How do you write about a person who once sat with you in the same classroom in a foreign land or if appropriately defined, whose trajectory had crossed yours at some point? What can be written without inference of truculence or sycophancy? These are the burdens that I bear in writing this piece. This article is not about Princess Olufunke Adedoyin: it is about her recent vetting experience to become a Minister in the cabinet of Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo.
My knowledge of Princess Adedoyin is limited to a period at which we were fellow postgraduate students at a British University. I recall she spoke with an accented type of phonetics, which sought to impress by a deliberate effort to be different. Besides her high-pitched and often strained handsome tenor voice, she is recalled as boisterous and full of life, but the ambience around her was certainly not sophisticated like a couple of others whose same type of wealthy background had cultured. She is in my humble estimate, what I call rough and ready. That may well be a compliment.
It is now almost twenty years and I want to believe time – the ever-flowing stream has converted my recollections. My summation of the princess is enough to establish that I have not kept nor need to keep her as an acquaintance. I sincerely hope the recollections are not considered uncomplimentary because they are snapshots along Memory Lane and such shots are bound to be different from those of others. Anyway, they are not meant to be complimentary either; they are mine to provide the comfort to reason publicly without breach of loyalty to her. If she were a friend, the matters of this country will still take precedence over such friendship.
Her vetting experience challenges what I hope is my sense of decency and fairness. So, this is not a brief for her. By the time she reads below, she may agree with the weeping Cardinal Wolsey in Henry VIII, who advised: “Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition; by that sin fell the angels; how can man then, the image of his maker, hope to win by it?” (William Skakespeare). If she nurses the ambition of success in public life, she has entered it by a well defined route which Lord Howe, the former British Foreign Secretary regarded as being given a broken Cricket Bat to play an important match. This princess by revelation of the allegations against her is damaged and thoroughly too. Whether the claims are proven or not, the fact that she was the only one whose nomination was not ratified on the same day as the other four nominees, means the invisible hand of fate has dealt her a mortal blow. Well, anything can happen in Nigeria, so watch this space because what Mr. Obasanjo wants, he gets.
Is she not allowed to be ambitious in matter of the State? Well, she can be, if her success is not based on a name that must not grant a position as a Minister in our country. Catapulting anyone into power and authority because of a vicarious advantage is not required at this time or at this stage of our democracy. That is a luxury for developed economies. The objections to her nomination are premised on alleged affiliations, which ought to be separated from claims of professional incompetence or inability. The pity is that she may not have an antecedent of dealing or managing sophisticated projects outside of “Daddy’s business”.
Are these allegations instructive of: “Show me your friends and I shall tell you who you are.” It may well be that her fraternities are questionable; why would she be different in the corridor of power of the government she wishes to serve. So where is the problem? In Abuja, where the level moral decadence amongst our political class is not far from the claims against the princess, her savvy in the alleged vulgarity will find a kindred spirit or appropriately the same esprit de corps for which other nominees were not so publicly humiliated should serve her well.
The veiled attack on her personal life further indicates the level of hypocrisy and impertinence, which seem to know no bounds. Does her experience not amount to blatant sex discrimination in a country that is unashamedly patriarchal? In developed societies, women would by now have risen against the humiliation by exposing the antics of the men who dared to consider some of the claims levelled against her. But in Nigeria, the women are a funny lot, they care less about abuses of any kind; and where they do, they sure have a queer way of registering them. It is patently obvious that they are disorganised or perhaps not organised at all to mount a challenge against the rights of women. It is in a country like ours that the attitude of women would turn an abuser into a saint. The vetting experience of the princess will repeat itself in future, if allowed to pass without an organised reaction by our women.
But, are the personal attacks more indicative that she is unfit for a ministerial position? Her personal life for which she has not been culpable is immaterial and I shall return to this argument. Nonetheless, her angling as a political economist in manufacturing made her sound like a square peg seeking to be fitted in a round hole. Her anodyne for the economy is jejune and gawkily inept. If she thought through the hypocrisy in the sting of her answer to the question about the economy, she may well resolve that being unprepared for a lofty ministerial position as employing such answer as she proffered to cure Nigerian comatose economy demonstrates an intellectual capacity that ought to remain in “Daddy’s business”. She would soon learn that it is far better not to open one’s mouth and be considered a fool than to open it and remove all doubts. At the vetting occasion, she opened her mouth too wide.
The Edo State Senator Daisy Danjuma may be right that the difficulties of the princess are the handiwork of her adversaries. This in itself is a weak argument and that does not infer my position is more superior. Are her enemies the friends of the nation? Are they seeking that Nigeria is saved from her or she saves herself from the nation. To state that the allegations are mischievous is to advise that the princess is the best-qualified woman of her age, experience and persuasion to be a Minister. That indeed is laughable. She possibly cannot be. Her nomination only makes true the axiom: “abinibi is better than ability.” There is no argument about that. What exceptional experience could she bring to the table? In answering my own question, I shall pretend to be Lord Hesletine, formerly Michael Hestletine, the previous conservative Deputy Prime Minister, who when asked a question about the ability of another politician, he remained mute and when prompted for an answer, the interviewer was slow to realise that even in silence, an answer may be found.
I return to the issue of personal life in public service. In the recent past, the United States has witnessed a tumultuous decade that brought the Thomas-Hill hearings; along with exposés of Senators Bob Packwood’s and Brock Adams’s serious sexual misconduct toward female employees; Bill Clinton’s outrageous conduct and parsing of the language (“it depends on what the definition of is is”); Representative Henry Hyde’s “youthful indiscretions”; and the drama of Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp, and Lucianne Goldberg. In Britain Conservative party ministers were found with their pants hanging between their knees and among the notorious revelations were: Prime Minister John Major, Edwina Curry, Tim Yeo, David Mellor and a few other public officials provided the theatre of below the waist histrionics. Is the humiliation of the princess seeking to protect public moral? I do not believe such nonsense for a minute in a country such as ours, where politicians and civil servants are the worst offenders for corrupting public morals. When last was a male politician censured for bad behaviour? We have a flexible set of moral codes, which stretches according to the influence of the politician or minister. The princess through this experience should now realise that money does not generally buy friends, it often invites enemies when it is less charitable in its influence.
As the story of her unfortunate incident was breaking, I received an account of a fictitious village trial, the import of which would have assisted the princess to go down fighting. Let me share this account: At a southern small town in the United States, the prosecuting attorney called his first witness to the stand – a grandmotherly, elderly woman. Solemnly, he approached her and asked, “Mrs. Jones, do you know me?” She responded, “Why?; Yes I do, Mr. Williams. I have known you since you were a young boy, and frankly, you have been a big disappointment. You lie, cheat on your wife, manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you are a big shot when you do not have the brains to realize you never will amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you.”
The lawyer was stunned not knowing what else to do. He pointed across the room and asked, “Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?” She again replied, “Why? Yes, I do. I have known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He is lazy, bigoted, and has a drinking problem. He can not build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire State. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. Yes, I know him.”
The defense attorney was frozen in shock! At this point, the presiding Judge brought the courtroom to silence, called both attorneys to the bench, and in a very quiet voice, said, “if either of you asks her if she knows me, you will be jailed for contempt.” The lesson herein is that the princess should have done a bit of background checks on the senators that humiliated her publicly. This is the same way that Justice Akanbi frightened the hell out of our lawmakers. If she could not anticipate her woes, maybe she is not fit for the job for which she has not proven herself worthy of, and Daddy should now fix this one. Afterall, it is only a local blip and Mr. Obasanjo does not expect this new set of housekeepers in the senate to refuse his nominee. In anticipation, I congratulate the princess and like Bolaji Aluko, I continue to scratch my head.