Pleas for absolute loyalty

 Published in THE PUNCH on 27 November 2006

Casmir Igbokwe

Somebody once described them as spare tyres. Today, some of them are in the driving seat. Though they got to that seat by treachery, these deputy governors (now governors?) are demanding absolute loyalty from their subjects.  They may get this. But, it will be like the loyalty and patriotism of the two Italian artists who recently designed a toilet that flushes to the sound of Italy’s national anthem.


 Look at Michael Bot-Mang of

State, for instance. After the questionable impeachment of the Governor, Chief Joshua Dariye, he quickly assumed power and dissolved the state executive council. Like an emperor who is afraid of his shadows, he sacked all the special advisers and assistants to Dariye. He then demanded absolute loyalty from civil servants in the state.


Bot-Mang’s action would have been understandable if he had had serious quarrels with his former boss. If the former Deputy Governor of

State, Chris Ekpenyong, for instance, expressed happiness at the downfall of Governor Victor Attah, we would assume that it’s because they were not in good terms. If Ahmed Tinubu of
Lagos had fallen to the delight of his former deputy, nobody would have raised any eyebrow. If Vice-President Atiku Abubakar gladly takes over leadership at the instance of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s impeachment, Nigerians will not be surprised because the bullfight between the two leaders is well known.


But, this was not the scenario in such states as Anambra, Oyo, Ekiti and Bayelsa. The erstwhile deputies now masquerading as governors in some of these states campaigned with their former bosses. They won their elections together. They wined and dined together. They pretended to be loyal. But when the time came for them to show their support, they became Judas.


The one in Ekiti State who thought she was smart, and who thought she had already been ordained to replace her boss, was outsmarted by the then Speaker of the House of Assembly. Both of them were outsmarted by the powers in
Abuja who imposed emergency rule on the state. The measure they gave was the measure they received.


Anambra’s case is particularly painful. Virginia Etiaba, who was the deputy to Mr. Peter Obi, vowed to stay by her boss when some state legislators hatched illegal impeachment plot against the governor. But when the chips were down, Etiaba abandoned her boss. She is now gallivanting in the state as the governor. Perhaps, she was propelled to take the governorship seat so that her party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, will not lose out entirely. Perhaps, Obi assented to her decision to accept the governorship position so that no intruder will truncate their noble legacies in Anambra. 


Whatever be the case, Etiaba must be in a serious dilemma now. The Peoples Democratic Party hawks in the state are said to be pressurising her to appoint her deputy from the PDP. If she does that, she will fall out of favour with her party. If she refuses, the PDP errant legislators will move against her.


The point to make is that in
Nigeria’s brand of democracy, treachery and greed seem to be the name of the game. The police can conveniently look the other way if some sacred cows are committing crimes, but bare their fangs if those in the bad books of the ruling cabal attempt even a minor protest march. Some judicial officers, similarly, have become tools in the hands of political Machiavellis.


Happily, the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Alfa Belgore, and the states’ Attorneys General have condemned some of the excesses in the judiciary. What remains is for us to go beyond condemnation and apply the full weight of the law on all those found to be derailing our democracy by their overt or covert actions.


The current situation in
Nigeria becomes more painful when you are outside the country.  While local authorities in the UK, for instance, are always maintaining roads, replacing malfunctioning streetlights and trimming grasses and flowers, local authorities in Africa, in
Nigeria, are sharing booties, siphoning public funds abroad and building mansions here and there. Although every country has its problems, black African countries’ problems are enormous and self-inflicted.


That is why all you see in the Western media about
Africa is poverty, kid guerrilla fighters, kwashiorkor-looking children and flies swarming around human beings. That is why Madonna would gloat over giving a home to a homeless, poverty-stricken African child called David Banda. And that is why Africa, for many years to come, will continue to be regarded as the
Dark Continent.


It is either that something is wrong with our genes, or we are cursed. But I don’t believe that we are in an irremediable exile yet. We can still turn our situation around. You can start from your immediate environment by saying no to treachery, by ostracizing corruption and corrupters. If the impostors visit your market, boo them. If they are passing your area, don’t line the street to cheer them. And if they call for any loyalty they don’t deserve, flush such a request into the Italian loo of ridicule. 

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