By Donu Kogbara
NIGERIA is full of prancing, posturing, preening, pampered quasi princelings – arrogant, domineering politicians who reckon that they should be allowed to own their states in perpetuity and feel that they deserve to be slavishly obeyed at all times. More often than not, they emerge from humble backgrounds and rise to the top because they are especially smart or charismatic.
Often, they started off being pleasant, down-to-earth, regular guys who had lots of real friends and something good to offer their communities, regions and country.
But they eventually become so accustomed to wielding power, controlling billions and living large that they develop monarchical, “born to rule” mindsets, descend into obnoxiousness and lose most of their real pals during this tragic journey from nice to nasty.
It’s our fault, of course. Nigerian society is super-sychophantic and given to over-rewarding elected and appointed public servants. Where I grew up – the United Kingdom – most senior government officials use public transport, are modestly paid and live in average flats or houses that match their mostly average incomes.
If they acquired wealth (which must be from legitimate sources!) before they went into government, they are allowed to reside in mansions, fly in first/business-class aircraft cabins, etc, etc, etc. Otherwise, they gladly restrict themselves to low-key lifestyles.
Here, it’s a completely different story. We ruin the personalities of politicians who used to behave like normal human beings by treating them like dazzling deities and demigods who can do no wrong. Nigerians are routinely short-changed and brutalized by their leaders, but they rarely rise up and say “enough is enough!”.
We are like battered wives who refuse to leave terrible husbands because they think that it is normal and acceptable to be flogged. Even when our VIPs fail spectacularly or behave appallingly, we mollycoddle their increasingly fragile egos with lavish praise singing.
Even if they only do a small fraction of the work that their foreign counterparts do, we assure them that they are the best thing since sliced bread. They receive awards for mundane achievements. They are encouraged to be emotionally immature, to ditch one time soulmates who relate to them authentically and to surround themselves with insincere yes-men and fawning females. And it’s natural for a bloke to start feeling entitled to carry on like fake royalty if you keep telling him that he is the king of kings.
Last week on this page, I complained about the divisive and overbearing antics of one of these deluded members of non-existent royal families because I think that Nigerian journalists need to be less deferential and should be investing a whole heap more energy in reminding annoying politicians that they are tiresome mere mortals.
OK, so I complained about Mr. VIP. And he called me in a rage. But instead of addressing the points I’d made in my column, he told me that he was going to tell the world that I was only criticising him because I had chased him and been romantically rejected!
So poisonously childish. Meanwhile, some of his fans have been running around claiming that I only queried their Oga because I’m dating one of his opponents. So ridiculously untrue.
You know that you have won an argument when your detractors throw silly misogynistic allegations at you on telephones and in beer parlours, instead of standing up like Men of Substance and contradicting you in serious fora on a rational/cerebral level!
The Amaechi/imposition debate
LET’S be fair to Rotimi Amaechi, the former Governor of my home state, Rivers. He has been much-maligned by several onlookers, this columnist included, for insisting on choosing the APC’s 2019 gubernatorial candidate. And he’s just lost a Supreme Court case that revolved around his attempts to control selection processes. But it’s standard practice in this immensely dysfunctional nation for Amaechi’s class of dignitary to impose candidates on their parties!
The imposition of candidates – and refusal to respectfully consult less influential party members – is, unfortunately, expected and allowed and widespread. And what I find interesting is this: Many of the fellow politicos who are bitterly attacking Amaechi’s “dictatorial conduct” would behave identically if they were in his shoes and were the Numero Uno VIPs in their constituencies!
As a matter of fact, some of the loudest anti-Amaechi complainants have not only benefitted substantially from Amaechi’s dictatorial ways in the past but displayed equally tyrannical tendencies when they were given the opportunity to decide who from their Local Government Areas or villages should be permitted to run for Council positions or National Assembly and State House of Assembly seats.
I wish that everyone could be morally consistent and intellectually honest. If you dislike bullying within one context, you must condemn it within all contexts and never, ever engage in bullying yourself. If you only make a fuss about bullying when you suffer from it and don’t apologise for your own undemocratic lapses, you will have credibility problems in circles that are aware of your antecedents. And you may struggle to gain support from those who remember.
My mother once told me that her Igbo kindred have a saying: “If you see a chicken scratching in a bad place like a rubbish dump, drive it away because you do not know who will wind up eating that chicken.”
The bottom line is that sadistic sidekicks who are mean to people who are beneath them in the pecking order – and gleefully urge their masters to unfairly torment anyone they feel like unfairly tormenting – should not make the mistake of forgetting that no condition is permanent and that they may one day suddenly become persona non grata victims of the masters’ penchant for injustice.
In other words, what comes around can go around. Very painfully.