‘Our members are hungry, our members must not be hungry’

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“My brother governor, Uduaghan said our members are hungry and that we must put food in their stomach so that they don’t stray to other parties. I am giving all the state chairmen of the party N1million each for lunch. Our members must not be hungry”Godswill Akpabio, Akwa Ibom governor, at the recent South-South PDP gathering

OUR quotation above was taken from the impromptu speech made at the weekend, by Godswill Akpabio, the Akwa Ibom governor, during the South-South leg of the PDP’s reconciliation tour. As newspapers all reported last Monday, the six South-South PDP chairmen all chorused that they were truly “hungry”, and before anyone could spell Uyo, Akpabio gave a total of N6 million to the “hungry” chairmen for “lunch”.

It was an act that ordinarily should rile the sense of decency, but the PDP hierarchy came out in defence of Akpabio, who was also recently made chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum. Politics, according to the PDP was “an expensive” venture therefore the “small sum” of N6million for lunch, should not raise an eyebrow.  Godswill Akpabio has carved a niche for himself in recent times for his “donations” of funds and vehicles. A fortnight ago, he donated two SUV jeeps to musician Tuface Idibia and wife, after their celebrity marriage and just last Saturday, he gave N230m on behalf of PDP Governors, to President Jonathan’s hometown fund raising project.

Indecencies have become a major presence at the heart of Nigerian political life since the 1999 transition to civil rule. We have almost become numbed to the point where people literally do not seem to care anymore. But we must continue to care! And there can be no gainsaying the fact that in Akpabio’s statement, is the underlining context and content of the politics of our ruling elite and why they continue to under-develop Nigeria.When he said the “hungry”chairmen should not be allowed “to stray” to other parties, he conjured the image of mongrel dogs straying from control; and who can deny that this imagery represents exactly how these local, governor tyrants see the individuals they impose as party chairmen and other party hacks; who often depend almost completely on handouts from their ‘principals’.

In my M.Sc. Political Science class in the 1990s, we studied the prebendal content of Nigerian politics of the Second Republic, 1979-83; but things evolved for the worst with the emergence of civil rule in 1999.

The “Executive Governor” phenomenon gave birth to monsters; and these caricatures of Nigerian dictatorship, from the colonial and military regimes, were transformed as a result of huge sums of money they sit atop, especially in the oil-producing states, where there is so much money to buy loyalties; bribe communities and individuals or to create a whole generation of thugs and ‘militants’, used to settle political scores and steal elections or even threaten the life blood of the nation’s economy.

If any individual has represented the best and worst of the “Executive Governor” phenomenon, it must be Godwill Akpabio. Last year, I attended the Nigerian Guild of Editors conference in Uyo. There was considerable evidence of the infrastructural improvements the state has witnessed under Akpabio. But there was also the sickening level of sycophancy; the personality cult of the governor and his immodesty in speech. The statement about hungry partymen who should not be hungry was therefore true to type.

In the past two weeks, the performance of the Lagos state head of the NSCDC, Mr. Obafaiye Shem, went viral on the net. The faux pas about “MY OGA  AT THE TOP”, led to the emergence of video re-mixes; t-shirts and dance steps. Everybody apparently saw the absurdity of the poor man’s performance, but I wonder just how many of us bothered to interrogate the fact that his statement spoke to the Nigerian condition.

We have a country littered with puny dictators of all descriptions. The OGA AT THE TOP is available in all corners of the country, running his position with shades of cruelty and petty dictatorship. The “OGA” knows it all! After the 1999 transition, these closet dictators were let lose on our society, while the indecency at the top is then spread around by their subordinates.

There was a governor I knew, who slapped one of his commissioners, between 1999 and 1983. Routine visits to Government Houses often kept commissioners and other top officials of government waiting for hours; while it is normal in many states, for these officials to go back and forth for days, before getting the opportunity to see OGA. In turn, the commissioners and LG chairmen visit the same or greater indecencies on their own subordinates. State activities do not get done on time, while the recruitment pattern ensures that the least qualified and sycophantic get a look in.

Of course, the quality of service delivery suffers. That is why subordinates hold the OGA AT THE TOP in awe, doing everything possible to be in OGA’s good books. It is the level of groveling surrender that might determine promotions or access to lucrative postings and perks!

This is the situation in Nigeria today and when Godwill Akpabio said“our members are hungry; our members must not be hungry”, he spoke for the Nigerian ruling elite and the mindset with which they run our country. It was therefore no surprise that the PDP leadership lept to his defence with the absurd statement that politics is an expensive business.

The question they will not answer is whether the money came from his pocket or was it the fund of Akwa Ibom state? And furthermore, was that the right reason to expend state funds? It might be “good” PDP politics to throw one million naira each to the PDP chairman from the South-South, so they won’t like s**t-eating local dogs “stray” to other parties.

But it dishonours the whole concept of politics as service to the Nigerian people. It is this level of impunity along with the continuing underdevelopment of Nigeria by the Akpabios and their PDP politics of hunger, that have been at the base of the crises phenomena in Nigeria today.


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