I had made up my mind that I would not write about, watch or talk about politics or politicians this week. Why? Because they are as exciting as sitting in an overcrowded bus, sandwiched between two fat, smelly dudes, in a Friday evening traffic on the third mainland bridge. You’re not sure if you should worry about the men or the newspaper headline screaming about the lack of safety on the bridge.
I decided I was going to go cool this week. After all this is the week of the Oscars. I told myself I would write about porn conventions in Las Vegas or figure out what is the real problem between Iranians and monkeys. I really can’t help you if you think a porn convention is a metaphor for Nigerian politics or the stuff about Iranians and monkeys is a dig at Nigeria’s satellite quest.
But, Nigerian politics is like an old lover – she keeps tugging at your heart. Somehow, this week I found myself falling in love with President Goodluck Jonathan. I was so in love with him I felt like taking a ruler and going after the knuckles of his critics like my teacher in primary three used to do to our knuckles every day of the week and twice on Mondays.
I fell hard for the president because he was wrong once and he admitted it. Its stuff like that, that gets you into heaven. A few months ago, the man, under the influence of that virus that makes powerful men go gaga, decided he was going to change the name of the University of Lagos (UNILAG). Now, if this were some ordinary school without a beach, fine girls, powerful alumni and a streak of oppressive cars streaming in to pick up the fine girls, it would be understandable.
But, credit to the man with the good luck, he saw the light and let UNILAG be. You would have expected the man to go on national television and tell the nation, “I’m man enough to change my mind when I’m wrong. UNILAG will remain UNILAG. We shall find something else for MKO Abiola. Vote for me in 2015 even though I won’t declare my intentions until next year”.
That would have been a political and communication masterstroke, as long as the man is allowed to read it from a teleprompter after a full hour of practicing. But, somehow someone in the presidency who went to night school and read the wrong history books decided the best man to announce the good news is Jerry Gana.
Now, politicians of the professional variety are often survivors. They go pan in hand from office to office, fists clenched like African-American civil rights activists from the 1960s but singing praises of the new masters and cursing their new master’s enemies. At the top of the pyramid are men like Jerry Gana.
The president dragging him out reeks of desperation. The man is a survivor. He has been part of the rot that is Nigerian maladministration since 1983. He’s often the man who takes a microphone and tells the world Nigeria is working fantastically while even the blind can see the country is on life support. And, he not only has a sweet tongue. He has a sharp dagger too. Ask his former masters – Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and Olusegun Obasanjo. Three or seven years from now, Gana may be regaling us with how terrible a luck Jonathan was.
What really made me sharpen the edge of the ruler was not even Gana. It was the ferocious attack on the president for not fully disclosing the nature of his wife’s illness. The first lady in a fit of gratitude to God had claimed the almighty brought her back alive after seven days in the land of the dead. Or, as the president’s friends who are doctors of the medicinal kind would say, “ a coma”, something they sometimes induce. But, then folks like Doyin Okupe would fish out the dictionary and point to the word “semantics”.
The reaction of the president’s critics was so harsh it made death almost painless. It also rubbished that Nigerian spirit of celebration of life. Here is a woman who, whether you like her or her husband, has been granted a new lease of life. Of course, she went to hospital on our dime and she never disclosed the gravity of her ailment.
But, we chose to forget that she’s not the president and she holds a mere ceremonial title. We forget that the president or governor’s wife is very powerful because we, the praise singers and favor seekers, make her so. We forget that yesterday’s first ladies are lining up for gas at some remote gas stations and fishing around the couches for some change to buy skin toning creams.
We can forget all these. But, one thing we should never forget is that, we hold life dear in Nigeria. We celebrate life because it’s the one gift we can’t buy and the one gift freely given to us by God. Above all, what we should remember is that this is a wife, mother, daughter and sister. So, I say a big congratulations Madam first lady. Now, can we talk about that N4b house that I think God would love you to say “thanks, but no thanks” to?