by Abdul Mahmud
‘’Basket mouth wan start to leak again oh!’’, the inimitable Afro-beat musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti sang in his ‘Beasts of No Nation’. Nothing exemplifies the absurdities of a nation than the despicable leaders who suffer diarrhoea of the mouth. Sometimes, one wonders why God in his infinite wisdom saddled us with men and women who in the lesser order of things can be likened to strainers.
Every day in our country, we are entertained to the inanities of those my good tweep, Ayobami Oyalowo, called stand-up comedians in one of his brilliant pieces. That our country trends in the virtual as a ridiculous hash tag highlight some of the troubling aspects of her conditions today. It is so because men and women of lesser talents who pass themselves off as stand-up comedians have seized our quarters of governance. Doubtless, the outbursts of some of our public servants raise questions about the nature of our public discourses.
When last did anyone hear our public servants speak to reason and the rational? Or heard our public servants address more fundamental issues like poverty, gender and affirmative action, economic progress and growth, the nature of our state, constitutionalism and freedoms the way the Awolowos of our nation addressed them in the past?
Two years ago, Wikileaks exposed our ridiculous public officials for what they were, and still are: basket mouths. Except for the nuisance value of some of the revelations, Wikileaks didn’t reveal anything new that Nigerians didn’t know, nor sensed inside beer saloons and the marketplaces of ‘Dem-say-dem-say’. That Ngozi Iweala, Akunyili, Asari Dokubo, Tom Ateke, Oronto Douglas and Ooni of Ife were all caught with their mouths gummed to the stripes and stars of the American flag came as no surprise. What was surprising, then, was how our senior public officials played the fool to lowly ranked consular officers, only to appear stupid like the ‘’Oga at the top’’.
Take Wikileaks’ exposé on Professor Dora Akunyili and Oronto Douglas for instance. In one of the many Embassy Cables, Professor Akunyili was alleged to have described her former boss as the ‘’Vice President who waited patiently as he prayed fervently for the death of his former boss, late President Yar’Adua, so he could assume the political leadership of our country’’. And Oronto Douglas was quoted as doubting the competence of his boss. He was alleged to have named his boss as one of the many leaders who ensured the underdevelopment of his homeland, the Niger delta. The broad swipes revealed the contempt the President is held, even by some of his men.
Perhaps, there were contexts for which both comments were made; but to describe one’s own principal as incompetent is to arm the President’s critics. Professor Akunyili’s gaffe could be pardoned; but for Oronto Douglas, he meant every word considering the cosy personal relationship he has with the President, it’s unpardonable.
Wikileaks have since gone quiet. But our public officials and their friends have not called time on their own favourite comical pastimes. Not yet, at least.
Last week, Governor Akpabio and the renowned SAGIP- supporter of any government in power- Arthur Eze opened their mouths.
First, let’s hear from Arthur Eze, who whilst commenting on the presidential pardon granted Alamieyeseigha said: ‘’What Jonathan did is what a man who fears God will do. If I have an opportunity as president of Nigeria I will do the same. All of us are human beings. What he did was correct… Jonathan took advice from God. God [has] told him to show mercy’’.
Alluding to the beatitudes, he concluded, by misquoting chapter 5 of the book of Matthew, ‘’the bible says blessed are those that are merciful for they shall see God’’. The merciful are shown mercy; they don’t see God, like the pure in heart, Arthur Eze.
Governor Akpabio, in his own moment of the ridiculous, confessed rigging his party’s senatorial primaries in 2007 to install Senator Aloysius Etuk.
Hear him: ‘’I used my own hand to strike out the name of the person who [has] won [before] and I said it is important for me to give that region a senator in 2007 and I produced Senator Aloysius Etok for you; that is where he comes from’’. What gobbledegook!
Governor Akpabio and Arthur Eze represent all that is wrong in our country today. To take Arthur Eze’s improbable claim seriously is to give messianic recognition to a president who displays pedestrian attachment to the businesses of state and governance. Yes, God loves sinners; but God must truly be very far from a president who tells lies willy-nilly, who don’t give a damn about what and how the people feel.
Akpabio, talkative, comes across as the real life Gringory Akabogu. A counterfeit of our blessed James Iroha, he writ large as a compulsive self-publicist, self-confessed election rigger and shameless propagator of bad things, who draws attention to the open asylum where members of his kleptocratic class emerge from time to time. Beyond the laughable retraction of his confession, Governor Akpabio exemplifies (what interpretation can anyone place on the phrase, ‘’it is important for me to give that region a senator’’?) the archetypal political godfather who rights the wrongs and heals the wounds of ethnic domination, the way Ngugi wa Thiongo characterised post-colonial leaders in ‘’The Writer in a Neo-Colonial State’’. Unfortunately, like the post-colonial inheritors who were expected to right the wrongs of colonialism, but who ended up arrogating power to themselves and to their political lapdogs or stooges, our today’s neo-colonial rulers deny our people the power of choice and the agency for real political action.
That the end of the circuses of our attention-seeking stand-up comedians seems not in sight should be a worry to many. For those who worry over the way they utter the unspeakable or over the way they have turned governance into the ridiculous, please take heed of Fela’s refrain:’’ many leaders as you see them. Na different disguise dem dey oh’’!