Ben Murray Bruce is doing three things you can’t possibly ignore.
Bruce is baring his showman chest. He is pointing Nigerians to his vast reserve of the milk of human kindness. And he is performing a concern concert!
The Senator representing Bayelsa East district is striving to impress everybody with his solicitude. He is trying to prove that he is the most caring, most humane crusader in the body politic. Indeed, he would want to be celebrated as the most compassionate Senior Advocate of the Masses since Gani Fawehinmi.
Bruce was part of the establishment that actively ruined Nigeria for 16 years. While the era of the Peoples Democratic Party lasted, he communed with the principalities and powers that asphyxiated the country. All that while, he deliberately steeled himself against sensitivity. He saw no evil, heard no evil, felt no evil.
But as soon as the All Progressives Congress displaced his party, he rose from his self-anaesthetized paralysis, dressed himself as Man of the People …and became a skittish, nitpicking champion of the people’s cause!
Since the handover of May 29, Bruce has been releasing all the ideas he imagines are surefire, future-proof solutions to Nigeria’s problems. Solutions he hoarded while he had free access to Aso Rock, from the tenancy of Olusegun Obasanjo to Goodluck Jonathan.
These days, he bloviates on the back page column of a national newspaper and he squashes his panacea prescriptions into Twitter’s 140-word space.
After the ministers were assigned portfolios, Bruce, the technophile who is more active on Twitter than on the floor of the Senate, started handing the new hires customized ‘’Thou Shall Not’’ tablet of commandments he had chiseled for them. The lawmaker-turned-lawgiver distributed a series of rapid-fire instructions from his virtual mountain.
Bruce, the modern tweeting Moses, said to Chibuike Amechi, “Congrats to @ChibuikeAmechi. Lets #Challengeourminister of transport to confirm he will use various public transprt at least once a month.’’
He turned to Tunde Fashola, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, “Congrats to @Gov_Rajifashola. Lets #Challengeourminister of power to confirm he won’t use generator so he’ll feel what Nigerians are feeling’’.
He addressed Hadi Seriki, “Congrats to our new Min of Aviation. Lets #Challengeourminister to confirm neither he nor his aides will fly 1st class at taxpayer expense’’.
He faced Ogbonnaya Onu, ‘’Congrats to Ogbunaya Onu. Lets #Challengeourminister of Science to ensure govt promotes & uses made in Nigeria technology eg Zinox computers’’.
Next target, Isaac Adewole, “Lets #Challengeourminister of health to confirm he ‘ll use Nigerian hospitals & encourage colleagues to do so’’.
To Audu Ogbe, “Congrats to Audu Ogbe. Let’s #Challengeourminister of agric to confirm he will eat and encourage colleagues to eat grown in Nigeria foods’’.
Then he sealed it with Solomon Dalong: ’’ Congrats to our new Min of Youth. Lets #Challengeourminister to confirm though he s not a youth, he ‘ll consult youths before setting agenda’’.
There were 29 other ministers who could use Bruce’s commandments, but the man, without a sense of irony, tired of his lawgiving philanthropy before he could serve his tablets on half of the 36 members of cabinet.
He covered his early weariness with a blanket code of conduct and invited his Twitter disciples to police the ministers. “Lets monitor @MBuhari’s ministers. If you see them flying 1st class, take a pic, send to me, @SliverbirdTV will air it. #Keepingthemhonest.’’
‘’If you see @MBuhari’s ministers with excessively king convoys, take a pic and send to me, @SliverbirdTV will air it. #Keepingthemhonest’’.
‘’If you see ministers abusing power (Beat red light, security harassing citizens, send to me, @SilverbirdTV will air it. #Keepingthemhonest’’.
On a normal day, suggestions for modesty in the conduct of Nigerian public officials should be welcome. Our political office holders need such advisement. They tend to consider appointments of high visibility their apotheosis. They accept the assignments as an opportunity to relish luxury and blind you with sun-bright arrogance!
They need to be told they have to stay as close to the Common Street as possible. Today’s zeitgeist demands that they follow the example of the self-effacing pair of President Muhammadu Buhari and VP Yemi Osibanjo. But it just rankles to see a person who lacks the moral standing usurp the pulpit!
Ben Murray Bruce does not have the integrity to school the political class in virtues. He has not used the advice he dishes out to others. And this makes him incompetent to lecture anybody on public carriage or to pose as an awarder of brownie points.
Bruce’s current affectation of care for ordinary Nigerians only serves to highlight his high hypocrisy quotient!
Bruce requires that Amechi board commercial tricycles, danfo buses, okada motorcycle, so that the Minister of Transport will partake in the suffering of the common man. But when was the last time anybody saw Bruce sandwiched between strangers in a keke NAPEP? Bruce, the senator who loves the people, has not been sighted in any public vehicle for over a decade. He would be found closeted in his classy four-wheel chariots!
Bruce, who proposes that Fashola should commit to non-use of the generator, does not depend exclusively on public power source. The Senator represents villages that are not yet connected to the national grid. He enjoys steady power supply in his private home. He lives in the light while the folks he ‘represents’ live in darkness.
Ben Bruce, who would want to name and shame any public servant that flies first class on his private TV, was the Director General of Nigerian Television Authority from 1999 to 2003. He has yet to draw authority from that stint in canvassing the criminalization of public officials flying first class. He has yet to tell the world how much saved the Nigerian taxpayer by flying economy class throughout his tenure as NTA helmsman.
Bruce commands that Onu enforce the use of made-in-Nigeria technology like Zinox computers. That would be nice. But are locally made computers the dominant brand anyone can find in his all franchises?
Bruce urges the Minister of Health to pledge to use and promote the use of Nigerian hospitals. Great idea. That would keep the billions Nigerians spend on medical tourism within our economy. But has Bruce consecrated himself to the medical facilities in Bayelsa East senatorial zone?
Bruce directs Ogbe to eat and campaign for Nigerians to eat only raised-in-Nigeria foods. Beautiful. That would boost local food production, lift many rural farmers out of poverty and create hundreds of green millionaires. But has Bruce, who recently posed with a plate of Ofada rice, always been allergic to exotic foods?
Bruce takes traffic offence seriously. But Bruce’s colleague in the Senate and fellow partyman, Minority Leader Governor Godswill Akpabio, beat the traffic the other day, caused an auto crash and sustained personal wounds. Bruce expressed no outrage. He let the cup pass!
On flying class. Bruce was not in exile when whistleblowers alleged that his Bayelsan sister, then-Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Allison-Madueke, lavished millions of dollars of public money on renting private jets. Bruce didn’t call for an investigation. He didn’t utter a word of shock.
Renting private jets with reckless abandon is a smaller crime than flying first class? Or there are no rules for those whose circumstance of birth privileges them to be Bruce’s kinsperson?
Commentators who want to be taken seriously must have the requisite credential to make interventions. They must have a healthy character capital that affirms their eligibility to interpose themselves in social debate. But in Nigeria, you don’t have to qualify. You can be logging a baggage that contradicts your posturing and still act like you are the people’s oracle!
How come Bruce refrained from consciousness-raising in the past? How come he discovered he could moral-police ministers only this week? He was too cowardly to offend his allies with truth-telling? Or he was too involved in the clique to critique and criticize?
Bruce seems to be competing with Olisa Metu, Governor Ayo Fayose, and Femi Fani-Kayode, for the bragging rights of the loudest, most loquacious poster child of Wadata Plaza. Bruce is trying to win this talkative race. The race of who produces the dumbest wisecrack seconds after every newsflash!
Bruce happens to have a head start. He was already a showbiz person long before they stumbled into the limelight. Founder of the longest-running beauty pageant in Nigeria, he has mastery of optics. He knows how to synthesize charm and make-up, lights and special effects, posture and demeanor. And he has been playing that strong hand.
But the dubious agenda of his activism shines through. His real interest is his business. This shows in how quick he is to insert ‘Silverbird’ into his rants.
Bruce, who is commanding ministers to live the grassroots life, knows that a number of US Senators commute to the Capitol Hill from their constituencies. But Bruce won’t live with his own constituents and commute to Abuja from Bayelsa. He won’t eat Bayelsan food, drink from dirty Bayelsan streams or use substandard Bayelsan hospitals.
He is all about play acting. All about grandstanding. ‘’All about entertainment’’!
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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