Give or take a few notable exceptions here and there, to a very large extent, our governing political class has distinguished itself by its unflattering record of non-performance in aspects of its governance of Nigeria. And in the face of such a record it is only natural for observers to conclude that their most defining and distinguishing attributes are those of ineptitude and corruption. And to these attributes, may also be added, that of mirth making in the light of recent events. For every so often, our governing political class – by design or accident – issues directives, utters pronouncements, or embarks upon courses of action which leave much of the citizenry doubled up in fits of laughter or exasperation by reason of the sheer effrontery and gimmickry of the governments actions.
One of such actions in recent times, which had the effect of tickling one pink and of flushed face; a remarkable feat of nature, by any standards, considering the fact that one’s hue is dark and comely in a manner redolent of the biblical Shumanite in Solomon’s Song of Songs. This momentary and miraculous change in complexion was brought about on my discovering that the federal government last month dispatched a deputation to Washington D.C. to attend the inaugural ceremonies in which Barack Obama was inducted to the presidency of the United States.
Now as anyone knows, the only country in Africa with anything resembling a relationship to President Obama is Kenya, and certainly not Nigeria. However, this absence of the ‘relationship thing’ between Nigeria and President Obama was not enough to deter our federal government from making its presence felt in Washington D.C. at his inaugural through its ‘high powered’ delegation. But what was curious about our government’s decision to send a delegation was the fact that the government of Kenya, had in respect of the same matter, issued a directive to its officials advising them not to travel to Washington D.C. for the ceremonies, but to remain in Kenya to watch proceedings on television.
But what is good and sufficient for Kenya, is not necessarily so for Nigeria. For how could our ‘powerful delegation’ be expected to sit back at home and watch the ceremonies on television when NEPA could not be counted upon to provide constant or sufficient electrical wattage to ensure their uninterrupted viewing pleasure. So, in such a situation to avoid such an occurrence, our delegation did the next best thing that they could; they hopped on a transatlantic flight to attend the ceremonies in person; notwithstanding the fact that Nigeria does not have, and has not had for a good while now, a functional or functioning airline to call its own. But never mind such minor details.
However, in the minds of our governing political class such a junket to Washington D.C. in the thick of winter, was justifiable on the grounds, that the Kenyan authorities were guilty of staring a ‘gift horse in the mouth’ by not making the most of their relationship to President Obama nor properly celebrating his emergence and enthronement as president of America. Nigeria had to ride to theirs and Africa’s rescue. For after all, not for nothing are we the giant of Africa? Never mind the fact that, we are often, in the perception of others, seen to be big for nothing. But what do we care? Being big also correlates to being ‘weighty;’ and we do know how to throw our weight around, especially when there is an international platform upon which it can be thrown. Who says size doesn’t matter?
But if the federal government’s decision to send a delegation to Washington D.C. was hilarious in itself, it was surpassed in the hilarity stakes by the news that the former governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Bola Tinubu, somehow managed to procure an invitation to attend President Obama’s inaugural ceremonies. Quite how he did it, if indeed he did do it, is indeed a mystery. But then we Nigerians are nothing, if not resourceful, at the best of times.
One expects that his purported attendance at the event will now confer upon him certain bragging rights in the Nigerian political scene. Rights which he will no doubt seek to convert into political capital at some future election or the other in which he participates. And if he is lucky he might even have had a photograph taken with the new star on the political block, a picture which will no doubt cement any future claims as to his being, one of President Obama’s nearest and dearest friends in Africa. What next for the ever resourceful Alhaji Tinubu; perhaps a seat on board a NASA Space Shuttle to the moon. Don’t bet against it!
All of this leads me to an expression of profound gratitude to the divine, for the fact, that President Obama’s patriarchal roots are entrenched in Kenyan soil and not Nigerian. Had it been otherwise, one can only imagine the multitude of claims and counter claims of the different Nigerian people groups each pushing forward their familial connections to the man hoping to gain some form of advantage. Some of such claims, one imagines would go along the following lines:
The Yorubas would say:
‘You see the name Obama is actually Obamakin; it’s origins can be traced to the source of the Yorubas; as a matter of fact, had he not chosen to become a politician, he would certainly be in line to become a Yoruba Oba, for such is his royal lineage. As indeed the Oba in his name suggest; no question at all about it. How do I know this? I know this because; I am his father’s mother’s half brother’s son?
While the Igbos in their turn, would say,
‘No the Yoruba man is wrong. The name Obama is actually Obioma; but you see in order for him to fit in properly in America, his mother changed it to Obama, because it has a certain ring to it. I know this because his father and my father share the same mother but not the same father’.
The Hausa/Fulani, on the other hand, would counter the above by saying:
‘Look there is no need to argue with the Yoruba man or Igbo man on this matter. They are both wrong and ignorant. It is clear that Obama is one of us, for his true names are Al-Baraka Hussein, the Obama name is just to soften things up for the Americans. He is one of us, can you not tell from his slender stature?’
Imagine if any of these competing claims was actually true and that he was in some way remotely Nigerian. Just imagine what his inaugural ceremonies would have been like? A kaleidoscope of different colours and patterns; Nigerians attired in their various flamboyant traditional outfits embossed with his image and complemented by the matching and contrasting wind-defying headties on of the numerous Nigerian ladies present, obscuring the view of the other guests. It would have been a colourful spectacle. Not to talk of all the noise that they would generate, and of course, the repeated expression to American officials of that uniquely Nigerian question:
‘Do you know who I am’?
We have much reason to be thankful that President Obama is not of Nigerian origin.