How Low Can They Go?

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Once dignified, Vanessa Obioha writes that, some political personalities in the last few days have been subjected to ridicule for their words or actions

Arguably, the infamous Lekki incident and the attendant looting have left a trail of ire that keeps swirling each passing day. Not a few Nigerians have vented their irritation at the culmination of the EndSARS protest which started peacefully but ended in violence and death.

The anger, however, is not one-sided. On one hand, are the politicians fuming over the scrutiny and ridicule Nigerians have subjected them to. On the other hand are Nigerians who are equally tired and pissed at the way leaders abuse their intelligence with their words and actions.

The accompanying reactions are expected as Nigerians take stock of their loss and lessons from the incident. What is not expected is the defiance of the people as they continue to demand good governance from their leaders.

The cycle of blame and attack seems almost unending, particularly on social media where the frustration is always at an exaggerated level. A perceived wrong word or action could easily nail one’s reputation to the coffin and unfortunately, the comedic Ghanaian pallbearers are always on standby.

Such were the fates of some politicians in the past week. Once dignified and revered in their respective fields, these personalities became objects of ridicule. In a flash, their utterances made them internet memes and fetched them new appellations which are in no way glorifying.

Take for instance the fate of former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola. A man who is held in high esteem by many for his works in Lagos state. It was Babatunde that introduced the popular BRT buses to Lagosians. Under his administration, the Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge was constructed as well as the ongoing 10-lane Badagry Expressway. While his tenure as Minister of Works and Housing is yet to be felt, Fashola was still adored by many until last Sunday.

On a visit to the Lekki scene where unarmed protesters were dispersed by the bullets of soldiers called to the scene to enforce the curfew imposed by the Lagos state government, Fashola alongside other South-West governors made a discovery that was in no way shocking.

Captured on video, the Minister moved around the toll booths with keen observation, as if expecting to find a missing puzzle in the mystery that has clouded the shooting. All of a sudden, the camera zoomed to the Minister observation of a gadget sitting conspicuously on the toll booth. It turned out to be a camera. His colleagues watched with interest and amazement at the finding. Carefully, he brought out a black piece of cloth and picked up the camera which was dumped into a bag. He reportedly said that the new evidence will aid the investigation of the Lekki incident where the government have been accused of taking off the security cameras before the soldiers’ arrived.

If the Minister expected a laudatory remark on his accomplishment, he got the opposite. He was mocked and pilloried by Nigerians who believe the act was staged. To his critics, it seemed ludicrous that Fashola would out of the blues discover a camera at a conspicuous place after the Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has inspected the place and found nothing, and the cleaners of the Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA) had equally scrubbed the place.

Within a few minutes of the news break, the revered Minister was named all manners of monikers. Some called him Agent Fash, others referred to him as Forensic Fash.

Fashola’s fate may pale in comparison to the truculent criticisms that have trailed the National Leader of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu since he made a public appearance last weekend.

In a courtesy visit to the state governor Sanwo-Olu, Tinubu had addressed the press where he denied the allegations that he absconded to France following the Lekki shooting for fear of his life. “I didn’t go nowhere; I’m a Lagosian and I still hold the title of Asiwaju of Lagos and I am still a Jagaban. Fake news is all over the place. They say Seyi my son was kidnapped and was chased but look at him. I didn’t pay a penny to bring him here,” he reportedly said when asked about his whereabouts.

Not a few lambasted him over this statement. They opined that his long silence is evident that he was afraid of his life as his alleged assets were affected most during the looting and arson rampage that erupted after the Lekki shooting.

But it wasn’t the only sin counted against the APC chieftain. His statement on protesters who suffered casualty at the Lekki incident was deemed inappropriate and insensitive.

“Those who suffered casualty during the gunshots need to answer some questions too,” he had reportedly said while hinting at a foul play.

“But where are we getting the looting, the carnage, the burning, the invasion of police stations, stealing of arms, maiming of the innocent? It is a handshake beyond the elbow.”

To many, the aftermath of the Lekki incident was a clear attack to diminish the towering figure of the statesman. And if the criticisms fired at him these past few days were a yardstick, then the agenda of his detractors are working.

The man at the centre of the Lekki saga has perhaps received the harshest vitriols and it is no one’s doing. Sanwo-Olu, a young politician was sold to Lagosians last year as the perfect replacement for Akinwumi Ambode who unfortunately didn’t get his party’s blessings to run for a second term.

Sanwo-Olu embodied Fashola — the once-beloved governor — in more than one way. It is there in his countenance, his humility and chief of all, speaking in a language that Lagosians understand. He knows when to speak Queen’s English, and when to use ‘ìgbéga èkó’.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the nation, Sanwo-Olu rose to the occasion with diligence and intelligence. Although, he was later alleged to have mismanaged the relief funds sent to the state.

Also, he showed his support when the #EndSARS protest began but with the Lekki shooting, whatever prestige Sanwo-Olu enjoyed from Lagosians evaporated. First, on the night of the shooting, Nigerians rained curses on him because of his deafening silence. When he finally spoke, his speech didn’t overwhelm citizens. Still, the governor urged on, pledging to deal with the perpetrators while deftly exonerating himself from the attack.

Things, however, went awry this past week. What seemed to be a blame and attack game unfolded as more details of the attack came into light.

Sanwo-Olu in a CNN interview admitted that army personnel shot at the protesters. Previous remarks from him suggested his ambivalence on the identity of the security personnel captured on videos. His response immediate fetched a retaliatory remark from the Nigerian army. They revealed that they were at the venue on the command of the governor who had earlier denied he called the army.

These half-truths peddled by the governor distinguished any glowing light around his persona. Many now see him as a puppet and a weak governor. Irrespective of the attack on his person, the governor is still steadfast in his mission but his efforts may not be rewarded.

To crown a week of mockery and indignation, actor cum politician Desmond Elliot was the latest to be demystified by the public.

Desmond was alleged to have made some derogatory remarks about the Nigerian youths who championed the #EndSARS protest and promoted the anti-social media bill at the House Assembly where he is representing Surulere constituency.

The lawmaker had said at one of the plenary sessions that celebrity and social media influencers should stop spreading hatred, that they have the constitutional power to change the things with their PVC. He added that if they are tired of the way things are in the country that they should join the government.

He also expressed shock at the manner of insults thrown at leaders by children, adding that the youths were among the looters who wreaked havoc on the state.

While he debunked the claim that he did not attack social media influencers or promote the social media bill as alleged, he was not forgiven for regarding Nigerian youths as children. A few celebrities cancelled him on Twitter, rubbishing his acting career and calling for his recall from the House.

At this rate, it will be difficult to pacify the incensed youths and the resentment cycle may see no immediate end until perhaps, the reformation the country badly needs is visible.

QUOTE 1

To crown a week of mockery and indignation, actor cum politician Desmond Elliot was the latest to be demystified by the public. Desmond was alleged to have made some derogatory remarks about the Nigerian youths who championed the #EndSARS protest and promoted the anti-social media bill at the House Assembly where he is representing Surulere constituency. The lawmaker had said at one of the plenary sessions that celebrity and social media influencers should stop spreading hatred, that they have the constitutional power to change the things with their PVC

QUOTE 2

To many, the aftermath of the Lekki incident was a clear attack to diminish the towering figure of the statesman. And if the criticisms fired at him these past few days were a yardstick, then the agenda of his detractors are working. The man at the centre of the Lekki saga has perhaps received the harshest vitriols and it is no one’s doing. Sanwo-Olu, a young politician was sold to Lagosians last year as the perfect replacement for Akinwumi Ambode who unfortunately didn’t get his party’s blessings to run for a second term. Sanwo-Olu embodied Fashola — the once-beloved governor — in more than one way. It is there in his countenance, his humility and chief of all, speaking in a language that Lagosians understand. He knows when to speak Queen’s English, and when to use ‘ìgbéga èkó’