Isa Yuguda's slip of tongue
By Idang Alibi
The event was the launch of the Federal Ministry of Information and Communications' image-making initiative, the Rebranding of Nigeria's Project. The date: Tuesday March 17, 2009 and the venue the International Conference Centre, Abuja. While delivering a goodwill message on behalf of himself and 35 other governors of states of the federation, the Bauchi State governor, Isa Yuguda, made a slip of the tongue that sent many members of the audience giggling and set the tongues of many others wagging.
In the course of the message, he said that "Nigeria, a nation of 150 million Naira---". What the good looking governor meant to say was that ‘Nigeria, a nation of 150 million people---'. How come, many in the audience wondered, that the good governor did not make the mistake of calling something else other than money?
Those in the audience who were quick to detect this slip were not psycho-analysts in the mould of Sigmund Freud or his protégé Carl Jung but they were wise enough to recognize the significance of the governor's Freudian slip. And that is why there was laughter and the wagging of tongues. Many said they were not surprised at all that the governor mistook people for money because money is always on our governors' minds and on their lips. And did not the good book the Bible say that "From the abundance of a man's heart, the mouth speaketh"? From a man's Freudian slip, you know what is dear to him. And what is dear to almost all our governors is money and yet more money. Every memo requiring the attention and approvals of many of our leaders in executive positions has always something to do with money and very rarely with people. The mega-projects proposed in the memos are concerned with how money will be siphoned to the leaders and their business men collaborators. The people's welfare is merely incidental.
It is rare in the Nigeria of today for an executive to get memos and policy papers that contain novel ideas about how to solve some of our knotty problems without outlining how money will be spent. No governor will waste his executive time reading such stuff. Anything that will not somehow bring money is not worth their while. It is therefore hardly surprising that their slip of tongue is always related to Naira and money.
I am sure that if we install a listening device to record the dreams and nightmares of our leaders, especially the governors, we will hear things aplenty! "Ijeoma, have you put the money in my Swiss account?" Do you say you are still in London? What are you still doing there? You are wasting too much time, get out of London now and go to Geneva fast. How much have you put in the London and Paris accounts? Two million Pounds, you say? What happened to the rest? Whatever it is, please be very discreet about all these transactions. I do not want EFCC to come breathing down my neck when I leave office, you hear? IJ, you are a nice girl, I will reward you handsomely when I get to you in London next week. Cheers, IJ."
In fact, if their Excellencies the governors' wives are honest enough and are willing to share with us some damning testimonies about what they hear in their husbands' dreams, EFCC will not need any more investigation. Every day our leaders talk about hundreds of thousand, millions and billions of Naira but at the end of the day the situation of the people hardly improves. Rather, it deteriorates.
I am sure if a clearly pro-people leader like Fidel Castro of Cuba addresses the people of Cuba, he may say something like this: "For Fiscal 2009, the Government of Cuba is expecting revenue of 20 billion people from sugar cane exports". Somebody will then gently tap the old man and whisper to him that he surely meant to say "revenue of 20 billion peso". Fidel will make that kind of slip, talking about people when he meant money because he lives, breathes and dreams about the betterment of the people. Our own leaders here live for money. They breathe money and the dream perennially about how to make more and more money. When they conceive of those mega-million projects, their interest is not really how those projects will improve the lives of people but it is an avenue for them to get hefty kick-backs. And this is easy to see because as soon as they get their kickbacks, they do not bother any more whether the projects are completed or not. And this explains why we have so many abandoned projects in the country and that is why instead of completing any abandoned projects, every new administration seeks to embark upon new projects so that it can also get its own cut.
In the year 2004 during the bicentenary of the celebration of the Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio jihad, the present AC national Secretary, Usman Bugaje, wrote series of insightful articles on the jihad and its leading light Dan Fodio. Among the things he said about Fodio is that he recommended that leaders should dress simply, spend public funds prudently and to live their public and personal lives frugally and sacrificially. How many of our leaders today live out these virtues?
Take governor Yuguda as an example. Would he describe his recent wedding to the President's daughter as an example of simplicity, frugality and sacrifice? The conduct of that wedding was most insensitive, obscene and a criminal waste of funds (whether it was public or private) and executive time. News reports indicate that on that wedding day in Katsina, there was no parking space for planes at the Katsina airport and so some planes had to be diverted to neighbouring airports.
Some musicians were imported to sing at the event. Food and beverages flowed like a river on that day. At a time in Nigeria when many can not eat a decent meal a day, it was most insensitive for that kind of elaborate wedding that took place.
From my poor man's calculation of the cost of that wedding, not less than a billion Naira must have gone for the president's delectable daughter to become Mrs. Yuguda. Possibly more may have been spent. Yugudu is said to be a fabulously rich man so I am not accusing him or any body else of spending public funds on a purely private business. But it is also possible some of that money was public funds, if not directly, indirectly. But even if none of it was public money and all of it came from Yuguda's pocket, it is still not right that such an amount was spent on such a project. By all means Yuguda has a right to get married. But it is insensitive, if we can not say out rightly that it was wrong, for that kind of obscenity to be displayed.
I refused to comment on this wedding at the time because I did not want to be seen as a killjoy nor did I want to be accused of being jealous. Now that love is no longer so thick in the air and we all are no longer hypnotized by the razzmatazz of it all but can now think more properly, I think it is safe now to comment on it and not be seen as some jealous spoilsport. I am saying this now so that other governors who are yet to do their own weeding can think about the need for sensitivity in these trying times that are trying the souls of many Nigerians.
In the past few years, our leaders have done national broadcast urging us year in year out not to celebrate our independence day with fanfare but with sober reflections. If our national day is not to be observed with gaiety why can not our leaders live out that counsel in the way they mark their own private fortune? About the time that Yuguda took that fourth wife, there were two other high profile marriages. Governors Danjuma Goje and Sule Lamido married wives for their sons in ceremonies that equally aroused the jealousies and anger of many Nigerians. Why could not Yuguda quietly take a wife without inflicting obscene celebration on poor, hungry and hopeless Nigerians? Do they want to incite hungry and angry Nigerians to embark on anarchy? Our leaders do not seem to remember that revolutions are sometimes sparked off by the exhibition of insensitivity on the part of leaders.
I hope that my oga for writing (and for everything) Adamu Adamu, who gave Yuguda's predecessor Adamu Muazu hell, will begin to pay a greater attention to what is going on in Bauchi which, incidentally, is his home state. I hope he will not be intimidated by the fact that the man is a presidential son-in-law! Yuguda should be made to pay greater attention to the issue of accountability and good governance in Bauchi State.