Hustling takes one places and places at one’s grasp information otherwise ungraspable information. When Otunba XYZ began his little anecdote featuring the President as then-Deputy Governor, I snickered inwardly. The theme of our discussion had been corruption; how else could the story end? Come on.
Alams had been outed as a shape-shifting kleptomaniac and been impeached as governor. Good old Ribadu was gleefully rubbing his palms together, veritable gadfly, delighted at the chance of landing Alams a tour in the slammer. The President literally couldn’t believe his goodluck, refused to believe it in fact, but became governor anyway. When Alams was top dog, IOCs (international oil companies), the grey-haired Otunba said, chuckling, were in the habit of expressing their capitalist gratitude to Alams for helping foster such wonderful working conditions by depositing N30million naira, cash, direct to the governor’s office. Since the distinction between the man and the office goes without its saying, this practice continued after Alams’s alarming misfortune. Months went by and the President hadn’t touched any one of the Ghana-must-go bags.
We laughed. Otunba the Benevolent sank further into his oh-so-soft chair, benevolent airs about him. He’d probably done this a lot, offering mere mortals a glimpse into goings-on. He let us laugh.
He directed them to reroute the riba to a private account unconnected to him, didn’t he?, one of us offered. He emptied the bags and replaced their contents with stone? Suggested another. Chai, and we think he’s clueless, offered yet another. We laughed. There is God o, someone said. We exploded. Wait, wait, said the Otunba, wait. The downpour slowed to a drizzle. He did no such thing, said the Otunba, very deliberately. The drizzle seized altogether. We sat up in our seats.
You see, continued Otunba, after another month, “boys” finally thought to bring the President into the light of things, motivated not by any love for oga, but by what crumbs would fall off the table. Sir, they said, pointing vaguely in the direction of the massed Ghana-must-gos, these bags are for you o (they are not for decorating your office, one must have muttered under his breath). Really?, said the President, an aloofness now nationally familiar on his face. Erm, Onabrakpor, have it deposited into the government’s accounts. That will be all.
As you may have guessed, we were as stunned as those pocket-patriotic boys. In fact, you’re probably a little surprised yourself.
When he became President, I was happy, knowing what I knew of him, continued Otunba, inching the curtain slowly down on yet another performance. Only God knows how he turned out like this. An utterly inexplicable transformation. The curtains finally fell.
This narrative kinda sorta confirmed the view held by many that the President is a “good”, if simple man. And while the costs of simple-mindedness may be negligible-to-absent in Bayelsa, it is monumental at the confluence of diabolical self-interest called Abuja.
Nigeria deserves to be oppressed with more panache. If the President wore dark goggles and had tribal marks running down the sides of his face, then this excuse for governance could in fact be excused. After all, we’ve only recently been unburdened from a yoke that called itself a yoke, without mincing words.
If you want to oppress us, please be a strongman oppressor, something like a Mugabe, not a weakling who only lashes out with childish petulance. We need a Machiavellian muthafucka, someone who can convert a fire into a spectacle, who would have kungfu chopped Omokri from a job, expressing genuine dismay at such farcical, Wendellian maliciousness, and distancing his government from those who want to divide us… in short, sacrificing his special adviser at the altar of personal ambition, as a certain Chris Christie did (not) in New Jersey. And we would have bought it! and hailed him!, someone who would have hustled Abba Moro out of his government after the NIS tragedy, just for show, just to show us nabobbing natterers up. Certainly, Abba Moro and Reno Omokri can’t be the only Nigerians in Nigeria and the Diaspora capable of epically monumental fuckups (heck, I’ll even throw my hat in the ring; I can’t be any more disastrous). Except of course, they have pictures of the President in flagrante delicto with Alison-Maduekwe Diegorgeous, which I most certainly do not have. (It is here one must add that all the characters in this piece are figments of its author’s imagining, no matter how closely it mirrors reality.)
If we must be ruled by the appearance of evil, then our president must be evil by conscious design, not by the implication of his weakness; a president whose demeanour, carriage and pronouncements puts the fear of God in our hearts, Bokassas, Abachas, Amins, Fuhrers, Chairmen, Supreme Leaders, Nguemas… at least then we can delimit the extent of our expectations. I, for one, am at a loss on how to rationalize a callous good man.