occupied by another person, is in itself a sort of deception bordering on impersonation.
Deception cannot be a new game to this man as he continues to ride on the impression that he symbolizes a fractured APC when in reality the best he ever did in that party was to lead the mopping squad that cleans up the mess made by others. He continues to fit snuggly in this role as he tenuously attempt to clean off even stickier mess, one created by the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). The group signed up for its own end when it contrived the circumstances that allowed the Kaduna state government to outlaw it as a militarized group that threatens the safety, security and wellbeing of others.
Even those that once stuck out their honour to attempt marketing IMN as an “harmless group” have since found a way to beat dignified retreats after the world was confronted with video clips of its members attacking and killing policemen and security operatives on the streets of Kaduna and Abuja while damaging properties of other Nigerians that had not in any way offended them.
Even those that continue to put up tepid words in for the extremists to be treated humanely have found the strategy for walking the tightrope of political correctness that ensures they do not end up looking like accessories to an Iranian invasion of Nigeria. Not only is IMN militarized and outlawed (in Kaduna state) but they also get bankrolled by the Islamic Republic of Iran – anyone that has followed stories of countries that have Iranian signature on them knows how things end on sour notes for the unwary.
To expect this profound appreciation from Frank is certainly an overkill. The pecuniary gain of eating from the opposition or the base instinct of hitting back at those that did not allow him wrongly become influential in the APC are so strong that they becloud reason for him on a scale that multi-pronged interventions cannot remedy.
The position he adopted on the IMN issue, like ones he has taken on other national matters, are therefore out rightly irresponsible, even though on the surface his stand appears populists, the contrary is always the case upon further scrutiny of the positions he often takes.
For instance, without recourse to facts, Frank called on the international community and the discredited Amnesty International “to note the record of brutal killings, especially that of Shiites people under the current administration,” precisely the kind of poorly thought reasoning that got him shoved aside in the APC. He want President Muhammadu Buhari and military leaders to stand trial at the expiration of their tenure. Laughable. For this he referenced “the constitutional provision that security of lives and welfare shall be the responsibility of government,” and failed to acknowledge that President Buhari and the military would have failed this very constitution if they do not protect the rest of the population from rampaging hordes of IMN fanatics.
It is dubious for Frank to begin chronicling his own timeline of events from Sunday October 28, 2018 during which he said “protesting Shiites and the Nigerian Army had clashed where some protesting Shiites members were brutally killed.” He conveniently ignored the preceding Saturday when members of this sect, under the guise of being on a religious trek, obstructed the road so that they can hijack a military convoy that was carrying ammunitions and missiles. It is frightening to contemplate the possible outcomes had the soldiers transporting the items not taken the measures necessary to prevent such deadly arsenals falling into the hands of radicalized members of the IMN. Perhaps, the Niger-Delta militants affiliated to Frank would have gotten share out of the armaments if the planned hijack had succeeded.
Even on the said Sunday, no self-respecting government of the world would sit by and allow the kind of atrocity IMN members demonstrated as they were bent on unleashing on other Nigerians. They admitted they had wanted to ferry one million members into Abuja to ground the city with protest, known to be violent, to press for the release of their leader, Ibraheem El-Zakyzaky.
Frank wants El-Zakyzaky freed too. He asserted that the Nigerian government has disregarded every single judgment to free him. Could this be the same El-Zakyzaky who a Kaduna High Court fixed November 7, 2018 for ruling on his bail application? Frank and his IMN client could have waited till that November 7 before they tried to attack Abuja. By the way, the court that is sitting on his bail application is in Kaduna so why bring war to the Federal Capital Territory?
Residents of Zaria, Kaduna state as well as sojourners that have been caught up in IMN’s controversial processions can educate Frank to the error of his thinking. Residents of Zuba, Gwagwalada, Mararaba and Nyanyan in the FCT can also lift the scales off Frank’s eyes. They can regale him how the gun shots rang from both sides – IMN fighters trying to take down soldiers and them in turn returning fire. They can regale him with how women and children are forced to encircle the IMN fighters to effectively build human shields – disposable quantities in the estimate of those manipulating the IMN.
Those who have experienced the IMN’s horror show and read the refuse dished out by Frank in the name of making intervention can easily surmise that he is a component of the propaganda mounted against the government of the day by the opposition to which he belongs in the closet but is too ashamed to openly associate with. If there is something so wonderful about Frank’s client he would have dropped the APC title so that he can gravitate towards the core of leadership like he attempted to do in his erstwhile party – his new friends are either so toxic they cannot be identified with or he is so damaged that they will rather he is not counted among their ranks. He is nonetheless good for doing the dirty job of making IMN appear like a pious order.
The rest of us must not allow Frank to bear his cross alone. He needs help and we must offer it to him fast. If we leave him to keep running riot with his thoughts and public utterances we run the risk of allowing him to mislead others and that is not in the interest of the country.
*Agbese is a human rights law researcher at the Middlesex University London, United Kingdom.