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Pius Adesanmi: Nelson Mandela, President Buhari, & Tolu Ogunlesi



Nelson Mandela died and was buried in a blaze of international glory. They came from all over the world to give him a colourful burial. Such was the carnival atmosphere of bidding one of Africa’s greatest ancestor’s farewell that Brother Barack Obama was even caught committing lookery on the blonde Prime Minister of a Scandinavian country while our sister, Michelle Obama, looked on murderously.
Obama survived the selfies and the flirtation in Johannesburg. If there was any punishment, if he slept in the couch for a couple of weeks in the White House, the secret service and sister Michelle were careful not to let us in on any such unsavoury aftermath.
Not every Western leader got away from Mandela’s funeral that lightly. At least one leader did not survive the trip to Johannesburg. She is Alison Redford, who was then Premier of Canada’s oil-rich province of Alberta. In other words, she was like Godswill Akpabio when he was the oil-drunk Donatus-in-Chief of Akwa Ibom.
The Alberta Premier had flown to Ottawa to join a Canadian delegation flying from Ottawa to Johannesburg on then Prime Minister Harper’s plane. Then she had a bright idea for the return trip. How can a whole Premier of Canada’s richest province be hitching a ride on the Prime Minister’s plane? She decided to fly commercial with an aide. Of course she did not fly economy. By the time she got back home, it was discovered that her return trip from Johannesburg had cost the Alberta tax payer $10,000. It was also discovered that the total cost of her trip was $45,000.
Had she hitched a ride back to Canada on the Prime Minister’s plane, she would have saved the Alberta tax payer some $10,000. For someone who was already having political problems, wasting $10,000 on a flight from Johannesburg was the last straw. She did not survive it. She was booted out of office by the people.
Please note that the people of Alberta sacked a Premier for wasting about $10,000 on travel especially as she had the option of a free ride. Please note that a Premier here is the equivalent of a state Governor in Nigeria. Please note that ten thousand dollars is less than what any self-respecting junior aide of a Nigerian Governor can splash on a weekend shopping spree for his concubine even when they are not paying salaries.
If the people of Alberta sacked a Premier for that trip from Johannesburg to Canada, what do you think they would have done to President Buhari who went to Egypt and, instead of even saving us the cost of aviation fuel by going on from there straight to his junket in the Middle East, decided to return to Abuja first for a brief change of kaftan?
We have reached a point where we are no longer saying that Baba should preside over the affairs of Nigeria from home. We have accepted kamu that Baba is Gulliver. All we are saying now is that if you are in Cotonou and your next stop is Lome, don’t fly back to Abuja to drink water before taking off a few minutes later for Lome. Why come back from Egypt? Save us some money on aviation fuel. Not saving money on trips cost somebody like you her job in Canada. And the trip was even for Nelson Mandela’s funeral o.
This is why I pity my dear aburo, Tolu Ogunlesi. I was waiting for his appointment for a very long time and making inquiries as to when it might happen. I wasn’t imagining the duplication of duties that has happened though. I was hoping that he would be brought on and at least three of the current clueless people on that beat would be brushed off so that whoever wishes to return to work for Atiku Abubakar can be free to go where their heart really is.
Anyway, I’ve been extremely pleased with Tolu’s appointment. But, alas, there is never a good time to be asked to be a spokesperson for the actions of a Nigerian President. There is always a bad time and a less bad time. My aburo has been appointed at an auspiciously bad time when he will have to be part of the team looking at the Nigerian people ojukoroju to justify his Oga’s nonsensical foreign gallivanting in such dire times at home.
Tolu is my dear aburo and shall remain so. But because I know him and the books he has read and how his mind has been shaped and humanized by literature; because we come from the same constituency of Nigerian letters and I know all the things we used to say over beer and poetry about “those guys in government”, he should be warned that the koboko that served me so well during the tenure of his fraudulent predecessor, Pastor Wendell Simlin, is still on the rafter and I will now be bringing it back and dusting for use on my own aburo’s back whenever necessary. He should be warned that he is going to be held to considerably higher standards than charlatans like Wendell Simlin by his very own constituency.
Luckily for him, he is still posting pictures of street art on Allen Avenue and not yet in the mode of justifying the “unprecedented gains for Nigeria of flying from Egypt to Abuja before taking off for the Middle East”. I fear that it is only a question of time. But I also trust him to know how to “fi ogbon se” and use good judgement and style to avoid having to be the one to justify the more outrageous of Oga’s actions. After all, there are five of you doing the same job. Must it be you?
Aburo, fi ogbon se o!


Pius Adesanmi is the director of Carleton University’s Institute of African Studies, Ottawa, Canada. In 2010, he was awarded the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing. A widely-cited commentator on Nigerian and African affairs, he has lectured in African, European, and North American universities, and also regularly addresses non-academic audiences across Africa.

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