‘Esinmi Rascality’

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One of those pieces of lyrical compositions which made the 1980s ever so green in the history of contemporary musical compositions in Nigeria was that monster hit, Esinmi rascality, an intellectual property of the equally evergreen iconic Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Balogun, the fuji artiste who attained fame and fortune more by his stage name Barrister or much later, Barry Wonder. Rendered in smooth and melodious Yoruba folklore pattern, that literary effort commanded great appeal across several ethnic and cultural divides beyond the Yoruba nation and even in the diaspora.

Even though that piece of music was meant to be more of a satire or, if we may, a derisive jibe at some other elements sharing the then tempestuous musical turf with the author of that coinage admonishing them to eschew rascality and other cognate conduct, doubtlessly, Barrister, so early in his sojourn in the great beyond, must be justly feeling a sense of elevation and satisfaction at the poignant relevance of his ostensibly harmless admonition, directed at his peers and contemporaries of that moment, to the present Nigerian political elites. And that relevance was forcefully driven home in no other place than in the land of his birth-or, as historians are wont to say – “in the land of his nativity” – ancienty city of Ibadan, the political capital of South-West Nigeria which in good old times past played host to ebullient, and intelligent political deliveries by the likes of the late Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Adegoke Adelabu, A.M.A Akinloye and aging but graceful Richard Akinjide et al.

Onto this robust political stage enter our dear president, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Ph.D. For the very first time in the annals of Nigeria as a corporate entity, the nation was blessed, or appeared to have been blessed, in rather fortuitous circumstances, with an intellectual who, hitherto ostensibly preferring to lay-back in his taciturn and apparently unambitious cocoon, hardly etched anything in public consciousness other than the picture of a harmless spare tyre ever so ready and willing to do the bidding of his master and nursing no personal ambitions or desires.

But since, as humans, we are hardly able to successfully challenge or frustrate matters with apparent divine ordination all attempts to stop his spare tyre from assuming full executive powers in the wake of the terminal illness of his master were obviously missions which were doomed to fail even before conception. And fail they did, at that time to the relief of those who were not comfortable with the ship of state which was needlessly set adrift and left rudderless by the cabal which profited from that state of near-anarchy. Talk about a child of circumstance and you have a GEJ on your hands.

If therefore, someone was thrust from relative obscurity onto the centre stage of national consciousness and discourse not just as a mere participant but as the chief driver with powers bordering almost on the omnipotent, the least to be expected of that beneficiary of a divine arrangement would be a feeling of utmost humility, decorum and responsibility and not an egregious spirit of an omniscient emperor imbued with an all-conquering ability or license to suppress or talk down on “lesser” mortals who apparently do not have that much generous deposits of good luck in their DNA.

To therefore say as has been done in several quarters that what happened on the campaign grounds of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ibadan the other day when our dear President threatened to rescue the South-West geopolitical zone of Nigeria from the hands of rascals was unpresidential, primitive and crude is to be unduly charitable to and soft on Mr. President. To also say, as has been said, that the declaration was unstatesman-like, pedestrian and petty would be to be unpretentiously modest.

It needs hardly be re-emphasised that the office of the president in this clime, or indeed anywhere, is not for the uncouth, flippant or the gregarious but for persons who have an innate ability to gauge the mood of the moment and to civilly and with the best of mannerisms rise above petty partisan primordial and divisive tendencies to play the role of statesmen in our onerous march towards true statehood.

Has our president shown by his utterances, particularly on this occasion, that he is that civil and cultured statesman that we all so earnestly yearn for? Whilst we keep pondering over this poser for an answer, let there be enough voices resonating across the length and breadth of this nation and even beyond drumming it into the ears of our Mr. President that the Ibadan declaration of his was the disgraceful apogee of political rascality most unbecoming of the president we desire and that such uncouth and undiplomatic statements not only have the capacity to demean but in fact, demeaned that great office which fate and fortuitous circumstances have thrust on his laps. In deed the admonition of Barrister has never been more relevant; it is time for GEJ and his minders to sinmi rascality as presidential rascality seems to have been taken several notches too high up.

Lest we even forget, who says rascality is not a contagious affliction on the Nigerian political firmament? Hear the truculence and bellicosity of one of GEJ’s minders, Emma Niboro, before attempting an answer to this poser: “Mr. President was not addressing the Governors of the South-West when he declared his mission to rescue the zone from rascals. Whoever feels the appellation fits him, however, is at liberty to claim it.”

That was one of Mr. President’s image-makers; one who is paid from public funds to manage the president’s image and present him to the rest of us in a more savoury light than he is at present perceived even if doing so would amount to selling coal in Newcastle, displaying an even more embarrassing level of rascality and pugnacity than that which he was labouring to defend. And this was coming at a time when an effective minder with a sufficient appreciation of the scope of his brief should be busy crafting soothing words of apology to a bewildered nation and not talking down on the rest of us the same way his principal did.

But it told to our self-appointed rulers that Nigeria is a young and emerging democracy-one which all sincere stakeholders are striving should become a model to be commended to the world as the emerging African tiger. Pray, who is going to tell our President and his minders that as the ultimate personification of that image, we so desperately seek to present to the outside world we demand that their thoughts and actions must be painted on a broad canvass of sound intellectualism, issue-based campaigns and suave politicking, unassailable micro and macro-economic mores and values and not on the primordial instincts and dictates of amala politics which seem to profess as its hallmark that the basest of gutter languages is a part of game of politics. Even if Ibadan used to be the headquarters of amala politics, surely politics in the 21st century in Nigeria can no longer be a game for gutter practitioners and their illiterate godfathers who masquerade as leaders when indeed their pedigree is no better than that of locusts.

This is to be so because even the led have long since distanced themselves from the precincts of the gutter and of amala politics and its predating adherents. Let GEJ rise up and play the statesman which history has called upon him to be. The judgement of history would be anything but kind if he lets slip by this golden moment.

Isn’t it time that we all whispered into the ears of our Mr. President: esinmi rascality?

• Babajide Aladejobi, legal practitioner and public affairs commentator wrote from Lagos.