Our people say that if you want to know what a neighbor thinks of you, just pick a quarrel with that neighbor, especially if it happens to be a woman.. Abike Dabiri-Erewa has just mistakenly picked up a quarrel with a cantankerous group of neighbours and they have told her everything, including the ones she can’t remember-about herself. When Abike Kafayat Oluwatoyin Dabiri left the NTA and joined the very lucrative business of Nigerian politics, I was saddened. Not because I did not wish her well but because I believed that we have lost the rare opportunity of producing a Nigerian Amanpour. I don’t know how she managed to rise so quickly in our shark-infested political environment. I don’t think she is one of the ‘owners’ of Lagos or APC but I believe that she has been favoured by the owner! She started from the top as many of them usually do: it is only in Nigerian politics that a person without a First School Leaving Certificate starts his or her career as a DG or a professor. From the NASS, she became a Senior Special Assistant on Foreign and Diaspora affairs (2016) and just the other day I heard her being addressed as Executive Chairman of Nigerian Diaspora Commission( 2018). She has been very visible and her journalism background and camera friendly visage have facilitated her rising profile. That was why she boldly stepped on the toes of the Foreign Affairs Minister and easily got away with it (she had my support on that matter, for whatever it was worth).
But our ways are always baffling to me, may be because I am not in politics or government. How and why should a government with a full-fledged Ministry of Foreign affairs have another person in the Presidency occupying the big post of adviser on foreign affairs? Well, that is by the way.
All has been going well with Abike until, in the normal course of her official responsibilities, she informed the statehouse correspondents of the ‘pathetic and tragic’ case of a Nigerian woman executed in Saudi Arabia, (the 8th to be so executed), 20 others on death row and 12 others already sentenced to various prison terms. All these were anonymous; she did not know their names or didn’t feel that their names would add value to the story. But while the case of the unknown woman was pathetic and tragic the case of the five boys who foolishly (yes; foolishly!) went on armed robbery in a high-wired environment like UAE was not only disgraceful and embarrassing, she went ahead to name names: Chimuanya Emmanuel-Ozo, Benjamin Nwachukwu-Ajah, Kingsley Ikenna-Ngoka, Toochukwu Leonard-Arusi and Chile Micah-Ndunagu. And that was when and how she picked up an unpremeditated quarrel with her neighbours.
My mouth is too holy to repeat some of the things her neighbours said about her or the kind of captions they gave to their agitated interventions. But I will try to give the general picture even though our people say that whoever tells you about slanderous statements from other people, is actually the person who slandered you. Madam Abike knows that I am not the purveyor of these stories because she knows I cannot do a thing like that and because she has seen those remarks herself. So what did these her offended neighbours say, beyond all the unprintable names they called her and all the adjectives they used to describe her?
They asked why she forgot the names of some offenders but readily remembered the jaw-breaking names of others; why the case of one guilty party was pathetic while the offence of others was disgraceful and to save her the hassle of desk-research, they gave her the names of those already executed for drugs and on death row in Saudi Arabia.
They then went ahead to remind her of some Nigerian brethren of the disgraceful five, who have made Nigeria proud in recent times, wondering why she forgot their stories. These include Wendy Okolo, the first black woman to earn a PhD in Aerospace Engineering, Emelife S C who broke a 100-year record in University of Mysore, India, winning all the available 20 gold medals and 5 cash prizes at the UOM 99th convocation, Anwuli Aniemeka, a quintessential teacher who won the Peace Marshal Recognition during the 63rd ordinary session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW63), Chika Nwobi who was recognized as one of the most influential black young men by the United Nations; four students of St Johns College Alor,(Ugwuishi Meshack Ogonna, Chuka-Umeora Onyedika Anthony, Nwachukwu Chukwualuka Daniel and Machi Chukwuagozie Dominic) who won the bronze medals at the International Festival of Engineering in Tunisia, beating contestants from technologically advanced countries like Canada, Italy, South Korea, Turkey, China, Sweden, Ukraine, Malaysia, Brazil, Bosnia Herzgovina, Indonesia, Tunisia South Africa etc, and five girls from Regina Pacies Secondary School Onitsha, : Promise Nnalue, Jessica Osita, Nwabuaku Ossai, Adaeze Onuigbo and Vivian Okoye, who won the gold medal at the World Technovation Challenge in the Silicon Valley in San Francisco
Abike Dabiriis a journalist and in journalism, the news is when a man bites a dog. But I don’t think this mindset would do in diplomacy, though she is not a diplomat! She should not specialize in giving us bad news only. A few days after the contentious press interchange, she called the press again and declared (gleefully?) I have another bad news for you…! If what the foreign media see about Nigeria are insurgency, corruption, and political signs and wonders, must we join them in demarketing ourselves? She should desist from doing the job of other countries. I have not heard about the South Africans celebrating the xenophobic attacks carried out by their people or China celebrating the fake products produced by some of their people. Even the five robbers are innocent until proven guilty! She also made a case for possible visa restriction against Nigerians by the UAE authority! Is she working for us or for UAE? What is bad is bad but as our people would say, Abike should rescue the chicken from the hawk before asking it ‘why did you stray into the hawk’s path? Anyway, my overall advice to Madam Abike is, mind yoursef!
As for those who stood accused (named or anonymous) and those planning to toe their lines, the grass is not always greener on the other on the other side and criminal entrepreneurship does not pay in the long run. Our youths, and those not so young, must eschew the get-rich-quick mindset and remember that whatever thou sowest, thou shall reap! The society should also stop celebrating wealth and the elders should model the right mindset to the youth: honesty, hard work, sowing before reaping and that money is not all there is in this life!( NB:My treatise on the maturation of Nigerian democracy continues next week)
Other matters: Like Onoghen, Like Ajanah!
Our people say that whenever the mother-got is chewing cod, the younger ones watch and learn. The disdain with which the current Federal Government holds our democratic institutions, especially the judiciary, is public knowledge. The President became tired of blaming the judiciary for lack-luster outcome of his k-legged war against corruption and decided to act. The action included the mid-night invasion of Supreme Court Judges and the recent Onoghen-must-go antics. While all these was going on, the Kogi State Governor was watching and learning. Recently, there are reports that the Government of Kogi State has disconnected water and electricity supply to the residence of the state Chief Judge Justice Nasir Ajanah as part of the pressure to force him out of office. The Federation of Lawyers in Active Democracy sees this as another evidence of the governors disdain for democratic institutions, rule of law and separation of powers, holding that the problem of the Chief Judge started with his principled objection to the governors interference in a high-profile case in the state. Yahaya Bello is indeed a good student! Meanwhile, the Nigerian army has denied the allegation that soldiers were to be used to eject the Chief Judge. Good. But I note that our soldiers have so belittled themselves to the extent that they may soon become involved in wife-husband cases or face-me-I face-you altercations. Beyond denial, a lot of efforts need to be made to redeem the image and public perception of our soldiers.
Ik Muo, Department of Business Administration, OOU, Ago-Iwoye