Nigerian jokes always go too far. Such is the case with President Olusegun Obasanjo’s creation of the character of the pottymouth as presidential spokesperson. If Obasanjo was brash, crude, and obstreperous, he needed characters who took each of those adjectives to superlative levels to abuse the Nigerian people, intimidate imagined enemies of his administration, and reduce public discourse to a curse-fest. Thus it was that Obasanjo went into his foundry and manufactured Doyin Okupe and, later, Femi Fani Kayode in the best tradition of presidential pottymouthing. Tragically for us, both pottymouths have outlived the purposes for which their maker invented and unleashed them on our public sphere. In their enduring rôles as national pottymouths, both men are a typical Nigerian joke gone too far. No surprise therefore that Femi Fani Kayode rushed to town with a ringing endorsement of Doyin Okupe’s second coming as presidential pottymouth. One thief had sniffed the footprints of another on a rock and smelled blood: the blood of the Nigerian public.
The return of Doyin Okupe to Aso Rock had all the trappings of a huge joke. Because it was a Nigerian joke, it was just a matter of time before it went too far. I was determined to enjoy the comedy even as I prepared for the inevitability of things going awry. Where to start the delectation of comedy? How about the idea of a raving, hysteric First Lady, ruing Reuben Abati’s incompetence and wishing the Villa would find someone with Sango’s fury to manage her husband’s image and bring down the roof on the Nigerian public? How about the manner in which the two career pottymouths invented by Obasanjo were said to have been initially considered for the job of sharpening Abati’s blunt cutlass before the older of the two got the Villa’s nod?
When I heard that sixty year-old Okupe was returning to his old beat as attack dog for his younger brother and sister, I was in stitches. An old Sunny Ade tune came to mind: “ijekuje m’agbalagba dobale f’omo kekere” (it is gluttony that makes an elder prostrate for a youth). Femi Fani Kayode’s silly self-injection into the matter added to my mirth. Then came the pitiful attempt by Okupe and Reuben Abati to convince the Nigerian people that their duties do not overlap. Enjoying the comedy, I released this statement on my Facebook Wall: “after reading what the two men had to say about their respective job descriptions, I now agree that there is no overlap or duplication of duties. Dr Doyin Okupe's job is to pour water in garri while Dr Reuben Abati's job is to pour garri in water.”
Then, the joke went too far and the laughter dried up in my throat. News of Doyin Okupe’s contract scams began to filter to the public. From the ilos of Abakaliki to the lungus of Zungeru via the ojutametas of Abeokuta, if characters exist with visible warts on their moral tableau, President Jonathan has the spectacular talent of fishing them out and insisting that only such characters are to be deployed in the service of the Nigerian people. The more question marks on a CV, the less moral rectitude on a career path, the more allegations and accusations of corruption and other uncatholic behaviour, the better for President Jonathan. If he does not appoint scurrilous characters, he clings to the ones he inherits, no matter the level of national outrage. Witness his clinging to Diezani Alison Madueke, despite the enormous work done by the defunct NEXT newspapers and Premium Times to reveal the level of the woman’s rottenness. Witness his clinging to Arunmah Oteh even when the letter written to reinstate her by his own Secretary to the Government of the Federation grudgingly admitted her incompetence. Witness his clinging to Alhaji Abdullahi Inde Dikko, the ethically-dented and morally-damaged certificate forger who heads the Nigerian customs service. Indeed, corrupt and ethically challenged aides and political appointees are a key part of the décor of President Jonathan’s natural habitat.
More than his genius in the pottymouth business, therefore, the moral and ethical warts on Doyin Okupe’s CV must have recommended him highly to a President irrationally attracted to such turpitudes in the profile of his employees. For it would seem that after being ditched by President Obasanjo, our friend, Okupe did not particularly relish the idea of grabbing his stethoscope and returning to the hospital to make an honest day’s pay. You don’t do such things in Nigeria’s political circles. Making an honest day’s pay is incompatible with that environment. You hustle for continuous access to your own share of the “national cake”. The easiest way for these folks is to register phony or bogus companies with the CAC and go hunting and swindling. That is precisely what Okupe did. He went hunting and eventually hammered. He secured a contract worth N1.512 billion in Imo state and another worth N2.303 billion in Benue state, collected handsome mobilization fees on both contracts, and returned to his base singing “maga don pay, shout alleluia”. How he managed to avoid Abeokuta and go all the way to mugu them in Owerri and Makurdi is something we will have to ask veteran yahoo-yahoo boys.
Okupe’s fraud is a sad metaphor, a telling window into how we run the mad place called Nigeria and why we are where we find ourselves today. The Nigerian condition is no rocket science. It would defy logic and reason if we ran a country the way we run Nigeria and did not end up a sorry statement on the African continent and black humanity. A medical doctor, whose sole contribution to humanity in the last three decades – after abandoning the stethoscope – is political jobbing of the vilest kind, cobbles together a company and somehow persuades two state governments in Nigeria to award him road construction contracts worth billions! No questions asked about his pedigree; no questions asked about who he is in the construction world, etc.
I am a teacher of literature and culture. Yet, with the right connections and an appropriate degree of sycophancy to the authorities, it is possible for me to register a company in Nigeria, appoint two invisible Americans and two Isreali hustlers on my board, and win the contract to build the space shuttle that would take Nigerian astronauts to space in 2015. After all, our delusional Minister of Science and Technology recently assured us that we would be in space in 2015. A professor of literature could win the contract to build that space shuttle if Tompolo and Mujahid Dokubo Asari haven’t already won the said contract as part of President Jonathan’s national cake reallocation agenda. The Governors who awarded those contracts to Okupe ought to be tied to the stakes and publicly shot by the peoples of Benue and Imo states – after they have been made to refund their respective percentage cuts from Okupe’s mobilization fees.
No Nigerian public official caught with his hands in the cookie jar would be deemed worthy of membership of our political establishment if they didn’t go ahead and insult us to boot. Okupe is already busy insulting the intelligence of the Nigerian people by claiming that we need to acknowledge the huge difference between six and half a dozen. Our friend is now pottymouthing his way to explain that there is a difference between the person, Doyin Okupe, and the company he used to mugu them in Imo and Benue states.
Why then does President Jonathan attract these kinds of characters and clings to them no matter the degree of national opprobrium they attract? The answer is simple. There is a purposed agenda to these hirings. There is deliberateness to it all. A weak and underperforming President does not love compromised political appointees for no reason. Doyin Okupe, Diezani Alison Madueke, Arunmah Oteh, Inde Dikko, etc, do not owe the Nigerian people anything. They owe President Jonathan everything. Their loyalty to him is total, unalloyed. Although they are corrupt and ethically-challenged, the President stands by them while thumbing his nose at the Nigerian people. A weak president needs even weaker and compromised aides and political appointees in order to make them sycophants plenipotentiary. By keeping a harem of corrupt personal aides and political appointees, President Jonathan is deftly throwing dice in a game of Ludo and his dice are showing six-six and pecking the Nigerian people.