A few months ago I published an op-ed, “Ogun State’s Olarehin Dance”, in which I bared my mind on that state’s tragic turn under the uninspiring gubernatorial tenure of the massively corrupt Gbenga Daniel. My essay went public not long after Olufunke Daniel, the constitutionally unrecognized “First Lady” of the state, along with her yeye aides and yeye security officers, stormed the house of a free citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in furtherance of the organized brigandage we call governance in Nigeria. As I write, the police command in Ogun is yet to do anything about that galling disregard for public decency by the lawless “First Lady” of that state. As might be expected, the horde of online ratlings with which Gbenga Daniel has perennially infested Nigerian listservs and other online spaces of public disquisition came after me in a bacchanalia of ad hominems.
A good number of my friends were surprised by my uncharacteristic silence. Some emailed me, asking if I was going to allow the intellectual midgetary on display by Gbenga Daniel’s quislings to go on in the listservs without a response. Some were worried that my silence could be mistaken for weakness by those fellas. They could come under the impression that their stock in trade – harassment and intimidation of dissident and dissentient voices – had worked. I told my friends to keep their fingers crossed. So long as the transaction was going to remain in the field of cerebral exercises in English, so long as Gbenga Daniel’s minions wouldn’t get the chance to transfer things to their natural habitat - physical violence and political assassinations - I told my friends that I could always take care of them at a time of my own choosing. Won kere si number.
I had good reason to wait. Having assessed the unending flow of insipid listserv verbiage from Gbenga Daniel’s clowning peons at the time, I was not inclined to waste precious time responding to their struggling syntax and kwashiokored logic. I assured my worried friends that if I continued to write about the criminals ruling Nigeria in the same tone and tenor, another corrupt member of the rulership in the mould of Gbenga Daniel would eventually send his or her vegetable-headed aides after me online. That would be the time to lump all of them together and use them as material for serious reflection on a serious national gangrene: the culture of political aides Nigeria.
My assessment at the time has turned out prophetic. Last week, Bayo Ojo, former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in the Obasanjo dispensation, unleashed his own internet battalion on me. A group that goes by the eerie name of BOCO (Bayo Ojo Campaign Organization – I mistook them for Boko Haram) came after me in an essay in Next newspaper. They labelled their own pre-logical ad hominems a rejoinder to an op-ed I had earlier published in my Next column, “Bayo Ojo’s Ambition in Kogi State”. Please allow me to quote the essay almost integrally, if only to set a proper context for the analysis that will follow.
I had started the essay thus: “Bayo Ojo needs no introduction. He was Olusegun Obasanjo’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation. He was our rude introduction to the debasement of that office that Michael Aondoakaa came to personify. Bayo Ojo transformed his office to the justice wing of Obasanjo’s nascent third term agenda. That office will take a long time to recover from the combined assault on it by Bayo Ojo and Michael Aondoakaa. Now, Bayo Ojo wants to be Governor of Kogi state. That is my state – I didn’t even realise that he was from my neck of the woods until he declared his ambition. Ordinarily, his Obasanjo antecedents should be bad news and I should dismiss him straightaway. But things are never that straightforward in Nigeria.
If there was a Nobel Prize for horrible, mediocre, and lacklustre leadership, Kogi would beat the other thirty-five states hands down to clinch it. The state has been ruled by charlatan after charlatan since it was created in 1991. The list of governors is so drab and pity-inspiring that I shiver in horror as I write their names: Danladi Zakari, Abubakar Audu, Paul Omeruo, B. Afakiriya, Augustine Aniebo, Ibrahim Idris. Of these, only Audu and Idris are civilians. The rest were military administrators who all plundered the state dry without exception. But the Ali Baba military administrators were nothing compared to Abubakar Audu whose double spell as Governor was remarkable for only two things: (1) stealing, (2) more stealing.”
After zeroing in on Abubakar Audu and the current Governor, Ibrahim Idris, in order to better foreground Kogi’s pitiful political landscape, I returned to Bayo Ojo’s candidacy, comparing the dilemmas he represents with the scenario in Anambra state: “This is the depressing background into which Bayo Ojo’s ambition is born. In this Kalahari of leadership material, a man of Bayo Ojo’s intellectual pedigree comes out to declare his interest in Lugard House. The immediate implication is that Kogi could transition from a state that has been ruled only by crude jackboots, a crude emperor, and a colourless carpenter thus far to one ruled by a man who obtained his LLM at the London School of Economics and is a member of the United Nations International Law Commission among other distinctions! This, in essence, is the first time a non-charlatan, a man of unimpeachable academic achievements, a man with a culture of the mind could be Governor of Kogi state, hence my hesitation to dismiss this ambition outright.
This is almost like the Soludo situation in Anambra and it highlights the Nigerian tragedy and dilemma. I have lamented elsewhere that our political culture never presents our people with clear-cut choices between good and bad, ethical and unethical. We are a people seemingly condemned by the gods to always have to choose between bad and less bad, corrupt and less corrupt, ethically compromised and slightly less ethically compromised candidates during every election cycle. And that is when we are even lucky enough to choose. As much as we celebrated the last Anambra election, we must not forget that this unfortunate dynamic was the subtext of the entire episode. The people of Anambra had to choose between Peter Obi (with the N250 million he looted and had an aide transport in the trunk of a car), a massively corrupt Charles Soludo (an overnight Professor-billionaire) with a stellar academic/intellectual pedigree like Bayo Ojo, and the totally ridiculous Andy Uba.
But it is a disservice to Anambra to even begin to compare their situation with what normally occurs in Kogi. Every Anambra election has at least presented us with an impressive list of not-too-bad, not-too-corrupt candidates with sufficient intellectual /academic profiles slugging it out with massively corrupt charlatans like Andy Uba. In the Anambra playing field, the not-totally-corrupt, not-too-bad always outnumber the bad-beyond-redemption in the ilk of Andy Uba. Kogi has always presented the opposite scenario until now. The political playing field has always been crowded by corrupt carpenters trying to out-rig corrupt Molue conductors. It has always been a charlatan jam charlatan situation in Lokoja. With Bayo Ojo in the equation for 2011, Kogi will, for once in her short history, have a not-too-bad candidate (his disservice to Nigeria under Obasanjo being my only problem with him) versus the regular throng of horrible and irredeemable charlatans.”
Not-too-bad candidate? Ye, sorry, ouch! Bayo Ojo and his aides didn’t like that. They did not appreciate my ‘generosity’; hence, they avoided the substance of my submissions and descended on my person like a ton of bricks in Next newspaper. Any public intellectual or op-ed columnist who avows a permanent dissatisfaction with the desolation foisted on our country by the recidivists ruling us from the President all the way down to the local government chairman and who, consequently, has been at the receiving end of the discursive purulence of their aides, knows that they all regurgitate the same monotonous formula:
• Abuse your father, mother, siblings, relatives, and everybody in between
• Accuse you of trying to pull down their principal who, always, is the best thing to have happened to Nigeria
• Accuse you of having been bought over by the political enemies of their principal
• Wonder what your business is with their state. Why not make your weekly columns exclusively about your own state of origin?
• Where applicable, accuse you of tribalism. They find it irresistible if you are Yoruba and their principal is Igbo or vice versa. Nothing works for them like Yoruba-Igbo antagonisms
• Reel out a dissertation on the monumental and unparalleled achievements of their principal who, within seven years in office, has transformed a particular state in Nigeria to Dubai and Tokyo combined. Only enemies of progress like you will fail to see all that neon, gloss, milk, and honey in broad daylight.
• This is the part where they become Chris Oyakhilome and Enoch Adeboye rolled into one. Their diatribe always ends up in a heady fit of Pentecostal decrescendo. You hear that no weapon fashioned against their righteous principal shall prosper. A thousand shall fall by their principal’s right hand, ten thousands by his left hand, they shall not come nigh him. Only with his eyes shall he behold the iniquities of the wicked
• Bla bla bla
If you overlook differences in the deployment of language – prose competence levels range from primary school leaving certificate English to 100-Level general English – you will discover that the political aides of corrupt Nigerian government officials hardly ever stray from the template above when attacking the imagined enemies of their principals. Such is the degree of their intellectual impecuniosity that you could almost close your eyes and draft their response to your column. It doesn’t matter whether the target is Okey Ndibe, Sonala Olumhense, Farooq Kperogi, Levi Obijiofor, or yours truly. This, basically, is the menu I was served by the internet ponces of Gbenga Daniel and Bayo Ojo. In the case of Ogun state, one particularly foolish aide of the Governor wondered how I, a tenured senior member of the faculty in Canada, am able to afford to send my kids to school in my country of work and residence! He was reacting to my critical comments on the school fees of Gbenga Daniel’s children in London.
Whether they are from Gbenga Daniel’s, Bayo Ojo’s, Alao Akala’s or Ikedi Ohakim’s stable, these political aides and their conduct, especially in the internet age, offer a useful analytical window into the disconnect between power and the people in Nigeria. In the programmatic behaviour of the political aide (personal assistants, special assistants, special advisers, senior special assistants, senior special advisers, commissioners, non-descript hangers-on, etc etc), we are able to study how the atrocious psychology that inhabits the head and mind of the “big man” or “man of power” in Nigeria is constructed block by block not just by a sheepish followership but also, and more importantly, by that intermediate layer of redundant middlemanship programmed into a choric justification of the endless stupidities of the Nigerian man of power.
Commentary on the negative role of political aides as middlemen in our perpetually underdeveloping democracy often comes down to the considerable drain they represent on our treasury. These appointments almost always come as a feature of the food-for-the-boys, prebendal universe of Nigerian democracy. Many of these aides are just there to flash their important-looking business cards at every turn, loiter when oga is in a meeting, carry his cell phones and briefcases, buy newspapers, suya, and recharge cards, swell oga’s convoy and make it look longer and much more important than it is, insist on respect for protocol even when oga is on the toilet seat, travel overseas with oga and make life difficult for our embassy officials, and, now, spend hours online in listservs and chat rooms abusing columnists and oga’s critics.
These, I argue, are just minor problems. Those of you who have read Orlando Patterson’s landmark book, Slavery and Social Death, will agree with me that social death is a pre-condition for becoming a political aide in Nigeria. The sentient, thinking, reasoning, logical, Cartesian self must be suspended and replaced with a marionette - a thing – whose consciousness is exclusively devoted to the production of recognition for oga. Those of you familiar with the work of Hegel will know that I am not using the word recognition lightly. Oga’s “oga-ness” and bigmanism – that huge ego imprisoned in the convoy that tramples daily on the humanity of the Nigerian – have value only to the extent that it wakes up daily to a blaze of recognition from robotized, unthinking aides. The constant drone of “your Excellency sir” by fawning aides goes a long way into the making of the insufferable psychology of the Nigerian man of power. These aides – those who abuse you and I for critiquing the deities they serve – are the principal producers of the psychology of power in Nigeria. They are the manufacturers of the arrogant tin-god that every Nigerian government official eventually becomes. They are the ones who encircle and imprison the ruler in a cocoon of panegyrics. They alienate him from you.
To the friends who wrote me, wondering how the online aides of Gbenga Daniel and, later, Bayo Ojo, could be so foolish as to try to depict me as a hungry jobber on the payroll of the imagined enemies of their ogas when I am only a google click away from their curiosity, you now have your answer in my analysis here. Those aides are not programmed to do their research and home work in order to come to a considered assessment of their target. In Oke Mosan as in Bayo Ojo’s warrens in Kogi state, robotized political aides are not allowed to have ideas. They are programmed to hit the keyboard without thinking.
This explains why they will tell a weekly columnist for Sahara Reporters and Next, whose essays have a national purview and have spared no state including his own, not to write about Ogun state because he is not a shon of the shoil. Such pettiness! Like Anjonu Iberu in Fagunwa’s Igbo Olodumare, Gbenga Daniel’s internet hordes stand sentinel at the borders of Ogun state, oozing smoke and fire from the centre of their heads, and fending off the critical lenses of non-indigenes in an orgy of rebarbative nativism. Of course they know beforehand that I will swat them like so many flies and write about Ogun and any state in Nigeria that attracts my attention. Bayo Ojo had better take note of this. If he imagines that he can escape national scrutiny, crawl under the radar to Kogi state, bury his atrocious record under Obasanjo, and be coronated by unthinking aides, he has another think coming.
The role of political aides in manufacturing and nurturing the corrupt status quo in Nigeria should be evident by now. They are the producers of oga’s psychology through a wilful suspension of their own critical faculties. There are of course exceptions to this dismal picture. For instance, I’ve been fortunate to enjoy the opposition of Kayode Odunaro and Morgan Omodu from Dimeji Bankole’s stable. I think very little of Dimeji Bankole. He is a generational disgrace. A corrupt flop. Too bad that fine men like Odunaro and Omodu are working for him. Among the many aides of Goodluck Jonathan are my friend, Ken Wiwa and Oronto Douglas, both from my constituency: the constituency of the intellect. Of course, there are Chido Onumah and Dapo Olorunyomi from Nuhu Ribadu’s stable. My friend, Sam Amadi, worked for Ken Nnamani.
These exceptions open up another dimension of the problem. The good aides who have been able to maintain and sustain a mind and their right to reason have zero impact on anything. Nuhu Ribadu’s campaign is dour, colourless, and uninspiring inspite of Onumah’s and Olorunyomi’s presence; Dimeji Bankole is worse than Patricia Etteh despite being handled and packaged by Odunaro and Omodu; beyond waking up every morning to say “your Exellency sir”, I don’t seem to be able to see anything that Oronto Douglas and Ken Wiwa are doing in Aso Rock. Ima Niboro’s syntax is still tortured and struggling. You would think that Oronto Douglas and Ken Wiwa would help him polish some of that stuff before they go public. Goodluck Jonathan is as dour and uninspiring as ever, unable to put two confident sentences together in public... except as Facebook status statements to be liked by you!