This story is about the latest political odyssey of a certain clan in South-east of Nigeria. They are reputed to be the biggest autochthonous clan in Igbo land covering nine local government areas of their state. Before the 29th day of May 2015, they had never produced a governor in all of their history. So imagine the joy, celebration and collective hurrah when one of their own was sworn in as governor of their state on the 29th of May 2015.
The future looked bright. Those who had fought in the ditches and trenches for many years for such a day to come were delirious with excitement. Many recalled with nostalgia, wistfulness and regret many of their heroes of the past who had fought tooth and nail to liberate their people but were not alive to witness the historic occasion. Many offered thanks to God for keeping them alive to see with their korokoro eyes, one of their sons taking the oath of office as governor of their state.
This delirium is now short-lived. Elders of the clan are now questioning the gods of the land and asking where they have gone wrong and why they are so cursed. But shame will not let them complain openly. They are putting up a brave face to the reality that they have been sold a dummy. They cannot complain because God actually answered their prayers and gave them their wish. In their anxiety to have one of their own become governor for the first time in their history, they prayed to God that He could anoint a dog, a pig, onye ukwu aru, etc. as governor, provided it was a dog, pig or onye ukwu aru of their extraction.
Initially, it appeared that God in answering their prayers looked past their foibles and instead anointed a person of substance. This fellow has wonderful oratorical gifts and is such a powerful public speaker that even the greatest speakers ever known by mankind like the Barrack Obamas, Abraham Lincolns, Martin Luther Kings, John F. Kennedy’s, etc. look like green-horns compared to him. He knows how to say all the right things and can hold even the most hostile audience spell-bound and eating out of his hands: provided he manages to remain sober.
Unfortunately, it is now apparent that beautiful speeches are all there is to him and his people are gradually getting wise to that. The evidence is that he is a sniffling puppet and coward, unwilling to fight to extricate himself from the cabal which holds the fortunes of the state hostage. He is very happy to remain enslaved to the cabal which ensures he gets his monthly security votes so he can afford his choice drinks and little girls. With security votes of over half a billion naira per month, he has upgraded from his beloved Hennessy V.S. brandy, which was what he could afford in his days as deputy general manager of a state agency to Hennessy Paradis Imperial, which cost N800, 000 a bottle and, of course, buy it in lorry loads.
Drinking sprees and orgies with little polytechnic girls is the norm at his Government House Lodge. He has become insulated and no longer answers or returns calls/text messages, even of those who were his betters just a few short months ago. The itch for the fast life, bright lights, women and booze makes it difficult for him to plant his butt on his seat and attend to official government business for two days running. It is rare for him to spend a total of up to 10 days in any given month within his state, as he is constantly on the move. The serious business of governance irks him and files pile up unattended to. Even commissioners and heads of parastatals are blocked from having access to him to discuss important matters of state.
Within six months of taking office, our governor’s love-affair with the elders, intellectuals and progressive elements of his clan has ended. He has deliberately kept them at arm’s length. The elite of his clan are nonplussed by this. When the cabal in charge of the state picked him from nowhere as their anointed successor to the office of governor, the elite of his clan found themselves between a rock and a hard place. His clan had many more qualified persons to be governor and who had expressed an interest to run. These were persons of the highest pedigree whose backgrounds and records of public service were exceptional.
But insisting on any of them could mean losing out altogether and so presented with a historic opportunity, the elite of the clan came together, viciously suppressed the ambitions of all other members of their clan and created a massive political movement on the crest of which our governor rode to power, even though he had never been a part of his people’s historic struggles to attain the governorship of the state; he had never identified with his people’s ambitions. He was always choosing to accept appointments and crumbs from the tables of the lords of the other divide. He therefore rode to power on the crest of a wave he never helped create and did not understand. Like all opportunists are wont to, he is now irritated by any reminders of his people’s struggles or indeed all those who represent such struggles. All those who laid the ground work for his journey to Government House have been brushed off.
Those who laid the foundation for his candidacy, contributed the take-off funds and other assets, have been cast aside. This is a man with deadened or absolutely no conscience. Indeed, his reputation for treachery, rewarding loyalty and support with hatred and traitorous plots is now cemented in the consciousness of citizens of his state. He plays God. No atom of criticism or dissent is tolerated. He is surrounded constantly and shielded by little minions from his kindred who have reduced the serious business of governing a state to a childish affair.
This motley group of little-men, who before now were mostly small-time 419ers, rabble-rousers, political jobbers and nonentities, are now his inner caucus and war-council. Important matters of state, particularly contracts, must pass through these minions who then take such proposals and memos along for the regular nightly drinking binge and once Mr. Governor is sufficiently inebriated, he is persuaded to append his signature. These minions, thus, bestride the state with impunity. Our character deficient and morally challenged governor holds court like a mere councillor and is always surrounded by men whose qualities are of that level. Mr. Governor is held hostage by three powerful forces from which he is unable to extricate himself: the clutches of the cabal who continue to hold the state in bondage; the cohort of minions from his kindred/local government area that form his inner circle and, of course, the almighty bottle.
His people bleed in their hearts as they look at what has become of the person on whose account they sacrificed more deserving and worthy candidates. These days when he arrives at public functions, the whispers, giggles and smirks in the audience are all about the salacious tales of his drunken escapades, even openly recounted by his inner staff who describe constant vomiting in his official cars and episodes of passing-out from too much booze. His actions have caused deep divisions and his once united and resolute clan is torn asunder ahead of the 2019 elections. His minions keep deceiving him that there is no cause for alarm and that at the appropriate time, his considerable powers as governor will whip everyone into line. How shocked he will be when the time comes and he discovers that the horse has already bolted from the barn.
There is now no clear pathway for a second term for him, as the political leaders who are on ground and who call the shots, deliver the votes and make things happen in his clan are highly aggrieved and just waiting to teach him a political lesson as soon as the opportunity arises. Other parts of the state outside his clan are no-go areas and already in the firm grip of the opposition parties. His trump-card to join the ruling party will turn to ash in his mouth as the leaders of that party view him with contempt; they will allow him join but will deny him control of the party structures and eventually the ticket of the party in 2019.
In many quarters, particularly in the presidency where intelligence and security apparatchik have videos and pictures of this governor in drunken, compromising and even nude states, he is a laughing stock, popularly called and derisively dismissed as the toddler governor.
––Amalaha, a public affairs analyst, writes from Aba.