Understanding The World Of Elder Statesmen Touts
In a bric-a-brac quarrel between ex-president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, and President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, this week, Baba labelled the current administration in Nigeria as most corrupt and incompetent ever. Furious, President Jonathan answered that many elder statesmen are nothing but motor park touts! In anger, some Arewa leaders averred that some people currently in governance are worse than motor park touts! That informed why this correspondent revisited the world of the tout.
The Tout is a phenomenon worthy of impartial, unemotional examination. The nature and history of touting demands an intellectual lens for effective placement. To the simple minded, the tout is bad news. He got a very hostile reception in the survey for this article: aberration, pirate, conman, buccaneer, racketeer, outlaw, barbarian, cheat, 419! I ran for cover at this fusillade of verbal violence. On the ruins of reason and common sense has arisen this hatred of Gentleman Tout.
Certainly, he is not a malignant tumour! The Nigerian Area Boy is a tout of unconventional definition. Tout is a career job title, touting covers his job description. The tout is a protégé of his environment. He is an entrepreneur. Touting is part selling, part marketing, part PR, and part tax collection. He redistributes wealth. He may cause discomfort, democratic governments do! At worst, he has nuisance value, like elected parliaments.
There is social mobility in touting. It is a classless spectrum. In the words of ex-President George W. Bush, it is a “uniter”. Touts abound in high and low places. They are in the bedroom and in the boardroom, in politics and on the pulpit, across the military and among mad folks, in academia and under anarchy. They come in different levels of reasoning and sophistication. The Lagos Area Boy and the Armani suited lobbyist at EU Brussels offices are in one and the same occupation. While the former operates in a lawless degree, the latter has a law degree.
The late President Ronald Reagan was a screen and life tout who had an uncanny revelation of the true vocation of politics. He enthused that “politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realise that it bears a very close resemblance to the first”. Monarchies have blue-blooded touts. The UN is a tout on occasions. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission TRC, revealed some touts among the ranks of the African National Congress, ANC.
Even the largely non-violent American civil rights movement harboured at least one tout. In the critical eyes of Sam Nujoma, Namibia's former President, a “hyena remains a hyena no matter the clothes it wears”. The late Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti was not fooled by a starched attire as he remarked that “uniform na cloth, tailor dey mekam”! Consider the heavens. Satan was the first celestial tout. He gave the tout his charter. Touting demolished the myth of prostitution as the first profession. Some conservative pious eyes see evangelical touts in Christendom: women and homosexual priests.
A Bristol University five year study out in 2000 found that male colleagues don't like women in cassocks. Deaconess Mary Robins of the Church of England complained that many men in the London clergy “don't want to work with women and make it difficult to hold a conversation”. Things have fallen apart between the Church of England and its African brethren over the ordination of homosexual bishops by US Episcopalians, an act the Africans patently consider unbiblical. Liberal and reform congregations of Judaism have a few women rabbis but the orthodox variety isstill the bulwark against women touting in the synagogue of Israel. It has not ordained a woman rabbi. It was only in May 2000 that women in Israel got the privilege to pray in groups like men at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall. No woman, No Cry! Shalom Jerusalem!
The late Pope John Paul II led an impregnable block of vigilantes against female priestly touts in Catholicism, the status of Mother Mary notwithstanding. A would German female tout, Iris Muller moaned: “I have had to realize that no arguments, no doctrinal thesis, no serious research, nothing helps. There is such a fanatical hatred for women”. Pope Benedict is not about to disapprove of the actions of his predecessor. In Islam, a female Imam will be an apostate tout. The true faith GIA insurgents in Algeria allowed women only three glimpses of the world: at birth, at marriage and at burial.
The Taliban government in Afghanistan mercifully took away women from public places to protect them from profane, touting eyes. The physical presence of satanic America touting in the holy lands of his native Arabia gave rise to Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. The late Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran would have issued the Fatwa against the author of any satanic verse calling for women Imams to tout in Shia Islam. But Islam is a progressive block. Benazir Bhutto ruled Pakistan, the Taliban's staunchest supporter and still aspires to rule it again. Megawatti Sukarnoputri was President of Indonesia, Islam's most populated country. Asaalam Ailekun!
True Yoruba nationalists in Nigeriabelieved that Lamidi Adedibu, Azeez Arisekola, Reuben Famuyibo and Abiola Ogundokun were touts of General Sanni Abacha. Ogundokun infamously gave the Gypsy a tape of his conversation with General Diya on the political situation in Nigeria. BolaIge's dry humour in calling Abacha's five parties “five fingers of a leprous hand” was so offensive to Abacha who branded and punished the Cicero of Agodi as a NADECO tout.
Till he inhaled death from the laps of some Indian “hemps”, Abacha saw in NADECO a tout of Ambassador Walter Carrington of the United States and marked down late Simbiat Abiola as a tout of the Canadian High Commission. On 20th of September 2007, the House of Representatives in the Nigerian parliament revealed some touts in its ranks. On the house floor, Representatives Dino Melaye, Emmanuel Jimeh and Ismaila Kolawole reduced the honourable house into dishonour in a free-for-all fight over the N628 million scandals surrounding the renovation of the official residences of the former Speaker, Mrs Patricia Etteh and her deputy.
The fracas disbanded the sitting of the investigating committee chaired by Mr. David Idoko and later resulted in the death of Representative Safana after another scuffle. The business world is full of touts. Phillip Morris, in 2000 was already a US$56 billion American Cigarette Company. Its CEO was a tout named Geoffrey BIBLE! Imagine the insult. God's holy word up in smoke and it was not even burnt offering either. How can a man whose product is “dangerous to health” and makes “smokers liable to die young” bear as his name God's holy book. Call the Crusaders!
The consequence of this sacrilege saw Coca-Cola Company getting poorer. Falling profits, decreasing sales, tougher competitors were its lot those days. Delilah, Samson's wife was a tout for the Philistines who blinded him and eventually killed him. Roland Dumas, former French Foreign Minister and onetime Chairman of its Constitutional Court discovered in 2000 that all is fair in love. His former mistress, Christine Deriers-Joncours touted for the French oil giant ELF and persuaded Dumas to agree to some arms sales to Taiwan, which he has earlier rejected. The scarlet tout later told her sultry tales in a book appropriately titled “The Republic's Whore.” American record companies saw a tout in Napster. A US Court of Appeal agreed with them that Napster violated copyright laws by stealing music.
Unbowed, this Internet music pirate rushed into purgatory via a hasty marriage with Bertelsmann, a giant German media and publishing company. The genteel world of finance parades debonair touts. The tax havens of Cayman and Jersey islands, Bermuda, Gibraltar, Monaco and Liechtenstein specialise in tax dodging. For those still in the woods, hear the all time strategic advice of William Woods, one time CEO of the Bermuda Stock Exchange: “Bill Gates would be fabulously more wealthy if he had started Microsoft in Bermuda. He may have known a lot about computer programming when he started the company but ignorance about tax cost him a fortune.”
Please remember that for many years Bill Gates is the world's richest man. Happily, Bill Gates learnt his lessons and later co-incorporated Teledesic in Bermuda. In a 1994 study, the tax havens accounted for1.2% of world population and 3% of world GDP but guzzled 26% of the assets and pocketed 31% of the net profits of American multinationals, yet they had only4.3% of the workers that produced this booty. An OECD report in 2003 said the secretive tax havens held in their books $6 trillion worth of assets, a good many of which were stashed away by Third World corrupt officials and fraudulent businessmen.
Motor Park touts in Nigeria who force out loading, parking, chairman's feeding and discharge fees from transport operators are not different. Ken Lay of Enron, Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom, Michael Milliken, Jay Gould and J.D. Rockefeller got feted as business angels by fancy business schools but were certified financial and accounting touts by competent regulatory authorities and punished variously. World Jewry and many Third World poor citizens disdain the cultured, secretive Swiss bankers as mere touts! Jews in Nazi occupied Europe felt safe to deposit their wealth in neutral Switzerland.
Later, Holocaust survivors and beneficiaries of dead Jews were stonewalled by Swiss banks to bring documentary proofs of ownership lost in the pogroms and long journeys in the cattle trucks and death certificates which the Nazis never issued at the concentration camp crematoriums! No Area Boy receipts for a lost purse! No rat returns a fish! It took the threat of boycott of Swiss financial institutions by thirty American states and twenty cities before the Swiss money men saw reason and relented. Mobutu Sese Sekou of Zaire was a larcenous tout of Western imperial powers who ruled and ruined his country and citizens for filthy lucre. As the dominant powers in the UN General Assembly they encouraged him to overthrow, arrest and kill Patrice Lumumba, a communist sympathiser.
The Democratic Republic Congo DRC, its successor state, though neither democratic nor republican, is a carcass of this legacy. DR Congolese Tutsi rebels urged the largely Tutsi dominated governments of Rwanda and Burundi plus Museveni's Uganda to help dislodge the rump Kinshasha government which in turn invited the tout national armies of Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia to fight for it. But the interventionist armies were only thieving touts who plundered this large country two thirds the size of Western Europe of its rich resources of diamond, gold, copper, cobalt and columbite-tantalite, a vital component in the production of phones and computer chips. Only1 in1,100 and1 in 35,000 Congolese boasts of a mobile phone and a computer respectively.
However, they have brigandage, war, misery, mass rape and poverty aplenty. The late English clergyman Trevor Huddleston was an icon of the anti-apartheid struggles. Successive racist South African governments saw him as a tout of the liberation movements. Same with Richard Gladstone, a human rights abuses investigator and one time chairman of South Africa's Constitutional Court. He gave many landmark rulings that tore away at the fabric of apartheid. He headed a commission of inquiry into public violence and intimidation that credibly established the security forces as partners of the “third force” activities designed to disrupt the peace process.
Gladstone's work was instrumental to the setting up of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, TRC. To the Boers, Huddleston and Gladstone were abominable touts for blacks! Spies are touts of enemy nations against their own countries. FBI agent Bob Hanssen gave the Russians handsome information. John Walker handed over very sensitive news to the Kremlin. Aldrich Ames worked for Russia till his arrest in 1994.Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew allowed Zionism to overthrow his love for Uncle Sam and gave Israel a scoop of vital intelligence. Sir Anthony Blunt, the talented art historian, multi-linguist and one time Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, Guy Burgess, Klas Fuchs, Harry Greenglass, Harold “Kim” Philby and Donald Maclean were a mix of upper class British intelligence and foreign service officials who passed on top grade information to the Soviet intelligence agency, the KGB.
Dr. George Kuval, an Iowan born Jewish American who worked on the ultra secret Manhattan Project tragically passed on all he knew to the KGB. In a rare admission of the inestimable value of the intelligence he provided, Russian President and former KGB operative Mr Vladimir Putin post- humously honoured him November 2007 for outstanding services to Russian space science. Aerospace behemoth Lockheed Martin once foolishly sold secret satellite data to the Chinese and was penalised a record $13 million in fine. Mid this earlier, a renegade Russian intelligence officer who defected to Britain was allegedly killed by the Kremlin according to No 10 Downing Street, a charge the Russians dismissed vigorously. Martin Furnival Jones, one time head of the British internal Secret Service M15, was a tout. In 1967, Jones was in Australia for the first conference of intelligence officers from Canada, America, New Zealand, Australia and Great Britain.
In the place for occupation, his passport bore “Gentleman”! An Australian immigration official considered him a tout and would have refused him entry into Down Under but for quick clarifications by M15 officers. The Byzantine Empire strictly forbade its citizens from teaching shipbuilding technology to enemies. Violating touts faced the death penalty. George W. Bush is widely derided as a tout of many characters that wealth, pedigree and privilege made for him. Liberal Americans and Europeans revile him as a gun toting, Bible banging tout of conservative courses. Greensand environmentalists fear him as a global polluting tout of energy companies who rejected the Kyoto Protocol.
African Americans mocked his first administration as the stolen presidency. Russians believe he is a tout warmonger who unilaterally abandoned the 1972 ABM Treaty and is intent in enveloping Russia with hostile institutions like NATO and enemy governments. To the Chinese, he is a cold touting warrior. In American liberal cerebral circles, he is written off as the pampered son of a president, grandson of a senator and the intellectually bankrupt tout among distinguished MBA alumni. The press and stand-up comedians gleefully report his grammatical riots with English language. His fondness for mangled syntax and horrible choice of words and phrases are famously abhorred. Celebrity activist Bianca Jagger has crowned him “the contemporary anti-Christ”.
Yet this tout was a two-term governor of Texas and is a two term president of the world's greatest democracy. Various situations give rise to touting in Nigeria: June 12, markets, airports, motor parks, tax offices, politics, elections, admission matters, bus stops, government red tape, fuel scarcity and unemployment. Non Governmental Organisations, NGOs exist as touts for multiple reasons-flood, drought, wars, diseases, hunger, starvation, rape, slavery, poverty, refugees, flawed elections, disasters, HIV/Aids, women and children's affairs. A 1995 UN report said that 29,000 NGOs were in operation worldwide, of which 3,000 were in the OECD countries. Academic estimates in 2006 put it at over 150,000. NGOs provide an indispensable and at times misguided service to dispossessed and exposed people. Often the only presence in some blighted parts of the globe, they more or less, accurately report on wars and calamities. Many were founded after wars; the Red Cross after the Battle of Selferino in 1859, Save The Children Fund after World War 1 and Doctors Without Borders after the Biafra War.
However, many Third World nationalists take exception to their intrusions into policy execution from advocacy campaigning. They accuse them as “the preferred channel for service provision in deliberate substitution for the state”. Oxfam and Action Aid were factored into a Millennium Development Committee MDC, to be chaired by former President Obasanjo “to monitor what happens to the debt relief” of $31 billion granted Nigeria in July 2005 by the Paris Club. Some Pan Africanists say that no NGO is concerned with seeking justice for past crimes against Africa.
The “good governance”agenda of the 1990s brought NGOs into a social initiative that smacks more of social control. This came from the adjustment forced on African governments by bilateral and multilateral institutions that resulted in massive dismissals and retrenchments. NGOs were empowered to fund a “safety net” of social services for the “vulnerable.” Britain's Department for International Development DFID, allocates about 8% of its aids budget to NGOs.
The US government transfers nearly 40% of its aids through NGOs. Western governments justify their caution because aid grants are misappropriated by the receiver governments. But Gary Younge reported in the Guardian of 28th May1998 that “about75% of the money aid agencies collect is spent on the administration of their own organisation.” Given the plethora of MBA holders in their professional staff and the glittering 4-wheeljeeps they cruise around with, among other choice perks, it is not surprising.
There are touts of conscience. Mostly citizens of the rich North, they campaign for causes and issues that largely hinder the political, cultural, commercial and economic health of the South: globalisation, poverty, privatisation, access to trade, debt forgiveness, HIV/Aids, role of multinationals and multilateral institutions. These conscience touts staged the Battle of Seattle in December 1999, upstaged the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland in April 2000,barricaded the IMF/World Bank meeting in Prague, Czech in October 2000,unsettled the staid bureaucrats at the conference of the Americas in Quebec City in April 2001 and were mortally beaten at the World Food Programme, WFP meeting in Genoa, Italy in July 2001. The bulk of the estimated 200,000picketers of the July 2005 G8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland were mostly NGOs. Even the American Civil Rights movement felt the need for a tout. And the rabble-rouser, jailhouse fast organiser and protest marcher was located in the college educated Hosea Williams.
Unofficially, Williams was the lightening rod who forced white racists into embracing the more acceptable urban, non-violent faction of the agitation: the gentle Andrew Young, later to be Atlanta Mayor and the very majestically eloquent Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In accomplishing this feat, Williams endured a record one hundred and fifty arrests! The press my constituency, the Fourth Estate of the Realm, is also the tout's empire, to my regret and joy. The paparazzi were touts in the life of Charles and Diana.Charles they demonized, Diana they lionized. She was their pawn unknowingly. Their tout she became and she theirs, but it was not an equal opportunity relationship. They drove her to death in a Paris subway.
The House of Windsor was thrown up as a Gothic, wax-like family in the semblance of mummified Pharaohs, except the late beloved Queen Mother. David and Victoria Beckham, the now vulgarized nobility after the Rebecca Loos debacle, have stepped into the void. Today, a diminished but still marketable David touts for the Los Angeles Galaxy football club.
Fleet Street touts got Tony Blair red eyed once. On Wednesday July 17 2001, Euan Blair, the then sixteen year old son of former British Prime Minister was arrested for being “drunk and incapable”. Hardly the only teenage drunker arrested in the UK; Euan was in the words of Dawning Street spokesman Alastair Campbell “the only one whose pictures was splashed all over the papers and television.” He may have spoken for President George and First Lady Laura Bush who got wearied after the press gleefully reported the drinking debacle of their teenage daughters Jenna and Barbara mid-2001.
Indeed, the US media is a bastion of well-paid touts with cutting edge technology. Depending on exit polls, facts and caution developed wings as they declared Bush, then Gore and again Bush respectively winners of the 2000 presidential race. Bill Clinton is a tout who got inducted into the Presidential Hall of Fame. He was, to put it mildly, guilty of immorality, financial impropriety, questionable business deals and kleptomania. His pardon of tax offender Marc Rich created one rich mess that for once sent his greatest supporters to the confessional altar. His choice of a post presidential office in Manhattan was an indiscreet display of conspicuous consumption.
Happily, the left wing US media that rarely offends democratic causes got irked and Bill relocated to a less costly Harlem. But this tout, in two memorable terms, presided over the greatest peacetime prosperity the US has ever known since World War11. The Internet is my Tout of the Century. It caused positive changes in our living patterns, altered and hastened previously staggered technological advancements by one huge disruptive pervasive gamble, constantly amalgamating education, services, finance, politics, religion, distribution, marketing, communication, entertainment and information simultaneously. If you accuse touts of manipulating windows of vulnerability, they also create windows of opportunity. Touts have serious purchasing power.
The origin of the human tout dates before antiquity but his practices and tactics today don't belong to the ancients. Nigerian Yahoo Boys –Internet rogues- adore expensive wears, ride exotic automobiles, lodge in 5-star hotels, are widely travelled, carry some of the most expensive mobile phones and lap tops. Biblical Jews saw tax collectors as touts of the Roman occupation, sinners destined for the hottest part of hell. But the Lord Jesus Christ thought, knew and acted differently. He ate, wined and taught in their midst. He converted a senior tax collector named Mathew into a believer. Jesus would have forgiven the Jewish Capos in the Concentration Camps, the Bishop Abel Muzerewas in then Rhodesia and the Mungosotha Butheliz is in apartheid South Africa respectively.
The feeling of negative permanence about the tout needs an urgent review. The tout is a grandee of the informal economy. He may be beleaguered with the sound and fury of simple, ignorant folks. However, the Tout is misunderstood nobility, a work-in-progress like Africa's fragile democracy. He is a virtue out of necessity, like anti-malaria drugs. Let us give him breath to earn his bread within lawful limits like euthanasia practitioners in Holland and the state of Oregon. We can also wink and look away when he verges on the fringes of illegality and criminality as in Las Vegas. Accounting, human resources, IT firms masquerading as global solution providers are still doing business after the collapse of Enron, WorldCom and Parmalat. Geographically disparate, the Tout is a world citizen. He is not an unmitigated disaster. Touts make my day. Don't throw up please. Clothed in the respectability of later life, you are yesterday's object of fear and hatred: a tout! Hence I love the tout with God's kind of love. We must not deceive ourselves with the fancy illusion that the tout and touting doesn't matter. That's a big lie. Gentlemen Tout is a necessary interface in the production, trading, distribution and consumption of goods and services!
Historian, freelance journalist and writer, Pastor Joseph Emeka Anumbor is the author of THE INTERCOURSE OF TROUBLED THOUGHTS, a critically acclaimed discourse on homosexuality published by AuthorHouse Inc, Indiana, USA.