As is customary, today, we shall be making a detour from the usual to dissect just two of the slew of words that has lately crept treacherously into national conversation since our last enumeration. The mission is to provide context and content, so that the uninitiated may better understand. Transmission: Goodluck Jonathan gave us “transformation” even though it turned out the real agenda was to democratize the looting of the nation’s exchequer. Perhaps owing to his own ritual taciturnity, President Muhammadu Buhari has hardly made a pretense to any such fanciful sloganeering.
However, more by default, that vacuum would now appear filled. Many thanks to the recent spectacular outing of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, who, until now, had endured with uncommon equanimity, the antics of traducers who would mischievously prefer to mispronounce his official title as “Inspector Genital” following reports that his harem had quietly admitted a serving female police officer and he, so super efficient, already had her inseminated.
Last week, an apparent slip of tongue at the inauguration of the Police Technical Intelligence Unit in Kano would literally trigger a manic frenzy across the nation’s media circuits – whether traditional or the social media. In the viral footage, Idris is heard mumbling: “I mean, transmission, I mean effort, that the transmission cooperation to transmission, I mean transmission to have effect, ehm, apprehend, I mean, apprehensive towards the recommendation, recommended formation effective and effect, I mean, apprehensive at the transmission of…and transmission and transmission for the effective in the police command.”
While the orgy of lexical violence lasted amid the heavy wind that afternoon, an aide was seeing moving to his side to assist him on the lectern, to no avail.
Thus, the word “transmission” caught on like wildfire. Never since Buhari assumed office three years has one single word or phrase had the nation enraptured so intensely.
Trust the subversive ingenuity of the netizens in the social media. We saw a gallon of engine oil emblazoned with a rather cheeky sticker, “SuperTech – Automatic Transmission Fluid”, garnished with Idris’ chuckling face. Countless short videos followed, mimicking Idris. In one, we heard an improvised melody synchronized to the dance-steps of some excited cops on duty.
With all manner of comic flicks flying around, you would think the IG is the CEO of a new comedy company.
Trust those easily given to superstition. They were quick to conclude that what IG had suffered while reading the prepared text that afternoon was a “spiritual attack”, hence the stunning incoherence. Even more hilarious – if not disturbing – was the reaction of the police authorities to the embarrassing footage. Of course, there is no denying that the clip was doctored (a reminder of the increasing danger technology poses to even the spoken words) and that Idris’ “enemies” helped fuel it. But there can be no denying one truth also: there was a slip, which is only human. Not admitting that at all is what seems despicable. After all, exaggeration, as Khalib Gibran tells us, is only a truth that has lost its temper.
But, overall, it will not be difficult for those familiar with the workings of officialdom to, at least, locate the genesis. There is no doubt the speech at issue was drafted for the IG. Ideally, in such circumstance, he should have rehearsed beforehand. That would have afforded him the opportunity to familiarize himself with the “jaw-twisting” words or detect any grammatical impurities ahead. It is most likely he was too preoccupied with other things to observe this basic etiquette of public-speaking.
So, after all mispronounced and done, the IG also partly has himself to blame. Well, maybe his consolation should be that, at least, there is now an epithet to define his reign as super cop.
Rescue: Those still unbelieving that a word could actually lose its etymological virginity to the extent of beginning to connote or denote something entirely contrary would not have to look beyond Imo today. Some seven years ago, Rochas Okorocha made a fetish of the phrase “Rescue Mission” to describe his vision and mission in the state self-acclaimed as “the heartland” of the South-East.
But with the political carnage Okorocha has suddenly found himself, it would appear the zealous rescuer of yesterday has ironically morphed into the biggest casualty today. Now virtually defenestrated from the APC he thought he built in Imo, it is clear the hunter has become the hunted.
Alas, his dream of corralling APC structure to perpetuate his reign by installing his son-in-law as his successor appears to be going up in smoke as a coalition of opponents has wrested the control from him, if the outcome of the recent state congress is any guide.
Maybe, philistinistic Okorocha never read Chinua Achebe. Or, if he did, he least understood what he wrote. Otherwise, he would not have forgotten the popular parable of the rich man who could afford to treat the entire community to a feast but who was faced with death arising from constipation when the entire town decided to feed him.
From the look of things presently, all the power and principalities within Imo APC and their allies in Abuja have decided to force-feed Okorocha. Now, what we hear is the gurgling sounds of someone in the throes of asphyxiation.
Pity, Okorocha is left to whine himself hoarse, in fact grumpy. When not blaming outgoing National Chairman, Chief Odigie Oyegun, for “vendetta against me for opposing tenure elongation”, he is sulking against Osita Izunaso and other kinsmen for seeking to “chop where they did not work”.
For so long, Okorocha tormented Imo with his uncommon megalomania. Even when he had not yet been sworn in May 2011, he fabricated the letterhead of “Office of Incoming Governor” with which he wrote banks warning them not to honour cheques issued by the then outgoing governor.
Thereafter, he proceeded to unleash perhaps the most audacious privatization of the institution of state in recent history with family members exclusively planted right from the gate to the throne in Government House.
Completely deluded, he sought to perpetuate the scam by naming his son-in-law as heir apparent and, by extension, his daughter as a First-Lady-in-waiting come 2019. And the pathetic chap has learnt to ape his fawning father-in-law, tailing him everywhere, dressed like him, affecting his fawning mannerism in public to boot.
Ah! The rescue worker himself is now in need of emergency evacuation.
For the worthy ‘rebel’ & the good teacher
Among Nigerians old enough today to understand things, few, if any, would claim not to have encountered the name Femi Falana (Obafemi Patrick Falana), either by reputation or being beneficiaries of the consequences of his career of tireless socio-political activism of almost four decades. After Gani Fawehinmi, FF is easily now the next most easily recognizable face among the nation’s human rights community.
In my nearly three-decade career in journalism, I have been opportuned to interact closely with him and can therefore vouch for his uncommon humanity and spirit of self-sacrifice.
As he turns 60, there can be no better time to celebrate a man whose entire life has been devoted to the cause of the poor and the birth of a more equitable social order. In that noble pursuit, he has been jailed by successive governments. Time and tide might have changed, FF has been consistent.
At the bar, he sees the law more as a veritable tool to weave a safety net for the comfort of the vulnerable against the treacherous machinations of the privileged. So, he takes briefs from rich clients in order to fund pro bono cases for the poor.
Those then seeking to pigeon-hole FF to political or economic interests will certainly toil in vain. This is because whereas you may find him effusive in the praise of government over one policy, in the next breath, he is belching smoke and fire against the same authority over another issue. With him, what only seems permanent is his value – a fierce commitment to the cause of egalitarianism, fair-play and good governance. Put simply, justice is his religion, consistency his insignia.
While assorted legends have since been created around FF’s anti-establishment struggle, there is a hilarious secret not many are yet aware of. Whereas his entire working life could be said to have been devoted to battling secular authority, his career of rebellion was actually launched in the seminary school. At the exclusive Catholic institute, students were supposed to be guided by an unwritten and unspoken decree obliging them to exercise utmost inhibition when, for instance, called to dance in the open.
But not FF. Came the dancing time one day. Rather than comport himself like others, FF chose to dance freely, in fact, exhibiting deft footworks the disapproving presiding chaplains thought belonged only to “the carnal-minded” secular world. That very act of cold defiance by FF marked the turning-point in his running battle with the school authority, eventuating in his self-withdrawal from the institution.
Had he remained in seminary school and graduated, we can only speculate the sort of a Reverend Father he would have become.
By their fruit, you shall know them. FF’s spirit of defiance would also manifest in his now famous musician son, “Falz De Bad Guy”. He was sent to Ivy League school in London to study law. Upon graduation, he only agreed to join his parents’ law chambers in Lagos briefly. One day, he told his parents he preferred to follow his passion – music. His mum was aghast, reportedly asking where the lad inherited the music gene from in the family. (FF and wife jointly run their chambers.)
But never losing his sense of humour even at the gravest of moments, FF reportedly turned on the wife and asked if they (the parents) could, in good conscience, be said to have inherited the “gene of law practice” from their own parents since they were non-lawyers.
Thus, the hitherto tense family meeting dissolved into raucous laughter. Of course, that signaled dad and mum’s blessings for “Falz De Bad Guy” to pursue his own dream – a career path he has since made a huge success of within a relatively short period.
While celebrating the people’s lawyer, we also must not forget another exemplar, engaging scholar and essayist of gravitas – Professor Ayo Olukotun (aka Possible Baiye) who just turned 65.
Through the ideas he has professed over the years, the professor of political science demonstrates that scholarship is meaningless without character and futile if it does not illuminate the path ahead for the society to navigate. Little wonder then he is today the esteemed occupant of the Oba Sikiru Adetona Professorial Chair in Governance at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye.