POLITICAL SOAP OPERAS, NIGERIAN STYLE

Sunday, September 16, 2007

As usual, there is never a dull moment in Nigeria. Nigerian politics, in particular, never fails to disappoint. A quick perusal of our national dailies will delight, displease and even dismay the faint at heart. There is always one scandal or the other. Currently, the hot button topic is the N628 million contract scandal involving Mrs. Etteh, the first female Speaker of Nigeria's House of Representatives.

Despite the various shenanigans, the ongoing squabble between a few public individuals makes the current political elite sound like a bunch of catty 10 year old girls. Their back-and-forth tiffs exhibit a level of immaturity and a lack of sophistication. Although these new officials gave many of us a very slight reason to hope that things might change, their public behavior should give all of us pause. Not sure what I am talking about? Pay attention...


Example 1 - Soludo vs. Yardy
In August, the head of Nigeria's Central Bank, Soludo, announced the re denomination of Nigeria's currency. 100 Naira would have become 1 Naira, making the currency more convertible. However, the fiscal policy was squashed by Yardy because he did not give written permission. Soludo soon made public announcements acknowledging his mistake and Yardy in turn let all who could hear that he supports Soludo as chief of the Central Bank of Nigeria and that there are no plans to replace him. Case solved.

Example 2 - The Saga: EFCC vs. AGF
In an alleged attempt to streamline anti-corruption cases and procedure, it was announced that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and other anti-graft agencies, cannot prosecute anyone without the permission of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Michael Aondoakaa. Within 24 hours, however, there was a serious public outcry and allegations were leveled that this change in policy stemmed from an attempt to protect alleged Yardy supporters. Yardy quickly backtracked on the initial declaration and EFCC was allowed to continue with its prosecutorial duties.

Example 3 - The Saga Continues : Aondoakaa vs. Ribadu
Last week Thursday, Aondoakaa demanded an apology from the Chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu, over the 'rudeness' of the commission's counsel, an ordinary lawyer with only "3 years practice", to the nation's Director of Public Prosecution, Mr. Salihu Aliyu. Punch newspaper outlined that Aondoakaa "reported" the EFCC to Yardy for "disrespecting his office." Apparently, the Attorney General's office and the EFCC are in court to determine which entity will prosecute the former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Kalu. Neither office can simply agree on who should prosecute the alleged criminal.

Example 4 - It continues: Aondoakaa vs. Ribadu Round 2
As is customary, when large egos are involved, a small problem has now escalated into a national incident! Ribadu wasted no time in announcing that his agency had not apologized to Aondoakaa or his office, despite news reports of the opposite. Ribadu used the opportunity to take as many shots as he could at a couple individuals. In fact, he stated,

"The commission deeply regrets that its statutory anti-corruption and anti-money laundering mandate is being dragged into a murky political terrain by those who apparently seek to provoke it into a challenge with executive power.
"For the avoidance of doubt, the commission will never put itself in a position to do battle with those whose mission is to aggravate and stampede it to actions that are inconsistent with its mandate.
"The commission never obtained a request, and could therefore not, indeed would never, apologise for prosecuting criminal charges, which are properly defined within its statutory responsibilities.
Now, doesn't all this sound like something out of a well scripted drama series? Don't you expect to see a few guys in their babarigas/agbadas (traditional male Nigerian attire) choking and slapping each other? Maybe they would even roll around on the floor. I know I do! As a boxing fan, I am always willing to watch a good fight. However, this is not sport or entertainment, so this is not a fight that I care to see. The stories presented above come from newspaper reports and involve men who have a duty to work together to solve Nigeria's problems not create new ones. Kanye West and 50 cents can fabricate beef between themselves all they want - they are entertainers and such nonsense helps them sell records. Our public officials, on the other hand, must find better ways to express their displeasure with each other and not allow their issues to become not only a national distraction but an international embarrassment.

Regarding Example 1, Yardy should have called Soludo aside and given him a good lecture, after all he is head of the Federation. I am sure that protocol requires Yardy to sign off on national fiscal policy and Soludo probably got too excited and forgot to get his oga's (boss) approval before announcing the Central Bank's plans. Yet, there was no need for Yardy to appear little by having the planned re denomination policy canceled just because he didn't give final approval. To simply cancel what I think could possibly be a good idea (though I have issues with the policy) for the stated reason is petty. Yardy's actions also suggest a preoccupation with 'seniority politics' that I think will be the downfall of Nigeria. (Read my thoughts on the issue in 'THE PREOCCUPATION WITH AGE'.)

As to Examples 2-4, the battle between Aondoakaa and Ribadu is just plain silly. It is also incredibly irritating. Are these people not aware that public perception and image are important? Oh, silly me, this is Nigeria we are talking about right? Forgive my last question. Still, these grown men should not be bickering like adolescents. So what if the AGF lost out in the publicity maelstrom to EFCC a few months ago? The power of the AGF's office is not diminished by the EFCC, if that is the issue Aondoakaa is worried about. In fact, careful tactical planning and positioning can allow AGF to take credit for future EFCC successes without having to take on the burden of any EFCC failures. Additionally, Ribadu should have known better than to aggravate the situation with his unnecessary comments. By now, he should have learnt that although he is a very smart man, he sometimes puts his foot in his mouth. For instance, consider his article 'Why Wolfowitz should stay', which was originally published in the International Herald Tribune. Ribadu made some very good points, no doubt, but he stuck his neck out for a scandalized man who antagonized World Bank staff and even worse was paying his girlfriend more money than Condoleeza Rice makes as the American Secretary of State! His article, from a PR perspective exhibited poor judgment on the part of Ribadu, if you ask me.

Regardless, I just simply cannot wait for Aondoakaa and Ribadu to kiss and make up, just like Yardy and Soludo. Maybe then I can deceive myself into thinking that the people in power are sensible human beings who are committed to serving Nigeria and its people, not just themselves. Until then, I am forced to watch this soap opera unfold. Did I mention I have never been a fan of soap operas?

11 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Waffarian said...

Don' bother publishing this:Hey, I have written you a long mail concerning NigerianLighthouse, twice, only to have it disappear, my hand don tire, I'll write again when yahoo stops misbehaving.

Anyway, the post about the competetion is up on my blog,I'll write again later!

Bro. Tee said...

Well said. Our politicians are yet to learn. Instead of pursuing the greater good of the nation, they are preoccupied with their individual self interests.

Misan said...

Shame that socio-politico-economic issues in Nigeria have to be embodied by individuals (corruption=ribadu, moneny&banking =soludo, etc) and once these individuals begin to brush shoulders, the public, the media, and the individuals themselves overlook the issue and focus on the onfolding soap operas.

Thanks for trying to refocus us on the issues rather than the stellar cast!

Nyemoni said...

No you didn't mention my dear, but that makes two of us! It's such a big pity! I like the title of this post, it's really a political soap-opera.. I think Nigeria has such a long way to go i.e. towards the direction of ending this horror story. Barely 4 months into the new regime and we have this show of shame... I tire for 9ja sha...the very people who are supposed to fight to uphold and protect our democracy are the ones causing disintegration because of pettiness. I think they don't give a hoot about their public image, as do most Nigerians in power...They have it at the backs of their minds that the wind will blow over soon enough and they'll continue as before. Shame, Shame, Shame

NIGERIA POLITRICKS said...

In as as much as the whole Nigeria political landscape is a soap opera, the macabre characters are engaging one another in a show of shame; playing demi-gods and dancing to doomsday songs while Nigeria and it's people continues to slide down the slippery slope of govt misrule, corruption and the precipice of a failed state!

Chxta said...

Excellent summary of the recent goings on. I haven't missed much yet thank God...

hajia said...

Thats a good one and I continue to marvel at your efforts to keep track from yonder. It appears that no one wants to own up his mistake- you just backtrack, eat your words and life goes on as usual. but things will come to a head one day ...

LurLar said...

Am telling you...Naija are real stars when it comes to drama.

Dami said...

these people should get awards for their unednding drama!

that aodanka lawyer is really slowly things down,i wonder where he came from to become the AGF,he's like a street lawyer!

The Baddest Bish said...

See, the Nigerian "public official" has figured out (just like 50 cent) that press coverage= political appointment, so they would find/ create anything to scrap about not like they need any excuses to be petty! It's a Naija thing man

Don Thieme said...

I am glad to read a NIgerian describe Wolfowitz' failings which made him unfit to head up the World Bank. No matter whether he was advocating good policies or not, the man has a corrupt history. My suspicion is also that his fight on "corruption" was targeted at specific countries and not a balanced one.

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