Still, it’s not easy being a spokesperson for the sort of administration which one might have expected given the antecedents of the incumbent. But Dr Okupe, at least, never had any pretensions to honour or integrity, ideals or values. He was long known as an attack dog – a Rottweiler, say – and managed to achieve the singular feat of earning Baba’s wrath for his duplicity: ‘I was there when President Olusegun Obasanjo physically beat and assaulted him because of his attitude and lack of honesty,’ an eye-witness recently claimed, although one might be inclined to question the moral authority of a man who allegedly fathered two children on his daughter-in-law on the sworn affidavit of the cuckolded husband. At any rate, one gets an idea of the cess-pit we are talking about when it comes to the goings-on at Aso Rock.
Dr Okupe himself was drafted in to assist Dr Reuben Abati, whose own lacklustre performance in the first 12 months of this administration failed to inspire confidence on the part of his paymasters, and exemplified by his own response to the latest proof that tackling corruption is not among their most pressing priorities. He began by castigating those uneasy with the pardon as suffering from ‘sophisticated ignorance’ (!), before accusing them of wanting to ‘pull down the country [by doing] everything possible to promote their own agenda regardless of whatever differences that may exist among us,’ which was difficult to follow, especially since Abati himself had previously characterised the man whose pardon he was now defending as ‘a dishonourable fellow, unfit to rule, unfit to sit among men and women of honour and integrity, unfit to preach to the people that he leads about ideals and values…’
Alas, poor Abati, the former hero of the downtrodden who once railed against ‘people without standards, values, beyond shame, who hold a position today and shift to the other side tomorrow and still argue with great passion’. Well, yes. Never has a person condemned himself with his own pen - shameless is the word most bandied about - but then quoting Abati against himself is now something of a blood sport. He has become such an easy target that even the likes of Femi Femi-Kayode - another Rottweiler - is able to score cheap political points at his expense, but then Abati asked for it when he railed against yesterday’s men who ‘inflict themselves with so much ferocity on an otherwise impressionable public,’ which is another way of calling us children. Nigerians recognise a lie when they hear one – they have been hearing so many for so long– and don’t need to be further patronised in this wanton fashion by a man who indulges in double-speak.
I suppose it suits those fortunate to be plucked from relative obscurity to partake in the only game in town to imagine themselves above the great unwashed who must struggle to survive in a country where government is itself the problem. Perhaps, also, they are motivated by the fear of suddenly finding themselves out in the cold once more, a fate which almost engulfed Abati himself when Okupe was drafted in, but how true is it that there but for the grace of a political appointment goes the rest of us? Is every Nigerian capable of abasing themselves so completely for ten pieces of silver, as most Nigerians are inclined to believe?
We can leave aside the likes of Fela, Gani and the long-serving police officer who has never taken a bribe. These we will always have with us. They certainly can’t be taken as ‘typical’. Perhaps nobody really knows what they will do to themselves until they actually get there. For Abati, who actively lobbied for the post, the die had presumably already been cast in his own mind so he hardly has the excuse that he didn’t know what he was letting himself in for. But let us imagine that you didn’t lobby for the post and when the call came you managed to convince yourself, after much soul-searching, that you were duty-bound to serve your fatherland and would remain above the fray. My guess is that you would find yourself quickly sidelined. And then there would be the perks: the easy money, easy girls (or boys), foreign travel (complete with estacode), and the relentless fawning by those you left behind and who are now besieging you for school fees, rent, Madam’s hospital bill... How can you say no? By now your own kids are in a
school and Madam has long forgotten the days when she didn’t go shopping on
Oxford Street. We won’t even mention the relatives on both sides for whom you
are now their only hope and salvation.
Better not to go there lest one day in the not-too-distant future the likes of Dr Okupe beg your compatriots to forgive you your sins, forgiveness being a religious matter, not a secular one, which is why Dr Okupe’s call on behalf of the disgraced Alams is misplaced.
© Adewale Maja-Pearce