Hell, few things can be more frustrating than having to sit through the worn-out antics of a chronic opportunist. Until last Wednesday, I thought Professor Jerry Gana had retired from his lifelong occupation of playing the spoiler for a price. He hasn’t.
But cheer up, countryman, there are positive signs that while he struggles to plough on, Time is finally catching up with the man that has served under every government for the last 20 years plus. Under the present government, he is employed as a mobilizer of the votes of the minorities. Hang on guys, don’t bring out the knife for me just yet! Actually it was Jerry Gana himself who made this confession with his own mouth. If you could just restrain your prejudice for a while, you will soon know how, where, and when he said it.
It was at an event organized by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies held in Abuja last Wednesday, 1/8/12. The event was tagged “State of the Federation Lecture”. Jerry Gana was the chairman while the guest speaker was Chief Edwin Clark, the octogenarian ‘adopted father’ of President Goodluck Jonathan. Given the immense power of state governors, an event that did not command the presence of a single governor is not worth its salt. So even though the immensely powerful governors have all decided not to honour the invitation to attend this particular event (preferring, perhaps, to go to London to see the Queen and the Olympics), I decided to watch it on TV when I ‘accidentally’ came across its live broadcast on Channels television; after all, if some people can pay good money to sit through hours of classical music, I reckon it won’t kill me to listen to grandpa Clark, or even Jerry Gana, for a few minutes.
It was just as well, because as it turned out, both Clark and Gana, who together constitute a robust percentage of the nucleus of the southern and northern minorities, as defined by them, made very profound, possibly unintended, revelations.
After the preliminaries by the Master of Ceremonies, it was Jerry Gana’s turn to set the occasion in motion by delivering the chairman’s opening remarks. I don’t know why Gana rarely wore suites, even though he would look great in them. As usual he was dressed in his embroidered ‘babbar riga’, of sky-blue material with a well-sewn, handmade cap to match. From inside his colourful robes, there emerged a gnarled, tired neck struggling with a weary head, embossed with a wrinkled face.
But his voice was as strong and his tone as patronizing as ever. He said his worn-out usual stuff, including (wickedly) wishing Chief Clark, who is 85 years old, to live long enough to see 105. Everybody but Clark laughed at that.
And then he got serious. Blah blah blah; then, “We the elite of this country have failed Nigeria and Nigerians. We are divided, we are greedy, we are visionless”!
I know how to say it in Hausa, Latin and French, but what is the Gwari word for “Kanbura Uba”? Was it a great gig or what! (Apologies to Larry King)
Miraculously, melodiously, unprecedentedly, Jerry Gana went on. For the purpose of the 2011 presidential election, he said, “I was given the mandate to mobilize the middle belt minorities and I delivered”. There you are! Now, he continued, our country is facing very difficult challenges. “The whole country is looking to the South South for leadership, for solution, for direction. I hope that Nigeria will not break up under the leadership of the South South”!!!
And then, looking like a cross between a defeated suitor and a rejected bride, with those ominous words Jerry Gana looked over at Clark and concluded:”I hope Chief Edwin Clark, the guest speaker, would give a speech that will give Nigerians hope”.
Ho ho ho! They did say that when you are alive, you would see many things. Today we are hearing and seeing many things, including a stumped Jerry Gana!
Then it was Chief Clark’s turn to speak, being the guest speaker. Clark took about one hour to summarize, as he said, his prepared speech which had already been circulated to the audience. The long summary was rich in anecdotes, but short in almost everything else, especially balance, coherence and sincerity.
The summary of Clark’s ‘summary’ is that he wants a united Nigeria in which the south south in particular, can have both it’s wealth and the political balance and protection that the presence of the North offers; as a buffer against a possible domination, if not a run over, of the south south by the south east. In other words the south south wants everything for nothing. In the course of his summary he repeated the phrase that “Nigeria will never be allowed to break up” more than half a dozen times. Apparently Clark was struggling unsuccessfully to answer Gana’s question; instead he succeeded in exposing both the incompetence of the present regime and the vulnerability of the south south. If some people are trying to break up the country, whose responsibility is it to stop them? The incongruity is phenomenal, the south south has everything–the economic and political power– and yet it still feels intimidated, continuously crying of marginalization and injustice.
Clark’s confusion and insincerity was most apparent when he said corruption was at the roots of our present troubles. He reeled out many of the former governors that were indicted by former EFCC Chairman Nuhu Ribadu’s report just before he was removed from his position. Clark cited all the right names but left out the most significant of them all, and then concluded by saying that “Unless we tackle corruption, we are going nowhere”.
Which means, in effect, that we are going nowhere, because under the present government, corruption has been unprecedented both in scale and in audacity. It is always refreshing to hear people make honest confessions, never mind that the confession was motivated by fear rather than the desire to come clean. Where were both Jerry Gana and Edwin Clark when well meaning Nigerians were screaming about the dangers of breaking agreements and compounding it with monumental electoral fraud? Whenever we make decisions there are always consequences. Sure we all want a united Nigeria, but not one ruled by a “divided, greedy, visionless” and criminal elite. Certainly not by cynical, unscrupulous manipulators of religion. Jerry Gana knows more about this last category of elite than anybody else.
Before concluding, Clark spoke about the need for a ‘National Conference’ as against ‘Sovereign National Conference’. Mhmm. We can have both and still be nowhere. Clark knows that. Why not Jerry Gana, who is a part time preacher, spearhead a national prayer instead? So that all of us can come out and together we pray for whatever evil force is behind our crisis to perish. I guarantee that God would listen, because He listens to the honest prayer of His slaves when they call upon Him. That is why, actually, we have not disintegrated yet. Not because flushed with oil wealth, a certain Edwin Clark says so.
Garba Deen Muhammad can be reached by email: [email protected]