Tolu Ogunlesi: A nation of fools (YNaija FrontPage)

We are in the hands of a government painfully and tragically oblivious to history. This inability to ‘remember’ (without memory there can be no appreciation of irony, no?) may end up being their greatest undoing.

My plan today was to write a piece titled: In defence of Goodluck Jonathan. Now that will have to wait until next week. At the earliest.

Recent events have compelled me to come to the conclusion that … Ok, I’m jumping ahead of myself.

Sometime last week news filtered out that the First Lady was in Germany for medical reasons. Her office denied, saying she was not ill, and had only travelled abroad to rest. Which is not unexpected; the demands of First-Ladying a country like Nigeria must take its toll on even the most superhuman of persons. I’m not sure Mrs. Jonathan has had much rest since the elections last year. Add to that the unquantifiable stress of a new job as Permanent Secretary in Bayelsa, and you’ll realise why all the rest in the world is needed.

But then it turned out that the handlers of the Mother of the Nation were not telling us the whole truth. Apparently Mrs. Jonathan did not exactly travel – she was ‘travelled’ (there’s a distinction).

In the week or so since a magnificent theatre of the absurd has played out. So first we heard it was food poisoning (which is of course not the same as poisoned food). Then it changed to appendicitis. And yesterday or so at least one medium wasreporting (quoting a Presidential source), uterine fibroids. We don’t know what they will say next: menopause, maybe. (Pericarditis has been taken, alas).

The ridiculousness of it all is staggering. We are in the hands of a government painfully and tragically oblivious to history. This inability to ‘remember’ (without memory there can be no appreciation of irony, no?) may end up being their greatest undoing.

Last week I reminded a presidential spokesperson of the fact that the same social media crowd he now effortlessly dismisses was obsessively cultivated and fawned over by his boss barely two years ago.

This week I’m compelled to offer another reminder: of the circumstances into which Nigeria stumbled in November 2009, when President Yar’Adua fell ill. It started like this, just as Dame Jonathan’s has started, and quickly unravelled into a mass of dissembling, and outright deception.

Now the first thing you’ll say is that Mrs Jonathan is not the president, and has no constitutional role. Which is true. To however use that to insist that she owes us no information regarding her comings, goings and doings is to miss the point entirely.

One, Mrs. Jonathan’s trip to Germany is being underwritten by public funds (I’m willing to be corrected on this), and so should, as a matter of principle and best practice, not be immune to public scrutiny.

Two: the manner in which the Jonathans and their handlers have managed this situation is a pointer to the fact that they would not handle this any differently were the person at the heart of it the President himself. What this says is that the presidency has learnt no lessons from the sequence of events that led Dr. Jonathan to the position of C-in-C.

Three: the presidency’s reticence on the matter of the First Lady’s health combined with the casualness with which it has allowed lies and rumours and speculations to flourish point us to one thing: this is a government that sees nothing wrong with employing falsehood and deceit as weapons of governance. After the vicious lies of last January the obfuscation machine is back, oiled and primed, ready for Season 2.

Public trust evidently doesn’t count for much in the eyes of these ones.

Now to my main point:  The actions of the Villa make me wonder: might it be that these people think we are fools? By we I mean all of us Nigerians, of course.  Or why else would they be digging up the Yar’Adua Manual barely 3 years after Nigerians fought to rubbish it? And if they indeed think we’re fools, could it be that we’re really and truly helpless fools caught up in an eternal (self-preserving) delusion of sense and agency?

Until I find any solid evidence to the contrary, may I posit that Nigerians, as long as we continue to sit down and allow ourselves to be taken as fools (by our so-called leaders) – are indeed nothing short of fools. And might I therefore suggest that the opening lines of the Nigerian Constitution be immediately rewritten to read: “We the fools of the Federal Republic of Nigeria…”

Shall this be the case, until we can prove, to a sufficient degree, that we are indeed in possession of a capacity for ‘awareness’, the sort that drives people to rebel against the myriad condescensions and taking-for-granted that daily assault them.

Until that happens, the dysfunctional script of the past will continue to dictate the tone and mood and lighting of the unfolding present and the unwritten future.

And we will be of all citizens the most to be pitied.

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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Comments (13)

  1. Nameless spineless one,

    It's easy for you to seat behind a computer and throw anonymous punches,but it's a waste of time educating a non-entity. So I'll pass.

  2. I'm happy I read this article. Your pieces are always very good, but I feel you missed it on this one. The notion that the First Lady must notify the Nigerian public of her visit to the hospital strikes me as unprofessional, sentimental, and a hunger for cheap popularity among the news outfits priding themselves in accurately telling the state of health of public officials. Simply put, it's not newsworthy, except she deems it fit. She has right to that privacy except it's critical enough to affect the smooth running of the country – which it doesn't seem to.

    Secondly, "a nation of fools"? I don't get you except for the feeling that you are bit too emotional about this issue. Did you know Pres. Atta Mills was sick before his death? How many Ghanaians knew? Please, one may not like a President, but they are constructive ways to addressing issues respectfully rather than giving away aura of sentiments.

  3. I'm happy I read this article. Your pieces are always very good, but I feel you missed it on this one. The notion that the First Lady must notify the Nigerian public of her visit to the hospital strikes me as unprofessional, sentimental, and a hunger for cheap popularity among the news outfits priding themselves in accurately telling the state of health of public officials. Simply put, it's not newsworthy, except she deems it fit. She has right to that privacy except it's critical enough to affect the smooth running of the country – which it doesn't seem to.

    Secondly, "a nation of fools"? I don't get you except for the feeling that you are bit too emotional about this issue. Did you know Pres. Atta Mills was sick before his death? How many Ghanaians knew? Please, one may not like a President, but they are constructive ways to addressing issues respectfully rather than giving away aura of sentiments.

    1. While I wish d first lady a speedy recovery, truth is the way the presidency has handled it,the denials and counter denials leaves much to be desired and this is characteristical of the jonathan govt, he feels his team is smarter dan the rest of d populace and he doesn't owe Nigerians any explanation,Mrs Jonathan doesn't owe us any xplanation before travelling for treatment, yes but since the news is every where her handlers should at least treat it diplomatically not lying to the same tax payers whose money is being used to foot her bills.for me this is not about d first lady but more about d fact dat Nigerians have lost hope on Mr president. We can't even trust informations coming frm d presidency cos they have proven that dey are an insincere bunch.

  4. Mr/Ms Gbenga Akinfenwa,

    1. Acquaint yourself with a dictionary

    2. Folly is no respecter of Agr, Tribe or Political conviction

    #AsYouWere

  5. We have not proved that we are not fools in this country. Our problem is not that of a particular person in power. They play according to the culture established before them. They didn't create it even though they have the unique opportunity to change it, but lack the moral and actually physical courage.

    To change Nigeria, you have to forget about those in government today and change the attitudes of the bricklayer, the civil servant, the pastor…in short, the ordinary Nigerian on the street.

    I can see you all do not want to do that; you do not want to change the ways you have always known and will react with violence if needed rather than use your head to reason. I can assure you that were it not for Mary Slessor, some Nigerians will still justify the infanticide of twins up till today and will defend its practice with violence if need be. I regret Independence Day!

    @OIbhagui

  6. You use the word 'fools' with such carelessness and naivety,forgeting that:

    1.The 'fools' include your father,mentors,and many upright and noble(though not politically aware) Nigerians

    2.Being politically aware does not equal patriotism (Prime example Reuben Abati)

    3.That you (Tolu) have chosen to use social media the way you do does not mean you're more politically aware than some others who have (usually) wisely chosen not to.

    Airing your mostly well articulated views does not give you the power or right to insult millions of people spread across diverse ages,tribes and political convictions.

  7. You are so right. I have wondered the very same thing since the whole Patience saga began. Its like history is repeating itself all over again. The presidency should realize that as long as tax payers money is used for what ever reason, they owe us an explanation. Nigerians are not stupid, we may be silent but we are definitely not fools.

  8. Very well said,Tolu.My sentiments exactly!

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail