By all indications, there has been a recent improvement in power supply across a few metropolises in Nigeria. Some Nigerians are beginning to take notice. I don’t expect that little improvement to muffle the critics of the plan of the Minister of Power, Prof. Bart Nnaji. The critics may tone it down, recalibrate and pause, but I expect them to ask deeper questions. Questions like, is this improvement a fluke? Can it be sustained? What is the cost of this new power to ordinary Nigerians? Are ordinary Nigerians being fleeced by these power holding companies?
Of course, the critics will keep doing their job. On the other hand, the masses that are enjoying the slight improvement in performance will be at the forefront of providing cheers and support for the minister. And that will be genuine support and not the ones generated by 149-computer-wielding-government-propaganda brigade who dedicate their lives to spewing on every website and across all social media forum their scripted delusions as substitute for reality.
As for the masses, it will be helpful if they will increase their expectations. Low expectation is probably the second most deadly disease killing Nigeria – right after corruption. But it is quite understandable when the masses don’t increase their expectations. In a country like Nigeria where the performance index has been so low for generations, a distance from minus nine to zero is bound to be celebrated with fanfare by those who are confused about where their rights end and their privileges begin.
As for me, I am not rolling out a red carpet or even a drumbeat anytime soon. Maybe after four years of 24-hour non-interrupted power supply to places as far away as Okitipupa, Akwanga and Katangora, will I consider naming Prof. Bart Nnaji an Order of the Niger.
Now enters Dr. Doyin Okupe.
Insect antennas are up. Blinking red lights are on. Barrages of razor-sharp words are stampeding around the Nigerian political space looking for heads to slice. These maneuvering could only mean one thing. He is baack!
An old English law says that a dog has the right to its first bite. But does it have the audacity to a second bite? …Unless it transforms itself from a dog into a lion while remaining, for all intents and purposes, an overfed cock.
Dr. Doyin Okukpe was the spokesman of President Olusegun Obasanjo. He was recently hired by President Goodluck Jonathan to act as his Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs. Since his arrival, the public space has been lit up.
Despite the distraction he provides, his coming into the scene will help us have that long postponed debate on the fundamental responsibility of the government, the citizens and the gods. Maybe now we will answer the questions – who is a patriot and what does it mean to be a patriot? Okupe’s coming also has some entertainment value.
If the recent exchanges between Okupe vs Tunde Bakare and Okupe vs El-Rufai, are anything to go by, we are in for a thrilling time. The old conventional wisdom of years past was that criticism should be constructive and offer alternative solutions. The modern response to that idea is: Says who? If you are short of ideas, quit and let others with ideas try. Why are you getting paid almost a billion naira a year for feeding alone, when you have no idea what to do about the problems of the country? Why are you earning 600 million naira a year yet, expect those opposed to your views to offer you ideas?
It is one change in public discourse that has gotten the conservatives rattled. The other conventional wisdom of the telegram years was that leaders should be respected- that even when they do not deserve that respect, their office should be respected. Today’s thinking has changed all that. The wind of knowledge democratization has exposed the anuses of our leaders. For the informed masses, it is difficult to respect leaders who do not respect themselves, their offices, or the people they serve.
The truth is that the world has changed so much since Doyin Okupe last held the same position under Obasanjo’s government. Then, the market woman at Okitipuka did not have a sophisticated mobile phone with which she could react to what the likes of Okupe were saying at the corridors of power in Abuja. The last time Okupe was directing public affairs, the young unemployed youth in Akwanga had no blog that is read across the world. Now, a taxi driver in Katangora can call SaharaTV via skype right inside his taxi and dispute what Okupe is saying at one of their so-called World Press Conferences.
It won’t be long before Okupe finds out that it is no longer his grandfather’s public that he is charged to direct. The likes of Okupe no longer have exclusive access to the almighty “facts on the ground.” Now there is XYZ show http://youtu.be/1Rrc3qQ1uPU making fun of politicians, taking them to task for what they do, say and think. There is Dr. Damages Show http://youtu.be/BNNOkbo1MqY throwing back to the political space the vomits that political actors like Okupe disgorge and wish to cover up. There is Keeping it Real http://youtu.be/E1_SRiBxDWw making mockery of the macabre dance that public officials display in the name of governance. Rather than illicit sympathy, the prevailing consensus is, “if you cannot take the heat, you stay out of the kitchen.”
What does it all mean? The political space has expanded beyond what an office under the presidency of any country can control. The public affairs actors in government will keep trying but they will keep failing until they learn to rely more on results to speak for them and not excuses and attacks on critics.
Since the judiciary/the law enforcement wing cannot impose consequences for impunity and, since the masses cannot yet get together and dethrone the rulers who are unaccountable to them, what is left for the masses is to split into two – those who will join them and those who will talk back. Talking back is the powerless man’s way of fighting back.
The greatest spokesperson any government can employ is that man named performance. The greatest patriotic act any critic can render to his country is to keep eternal vigilance. The government should not be distracted by the critic’s cynicism neither should the critic be distracted by government’s propaganda, -or in the case of Nigeria, by a cock’s crow.
He’s baaack! So let us enjoy it while it lasts. After all, he is nothing more than what Peter Tosh called a brand new second hand girl.