Posted by Okon Okure | 18 February 2014 | 4,593 times
In the opening chapter of the masterpiece “The Burning Grass,” the late Cyprian Ekwensi describes in compelling and telling prose the season of the burning grass in Northern Nigeria. That story, chockfull of beautiful clichés, thoughts and sayings of the Hausa/Fulani, is built around the character Mai Sunsaye, a wanderer. He is struck with the wandering disease known as “sokugo.”
There is no reason to believe that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President, is a descendant of some kind of “Mai Sunsaye.” But that he may suffer some kind of political “sokugo” would make interesting academic debate. Sunsaye’s attraction was birds. He followed birds listlessly. Abubakar’s interest is definitely not external winged creatures, but “butterflies” inside him, which lead him wherever they please. No ideology or political school of thought drives him. This inner “butterflies” have made him to wander from one political party to the other and back again.
One man in Akwa Ibom shares this “sokugo” spirit with the fictional Sunsaye and former VP Abubakar. He is Senator John Udoedehe. Like Abubakar, he migrated from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the Action Congress of Nigeria (a defunct party which coalesced with others into the All Progressives Congress, APC). He did this in pursuit of some inner “birds.”
Akwa Ibom shares another parallel with this story in that at the beginning of every campaign season, some people would begin to burn common sense, decorum and logic – like the Hausa/Fulani burn grass. The burners would then become troubadours, wandering in pursuit of their selfish interests – even if that may compromise the basic principles of social justice.
Senator Udoedehe is a poster boy for this unbecoming conduct – he only surfaces in the season of the “burning logic.” He had not been spotted in Akwa Ibom radar since his political misadventure in 2011. On that occasion, the Uyo-born politician contested for the governorship position in what was the most acrimonious and bitter campaigns in the history of the state (if not Nigeria). His campaign was an ambush of everything noble and decent, and left scars in the state that only the salve of time would heal.
He was not perturbed that it (his campaign) led to the death of two PDP members, the burning of the campaign office of President Goodluck Jonathan in Uyo, the burning of Fortune Secondary School (owned by PDP’s Senator Aloysius Etok), the burning of five hundred vehicles bought by the administration of Governor Godswill Akpabio to ease the mass transportation problems in Uyo, the destruction of properties and the infliction of injuries on citizens, and a lot more.
After he was roundly rejected in that election by Akwa Ibom people, Udoedehe, who used to boast that he would become governor through the judiciary (not ballot box), initiated a spate of court actions against the re-elected Governor Godswill Akpabio. All the cases meandered their ways to the Supreme Courts and were certified dead on arrival by the apex court. Senator Udoedehe “wandered” away.
With the season of the “burning grass” beckoning, Senator Udoedehe is back with “match sticks and gallons of petrol.” He granted an interview on a local radio station, where one would have expected him to express some remorse over the violent turn his 2011 campaign took. Instead he picked up the hate and violent rhetoric from where he left off in 2011 – without missing a beat. He claims to still be in the hunt for the governorship of the state, but his talk was laden with disdain for everything the state stands for.
Senator Udoedehe was a one-term minister who could not secure a second term ticket. He was appointed a Minister of State for FCT but spent the two years he was there (before he was dropped) fighting the Minister. As the Chairman of Uyo Local Government he ran into trouble with the authorities. He is a man of egregiously poor public service pedigree.
He also has tellingly crass (sometimes ludicrous) ignorance about the functioning of government. Speaking on an NTA Channel 12 programme in Uyo in 2011, he said if he were elected governor, he would give every Akwa Ibom person one million naira. Not only is this not possible statistically, but even if it were done, it would simply devalue the naira and lead to damaging complications for the Akwa Ibom economy. Prices would skyrocket with the increased availability of funds and there would be an inflationary spiral. The last person who had such an idea was the late Idi Amin Dada of Uganda when he was Head of State. Udoedehe belongs to the same intellectual bracket as Idi Amin.
He also had some harsh words for the free and compulsory education programme in the state. He said he would abrogate it because there was unemployment in the state and you needed to employ the unemployed first before churning out new ones. Udoedehe does not know that there is no economy without unemployment. Giving citizens education is a right enshrined in the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights and should not be truncated simply because people are not employed.
Listening to Senator Udoedehe’s faux pas in interviews is usually of the same comic proportions as listening to Chief Zebrudaya. It is sad that such persons aspire to rule in our society. In their wanderings they believe that the society is foolish and that they can always fool the society. More so, it is a fact of history that a fool thinks that everyone is a fool.
•Okon Okure is an Uyo-based public affairs commentator. Photo shows Senator Udoedehe.
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