In Nigeria, almost everything is a hustle. When I was growing up, one of the injustices my little mind could never come to terms with was the politics of breaking plates. When my mum broke a plate, everyone would rally around her to find out if she was injured. It would be declared an error and then all the broken pieces would be swept away. But if Tunde broke a plate, as Burna Boy sang, yawa dey. It could not have been a mistake, lailai. I was just plain careless, and would get a correct caning or one of my mum’s trademark backhand ifoti oloyi (that literarily means “the dizziness inducing slap”).
Sometime last weekend, the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi organized a tour of the state. Many of the prominent young people in the Nigerian online community were invited in to come and see the “wonderful” work Fayemi was doing in Ekiti state. Reports have it that they were taken around completed projects in the state, with varying revenue allocation and other funding figures given by officials who took them around. A fancy hashtag was created for it #jkfeedback and the tour was livetweeted with some writing about it after the event. Some that were outside the country even expressed a desire to fly in for the tour if they had been in possession of a private jet. The reactions were expectedly interesting. Some ridiculed them for attending, whilst others defended them vehemently and still others descended into open abuse of those who were for and against their attendance. Others still called up tweets by the attendees decrying presidential lunches and good governance tours. There were those who used their writing skill to paint satirical pictures of the event. One wonders if this attendance was not facilitated by the entrance of a certain, to use the popular parlance, twitter overlord, into Ekiti government as deputy Chief of Staff. We have a short memory in Nigeria, I know; but fortunately, the event organized that parallels this isn’t that far back in the past, hence we still remember.
Labaran Maku, Minister of Information organized a “Good Governance Tour” in 2013 and created a media firestorm. Many of the people who were on Fayemi’s tour were amongst those vociferous in their critic of Maku. This piece is not about the effectiveness or correctness of such tours. I personally think they are an unnecessary waste of public resources, since they are funded from public coffers. The crux of the matter though is the fact that those who criticized such a move by someone from the other side almost exultantly took part in it once it was someone from their “progressive” side that embarked on the same jamboree. It is especially distasteful when one hears the reports that they were paid while posturing otherwise and slamming the Federal Government for paying its own tour delegation (forget the fact that they made brave attempts to tell us the amounts were insufficient after it had been revealed). It reminds me of Orwell’s Animal Farm where the rule began as “All Animals Are Equal” but was edited by the pigs to read “All Animals Are Equal, But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others”. It sounds like this in this tour business. “All Tours Are Bad” they shouted until #JKFeedback. It became “All Tours Are Bad, Except Those We Are Invited To”.
If you are partisan, it is not wrong. But quit hypocritically criticizing one party for doing a thing when you will employ the same methods without batting an eyelid. It is an insult on our collective intelligence, especially when you now adopt a “we will insult and demean the intelligence of anyone who dares to say we are wrong” approach.
I recall how some panned Chude Jideonwo when The Future Awards went to the presidency, and also when they had that 2011 lunch with GEJ. It makes me wonder if they did so because they disagreed with the idea or if it was mere bad belle at not being the one getting such opportunities. This clannish political hypocritical cabalistic dramatization has to stop. It will do everyone, including me, well to remember that whatever we say and do in public domain is hardly forgotten. The internet has a vast memory and a simple Google search will bring it up, as people have expertly deployed against the likes of Reuben Abati. The whip that they used to beat the elder wives like Abati and Reno is very available to flog you when you become today’s men.
Then we will not have situations where fire and brimstone is spewed over Stella Oduah’s bullet proof vehicles, whilst the accusations against Fashola over bullet proof vehicles get no looking. We would not have white elephants like Opon Imo celebrated as the solution to a state like Osun’s education needs whilst presiding over the unneeded rancor over what students wear to school. We will not overlook the deployment of policemen to beat and harass protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate whilst condemning Mbu for his despotic tendencies in Rivers State. We will not assume that men who when in the PDP were painted as demon spawn suddenly transform into angels of light the moment they defect to the APC and when they go back to PDP, they lose this sainthood and become the vilest of beings again. We will look at the actions, irrespective of the party that champions them, and measure each with the same yardstick, praising where there is need and condemning when necessary.
The other side of the matter is the weakness in the media team of the Federal Government, practically relinquishing the framing of the overriding narratives of issues to the opposition. It is this that enables them frame similar actions in different lights, painting one as evil and the other as the epiphany of divinity.
Finally, the vast majority of Nigerians must learn to decipher what is really going on and see beyond whatever façade everyone puts up to see what the real inclinations are. We should look those who come and shout loud that “our tour is good and any other tour is bad” that all na tour jare.
Tunde Leye @tundeleye is a fiction writer. He believes that the stories written form a priceless resource that is the basis of society, all the other arts (film, music, theatre, visual arts) and hence he is committed to telling stories out of Africa that show it as it was, is, and is going to be.