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Opinion

Between Wike’s Temper And Anambra’s Valedictory Slap- By Festus Adedayo

In the final analysis, it will appear that the Nigerian political elite, adept as it is at plundering Nigerian resources and inflicting pain on the people, has a very scant understanding of the psychology of the people it pillages. A very true story that will succinctly demonstrate this happened in Ondo state, about 1990. Olabode Ibiyinka George, commodore in the Nigerian Navy, had been posted to the state as governor in 1988. As is customary, in tow did he come with his wife, Feyi, a very self-opinionated woman. Unsubstantiated claims alleged that both were on the verge of divorce before the Ondo posting but Maryam Babangida, being Feyi’s friend, had recommended George to her martial general beau, Ibrahim. George and Feyi were thus forced into a marriage of convenience during their odyssey in Ondo.

While George was about his job as military governor, indeed reputed to have established the Rufus Giwa Polytechnic in Owo during this period, one of the state’s thriving tertiary institutions today, Feyi was ruining what was left of his reputation. On this day, Feyi, replicating Maryam’s variant of Better Life for Rural Women in the state, had met women in the Erekesan Market of the state capital, the bulk of whom were senescent, frail and grey-haired women.

The optics of that infamous address still tyrannically assails the memory of the people till today. Cupping her eyelids contemptuously like Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, wife of French’s Louis XV1 must have done while impudently responding to her husband’s starving peasant subjects’ cry of lack of bread during the French revolution, to wit, “Let them eat cake!,” Feyi had courted the ire of Ondo people and came to symbolise the excesses of a reviled Nigerian power elite. She had unconscionably told the Ondo women: “Even though you are old women and old enough to give birth to me, today, I am your mother, the mother of all of you”. In a Yorubaland where age is venerated ahead of wealth, social and political ascriptions, Feyi could as well have been the proverbial child who stoned the Iroko tree and disdained ancient lore of the prowess of the Oluwere goddess residing in the tree as effeminate; did she think the Oluwere is driven by human velocity?

Happening at the twilight of his unceremonious removal as governor, Feyi’s infelicity hallmarked George’s time in Ondo and to date, its ghost still haunts the people. And perhaps, also haunting the two diametrically opposed couple too, who had to go their natural ways at the end of their contractual engagement in Ondo Government House. When the Concord magazine, conducting a valedictory interview for the departing commodore, demanded what Governor George would like to be remembered by and his response became, that “a Lagos boy passed through this place,” amid allegations of plundering of their resources, it was easy for Ondo people to allege that George and Feyi had come to “use Lagos sense for us”.

The slap roulette in Anambra last week involving the wife of respected Nigerian civil war hero, the Ikemba Nnewi, Odumegwu Ojukwu, Bianca and wife of erstwhile Anambra governor, Willie Obiano, Ebelechukwu on one side and Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike’s intemperate riposte to both governor and deputy governor of Edo state, Godwin Obaseki and Philip Shaibu, brought to mind Feyi George’s incivility and infelicity in Ondo state during Geroge’s tour of duty. A major and mutual take-away from the three encounters is that, not only do Nigerian rulers still harbour imperial attitude to power, they are propelled into arrogance by a Kabiyesi mentality akin to the draconian power of kings in the old Oyo Empire where the king was beyond question. Apparently blinded by the binge of dole-outs they give to political louts and a sense of majesty they feel at superintending over billions of naira patrimony of the people which they fritter away at wills, as well as the power of life and death that the constitution unconscionably gave them, Nigerian rulers fail to realize that, even in their cowered state, Nigerian people disdain haughty leaders. Humble yourself beyond them, in spite of the enormous powers at your disposal and you will have them eating by your table.

Feedbacks from the people and the social media since the self-confessed dirty slap handed to the former governor’s wife by Bianca at the inauguration of Charles Soludo as the sixth elected governor of Anambra state, have concretised the submission that Nigerians loathe leaders who disdainfully, without restraint, flaunt the powers they have over them.

“As she made towards me, I then pulled away her wig. She held on to her wig with her two hands and tried to take the wig away from me. This very act is considered a sacrilege to a titled matriarch such as myself in Igbo culture. It was at this point that I stood up to defend myself and gave her a dirty slap to stop her from,” Bianca had owned up in a press release.

Ordinarily, Mrs Ojukwu should by now have had charges filed against her for assault, though provoked. However, not only is that not happening, a very huge number of respondents on social media, in Anambra state where Ebelechukwu and her husband held sway for eight years and virtually the whole of Nigeria, are abetting this assault by justifying Mrs Ojukwu’s action. A letter purportedly written by the Obi of Awka where “His Imperial Majesty” asked Mrs Obiano to apologize within seven days to Mrs Ojukwu, the entire Igbo race, the new governor and the judge swearing Governor Soludo in when the assault occurred, has “or face the consequences” even when Bianca had owned up to having slapped the ex-first lady, has gone viral. In fact, someone who witnessed the slap binge, a member of APGA, the political party that venerated Obiano and his vile-tempered petrel while in power, had reportedly posed for a photo-op with Bianca after her “gallant” slapping the first lady, declaring that, by daring a generally reputed arrogant Ebelechukwu with a dirty slap, wife of the Nigerian civil war hero had made his day.

Apart from the abstruse sartorial sense of Obiano the husband, his widely circulated rumoured romance with alcohol that reportedly gave him a persistent glazed and unsmiling look like the interior of the glazier, as well as this latest cache of allegations of humongous pillage of Anambra by the EFCC, the ex-governor was never known to be tempestuous. Taking his cue from Peter Obi, reported to have massively developed the Owelle of Onitsha, Nnamdi Azikiwe’s home state, Obiano has a genial personality and literally turned Anambra into a construction company. Ebelechukwu was his counterpoise, temper-wise. Unapologetically tempestuous, a former staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) she romanced power as if both of them shared the same umbilical cord.

Ebelechukwu’s ire was courted at the drop of a hat by anyone who encountered her. Though understandably because she, with the active connivance of her husband, had expressed the desire to contest the same senate seat that she currently occupies, former minister, Stella Oduah, an incumbent senator representing Anambra north, had taken to her Twitter page to harangue Ebelechukwu for what she called her “disgraceful (act) against womanhood,” as she “threw decorum away and attacked Her Excellency, Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu”.

Apart from deploring this attitude which she called crude, indecorous and unbecoming “of a woman who had acted as a mother of the state and even desirous of serving in other capacities,” Oduah said that “only a few days ago, an innocent woman was publicly paraded naked in the same community our former first lady hails from and one would have thought that rather than showcase this brute nature of fighting and engaging in public fisticuffs with her guest, she should have exerted same energy and fighting spirit in ensuring that justice is done for that widow”.

While the slap session must gave Oduah an opportunity to seek her comeuppance from Ebelechukwu, those who knew the former first lady had very scant respect for her tempestuous character and ill-temper during her “reign,” Senator Uche Ekwunife, who long fell apart with her, was also said to have been pleased that Bianca unburdened Ebelechukwu of her magisterial haughtiness.

However, in all these, no one has taken time to address Mrs Obiano’s ostensibly justified angst against Mrs Ojukwu. Manifesting the self-righteousness of a duchess dowager over an Anambra that she presumably sees as her familial property – being the wife of the Ikemba who established APGA – the ex-beauty queen, whose marriage to her father, ex-governor Christian Onoh’s friend, Odumegwu, caused a prolonged furore, had serially and impudently dismissed Obiano’s government and went ahead to put down the governorship bid of Soludo. In fact, in one of the press releases she issued against the professor of economics’ nomination as APGA governorship candidate, Bianca said her husband’s spirit would be bitter in the grave that Soludo was the choice of Anambra APGA.

Then, a few hours to Soludo’s inauguration, Bianca had taken to her Facebook page to dismiss Obiano’s eight-year reign thus: “It’s liberation day, and today we sing the redemption song. Anambra will be better. This is the day the Lord has made…a day that reaffirms the age-long truth that no one holds the stage forever. I thank the Almighty for keeping us all alive to witness this day”. To have worked relentlessly for Soludo’s win and finding an impish intruder who had mordantly dismissed her husband’s government in attendance at the swearing-in venue of that same candidate, an act that ostensibly showed a woman who sought to reap from the proceeds of what she did not sow, was enough reason why anyone’s anger would be on tinder as Ebelechukwu’s was at the swearing-in session. However, being an infamously dismissive and cantankerous woman loathed across board, not only was she presumed at first to be the aggressor who dished out the slap, even when that realization dawned on the people, Bianca was still held as a heroine. A temperate-minded woman in Ebelechukwu’s shoes would have bided her time to prove a justifiable point.

Earlier, Governor Wike’s infamous temper had been advertised on national television when he publicly harangued Edo state deputy governor, Philip Shaibu at the inauguration, in Port Harcourt, of the Eastern Bypass Road project. His grouse against Shuaibu was that he threatened to leave the PDP.

“And he lost his local government when we were in Edo, he lost. And he would come out on television to threaten the party that there are alternatives, look at the deputy governor. It’s very unfortunate for our party, a deputy governor is wearing khaki, look at it, I’ve never seen a thing like this in my life … who is his father?” Obaseki immediately replied to this infelicitous statement from Wike as amounting “to a delusion of grandeur,” saying, “In Edo, we don’t accept political bullies and overlords and historically, we have demonstrated our capacity to unshackle ourselves and dethrone bullies and highhanded leaders.”

Apparently lacking the staid comportment that leadership requires Wike, ostensibly commissioning some projects at the Ikwerre local government of the state a few hours after, paid millions of naira to national television to cover live the commissioning that was obviously an opportunity to reply Obaseki. “If you go and check the DNA of Godwin Obaseki, what you will see in that DNA is betrayal, serial betrayal, and ungratefulness. Let me stand today to apologise to Adams Oshiomhole who has been vindicated by telling us that we will see the true colour, we will see the insincerity, we will see the ungratefulness of Governor Obaseki,” Wike burst out in his guttural, seemingly incomprehensible waffles.

Apart from the huge cash he superintends over which makes him an oil sheikh amongst governors, who in turn cringe before him, in comportment and manners, Wike lacks the temperament of power. In saner societies, the lack of this should disqualify him from the position of responsibility he holds where decorum, taciturnity and felicity are demanded. It is often difficult to believe that this governor of the oil-rich state underwent a course in law as he displays less of law and more of lawlessness. His incandescent temper is legendary and in public, has talked down notable governors and persons in Nigeria. He, it was, in May 2021, who threatened “to flog the hell out” of the former governor of Niger state, Babangida Aliyu, on a television programme, for the latter’s temerity of calling him a dictator. Wike also severally singed the flesh of a king and ex-governor Godswill Akpabio, among others, riding on his usual intemperate roller coaster.

While the moral of appreciating a benefactor is an African ethos that is reified in discourses and social interactions, political scientists have been in a quandary in analysing this act among Nigerian politicians whose “benefits” to recipients of their “large heart” are, in most cases, heists pillaged from the people’s common till. While Wike was not forthcoming with the benefit he rendered Obaseki and Shaibu that needed to be requited with a supine attitude to his garrulousness, many have volunteered to say that it was the huge Rivers war chest he opened to the duo while their election was afoot. As the Yoruba will say in their aphorism, it will seem to be the case of a thief’s stolen wealth in the hands of another thief – ole gbe, ole gba. So what gratitude is needed?

What unites the cases of Feyi George, Mrs Obiano and Wike is the inability of power-holders to understand the ephemeral texture of the power they hold. While Wike is reputed to have changed the infrastructural makeup of Rivers in seven years, he lacks the etiquette of a leader and presents as an impatient bully, in the words of Obaseki. Must he reply to every perceived infraction? This is where leaders demonstrate their innate qualities.

A major leadership trait is patience which Wike lacks and which Feyi and Ebelechukwu have scant possession of. Feyi and Ebelechukwu are the women that the French named femmes fatale – the destructive female – whose husbands have no leash over their intemperate and asocial behaviour and who drag their husbands’ names in the mud. Can anyone imagine how a woman’s unguarded temper could bring to its knees her husband’s eight-year tour of duty? The trio authenticates the wisdom in the saying that a low-minded person drags an office to their level.

When one is in office and surveys the seemingly borderless landscape of raw power at one’s beck and call and the vast number of people who grovel before one, there is the risk to think of oneself as a mascot and Superman. The truth, however, is that you are as mortal as the other man next door, equipped with frailties and foibles. What will testament this is when you go to the toilet. Your poo-poo isn’t less smelly than the madman on the street and when you transit this mortal fold, maggots will make a feast of that body you think too highly of. Just as they will the pauper’s body.

As if to underscore the ephemeral component of power, Obiano left government house and a few hours after, he was in the caserne of the EFCC. As James Hadley Chase said, Obiano, “His Excellency,” must have found out that power holders are not only lonely when they are dead; they are, immediately power leaves them. As I often say, of all ascriptions and bestowals in this world, the one that answers to the holy writ’s description of the fleetingness of life as unto vapour, is power. While one who loses wealth, fame, the name could still have their flakes surrounding them, when power leaves its holder, it leaves them in entirety. Obiano must have found out the eternal nugget in that Yoruba wise saying that no one vacates the road for someone who rode the horse yesterday – a i yago f’elesin ana – which underscores the transience of power, That is the lesson which the Feyi, Ebelechukwu and the Wikes of today who are still in power, should learn.

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