By Philip Agbese
Ekiti state governor, Ayodele Fayose has finally surpassed himself in the act of throwing pointless tantrums. His attempt to pass off a suspect mentioned in the Jefferson bribery scandal as the wife of the president, Mrs Aisha Buhari is a new low that should not have occurred even for a man recently found out to be richer than the impoverished state he is presiding over. One can understand his disconnection with reality as the paranoia that came with his being found out and the account with which he ferreted public funds frozen by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The suspect in the Jefferson saga appropriated the name of President Muhammadu Buhari by claiming to be his daughter and consequently deceived people by claiming her name was Aisha Buhari. Apparently upon reading this while possibly still under the influence, he deluded himself into thinking he has finally found the ultimate weapon that would free him from the many atrocities he has committed against his own people.
Fortunately, former Chairman of the EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Lamorde has interrupted Fayose’s hallucination when he came out to confirm that the impostor the former Ekiti state governor wanted to use for his character assassination business was indeed not Mr President’s wife. This is not the first time the Ekiti state governor would tell a gargantuan fairy-tale to deflect attention from his comical handling of the state’s affairs while the populace suffers. He has been fond of this this diversionary verbal prancing and gallivanting since his party got booted out of office at the national level.
This is where we must be collectively wary since the Jefferson trick the nation’s chief comedian recently pulled won’t be his last because it was not his first. Between him and the platforms that amplified his falsehood, there is a feeble attempt at damage control with the latter making it look like a case of mistaken identity, an innocent error made by an opposition leader that is eager to speak truth to power.
Sadly, not many people know that Fayose did not commit this as a faux pax; rather this is a calculated scheming of a man who thinks he is doing the groundwork for the perfect alibi for when he is out of office. The strategy is simple: he brands and presents himself as a leading opposition voice and he becomes untouchable on that account – a perfect roadmap for blackmailing the federal government’s anti-corruption fight. Several before him had done it before, pleading political witch hunt when in actual fact they have pauperised the nation three generations ahead.
Fayose is entitled to finding his exit strategy but the rabidity is something the nation can do without. The mediocrity of slicing ponmo, patronising child hawkers and peeking down the cleavage of a pear seller definitely got trumped by this latest round of desperation at appearing populist. Attacking Mrs Aisha Buhari as a shot at populism is of course based on the erroneous impression that Nigerians enjoy and appreciate ridiculing her, which is far from the truth. The good work she has done with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from a crisis that the Ekiti state governor’s party allowed to fester.
Those who know this truth have distanced themselves from the likes of Fayose long before his latest antic. This is consistent with the Yoruba adage to the effect that while watching mentally challenged persons may be entertaining they are not desirable as offspring. The entourage that were his bastion of support have since retreated from close proximity to the safe distance from which one should cautiously watch a manic-depressive – they would have some fun at his expense but will not risk being the victims of any fallout from his erratic actions.
If his once close associates have retreated to a safe distance, corporate allies especially the media should adopt no less a measure. If they want to continue being relevant they must not only distance themselves from him and anyone peddling government or wife of the president bashing, they must also insulate themselves from Nigeria’s version of Trumpism. No media platform deserves the odious title of being acknowledged as the instrument that produced a regressive demagogue. The likes of Fayose may provide steady flow of controversial headlines and nuisance stories but how long will it take before media organisations that derive mileage from his clowning begin to themselves wear the unattractive label of un-seriousness? Truth be told, a few platforms that had grown their reputation over some years came away looking ridiculous in this instance of not distinguishing between a fraud and the real Mrs Aisha Buhari, philanthropist and respectable wife of the president.
Even more media outfits will get burnt in the coming months as not just Fayose but his other proxies and even wolves hiding within the ranks of the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) make fresh moves to get at President Buhari through his wife. The damage from the Jefferson flop would be a picnic compared to the loss of face that would come from when future attempts at ridiculing the president or his family members backfire. For the latest round of failing to properly verify facts before parroting a post middle age street urchin, the collateral damage was that of appearing stupid, in future those involved in such acts would likely confirm themselves as dangerous to the country.
Like Fayose, who must one day account to Ekiti people why he used the military to steal their mandate and diverted monies meant for projects and salaries into his personal bank account, other people engaged in this campaign of calumny to divert attention from their crimes must be prepared for what is certain to come as we continue to build institutions and systems that will bring our country at par with other nations. Convoluting stories told in the past would therefore not save them from the laws that govern conspiracy, fraud and theft of public funds.
*Agbese is national coordinator, Stand Up Nigeria and contributed this piece from the United Kingdom.