TUESDAY Column by VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
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I see that columnists, commentators and analysts have been feasting on what is now tagged as “Mainagate”, lamenting on how this sordid affair came to pass. It is a serious matter that would give patriotic Nigerians cause for real concern and lead to headache. I do not wish to add more to your headache lest it becomes a migraine. Rather, I think we should take a step back to have a good laugh at ourselves; not to make a laughing stock of ourselves but to joke about it somewhat and relax our already taut nerves. So I present to you some other happenings in the Villa and National Assembly.
You are aware that occupants of the Villa a.k.a. Aso Rock and the National Assembly a.k.a. the Red and Green chambers are about the most powerful and influential in the earthly sense in Nigeria as the decisions they make impact significantly on our earthly lives for good or ill. Ensconced in them in imperial majesty with all the accoutrements of public office (paid for by millions of taxed Nigerians) and seeming impenetrability that earthly security can buy, are the number one, number two and number three citizens of our country of nearly 200 million people. How privileged they are! And although they are supposed to exercise their exceedingly powerful authority on our behalf as our servants, being human, they sometimes get carried away by the allure of office that they begin to see themselves as a demi-god. And their numerous officials that are meant to service the principal heads of those edifices, because they bear the name of these principals as a prefix or suffix to their own very names, also catch the bug and sometimes want to show off their ‘power’ to the faces of their fellow human beings. Examples are ‘Cook to His Excellency, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’, Gateman or security man at the Villa, House of His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’, and so on and so forth.
To see Mr. President for a chat or a meeting is not a tea party, it has to be by special invitation arranged over months; thus the villa is a fortress where the ordinary man/woman on the street cannot just walk in, even though during the campaigns when they were begging us for votes, they mingled freely with us, shaking our hands, literally not minding whether we were infected with leprosy or ebola. Even open affairs like conferences, seminars, talk shops and weddings involving the President and the First Family where the average Nigerian could saunter in and get to see Mr. President or his family at close quarters are no longer open to the public but to a select few with specially marked invitations. Such get together are no longer held in public places in the city centre but in the secured gates of Aso Rock for which social events there are special halls of varying sizes inside the Villa’s expansive bowels.
Some cabinet ministers and governors are now complaining that they do not get to chat up Mr. President under a relaxed atmosphere with drinks or even play some sporting games with him amidst roaring laughter of light hearted jokes as was the case in the days of yore. Now they have to communicate officially in writing with Mr. President via a third party, namely the Chief of Staff to His Excellency the president of the federal republic; and then wait for an official invitation date to meet with the president on official matter which usually lasts between 45 minutes and two hours, no more than that and no side talks.
They remember with nostalgia those by-gone days starting from 1999 when they, other acolytes, businessmen, religious and opinion leaders and even some foreigners used to converge in numbers the then presidents’ large sitting room to banter over men’s issues with him as well as ‘gossip’ from midnight to the wee hours of the morning. Here the presidents get to hear who said/did what or did not do/said what and little gossips about town. You may disapprove of this but through this informal means, the president gets to be aware of other happenings around, away from official communication.
Our current president apparently does not have time for this, weighed down obviously by the enormity of challenges confronting our country. He is fighting several battles on many front, viz, the war in the north eastern part of the nation against Boko Haram terrorists; the war against corruption for which some looters are deploying their own war chest to give him a bloody fight if not a bloody nose; the war within his own party in which some chieftains are poised to remove the carpet from under his feet due to loud lamentations and misgivings by party faithful across board that they are not being carried along, that appointments are not being channelled through state APC chapters but by direct lobbying in Abuja by individuals; the deafening grumblings by the south east region about perceived marginalisation and injustice against them with the youths pushing for self-determination, a euphemism for secession; ever-present threat of militancy in the Niger Delta zone with potentially harmful consequences for crude oil exports, the nation’s major source of revenue; internecine communal/herdsmen/farmers bloody clashes that has apparently claimed the second highest number of victims after those of Boko Haram; youth restiveness as a result of growing unemployment; falling price of crude oil in the international market, since tenure of Buhari’s administration its revenue is averagely that of the previous government which means it has not been able to deliver as much of the dividends of democracy as it and the citizenry would have liked. Gargantuan as these problems are our president should not allow them to overwhelm and suffocate him to the extent that he hass no time to relax his overworked nerves. For, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
TO BE CONTINUED