By Muyiwa Adetiba
Pat Utomi and I go a long way. Back to the middle eighties when I was the Vanguard Editor and he was one of our trusted resource persons. We relied on him for a lot of things, especially when it had to do with business and politics. If you needed an article like yesterday, (the life of an Editor) Pat was your man. And he usually delivered.
I also today publicly acknowledge, and thank him for his stabilising role when I floated my magazine, ‘Prime People’ and he was at the Volkswagen of Nigeria.
Pat has had a meteoric rise to the top, due partly to his brilliance and partly to his understanding of the power game. Or the power structure. He must have found that rise heady and intoxicating for a young man.
Having done the hard work and finding himself along the corridors of power, it would have been a lot easier to stay there playing the system and floating from one government appointment to another as many have done. But are these ephemeral things like fame and fortune worth selling your soul for? Obviously the answer for Pat is a no. And he has had the courage and grace to pull back before being completely sucked in.
For the past five years, he has been busy on the soap box, telling his erstwhile colleagues that they are on the road that leads nowhere. A dead end road. And worse, that they are dragging the country through that road. But if they are listening to him, its not showing.
Last week, in an interview published in the Guardian of September 30, on the state of the nation, he said in apparent frustration ‘the younger ones should kill all of us’.
This is a statement that shocked when I first read it, and shocks still. It’s a sweeping, arbitrary statement that speaks more to his emotional state than to his intellectual self which is his forte. Yet, it’s a statement that frightens because the probability lurks in the subconscious.
Who are those that make up the ‘all of us’? His generation? I am only a few years older than him, so that would include me. Or is it anybody that has had anything to do with government and governance? Now, I have never handled a government contract in my life. Neither have I served any agency of government. Yet in my sober moments, I am gravely aware that neither I nor my ilk, will escape the gathering storm if it does not blow over.
The mob will not have the time or the patience, to sieve through any C.V. The mob follows a profiling system. I am a car owner, a property owner and an employer of labour. That in a mob’s eye, qualifies me to be a bourgeoisie. It will be like the case of the two Tinas in one of Shakespeare’s plays. Tina, the Poet and Tina, the Conspirator. When the former protested his innocence, the angry mob cried, ‘ then kill him for his bad verses’, too impatient to bother with the difference.
So Pat’s anguished cry of ‘kill all of us’ includes you and I. And if we don’t want to die, then we have to be ready to make fundamental changes. We have to think less of our good and the good of our family, and more of the good of the country. We have to reduce the size of our purse and increase the size of the purse of the teeming poor. We have to reduce the cost of governance so that money can flow into development.
Pat Utomi’s cry, is like that of John the Baptist, a plaintive cry in the wilderness. ‘Repent. Or face the wrath to come’.