Home FEATURED Opinion (14/10/19): Three Acts, By Sam Omatseye

Opinion (14/10/19): Three Acts, By Sam Omatseye

Sam Omatseye

ACT One: Father and son

Venue: Kaduna, specifically, Kaduna Capital School.

Characters: Malam Nasir El-Rufai, His son Sadiq, and the hectoring public.

The story could begin at the beginning, but how can we determine that it all began on the day he registered his son, Abubakar Sadiq, as a pupil in Kaduna Capital School, or when he gave birth to the boy six years ago, or when he declared almost as a parody of government policy that once Sadiq came of age, he would enrol him in a public school.

We might even say it started a generation ago when in 1957, the late premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, established the school as a boarding primary school as part of his strategy to breed a brainy army of northern resistance to face down the upsurge of an insolent South.

So when the puny fellow with outsize ego took his son to the public school, he was first hailed, and then railed. The social media, ever irreverent, threw back cynical barbs at El-Rufai, the sort he is used to throwing at others. They say, oh, this could not be true. Then they learned, it was true, and gasped. They recovered and lashed out as though with facts. Leading the charge was his mortal foe, the big salary confessing, suicidal Senator Shehu Sani, who tweeted a storm. El-Rufai, he and his fellow foes asserted, had spruced up the school especially for his son. It was a case of a public school wardrobe as private, from dross to deluxe, and so the governor was only playing populism with his son.

Was it so? Was it a case of a governor turning his son into a sort of Abrahamic sacrifice in education? If Abraham was going to put Isaac on a slab, was El-Rufai doing same for his son’s brain? Few took the time to go to the school, or even to ferret out the facts.

But Kaduna Capital School is not a cult, nor is it a ghost lurking away from public scrutiny. Here are the facts. Yes, El-Rufai has spent about N195 million since he became governor to upgrade the school, and he has done so for quite a number of them, with Queen Amina Secondary College, gulping even a larger chunk of money. Is the school as good as the swanky citadels around in the country with state-of-the-art amenity? No, sir. Some classrooms have no seats enough for all the pupils, so late comers sit on the floor. The governor’s son shares a desk with three other pupils.

As The Nation Reporter Abdulgafar Alabelewe has shown, his class has no air conditioner or fan, the toilet nondescript, no luxurious furniture. Some of his mates wear threadbare uniforms, so it’s a constellation crowd of the poor, neglected, middle class, redeemed al majiri, Christian, Muslim, not an elite stronghold. So, what is the point El-Rufai is making with his son who was not born in a Nigerian hospital? Why didn’t he enrol him in a primary school in Maryland, United States?

Is it vanity of false humility? Is he a born-again patriot, is it a sort of oedipal disdain for his son? Or is it a devil-may-care feeling that he has many other children who have tasted it abroad, so he wants Sadiq here to buck the family trend? Is he a lab rat for him? Or is he going to give the boy a special lesson at home to undo the imperfections of the school? Is it part of a political ploy to stave off arguments of lack of patriotism against the political brass whose bodies are here but their souls thrive abroad? The hospitals, schools, holidays, et al, happen there. They make the money here, and the money remakes them abroad.

Those who dismiss the Kaduna State chief executive that he did it for populism would have to prove it. But I am willing to forgive a populism that compels a government to renovate schools so his son can attend one of them. I don’t know of any governor in this era who has permitted himself the adventure of placing his ward in a school here. Ditto hospitals. If they make hospitals because of their sick children, at least the hospital will benefit all. It may be a cynical move, but I prefer it to withdrawing our money into a slush fund account in Honolulu.

But if El-Rufai did it out of a pure mind, it reveals how the elites have rigged the system against themselves. If they mean well no one believes them. They have made everything bad and of low quality, so the prince is not trusted when he abides with the pauper, dross oozes beside deluxe. That is perhaps the great lesson of this father and son tale. That’s why what El-Rufai has done is revolutionary. No revolution bears a saintly army.

Act Two: Father and daughter

Scene: Government House, Asaba

Characters: Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, daughter and critics

The Delta State Governor called his daughter qualified, and that is the eternal truth. By appointing her an aide on government salary, he has abused the dignity of that office. He has appointed her to take care of the issue of girl-child. The question here is not whether she is qualified. The shame is that the governor thinks she is so qualified that no other person should have the job but his daughter.

When the press and critics balked, he replied that he knows his daughter. But before that he became defensive, saying that it was just one of his daughters he gave the job, not the two, as though that was enough to canonise his nepotism. It is also the sort of monarchism that governors arrogate to themselves when they occupy the high chair. It is a Nietzschean moment, when a governor sees himself as a superman. That is why in our politics anyone can be anything so long as the governor says so. It is bad enough when it goes to a crony, but when it goes to a son or daughter, as we have seen so often in this democracy, it is a fly in the face of decency. Okowa has been a decent man in his public life until this moment. His daughter should not sully that image.

Act Three: Governor and DPO

Scene: State House, Alausa

Characters: Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Celestina Kalu

Kalu, a divisional police officers, saw a robbery victim in the throes of death. Others abandoned the guy. She would not. She took him to the hospital and borrowed money to force the medics to care for him. The man survived. Kalu’s conscience was not the place of joy. The other was the heart of the state’s chief executive, The BOS of Lagos. He quickly responded, and gave her an award in the top chamber in Lagos State, the Executive chamber, and it happened in the presence of the media and members of the executive council.

This is governance by compassion. The governor personally paid a visit to the victim, Friday Ajabor, and that must have given the victim and Kalu a jolt of peace. That is the human face, the ultimate colour of the soul.

Jerry Boy, the soldier

JEREMIAH Useni, a general who was in the Senate as though he wasn’t because no one knew he was there, wanted to be governor. He ran for the post. We looked for him on the platform of victory. Again, he wasn’t. He plotted desperately to torpedo the religious agreement to balance the ticket. He failed. Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong floored him, a humpty-dumpty fall of a general. He went to court.Lalong

The tribunal ruled against him, especially because he did not even contest that he lost. He just wanted to be a governor in his hoary age. His wish was not granted. He now remembers that he was a soldier. I remember when I was a soldier… Remember that song? He said he is going to fight for the mandate because he is a soldier. Haba! This is democracy, not the days when he was a governor of my state, Bendel State, where he left nothing great as legacy. His first gubernatorial dossier does not recommend him for a second chance.



– Omatseye is a respected columnist with The Nation

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