There are seven people you dare not criticise in Nigeria, no matter what they do. Before you can attempt to criticise any of them, you have to be ready for the backlash. Any person who criticises any of these seven men in Nigeria is attacked with vehemence by their supporters. Anybody who says anything uncomplimentary about any of these seven figures does so at his peril. So, who are they and why is it suicidal to criticise them?
Number one is Sir Ahmadu Bello. He is known more with his iconic title: The Sardauna of Sokoto. He was the Premier of Northern Nigeria until 1966 when he was killed in a military coup. He is the undisputable father of Northern Nigeria. He took all issues concerning Northern Nigeria seriously and ensured that the North got the best deal right from the colonial era until his death. Any criticism of him or any of his policies is viewed by the North as an attack on the whole North. Even If you show a Youtube video of him making an unsavoury comment about other parts of Nigeria, you are viewed as an enemy of the North and attacked vociferously. The Sardauna cannot do any wrong and should never be criticised.
The second person on the list is Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He was also the Premier of Western Region from the colonial times. After Oduduwa -the legendary progenitor of the Yoruba- Awolowo is next in rank. He championed the cause of the Yoruba and put the Yoruba first in everything he did. He built and developed Yoruba land. Anybody who criticises him therefore is branded an enemy of the Yoruba, and the Yoruba will promptly ask for the person’s head on a silver platter, even if the person quoted Awolowo’s interview or book. Professor Chinua Achebe got a dose of the ire when he criticised Awolowo in his last book: There Was a Country. In Yoruba land, Awolowo does no wrong. Even fellow Yoruba who did not join Awolowo in his political parties in the 1950s or 1980s are still suffering some backlash in the South-West today. And if they are dead, their children continue to pay for their father’s political views that differed from Awo’s.
Completing the tripod from Eastern Nigeria is Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. He was the first military governor of the former Eastern Nigeria, and subsequently became the leader of the secessionist Republic of Biafra from 1967 to 1970 during which the Nigerian Civil War raged. The Igbo see him as their own Moses, who tried to lead them out of the House of Bondage at a time they were being massacred in Nigeria for a coup they knew nothing about, even though some people chose to label it an Igbo coup. Consequently, anybody who criticises Ojukwu gets a barrage of attacks from the Igbo, no matter what supportive evidence in video or print the person puts forward. Ojukwu cannot do any wrong. An attack on him is an attack on the Igbo, it is believed. Close to him among the Igbo is Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria’s first non-executive president. Because Azikiwe was more pro-Nigeria than pro-Igbo, he does not have the same measure of cult following among the Igbo that Ojukwu has. But that does not mean that the Igbo feel happy with anybody who criticises Azikiwe.
Who then is the fourth untouchable in Nigeria? He is not a Nigerian. He does not live in Nigeria. But his influence in Nigeria is massive. He is the Pope. Even if the Pope says something that has no biblical backing, just don’t criticise him in Nigeria. You can criticise the Pope in the United States or the United Kingdom but please don’t try that in Nigeria. If you do, you will receive missiles upon missiles from Roman Catholics. As far as the Catholics are concerned, the Pope is infallible and is His Holiness. No more, no less. He can do no wrong, and no mortal should criticise him. Anybody who does that is an enemy of the Roman Catholics in Nigeria.
The fifth untouchable is Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Once “Daddy G.O.” says a thing, it is unquestionable. You would hear more of “Like Daddy always says” rather than “Like the Bible says” from his faithful. You dare not criticise any action or word spoken by Adeboye, even if you have juxtaposed it with what the Bible says and found it incongruous. If you disagree with Adeboye’s word or action, it is because you are not filled with the “spirit of discernment.” You are attracting the wrath of God to yourself. In short, you seriously need deliverance!
The number six on the untouchable list in Nigeria is Bishop David Oyedepo, the General Overseer of the Living Faith Church, aka Winners’ Chapel. He is rated as the richest pastor in Africa. Some even rate him the richest pastor in the world. Even if he is shown slapping a girl for allegedly being a witch, you dare not criticise Papa. Even if he owns 10 or 20 private jets, you dare not say anything untoward about him. If you do, you are heavily attacked as being controlled by the spirit of poverty and jealousy. You also hear his faithful say “according to Daddy” more than “according to the Bible.”
The last, but not the least, is Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s President-elect. He was the military head of state from December 31, 1983 to August 27, 1985. Even though Buhari was known for being iron-fisted during his dictatorship, he has always been seen as a man of integrity, not given to nauseating acquisition of illegal wealth. That was what motivated Nigeria’s military head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha, in 1994 to appoint him as the chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund. In spite of his known integrity, Buhari had no cult following after he left office. He contested the presidency three times but succeeded the fourth time this year. Even when Buhari left office as the PTF boss in 1998 at the death of Abacha, he still retained his integrity. But he still had no cult following. It was during the 2,000 sharia riots that Buhari first got his cult following in the North through his comments supporting the implementation of sharia.
Eventually, the allegations of corruption against government officials since 2003 helped to gradually boost Buhari’s image down South, overshadowing his sharia stance. His following rose to such a high level that he became an untouchable. He can no longer do wrong. Whatever he does or says should never be criticised or his followers would open the “gates of Hades” on the critic. If Buhari says that going left is right, his followers would support it as the best way. If he changes his mind a day later and says that going right is the best way, the same supporters will say that he has made the best decision. Whatever he says or does, his followers would justify it, rationalise it and defend it.
It is obvious from this list that there is no Nigerian that all Nigerians will rise in unison to defend when criticised. What we have are champions and heroes within some specific groups. Outside such groups, their influence is low or non-existent.
If you are a writer or a public commentator, please, place this list on your wall and brain for your own good. Never you criticise any member of the Untouchable Seven of Nigeria. But if you want to criticise them, buy a tried-and-tested armour that will cover even your heels, so that what happened to Achilles would not happen to you. Make sure that the armour also covers your eyes and forehead, so that what happened to Goliath would not happen to you too. When you have done all that, you can them criticise them. If not, I pity you!