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An air of vanity has bustled into our politics. Not since the prelude to the Nzeogwu coup of the 1960’s. The National Assembly stalemate examples it and has proved that we the people weigh like dust in their regal hands.

The quiet imbroglio brawls. But on the streets, indifferent silence. The vanity of politicians squelches the interest or welfare of the masses. The masses, ever their own enemies, have done their best to bolster the political class who look down at us in the malignancy of their disdain.

We have abided the impunity of political parties. So, the politicians do what they please as they please. I have said all along that we have had crisis in the APC since the upswing of this administration, and the APC is not, in a classic sense, a political party.

The idea of a political party is still foreign to this clime. Political parties are like football teams. Arsenal buys a Drogba today, and plays against Messi in Barcelona. Tomorrow, the players switch sides. In the easy morality of soccer adventurism, no one questions the moves. Each side hails the switch if, in their calculations, it will earn them the trophy at the end of the day.

Political parties are not conceived that way. Its members come as apostles and foot soldiers of an idea, borne out of historical exigencies. The members join to advance the world. But politics in Nigeria is immune to such high-wire thoughts. The highest we have travelled in this regard is to sacrifice the polity to the idol of the tribe or the altar of faith, or both.

We have followed this wounded path and taken it for granted. It is the tribal provenance of politics. But the National Assembly has fallen many steps lower in the moral slope. This is the nakedness of personal interest. It is not about anything but where bread is buttered, even if the society is not bettered.

We are simultaneously in the Machiavellian hole and Hobbesian jungle. A man like Bukola “Eleyinmi” Saraki is holding the Senate to ransom. He is supposed to convene but he wouldn’t. It is not because it is in the interest of the country. It is because he wants to know if it will not become a gravedigger’s moment for his prestige as the number three citizen.

Both sides are guilty here. The APC wants him to convene to stir a house to bipartisan melee. Saraki is afraid he may fall to the guillotine. On the surface, it looks like a balance of power. But it is a balance of fear. Each side is on a suicide march like the character in Sophocles play, King Oedipus. He sees his death and fall from grace but his suicidal impulse goads him to his end. The literary critic Killam calls it “insistent fatality.”

APC will suffer much if it turns the house of law into a template of anarchy. Saraki may suffer a loss of authority. Unlike Eleyinmi of Village Headmaster, Saraki does not like open confrontation. He is a sly, calculating villain, a subdued showman and a reptilian stalker with a Mephistophelean eye for the easy kill. Eleyinmi of Village Headmaster craved the bloodstain, the head butts, the mud splash of conflict.

That is why we are not having the kind of parliament in Medieval Poland that a critic described as a “divinely ordained confusion.” One thing is clear: this is a moot senate, with nothing serious on its agenda. The so-called tiff over INEC money is a storm in a swimming pool when no swimmer stirs the water and no breast stroke is splashing. In the end, a presidential power can enable the spending. We have operated an insipid, braindead chamber, with no romance of ideas or a pulse of the street? Between now and May next year, they would have only a mercantile zeal, sharing booties, hooting to the bank and plotting their return to the same parliamentary brothel of deals and sleaze.

Since they were prorogued, what have we missed as a nation that we did not miss before when they sat without their jaws locked? Nothing except vacuous theatre. Now that their jaws are locked, we miss nothing. It reflects why scholars call developing countries weak states. They are not strong enough to affect the literacy rate, make a difference between poverty and prosperity, between safety and violence. This senate has failed in that regard aplenty.

So, we are not missing Saraki. Rather, in an access of vanity, he is mistaking the headlines for popularity and paying homage to Obj and joining the recent series of dubious pilgrims making progress to Ota in a parody of John Bunyan. He who presided over the demolition of three major banks with their blood trails of suicides, deaths, miseries and families ruined. That makes him Nigeria’s chief financial undertaker. He who never ran anything other than his own prosperity. He who survived a Supine Supreme Court verdict, an illiterate juridical handout by so-called wise men, who said it was a rumour that he anticipated his own prosperity in his assets declaration. I said he claimed to be a prophet of his own prosperity. He wants to be president. With all those credentials, no one else qualifies to be president. A tear for him.

Nor is APC acting mature by haranguing Saraki. There is nothing substantially useful for this country even if Saraki is ejected. It is no more than revanchist agenda. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo should be a playbook for governance for the red chamber. In a few days, he made impotent the concept of the state as impotent. With his SARS order, he gave us a glimpse into tomorrow, an argument for state police without ruffling the law. A triumph of imagination over technicality. A riot of debates bows to the quiescence of an order. He threw a dagger at impunity by ousting Daura.

We are quietly joyous at a tamp-down in the herdsmen crisis. This column had suggested that the air force should strafe the forests. That’s what they have done, and the guns, machetes and the swagger in the dark are fading. The air force, as angels over our soldiers, have made the sky lord over the so-called herdsman’s earth. For about a month now, Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, et al, have breathed relative peace unknown in the past year. Plateau knew peace until the bloody spasm winked into silence. To Buhari’s credit, this predated his leave. What we need now is the sustenance of peace, and justice on the arrested predators.

While the executive can boast a few kudos in spite of its major shortcomings, the senate, including Saraki, has not justified Montesquieu’s idea of the separation of powers.



Morning with the Nobel Laureate

In 2008, I had a conversation with Olawale Edun, the chairman of Vintage Press that publishes The Nation. He is one time commissioner in Lagos. He was hosting world renown writer V. S. Naipaul. My blood ran to the hilltop and I requested an audience for an interview.

“S’o mo npa e,” he asked in Yoruba. Translation, “Are you versed in such matters.” I said of course. He trusted me and set up an audience in his Ikoyi residence for the Nobel laureate. I had heard many things about Naipaul. He could walk out of an interview in a huff. His temper could boil like a volcano and he could cheer like a golden retriever. That morning I was to travel to Ekiti to deliver the Adekunle Fajuyi lecture organised by the cerebral governor-elect Kayode Fayemi, Jimi Agbaje, Femi Ojudu, etc. I wanted a quick interview.

Naipaul materialised from a car with his wife Nadira, and we chose Edun’s hefty library as the propitious place for such a fertile exchange. The interview lasted about two hours, and it was principally of a conversation about literature from Conrad to Dickens to Achebe and the relevance of the novel in this age. I remember asking him to pick his forte in the three planks of good writing: observation, perception or language. He chose observation and language. Of course, his spare and beautiful style earned him the comment as the best “writer in English writing today.” He had few kind words for Achebe, asserting he had little to write outside the customs of his people. After Things Fall Apart, his ink ran dry. He was quick to say, if he had offended anyone, “I am sorry.” But the bard had dropped his barb and darted out of town. After the interview, he said no one had tasked him as I did in the interview. Farewell to Naipaul, who passed on last week at 85.

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