By Dr Ugoji Egbujo
Sometimes you can’t hold back laughter. A governor is caught on tape stuffing his agbada with dollars. The dollars are bribe money supplied by contractors. So the talebearer said. The governor gives only a tepid denial. Then a more damning tape surfaces.
The governor doesn’t weep. He doesn’t call on God to send fire on his enemies. He refuses to appear before a committee of the State House of Assembly investigating the scandal. The House accepts evidence from his representative. The governor is too busy to attend.
We know state legislatures are rubber stamps. But this rubber stamp had started out so boldly. It could have found a little rascality to compel the governor’s appearance. Kano likes sharia. Kano parades a multitude of sharia policemen. But Kano has taken this insult, this sin, on the chin. The city is quiet.
The governor has taken refuge in the courts. The House of Assembly is scowling in the direction of the courts. The indignant house will not respect the order of the court to hold on. No one knows what an angry court may do. But when a court is angry even a righteous House of Assembly may act in vain.
Many would have forgiven the governor and his incoherent denial. All they wanted was for the governor to say that he wasn’t the one in the tape. That his picture must have been superimposed. And they may have wanted to see him curse and summon his ancestors to defend the truth and destroy his enemies. They have looked for some vehemence from the governor.
They have seen none. Many had wished the tape could be dismissed as the work of the governors political enemies and other disgruntled people. But the governor hasn’t given those theories any life line.
Some others may never forgive the governor. These ones aren’t worried about a governor being caught accepting bribe monies. They actually think most governor routinely accept these gifts. But they would expect a governor to do such dirty things with some dignity.
They would expect a chief executive to have errand boys. But when a governor is seen smiling sheepishly, accepting bribe money with childish delight, caressing the wads of foreign currency notes before tucking them into his huge agbada, then he must be punished for making the international community think we are cave men. Or shit hole people. This country and its leaders have seen money since the Udoji award days.
Of course, the governor is not guilty of any crime until convicted by a judicial court of competent jurisdiction. But there exists another important court. The court of public opinion exists in all democracies. The governor should have come to the public with at least a fable. He could have said he was collecting dowries for one of his daughters.
Or simply tell his own grass-to-grace story of how he began as a bureau de change apprentice. And how he practices his trade once in a while in government house. Many would have believed. Because the look of addiction and his tender handing of the notes in those tapes tell of a certain longstanding relationship and fondness for that foreign currency.
The governor has taken refuge in a court. We cannot question the authority of a judge to stop the House of Assembly from doing its routine constitutional work. We know however, what was enshrined in the principle of separation of powers.
We must be worried though. The house is willing to trudge on. It thinks the court is a meddlesome interloper. But if it does an angry court will someday sweep away whatever the house achieves. And it will do it in the name of the rule of law. And that is why we would wish the legislature and the judiciary could sometimes talk to themselves.
But what makes a people what they are is not the existence of such evil amongst them. After all former Illinois governor, Blagojevich, sold Barrack Obama’s Senate seat. And Judas, before him, sold Jesus. It is public moral outrage, or lack of it, in the face of a great abomination that defines a people. Blagojevich was put in handcuffs and marched to prison.
Judas sprinted to his death. The people of kano have hissed. But they have done nothing more. Perhaps they could have been really offended, and done more, if a vagrant Guinness truck showed up at the gate of the government house. Or if somebody published a useless sinful cartoon in Denmark.
Kano has looked on rather sheepishly. Deeply religious Kano has not stirred. Nobody has marched on the gates of the government house to demand explanations. No one perhaps thinks it’s potentially a serious sin. And there is actually at least one big sinner. Because if the governor is innocent, then the journalist who broke the scandal is guilty of a serious crime. One of them has messed God up badly. And the soldiers of God are eerily quiet.
Kano may think its not blasphemy. But action they say speaks louder than words. No one who knows God and treats Him with respect will stomach the sacrilege in that tape. And Kano must note. The real annoyance of God with Sodom wasn’t just the sin. It was that the city accepted, learned to live with copious sinfulness. Of what use is the fear of contamination by brothels and bars if government house has become a putrid swamp?
We will not ask the journalist why he kept the tapes away from the public for so long. We do not doubt his motives. He is allowed to kill three birds with one stone. It’s enough that he has served something spicy. At times like this, I mourn the death of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). Since NANS died, spineless lazy youths carry bags for politicians and parade themselves as students union activists. So Kano has a big university with a big student population but no one to help the truth when it’s being battered in broad daylight by political highway robbers.
If the governor of Dubai or California were accused of such indiscretion we could even look away. Because were they faced with the misery in the streets of Kano they would have found moral restraint and pity. Kano is the home of many millions of children who are struggling with chronic malnutrition. And millions who have never been to school. Kano was where huge hopes crashed and destitution sprouted. The groundnut pyramids disappeared and left illiteracy and hopelessness. But that kano, it appears, is where public funds travel through contract papers into the large pockets of government officials.
Regardless of who was on those tapes, the tailor of those agbadas
deserves some accolades. With tailors like him no one needs a brief case.