A Yoruba proverb warns a new bride against vices such as hubris, cockiness, vainglory, and, above all, seeking to profit from the misfortunes of the wife or wives who came before her. The proverb captures the relegation of senior wives in a polygamous setting. The succulent, vivacious, young, new bride, now the focus of the husband’s unalloyed devotion, should take no pleasure in the lot of the senior wives. For the koboko of relegation, so painfully administered on the backs of her seniors, is only sent to the rafter on sabbatical leave. In time, when the patriarch goes off and marries yet another nubile beauty, that koboko would come down from the rafter to visit the back of the new wife who now mocks the condition of the senior wives and seeks to benefit from it.
I have researched and taught what we call the verbal arts in Africa long enough to understand the fact that a proverb in one language often has equivalents in other African languages. In essence, I have to assume that the Yoruba proverb about the koboko on the rafter has equivalents in the oral epistemologies of the Ijaw language. It should not be too much of a task for Patience Jonathan’s kinsmen and women to share that little wisdom with her in the wake of the ugly roforofo fight that has pitted her against her predecessor, Hajia Turai Yar’Adua. And if there is no one to give her an Ijaw equivalent, Dr Doyin Okupe, the sixty-year old pitbull recently hired by his younger brother and younger sister to do their roforofo fights for them, might as well begin by getting the proverb across to his new employers.
The greatest weakness of incumbency is the trap of the present. Incumbency of power is a mental affliction nurtured by sycophancy. The sycophants who surround the incumbent (staff, aides, jobbers, opportunists, party members, hangers-on, irresponsible elders, etc) nurture this disease by making sure that the patient is deprived its only cure: sentience. Once sentience is permanently lost, it is easy for this disease to begin its work by eroding the patient’s memory and the ability to project into any reality beyond his nose. No yesterday. No tomorrow. No past. No future. For the incumbent, the only vivifying human experience is the right now, the today in which he reigns supreme, what with the sycophants telling him that there was nothing before him and there shall be nothing after him.
The trap of the present is how to explain why Turai Yar’Adua could not remember the fate of Maryam Abacha before her while she visited the familiar vicissitudes of First Ladyhood on hapless Nigerians during her husband’s reign. She did not remember the ecclesiastical vanities of Maryam Babangida and where it all ended. After working on the backs of the two Maryams, the proverbial koboko of fate went to rest on the rafter. It has now returned and is working with fury on Turai’s back. The ancestors are always wise with their sayings. But Turai is not our subject today. Therefore, this is neither the place nor the time to revisit her many sins or to look too closely into how she came about the funds used to purchase the Abuja plot of land that has now become the object of Patience Jonathan’s covetousness and unbridled acquisitive wobia. Wobia is one of those Yoruba concepts that the English language cannot adequately carry so we shall have to make do with gluttony.
We all know the details by now and there is no need to rehash the essentials. Suffice it to say, however, that the combatants have returned to court after a thoroughly embarrassed Presidency failed to secure a family affair settlement. Turai would settle for no other land but the disputed plot. We also know that Senator Bala Mohammed, the thoroughly irritating and ultra-sycophantic FCT Minister, has been hee-hawing all over the place, explaining the land mess as a restitutive measure. Nigerians need to worry about this Bala Mohammed fellow. His entire instinct seems to be about how to out-sycophant every sycophant misleading the Jonathans. He exists only to please the Presidential couple. Sometimes, the day-to-day running of the FCT seems a distraction to his higher purpose of groveling for the Jonathans. After renaming Maitama after his boss and grabbing Turai’s land for Patience, he may wake up tomorrow and allocate the Eagle Square to the Jonathans.
But the greatest culprit in this mess is Patience Jonathan. Of all the lands she could grab in Abuja, it had to be Turai’s land. I am calling it Turai’s land because I am not buying the nonsense that these First Ladies acquire such lands for their pet projects. In our national experience, First Ladies’ pet projects have always been a clever way of stealing land and the funds donated to those projects during loud launching ceremonies. Those who actually believe that Patience Jonathan has any intention of using the said land for some transformative African First Ladies secretariat need to have their heads examined. They never depart from the pattern because they are trapped in the present. At best, Julius Berger would move in and throw sand and cement around. The project would stall and once the Jonathans are out of office, the real purpose for which the land was acquired would start to manifest. Let’s not kid ourselves. This is Nigeria.
This is exactly where I fear for Patience Jonathan. Right now, she lives in the bubble of today. She is trapped in the present, surrounded by aides and sycophants whose function is to keep reality at bay. For now, Patience Jonathan is only guided by one base instinct: her acquisitive wobia. That’s why she went all the way back to Bayelsa to become a ghost worker. Those of us who are watching this drama from the outside can only pity her. She does not know that the koboko she is administering so rudely on Turai’s back today, using the ever-useable Bala Mohammed, will return to the rafter to wait patiently and calmly. In 2015 or 2019, we do not know the name of the First Lady who will send somebody to fetch that koboko from the rafter in order to send it on new errands but we know certain things for sure.
We know that in 2015 or 2019, the koboko thrashing Turai’s back today will begin to work assiduously on another back. And the owner of that back is Patience Jonathan. We also know that Doyin Okupe, Reuben Abati, and the entire cast of sycophantic aides around the Jonathans will be around to help the next First Lady bring down that koboko from the rafter. We know that if he continues to play his card the way he has been playing it, Senator Bala Mohammed may successfully AGIP his way into the next administration and be around to grab this same plot of land from Patience Jonathan and award it to her successor, just after re-renaming Maitama after the next president. We know these things but the Jonathans, trapped in the present, do not.