“You wanna be Americano
I’d like to spend my cash
To be first class
I’d like to be on top”
– Lou Bega
If you’ve never heard this song, you gotta go get it. I can’t have enough of it. And, it’s not because I wanna be an Americano. That boat docked a while ago. I love the song because it has what the kids call swagger, an attitude that comes with being an American.
As the song goes, you wanna be an American because you can be first class, get the girls, live like a king and just be plain cool. And, you can be an Americano in Napoli or Tokyo or Paris, it still comes with class and respect. If you get really hooked on the song, you may start believing that being an Americano is a few steps to being in heaven.
The odd thing is that, these days, when I think of the song I don’t think of America. Instead I’m thinking of the Nigerian politician. You know, to be a Nigerian politician is to be first class, get the girls, have a fat bank account and command respect in the village during the December festivities.
When Aristotle wrote “Affairs Of The City,” from which the Greek took out the word “politika” which went from the Latin version “politicus” to the French version “politique” to the current English version “politics”, the philosopher had no concept that across the ocean were a group of people called Nigerians whose descendants would change the meaning of the word from civil to dirty.
When the military decided they had looted the Nigerian treasury enough, they tossed the word politics and democracy at the so-called new breed of Nigerian politics. The new Nigerian politicians took a long look at the word politics and the whole concept of it all and wondered how this would work in Nigeria in the 21st century.
They went into one of those political sessions, had gallons of beer and pots of pepper soup and labored on how to adapt the concept to Nigeria. At the end, they probably looked at the table of beer and pepper soup and decided politics in Nigeria would be “chop-I-chop”. Just to make sure it works as planned, a few of the old soldiers changed from uniforms to mufti to show how it’s done.
When some in the session wondered how the chop-I-chop doctrine would affect politicians who lost elections, someone must have belched, laughed and said, “just cross carpet”. At which point everyone toasted the new democracy and set out to take Nigeria back into the 19th century.
I won’t have believed this if I didn’t have a talk with a federal legislator once on why he switched parties to contest a seat his party’s leader had decreed to a favorite. I felt he let his people down, instead of sacrificing his dream for the greater good. He told me he only jumped the gun since his leader had planned on leaping across the carpet only for OBJ to put “sand in that gari”.
This is why when I read of the merger plans by the Nigeria’s opposition party; I go into a corner and chuckle. It’s like Groundhog Day when the same event repeats itself everyday. You know how this is going to end. It’s like two great pilots in one cockpit. It’s going to end in one of two ways – either the plane doesn’t take off or it crashes.
Nigerian politics today is a winner takes all. If you can’t win the center, you take a region and become a lord. If you can’t win the region or the state, you carve out a corner of the state and rain your might and terror on the people. So, you wonder, of the two political elephants who will make way? And, would the cub elephants waiting in the wings whip out their trombones and blow tunes of harmony?
The problem with Nigerian politicians is that they took a look at their forefathers and felt something must have been in the water they drank otherwise there is no way they would place the nation and the people ahead of their ambitions.
Sir Ahmadu Bello could have been the president of Nigeria but he believed he was better of working for his people in Kaduna. If a Nigerian politician does that today, his family and associates will commit him to the most expensive asylum in the world.
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe wanted to be prime minister but gladly took on the ceremonial role of president because he knew he could still contribute to the national development in his presidential capacity. Today, losing presidential candidates declare war on the president.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo wanted to be the Nigerian premier but when events and personalities conspired to make that impossible, he took his place as the leader of opposition and continued working for a better Nigeria. Today that would draw a laugh from the opposition.
President Goodluck Jonathan probably goes to bed every night laughing himself to sleep after he reads of the opposition’s merger plans. He knows this is a checkbook democracy. And, no matter the size of the opposition’s checkbook, his dwarfs theirs.