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Comedy: The Buhari visit to Imo State

Daily Times Nigeria
15th September 2021
Promise Adiele – Convener, Third Force Movement

I love comedy. My reasons are simple – it has an enduring literary appeal. It is also the undisputed cornerstone of popular culture. As a genre of literature, beyond the relief from tedium and boredom, it pulls at the heart of society through satire, lampoon, and parody. As a genre of popular culture, it creates a jocular atmosphere, leaving the audience swaying in different directions in utter negligence of public decorum. Have you attended a comedy show before? If you have, then you will appreciate my point.

In literature, Ola Rotimi, Nigeria’s famed playwright is noted for creating one of the most ludicrous characters in the African literary scene. His name is Major Rahman Taslim Lejoka-Brown. In Rotimi’s play, “Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again”, Lejoka-Brown’s character straddles tomfoolery and consistent ridiculous behaviour. A half-educated retired soldier, he abandons his thriving cocoa business and joins politics because according to him “politics is the thing now in Nigeria, mate. You want to be famous? Politics. You want to chop life? – no no – you want to chop a big slice of the national cake? Na politics.”

It is this kind of Lejoka-Brown’s misbegotten and superficially minded attitude that has motivated many people to join politics. This vitiated mentality of ‘chop life’ accounts for the army of political participants and public office holders in Nigeria. And while ‘chopping life’ in their political or public office vainglory, they must remain there even if it means to clown and deceive. That is what politics in Nigeria has become. Perhaps, the process of emerging as a political office holder plays a large part. Those who were voted by the people owe the people the onerous responsibility to govern well. Those who emerged through the backdoor owe themselves the responsibility to be happy and indulge in comedy. Given all the developments in Imo State in recent times, it appears that the governor, Mr. Hope Uzodinma is cast in the latter category as a political officeholder.

Many people across Nigeria rightly believe that he was foisted on Imo State by the APC’s political engineering, a spurious process, concocted and stamped with the emblem of legality. Since his emergence as the governor, he has done everything in the books to satisfy the whims and caprices of those who installed him even to his ridicule and shame. This has come at a prize for the beleaguered Imo indigenes. Widely called the Supreme Court governor, Hope Uzodinma has never stopped to amuse and entertain. Although it is reported that he stays in Abuja more than Owerri the Imo State capital, it is believed that his comic repository is bottomless. He follows in the list of all the jokers who have governed Imo State recently after the ebullient Sam Mbakwe of blessed memory. The last joker was Rochas Okorocha who made the erecting of statues of corrupt African leaders in Owerri his immediate concern above the welfare of the people. Imo State is indeed unlucky with good leadership.

Hope Uzodinma’s incredible and overwhelming capacity to amuse manifested last week when he invited Mr. President to Imo State, my state. Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong with a governor inviting the president to a state. There are many reasons why a governor can extend an invitation to a serving president. The invitation was well-timed given the ominous air that hung over Imo State in recent times. For sure, Imo State has been a theatre of violence and death given the face-off between IPOB and Nigeria’s security agencies. IPOB had argued that they rose in defense of the state against mindless infiltration of other states in Igbo land by murderous Fulani herdsmen. The activities of the blood-thirsty, expansionist Fulani herdsmen in Ebonyi, Anambra, Enugu, and Abia are well documented. In the fracas that ensued, it was reported that the Nigerian military invaded many parts of Imo State and dealt with IPOB members and IPOB swiftly reciprocated by dealing with military and police officers. The situation became worse across Igbo land following the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, the acclaimed Supreme Leader of IPOB.

It was under such a frail situation that Hope Uzodinma’s invitation to Mr. President attracted a lot of attention. Why did he invite him? What is Mr. President going there to do? These were questions that agitated the minds of all concerned Nigerians. It was more disturbing because Mr. President is believed to loath the Igbo and he did not help that impression with his recent utterances that the people are just ‘a dot in a circle’. Perhaps, Mr. President’s naivety to believe that every Igbo man subscribes to the IPOB ideology is a further testimony of his hatred for the Igbo. Surely, every indigene of Imo State was apprehensive when it was announced that Mr. President was visiting the state. The apprehension was justified given the security situation in the state. What happens if Mr. President is harmed? God forbid, Imolites prayed. The consequences are better left in the realm of imagination. And so, Mr. President visited Imo State and returned to Abuja safe and sound. God be praised. Let us return to the comical aspect of the visit orchestrated by the Supreme Court governor.

Ordinarily, Mr President visits states to commission visible projects and landmark infrastructure among other reasons. But the number one citizen didn’t reckon with Hope Uzodinma’s comical abilities. The governor invited Mr. President for absolutely nothing. Let me repeat it, Muhammadu Buhari was invited to Imo State to do nothing. The obviously embarrassed Buhari rightly pointed out that the next time Hope Uzodinma invites him to Imo, he would be careful before honouring the invitation. Nothing could be more damning, yet, while the president delivered the sucker punch, sycophants clapped and cheered. The question on every lip is – why did the Imo State Supreme Court governor invite Mr. President to the state? No project was commissioned except perhaps for a caricature of a tunnel with the semblance of a refurbished gutter.

If anything, Uzodinma embarrassed and endangered the life of Nigeria’s number one citizen for absolutely nothing. Partly in compliance with the IPOB sit-at-home order and partly in a defiant show of apathy towards Buhari and his vile remark against the Igbo, people stayed away from the streets. No school children were waving the national flag. Market women and business people were also missing in action. The streets of Imo were completely deserted to the chagrin and consternation of the president. This was comedy taken too far by Hope Uzodinma, our reincarnated Lejoka-Brown.

Are there positives from the visit? Maybe yes. At least it allowed the president to recant his ‘dot in a circle’ derogatory remark against the Igbo. He rightly acknowledge the industrious and enterprising nature of the people across Nigeria admitting that it was unthinkable for any Igbo man to want to exit the country. Whether it was a rehearsed script or it came from a genuine mind, we all know that Mr. President has for once paid deserved compliments to the Igbo. But Nigerians expected more from him. They expected the Commander-in-Chief to douse the tension in Imo State and indeed across Nigeria. The apathy is real. The people feel alienated from the rest of the country and rightly so too. But Mr President missed the opportunity.

Sheikh Gumi is busy campaigning for amnesty for terrorists and the government is obliging him, granting amnesty to people who have slit the throat of fellow Nigerians, buried pregnant women alive, killed children, raped girls, and challenged the territorial integrity of the country. Yet, they are granted amnesty. Miyetti Allah carries on as if they are an agency or mouthpiece of the government. They make infuriating statements that hit up the polity, yet nothing happens. In the spirit of reconciliation, Mr. President would have used the opportunity of the visit to Imo State to grant amnesty to all arrested IPOB members the same way he gleefully grants amnesty to terrorists and bandits in Northern Nigeria. He would have responded directly to Professor Obiozor’s request even if he does not totally accede to it. He should have said something about Nnamdi Kanu, kind words that would assuage the feelings of apathy towards the federal government. Simply assure the people that Nnamdi Kanu is safe, will remain safe, and be given a fair trial. All these would have made up for the comedy written, acted, and directed by the Supreme Court governor. The comedy reached a crescendo when Hope Uzodinma remarked that Buhari is ‘insensitive’ towards the plight of the Igbo. Yes, Hope Uzodinma actually said that Buhari is ‘insensitive towards the plight of the Igbo and that is why Igbo people support him’. Indeed, the governor missed a career in jesting. Although it is apparent that he meant to say ‘sensitive’ and not ‘insensitive’ but according to Ola Rotimi, “it is what is in the heart when there is no wine in the head that comes out when there is wine in the head”. All hail our governor, the comedian.

Promise Adiele PhD

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