Those words got me thinking; in a sense insider confirmation of a massively altered reality.
You’re a newly elected Governor, or newly appointed Minister, Governor of the Central Bank, or MD of the Niger Delta Development Commission (etc, etc). You have seen your life change overnight. The ‘share-price’ of your phone-number has risen by several percentage points. The hapless phone rings endlessly these days – people congratulating you and praying for you and wishing you well. And of course, asking, praying, begging, wheedling, for favours. There are contracts to be awarded, various “Pls assist bearer” documents awaiting your signed consent.
There are the fundraising letters from churches and mosques and youth development organisations, and the disguised fundraising letters from traditional rulers (offering chieftaincy titles) and Universities (offering honorary doctorates) and faceless organisations (offering ‘Man of the Year’ awards).
It’s a special life, no doubt. You’re the sun in the solar systems of multitudes, the full moon without which their nights would be blocks of black ice.
Alas, that life, for most people, doesn’t go on forever. You lose a re-election bid, or exhaust your two terms in office, or get sacked by a President or a High Court Judge. Bang! However it happens, bottom-line is this: it’s now you and your family and your god(s)/God and the millions or billions – or nothing – you’ve managed to acquire whilst in office.
I’m curious to know – does that new reality hit suddenly, suddenly – or gradually? That new reality in which the (relative) silence of your phone makes you glance at it several times a day and wonder if the mobile network vanished; that altered reality in which the people who used to pick your calls on the first ring now make you leave several missed calls. (It’s important to note that in and out of office I doubt that a British or American politician’s life would change by half the degree to which his Nigerian counterpart’s life – with its otherworldly security votes and snaking convoys – would change).
Earlier this month I tweeted: “Yesterday Otunba Gbenga Daniel celebrated his first birthday out of office. I’m sure he could tell the difference. Welcome to Nigeria.”
Minutes later I got this reply from someone who turned out to be his son (yeah, social media’s unpredictable like that!): “Yea we could. We didn’t have any fake people.”
Those words got me thinking; in a sense insider confirmation of a massively altered reality. (Let me add that I was impressed by the positive spin the son put on the new scenario – that fate had helped to filter out the real friends from the “fake” ones. Good for them).
For me one lesson is assured, and it is one we all know by heart, bound up in several clichés that surround us: Nothing in this life – power, beauty, fame, talent, wealth – goes on for ever. And yet, looking at the Big Men around us, you’re shocked at how they live their lives in office as though they’d secured an eternal guarantee from God / The Universe, exempting them, not only from the reality of the transience of political power, but also from the final full-stop on this side of eternity: death.
I wonder if IBB, given a chance in 1986 to see 25 years into the future, would have made different sets of decisions. But alas, like most of the rest of us, while power lasted, he acted like it’d last forever, as though he could Maradona us until kingdom come.
Back then he probably didn’t realise that not even the original Maradona, Diego the Don, had the power to Maradona his way around a football pitch in perpetuity. Join me in welcoming him (IBB, that is), and several others like him, to reality!
Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.