I would be ready to bet the solitary strand of silver on my scalp that if you were socialized well enough in this clime, you have had multiple occasions, in your adult life, to apply the conventional wisdom that says certain questions beget questions. You learned the tact of matching the question with a parallel question, rather than providing a plain response to the inquiry, mostly to achieve a didactic effect. It turns out that when you heard a question whose answer was so simple it’s almost rhetorical, requiring neither the exercise of memory or imagination to fathom, the mouth blurted out a counter question as an apt answer by reflex.
A popular anecdote corroborates this. A white man had flown into the country on his first ever visit. While preparing for the visit, he sought out with people who had come here several times and asked them about the likely peculiar Nigerian attitudes he might face. Consequently,when he sensed the earliest opportunity to test the veracity of the advisory at the airport, he broke the ice with one of our countrymen and went ahead to ask’’ Is it true that you have a culture of answering questions with questions in your country?’’. The man did not miss a beat. He responded, ‘‘who told you?’’
So when a casual conversation throws up the simplistic question, ‘‘who wants to be a governor?’’, the typically indigenous response would be the corollary of the question: Who does not want to be a governor?
The governor is more than the framed goodly airbrushed face and composed demeanor you see on the walls of your bank hall and your local government office. He is bigger than that.
The governor is the outsized Goliath of towering billboards at all the vantage junctions in your state. But he is larger than that.
As a matter of fact, the lowly and unassuming man who shook your hands on the hustings is not the governor. The enthusiastic campaigner who clasped hands of all textures was the vote hunter. Necessity dictates that the vote hunter befriends any hand capable of thumb printing a ballot.
The moment your supposed friend stands before the Chief Judge with the Scripture in his right hand and recites the oath of office of the governor to the last word, he is transfigured. He tweaks his smile a little to reflect his new elevated self. His strides turn leonine. He waves patronizingly to the crowd as the inheritor of the kingdom, the power and the glory.
The governor is always in a solo Formular 1 race. His convoy is perpetually in a hurry to arrive late at some function. A siren wails ahead of him. And when a deaf motorist attempts to set up a competition for space between his jalopy and the royal fleet, goggled guardian angels are swift to teach a corporeal lesson. They drag out the man. They tear into his shirt with whips and hit his sides with the butts of the gun.
Sometimes, you get more than being chased off the road. A governor from the South East hit a student of Kogi State University. The governor was in a hurricane hurry to arrive his Abuja destination. He sped on. He did not pause to consider the mass of grisly crushed bones and flesh his motorcade had just made of a certain woman’s son.
When you wake up and reach for your handy world receiver and search the range of the static for your state owned radio, six o’clock news is basically His Excellency’s name chanted as a refrain. The female soprano reads a script that enlightens you about what the governor said at that function and that other function and what the stirred hearers said about what the governor had said. News is rehashed tales of his benevolence; how he has indulged you with a leadership infinitely better than you have any legitimate right to expect. News is prepared to evoke adoration for this sun around which water and the civil servants’ salary orbit; to convert citizens into worshipers.
The governor’s wife also enjoys a slice of the news. She hosted wives of local government chairmen. The flattery they poured on her makes the headline. She handed out toiletries and tins of milk to kids at the orphanage. They sang for her. She has the heart of Mother Theresa.
We have read of the slugfest of rivals for the right to preen and prance as the First Lady in some states and how the polygamous governor brokered peace by delineating turfs and budgets for the offices of First First Lady, First Second Lady and so on.
The governor is the possessor of the tuber of yam and the knife. He is sovereign decider of whose salivation would be satisfied. He wields the power to feed his favourites and starve his enemies.
He parcels out plots of real estate in the choice part of the capital. He signs the certificate of occupancy and revokes it if the thought suggested itself to him while he brushed his teeth in the morning.
The governor sits atop the stack of billions called the monthly allocation. He pockets a multimillion naira security vote, spends it however he pleases and accounts to no one.
The governor has the shield of immunity. He is the sacred cow, insulated from the due consequences of his imprudence as long as his tenure lasts. If he stole billions and squirreled the loot away in some Swiss bank or he packed it into the plastic tank behind his country home, he is entitled to sit on and stretch the plunder up to his very last day in office.
To top up, the governor gets to sculpture his fortune after the expiration of his tenure.
If he is scared about the prospect of being weaned from all creature comfort he has become accustomed to, he gets an aide to draft his pension bill. The bill is fantasy writ in legalese. A mansion of certain architectural specification in state capital. A bigger one in Abuja. A change of cars after this number of years. A pack of domestic staff. A salary commensurate to the take home pay of the incumbent. A blank medical cheque for his family. The House of Assembly rubber stamps the obscenity.
Or if he decides he would like to avoid enduring the boredom of existing as an ex-Excellency, he whispers into the ears of a few palace courtiers. And a dozen youth groups suddenly invent themselves. They go into overdrive, affecting to be fighting to break the governor’s reluctance to be deployed to the Senate. They warn of calamitous consequences should their man declines to heed their call and stand for election. They advise other aspirants to save themselves the embarrassment of having to be contrasted with the anointed one.They flood the streets with posters. They buy a grand building; bath it with the brightest hue of their party’s colours and a campaign office is ready for business.
So the life of a Nigerian governor is the sexiest among his ilk. Mostly, it is the envy of the incumbent’s fortune that forms ambition in the minds of gubernatorial aspirants. That’s why we know that when they disguise their dream of leapfrogging onto a higher life with the staple campaign promises, they are truly actuated by the lusts of self. When they pledge to build new schools and improve the learning experience of the primary school pupil whose class is the shade of a mango tree, they don’t plan to send their own children to an elitist school in the UK. When they guarantee to spread word class hospitals across the state, furnish them with state of the art equipment and recruit hundreds of doctors to heal sick bodies and save lives, they do not factor in themselves in the equation. Deep down in their heart, their political ambition has little to do with reducing infant mortality. It has more to do with securing the right to board a plane to Europe in the morning for the mosquito bite of the night. We know they fancy their bodies as too precious to submit to the standards they set for the rest of us.
So who does not want to be a governor?
In our lifetime, we saw a medical doctor so thoroughly fixated on the idea of becoming a governor he sold himself to an illiterate godfather. The Guber Hunger drove this professor of the Christian faith before a pagan shrine in the dead of the night. He consented, and condescended to stripping naked as part of the rites administered to him by a witch doctor to bind him to eternal loyalty to the kingmaker. He signed an undated resignation letter and accepted to share the state’s monthly allocation with his kingmaker.
We got to know when the thieves disagreed.
As touching Nuhu Ribadu, whose defection from APC to PDP sent shock waves across the country; the lure flashed in his face evidently broke down his inner immunity. The bait always seduces appetite. Otherwise the former ACN Presidential Candidate would be loath to downgrade his Aso Rock ambition and to seen begging to be baptized into a company he held in derision. This ticket temptation won in making the man fall short of his own glory.
The whole affair smacks of self indictment on the part of the tempter and the tempted. PDP, by resorting to candidate poaching, advertised its own bankruptcy. The party glamourised its famine of men. The situation speaks of the vaunted largest party in Africa conducting an exhaustive inventory of members in its family and judged itself had wanting in one man with the requisite mettle to run for a viable campaign for office of the governor in Adamawa state.
On Ribadu’s part, it’s a scandalous climb down. The selfsame presidential candidate of the opposition we saw crisscross the country and address crowded rallies for a presidential bid is now fully persuaded he is incapable of prosecuting a statewide contest on an opposition platform. The governor wannabe now grovels before characters he used to spit scorn because he needs to secure the prop of the ruling party. This recommends him as one who sees a hard sale when he looks in the mirror, a self-convinced insignificant politician who needs the reflected glory of PDP to improve his value.
This show of desperation, contrary to what he touts as his motivation, has less to do with serving Adamawa people. Because he is not known to have broached any interest in that Yola seat before he was seduced with the carrot. It has more to do with a presumptive guarantee of victory that is concomitant with pocketing a PDP guber ticket. The invincibility of party rubs off on the contestant and tilts the scale of critical electoral factors in his favour.
The undisguised haste with which he literally traded the broom for the umbrella raises a fundamental question. Was it for the hate ofone and heart for another? Or was it the readiness of the man to do just about anything for the promise of power?
The disappointment his defection stirred stemmed from the loss of a cherished illusion. The fire spitting Nuhu Ribadu, anti-corruption czar of yesterdays, was one of the few beautiful ones. He toured the country,disparaged PDP’s philosophy of governance and pointed to us the possibilities of attaining an alternative destiny. This well regarded man should have found even the invitation to join a party he sweated hard to make us detest as an insult. Very few people could have believed he would invest contemplation on the idea. Who ever thought that gold was also susceptible to rust?
The reverence the cheering spectators gives the masquerade hinges on his projection of the character of a spirit. When the masquerade suddenly freezes his dance and tears his costume at the village square, the aura evaporates. And we once enthusiastic watchers are shamed to have been deceived to collaborate in the pretense.
It is a teachable moment when the folk hero you constructed much myth around rids you of some naivety, by demystifying himself and assuming the posture of a beggar at the gate of Wadata Plaza.
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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