Senator David Mark and a Yoruba Beatitude

If a report in the April 15, 2012 edition of The Nation is anything to go by, Senate President, David Mark, visited the National Hospital, Abuja, for dental and eye care before travelling to Israel for a bigger medical problem one month later. If you are a regular reader of my columns, then you understand that I have reached a point in my assessment of characters in Nigeria’s rulership to conclude that we deal fundamentally with only two unchanging modes of behaviour: minor idiocies and major idiocies. Because Nigerians mostly have to deal with major idiocies on the part of their rulers and public officials, I have learnt to thank God for little mercies whenever a member of the rulership manages to uncharacteristically come up with minor idiocies.alt

In the spirit of this logic, I must begin the present treatise by thanking God that Senator David Mark at least considered doing his routine dental and eye care at the National Hospital in Abuja before jetting out to Israel at our expense for a more comprehensive medical care. He even tried, as we say in Nigeria. Were he to be in the characteristic mode of the major idiocies of his ilk in the rulership, he would have done dental care in London and eye care in Johannesburg before heading out to Tel Aviv for the last phase of his medical safari. Perhaps we should take London out of the equation because the fear of the Queen’s territory is now the beginning of wisdom for the criminals in Abuja. We still don’t know why David Mark behaved so uncharacteristically by doing his dental and eye care in Abuja but we thank God, sha, that he considered that option.

Because the brainless rulers of Nigeria underdevelop the country by stealing every penny meant for infrastructural development only to run abroad to enjoy infrastructure developed by more intelligent politicians for the benefit of their own people, I will not dwell today on the tragedy of David Mark’s trip to Israel. What deserves attention here is an aspect of these medical safaris by our public officials that we hardly ever discuss. That aspect is precisely where they add insult to injury. The said aspect is a good measure of the contempt and condescension with which the rulers of Nigeria treat the Nigerian people. They do not just steal from us, they are rude to us. However, the fault is not David Mark’s. I blame the Nigerian people for always accepting and putting up with the behaviour of their rulers.

Alabukun ni fun eni ti o fi obo lo eyan, egbe si ni fun eni ti o gba. Blessed are those who insult you and treat you with contempt, woe unto those who accept to be insulted and treated with contempt. This Yoruba popular-cultural adaptation of the beatitudes comes to mind when you think of how David Mark and his team treated Nigerians as far as the management of information about his trip to Israel is concerned. All we got was a rude press release by a staff informing Nigerians that the Senate President was heading out to Israel. Few newspapers published the release. In some of those publications, it barely covered a paragraph. No details. Nothing.

David Mark is the head of one of the three arms of our democratic process. In Nigeria’s political parlance, he is the country’s “Number 3 man.” In climes where the political class knows the meaning of respect for the citizenry, the third highest-ranking member of the rulership does not enjoy the privilege of suffering from “undisclosed medical ailments”. In fact, no public official of consequence gets to shroud his or her medical condition in secrecy. The people you serve have the right to know that you are able to serve them to be best of your ability at all times. Only last month, Dick Cheney, former US Vice President, had a heart transplant and the entire episode was treated as something the American people had the right to know. Cheney is no longer in office. How much more a serving number 3 man? The Nigerian people have the right to know what ails their Senate President. You don’t get to jet out to Israel for “undisclosed medical reasons” especially if we, the people, are picking up the bill.

The culpability of the Nigerian media is palpable. If you google their coverage of David Mark’s medical safari, you will see all the major local newspapers falling over themselves to announce that the Senate President had gone to Israel for medical treatment. You will see nonsensical reports about how the usual suspects in Abuja are united in solidarity with Mark. You will hear that President Jonathan and other folks in the presidency have sent goodwill messages to Tel Aviv. You will hear that ministers are falling over themselves to send goodwill messages. You will hear that members of the National Assembly are wearing sackcloth and pouring ash over their own corrupt heads in solidarity with their boss in Tel Aviv.

What you won’t get from any of these newspapers is a sense of civic responsibility which makes them hold these clowning politicians accountable to the Nigerian people. Where is that reporter who asked the pertinent questions about the nature of the man’s illness? Where is that newspaper which wrote an editorial to make the point that David Mark does not have the right to travel to Israel and leave the Nigerian people in the dark with regard to the specific nature of his ailment? No, not one.

David Mark’s return from Israel is what Fela would call the second base of the rudeness of these politicians to the Nigerian people. The Tribune’s report of Mark’s return is worth quoting in full: “Senate President, David Mark, returned to Abuja on Wednesday, after a two-week medical trip abroad. Mark, who returned to Abuja from Tel Aviv, Israel, where he underwent a medical treatment, was received at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, by his relations and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal; Ministers of Interior, Abba Moro; Water Resources, Serah Ochekpe and Minister of State, Trade and Investment, Dr Samuel Ortom. Others, according to the statement, included Senators Smart Adeyemi, Ahmed Lawan, Suleiman Adoke, Abatemi Usman, Joshua Dariye, Tunde Ogbeha, as well as members of House of Representatives, including Samson Okwu, Salem Hassan, Ezekiel Adaji and Adamu Entonu, with the Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Moshe Ram, among others.”

Well, well, well, I am surprised that President Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo did not abandon their own duty posts to go and be part of this triumphal entry. We are reaching a point where it is not even funny anymore to describe Nigeria as a joke. A man returns from a routine medical treatment and the leadership of NASS, members of NASS, and Ministers all abandon the work of the Nigerian people to be part of an airport jamboree. If I were President Jonathan, I would sanction the three ministers who idled their way to the airport for dereliction of duty. Why should three members of the Executive go to the airport to receive a member of another arm of government? Who are these people? How do you run a country like this? I am particularly disappointed in Smart Adeyemi, the fellow who represents my constituency in the Senate, for being part of this show shame.

It wouldn’t be David Mark if there was no element of conceit and self-delusion to this whole drama. Here is Mr. Mark in his own words during a speech he delivered to the caterwaulers who went to receive him at the airport: “First of all, let me just thank Nigerians and thank God that I am back and I am as fit as a fiddle. I got so many phone calls whilst I was there. The Senate consistently remembered me in its prayers as well as the House of Representatives, the President and his wife. When I couldn’t answer calls, text messages came in from all Nigerians and I am simply moved by the show of love that Nigerians have demonstrated.”

Mr. Mark is back and fit as a fiddle. Good for him. But what is this bit about thanking Nigerians because “text messages came in from all Nigerians”? Beyond his family and the circle of looters in Abuja and, specifically, the National Assembly, which Nigerians missed David Mark? Which Nigerians sent him text messages? Show of love by Nigerians to David Mark? Maybe past, current, and future contract seekers sent him messages and showed him love? Why do these loathed characters in the rulership love to deceive themselves so? Is it, perhaps, their aides and other sycophants around them who don’t let them have a fair assessment of what Nigerians really think of them? Is it possible that David Mark believes the nonsense he said about Nigerians showing him love? Shior.

Alabukun ni fun eni ti o fi obo lo eyan, egbe si ni fun eni ti o gba. Blessed are those who insult you and treat you with contempt, woe unto those who accept to be insulted and treated with contempt. David Mark is dishing it out to us. The media, as usual, is aiding and abetting the insults. How do you, Nigerian, see yourself in the Yoruba beatitude above and what do you intend to do about it?