Friday, 26 April 2013

Dysfunctional Lilliputians and distressed political widows

At a recent press conference called to rubbish the pretensions of the proposed mega-party which has vowed to unseat PDP come 2015, Dr Doyin Okupe, Senior Special Assistant for Public Affairs to the Presidency, had this to say: ‘These sets of politicians who want to desperately supplant the Jonathan administration are promoting an incongruous alliance of political weaklings and dysfunctional Lilliputians out primarily to foster their ego and psyche being repeatedly frustrated political mongers...’ This is familiar PDP territory. Back in 1999, when we began this new experiment in one-party democracy, some other such Okupe fellow was pleased to rubbish the ‘lamentations’ of ‘congenital failures’ and ‘distressed political widows’ who complained about the murder and mayhem visited on their members at the polling booths in the ‘do or die’ politics that once led to a civil war and appears set to do the same all over again.  

In an earlier blog, I called Okupe a Rottweiler but then he was only living up (or perhaps down) to his reputation, for which he was employed in the first place, having fulfilled the same role in a previous incarnation. Given that 2015 is still a full two years away, it seems a little early for Jonathan to have unleashed him but then getting re-elected appears to be all that matters to this accidental President, which is why any pretence of governance has ceased. It is as if, having found himself unexpectedly in Aso Rock - and who could have predicted it of a ‘minority’ who walked barefoot to school? - he is perhaps unable to believe himself in his exalted position and can now think of nothing but how to continue there.   

It has been well said that what is needed is a war cabinet which understands the scale of the forces intent on dismembering the nation, instead of which we are saddled with a gang of irresponsible louts mouthing obscenities, but perhaps that was not to be avoided, merely the end result of the deadly politics played out this last half-century of our ‘independence’. It is entirely in keeping with the intellectual barrenness of this administration that Okupe should be equally inflamed by the recent US State Department country report – ‘Impunity remained widespread at all levels of government. The government brought few persons to justice for abuses and corruption. Police and security forces generally operated with impunity’ – which he labelled ‘crap’.

One needn’t be in thrall to foreigners to wonder how his intemperate language registers among those who take themselves more seriously than we do here, although he did concede that ‘[n]ot only judges, magistrates, police, everybody is bribed in this country’. Not Jonathan’s fault, of course, since the problem ‘started way back,’ although he acknowledged – as an afterthought - that ‘the buck ends on his table,’ which is presumably what it means to be President. Cold comfort, in any case, to the victims of Boko Haram – all 3,000 of them, according to yet another US-sponsored report - whose families and friends must now wonder whether bombing churches and police stations is the preferred way to get government’s attention; indeed, to partake of government largesse, hence Jonathan’s insistence on his grandiloquently named Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North, but which Boko Haram itself has rejected on the grounds that it is the federal government that is the terrorist organisation. I daresay there is much to be said on both sides given the activities of the Joint Task Force recently accused of levelling a village on the shores of Lake Chad, a matter Okupe has chosen to remain silent about.

Unfortunately, the proposed mega-party which obsesses this administration so is no more inspiring. Here, at least, one is in agreement with the attack dog in characterizing ANPP as ‘moribund and lacklustre,’ and ACN as ‘a one man owned and controlled political party’ lacking ‘any internal democratic credential [sic] whatsoever’. Both Tinubu and Buhari he considered ‘heavily burdened political liabilities,’ an assessment it would be difficult to refute. In fact, he hardly goes far enough. Tinubu, an accountant by profession, seems to be fixated on amassing as much wealth as he can, which is why he is widely seen – whether true or not – as a major beneficiary of the demolitions in various parts of Lagos State that have turned a good number of Nigerians into refugees in their own country. If so, this is a far cry from the Awolowo legacy he claims to emulate, but then this has been the case with successive Yoruba ‘leaders’ since the sage died. Whether Buhari himself has any connection with Boko Haram, which Okupe may or may not have claimed, is a moot point, although we recall that it was Boko Haram itself which once proposed the retired general as a mediator when a previous amnesty programme was in the air. In any event, Tinubu and Buhari make strange (I almost said alarming) bedfellows, as many others have already remarked.

But even more disheartening than any of this is the absence of younger faces in a country where over sixty per cent of the population is under twenty-four, a tribute to the enduring power of the gerontocracy we practice in the name of ‘African culture’. As a friend once remarked, when you say Your Excellency the fellow (invariably male, also the consequence of African culture) hears Kabiyesi, he whose word cannot be questioned. Oga says it’s that and it’s that. Many of these young men and women are beginning to pour out of our proliferating universities to walk the streets in search of non-existent jobs. This is the time-bomb sitting under all of us as we practice the politics that is lighting the fuse. It is also worth pointing out that these ‘teeming youths’ were born long after the civil war and might be inclined to think that another, more comprehensive one wouldn’t be a bad idea, always assuming that the war – or at least the questions it raised – ever really ended.  

© Adewale Maja-Pearce

Adewale Maja-Pearce is the author of several books, including Loyalties
and Other Stories, In My Father's Country, How many miles to Babylon?, A
Mask Dancing, Who's Afraid of Wole Soyinka?, From Khaki to Agbada,
Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa and Other Essays, A Peculiar Tragedy, and
Counting the Cost, as well as the 1998 and 1999 annual reports on human
rights violations in Nigeria. He also edited The Heinemann Book of African
Poetry in English, Wole Soyinka: An Appraisal, Christopher Okigbo:
Collected Poems, and Dream Chasers.

Click here to see Maja-Pearce's page:

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