Elnathan John: How to remain a respected politician after leaving power

by Elnathan John

Power is sweet. No one knows this eternal truth better than you.

Some days –especially in the early days after the tragic loss– you lie down, wondering how it all happened. You no longer have free government money, no armed orderlies and SSS operatives, no official cars with sirens and green plate numbers, no people queueing to kiss your feet. In fact, the number of cards and hampers you get at the end of the year is now a paltry 10% of what you used to get while you were in power.

You see the way people look at you, not with trembling and awe, but with pity. Their eyes remind you how far you have fallen from grace.

Consider this advice proof of my commitment to your success. Because I still care.

The first way (I only advise this if you are truly tired of seeking power) is to disappear altogether. No big functions. No award ceremonies. No keynote speeches. In fact, you know that Abuja mansion you used as a base? Refuse to renew the outrageous rent (those Maitama landlords are greedy anyway). Move to your country home. Spend some quality time with the family and take your vitamins and anti-hypertension drugs religiously. Attend only a few necessary events, like the Council of State meeting if you were once Head of State, and the weddings of your friends’ children and grandchildren.

Now, if you still want power, there are two other ways of remaining relevant (relevant means that although you are not in office, you still make it to the front page of dailies).

Note: You have lost power, you did not resign. They schemed you out. The guy in power is not from your region; he is not your friend. He has new friends and loyalists who do not understand the pecking order –some of them are even criminals who now have executive backing. God will judge them.

Listen. This is the time to fall back on your tribe, region and religion. Yeah, yeah, I know you once called yourself a detribalised Nigerian and all that, but that was when the going was good. Form think tanks and call yourselves progressives. The others are not progressives because they don’t want your progress.  Begin underground moves to return power to your region so that at least you stand a chance of returning to power.

When the President makes a budget, sit down with a team of experts from your tribe and analyse the budget; you are bound to find something. Complain bitterly about how he has budgeted for his region N10 more than yours. Remind him that one day, power must change hands. Write moving analyses of how corrupt the government is. It doesn’t matter that you were once part of it. What matters is who is corrupt now that you are out of office.

If you are technology savvy, get a Blackberry or iPad. Then create a twitter account where you can scream about every impropriety of the government. Don’t worry, as an ex-something-in-the-last-government, you are sure to get many followers. Post attention-seeking tweets, hold twitter interviews and Q&A’s during which you can properly insult the government. Swear that while you were in office, you were pure perfection.  Because we have lazy journalists, your tweets will be turned into screaming headlines. For example, if in reply to the question, “Do you think the military will take over if things get worse?” you reply, “Maybe, nothing is impossible”, a journalist will print the headline: “MR. EX-SOMETHING PREDICTS COUP IN NIGERIA”.  The only bad press is no press.  All you care about is that you are in the news.

Open your eyes to opportunity. Hijack a protest. Jump on the back of a truck and give a moving speech. Because Nigerians have amnesia, they will forget who you were and be moved by your righteous indignation.

For credibility, swear that even if His Excellency offers you a post in his government you will not take it. Of course you know he will not offer you anything, you just need to prove that you are too cool for this government.

But please, do not get carried away and sponsor groups to blow things up and destabilise the government. It is easy, but resist the temptation. Why? Come on man, you never know how these things will turn out. Today, you are the benefactor giving money for weapons and bombs; tomorrow, they grow wings and turn on you. Be wise. Nigeria is the cash cow that must be kept alive. You need it in one piece for when you come back to power.

The last way is simpler, albeit more humiliating. You must swallow your pride for this one. Become an executive praise singer. Sponsor ads in newspapers. Find out the birthdays of His Excellency, Her Excellency, His Excellency’s girlfriend (this one you take gifts to in private, she has great influence), His Excellency’s in-laws. Do not miss a single event organised by the Political Party, where you must make open donations. Be loyal to the Party. Do not join factions.  Sponsor a biography of His Excellency or a collection of essays in honor of one of His Excellency’s closest friends. Then do a launch of the publication and donate the highest amount. Make big donations to Her Excellency the First Lady’s pet project. Sponsor full-page, full-color editorials about the legacy of this government. People may laugh at you, but before long someone in government will fall out of favour and His Excellency will be looking for a new minister or ambassador or senior special adviser.  Because you have been loyal, your name will come up and all those laughing at you will swallow their tongues.

Who said politics was easy?

Whichever of these you find relevant to your circumstances, I wish you all the best as you remain a respected politician.

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Comments (2)

  1. El Rufai comes to mind…came to my mind even before I saw the first comment above

  2. What a parody of Nasir El Rufai. Very funny but true. I loved the parody of Amara Nwamkpa of Light of Nigeria, 'How to be an activist' published sometime ago.

    YNaija: This should be a regular column.

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