This piece was originally published by Premium Times on July 20, as part of the writer’s Satire Saturday weekly column.
On Wednesday, July 17, Distinguished Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, announced the appointment of 27 new aides. According to a statement by Lanre Lasisi, Mr Gbajabiamila’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, the new appointees were largely selected from former members of the House of Representatives.
Expectedly, they included members who lost their re-election bids and a few loyal protegees of Mr Gbajabiamila. That very significant decision came barely a week after the speaker appointed one, two, three, four, five, and… six—–six media aides.
The day after Mr Gbajabiamila’s historic announcement, July 18, marked the first year (death) anniversary of Nigeria’s space-disrupting airline, Nigeria Air——-that huge conduit that, originally, was never meant to be a dream, launched with pomp and pageantry last year, precisely on July 18, 2018. As expected on such day of indescribable significance, Nigerians from across the world felicitated with the Nigerian government for its visionary moves and record-shattering initiative. The uncommon dreamer that is former minister Hadi Sirika too got not a few accolades, especially among frequent air travellers on Twitter. Many of them have enjoyed the service of the airline in the last one year, at least, if we consider the “technicalities” of technically imaginative usage—-as my Lord the CJN would have said.
Now all of this happened, quite alright, but only as farcical chain of events in that huge house of commotion that is Nigeria.
To be sure, Speaker Gbajabiamila’s new appointment and Nigeria Air’s first-year Memorial Day—-a replica of what is known as Shraadh in Nepal and India—-are two separate things, at least on the surface. But it is not for nothing that these two developments are separated by just 24 hours. This arty treatment of chronology of events perhaps accentuates the genius of that unseen hand that writes the script of Nigeria’s comedy of the absurd. (Or could it be what Dr. Reuben Abati described as Aso Rock “Demonic forces”?)
First off, that the Nigeria Air idea never materialised was no surprise to anyone with even the faintest of ideas on how aviation concerns work. For one, at the time promoters of the airline were junketing around the world, hawking nothing, there were no concrete plans on ground to show that an airline was to be birthed. For instance, there was this conflict of ideas between the Ministry of Transport and the ICRC, the regulatory body, on conditions to be met before a national carrier could be established. The transport ministry, even at the time we were hawking empty hope around the globe, acted in breach of most of those conditions, especially the provisions in the Certificate of No Objection.
Then there were issues of decaying and non-existent infrastructure; of then Nigerian Airways unpaid pensioners (which the government, thankfully, later addressed); of ICRC’s clear proposal that the Nigerian government must not wholly operate the airline; and numerous other issues steeped in our dysfunctional state of Any-how-ness. Clearly, Nigeria air was a still-birth ab initio and those who orchestrated the “arrangement” knew this all along. But, most importantly, they were confident they would never account for that misadventure.
SATIRE SATURDAY would still probably come back to this next year when we would be celebrating the second year (death) anniversary of the airline. By then, hopefully, we would declare a public holiday for the day’s celebration, arrange a significant budgetary allocation for a star-studded concert in Lagos and London and, who knows, bestow national honours on those who “engineered” the project.
Back to Mr Gbajabiamila’s historic announcement of new aides, this column understands that the Honourable Speaker now has at least 33 aides to work with him and elevate his vision to develop Nigeria via people-oriented lawmaking. In his inauguration address, the Speaker eloquently spoke of these dreams and this column understands that only people, and not structures and institutions, make dreams a reality.
In almost every criticism of Nigeria’s system of governance in the past, our lawmaking bodies took the front seat. It was criticised as wasteful and unsustainable, with others suggesting that we could make do with part-time legislature. In today’s Nigeria, political correctness is the norm: things that were considered “worst” in those days of, say, Obasanjo or Jonathan are now considered “slightly bad”—-or, even, “not too good”. Thanks to everyone who made this happen to Motherland.
So in line with this new tradition of interrogating issues Nigeriana, as the great Pius Adesanmi (of blessed memory) would say, SATIRE SATURDAY opines that anyone that criticises the National Assembly of today is short-sighted. Clearly, anyone who understands Senate President Ahmed Lawan and Mr Gbajabiamila’s dreams for the National Assembly would not peddle anything negative about them, even if they choose to appoint ALL members of their constituencies as aides. They’ve got huge dreams and, frankly, to drive these dreams, they need no structure, no institutions, no rules, no guidelines; all they need is a crowd. More, more and more people, my people. Of course, Nigeria’s never-diminishing commonwealth would cater to that.
So, as things stand, Mr Gbajabiamila’s decision to appoint just 33 aides is a disaster waiting to happen. He needs more and more aides—-at least 360, a number that matches the gigantic structure of his dreams and of course the number of members he has to deal with in the House, especially those recalcitrant opposition figures. And as he has shown commendable espirit de corps by appointing former members of the House as aides, there are still more people from where those ones came. He could go back to the archive and check through names of House members who lost re-election bids since 1999 and he would have more than enough. Of course, no number would be enough for this kind of dream, anyway.
Lastly, I was going through the list on Thursday and was fascinated by the portfolio of the new aides. There is a special adviser on political matters and another special assistant on political matters; there is a special assistant on former members’ affairs and another special assistant on members’ affairs; there are special assistants on political matters in each of the geo-political zones too. Ingenius!
SATIRE SATURDAY, however, noticed an unpardonable error: the list does not cater for perhaps the most important concern that contributed to Mr Gbajabiamila’s nationwide acceptance and speakership mandate: Bourdillon Affairs. The speaker ran perhaps the most colourful and, well, cash-backed speakership campaign Nigerians have ever seen in the last decade. Such a well-oiled campaign could not have been possible without Ikoyi’s interest. That interest must also be considered in appointments. So this column proposes another slot for a Senior Special Assistant on Bourdillon “2023” Affairs. The lucky appointee would be the Speaker’s 361st aide, and, considering the significance of his job description, he must be “empowered” to have his own aides too.
For god and Country.
Oladeinde tweets via @Ola_deinde