Monday, February 17, 2020 6:10 am
Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
Nigeria is a state of many stories. Laughable stories. Sad and tragic stories. Absurd stories. Tragi-comic stories. Stories of sorrow. Stories of buffoons in the public space. You know, while Field Marshall Idi Amin Dada (Conqueror of the British Empire) lasted as President of Uganda, that unfortunate country was the butt of jokes around Africa. He took himself seriously, too seriously that laughing at his antics became commonplace. What about Jean-Bedel Bokassa one-time Emperor of Central African Empire from 1966 to 1979 who was accused of eating the flesh of human beings in his days in power? Let me not recall that Bokassa had 17 wives and 50 children!
Well, politics usually produces clowns in power. Let me not recall ace-comedian late Senator Barkin Zuwo of Kano State in the Second Republic (of the running mate and coca cola and Fanta minerals gaffe) or late Dr. Kingsley Mbadiwe of ‘when the come comes to become the come fame’! or, Senator Dino Melaye who has danced into political oblivion after the Tsunami of elections last year. Let me ‘supinely take infantile apologia for Clown Obahiagbon of Edo who is too recent in memory to justify an elevation into the pantheon of historical jesters! Hahahaha! I hope he gets to read this essay and respond with stupendous and myopic ‘crencedence! Whatever ‘crencedence’ means!
And this tradition of the comic figure in political office is not limited to Africa. We find them all over the world. Italy, for example, has produced too many. Somehow, I thought Berlusconi was a comic figure. Boris Johnson always makes me laugh, you know, with the rough and tumble hair style and the appearance of a man who just woke up from sleep after a good hang over of Scottish whiskey! Jean Quatremer writes about Johnson: “in Brussels, people recall an amusing buffoon devoid of principle or political belief”. Before him was Theresa May whose serious looks, like a school headmistress’ left me amused all the time, though I never associated her with preposterous ideas. Even America currently has a serious tragi-comic character in the most serious office to be held by any man in the world! Indeed, Ivan Manokha writes that in Europe, ‘modern ‘buffoons now take centre stage; but this is no longer a cathartic accessory to politics, it is politics’!
It is against this rich culture of political comedians that we welcome Hon Alhassan Ado Doguwa into the pantheon of inane jesters. While introducing himself the other day, the majority leader of the House of Representatives presented his four wives before the assembly and added that he was not only a powerful man in the Senate, he was also a powerful man at home because his wives have given him twenty-seven children! Majority Clown declared: “and one other reason is to let you know that when members call me a powerful man, I am not only powerful on the floor of the house, I am also powerful at home because I deal with four wives. These four wives have produced 27 children for me and I’m still counting.” Such tragedy! Such exaggerated foolishness! When shall we get out of this bind? Ola Rotimi’s Our Husband has Gone Mad Again depicted clowns with greater common sense despite their level moral deprivation!
Now, Nigeria is trudging through tragic times that we often need comic relief on the national scene. The same week, the service chiefs had visited the President and Commander-in-chief over the frightening security situation in the country. Senator Abaribe had also called for the resignation of the APC-led government on account of its inability to handle the security situation in the country. The PDP gave a dose of APC’s medicine back to the ruling party when it staged a protest march to the US and British Embassies over the Imo State judicial mystery. You know, candidate Buhari had once called on President Jonathan to resign because of the government’s failure to curb the menace of criminals in the country! In the same week President Trump added Nigeria to the list of countries that are banned from having permanent residence in America!
So many stories, my fellow citizens, too many stories. Stories not to be passed on, to borrow Toni Morrison’s expression. Stories tell the character of our people. So, while we were worried over the murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen, a serving senator was declaring and flaunting his sexual prowess before the entire world. The ridiculous was almost elevated to the level of the sublime. Yet, we are not, will never be shocked by anything from the desecrated chambers of the National Assembly!
Law making is serious business. A powerful legislator is a man who influences law making in favour of the people. It is not a business that permits a man to boast about his sexual prowess. That is for gigolos! Or film stars in Nollywood! Such asinine persons ought not to step an inch near the legislative chambers. But of course, we have become too familiar with such characters in the legislature. Where else on earth would all legislators in a House of Assembly defect overnight to another party in order to please the Governor who had been smuggled into Government House through the judicial backdoor? Where is character? Where is the honour usually associated with lawmakers?
Considering the precarious state of our economy and the very question of the nation’s survival, Nigeria can hardly afford clowns in power. We need men to redeem the country from anomie. From fear. From uncertainty. From self-consumption. We need men to legislate on the future of the youthful population which we have. They need a future. Not in another man’s land. There they are, will be strangers. Aliens. Cast aside and treated with scorn. We need legislators like Abaribe in both parties who are ready to look power in the face and declare that we cannot fiddle with pornographic strings while the land is burning from the fire of volcanic eruptions created by beasts in power. We live once. Not twice. And if God has given Nigeria to us to live in, it is our duty to protect our lives in the homeland!
Professor Eghagha, who writes from the University of Lagos, can be reached on 0806 325 9454 or [email protected]