Public personalities and their faux pas

By The Rainbow

There is something about the Governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang's religious exhibitionism that has never quite felt right. He is a man of the cloth, and like most Nigerian religionists, wears his titular monikers like some kind of designer label. His dour countenance gives you the impression that his halo is too tightly wound on his head until you hear him make certain pronouncements.

When his state was embroiled in crisis, Jang turned fasting and prayers into a nostrum which he consistently prescribed to Plateau citizens.

As if that 'third-world approach' to crisis resolution was not bad enough, last year, after another massacre claimed two lawmakers, Jang claimed he received a revelation from God that the crisis in the state was the 'consequences of people's sins'; God was exercising his wrath on the poor people of Plateau State. Strange enough that a public official claims to hear voices in his head and is not immediately put in a straitjacket, it is also horrifying that he blames the traumatised victims.

Following the fall-out from the recently botched Nigeria Governors' Forum chairmanship election, he made a shocking statement: that for one to rig election and get away with it, it must be divinely sanctioned. Jang actually uttered this in a 'house of God'!

Apart from all the shenanigans that pronounced him as the NGF chairman, the faction beholden to Aso Rock, any way, Jang all but confirmed the crookedness of his religious mind: His God allows him to receive stolen goods. Out of the abundance of Jang's heart, his mouth revealed the truth about him. He probably rationalises embezzlement of public funds the same way, laying them at the feet of his dubious god.

Fortunately for Jang, he was born in the right country. He will get away with this faux pas because we are daily assailed with many similar ones and nobody is impressed with his admission. Jang, however, is not the only injudicious speaker. Some other folk have drunk from the same fountain of ill-logic he is high on.

Hot on the heels of Jang's inane take on criminality is the Director-General of State Security Services, Mr. Ita Ekpeyong. At the burial of some of his men slain by a vengeful Ombatse cult in Nasarawa the other day, he was quoted as saying they had forgiven the killers and obediently handed the killers to God since He taught them 'vengeance is mine.'

Sometimes, when a Nigerian quotes the Bible, you want to open their heads and find out if their grey and white matters are not wedged with sawdust. Seriously, who speaks that way? Even the Israelis whose ancestors wrote the Bible do not leave their attackers - foreign and local - in the 'hands of God'. They pursue them with technology and intelligence warfare. A bomb-builder who suffered premature detonation and was hospitalised in Palestine recently, was snatched, by Israeli Forces, from the operating table, for questioning. But trust an overpaid Nigerian official to swallow religious falsehood hook, line and seaweed!

Ekpenyong can conveniently leave everything in 'God's hand' - and obediently too - but since when did God start planning a vengeance mission? If God could not protect those officers from bloodthirsty cultists in the first place, why leave vengeance to him? If this is the way the SSS DG reasons, it indicates why the massacre happened in the first place.

However, of all the faux pas in recent times, the worst is one by Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd).

One suffers numbness from the man's endless commentary on public affairs - does he even have handlers? It seems everyone around him is intimidated - or perhaps enamoured - by his profile that they fail to pace him on how to comment on issues.

When he is not using the wrong metaphors, he generally misspeaks. Recently, Buhari granted an interview to discuss the terrorism menace and the government's response via a state of emergency. He delved into a revisionist history of how violence and insecurity started from the South. Short of calling him a liar, the General happily forgot that the North has had a fair share of violence in Nigeria, long before the first militant took up the first weapon. He elided the various killing frenzies and fanatical mayhems that Nigerians have suffered repeatedly. His abridged version of history erased this blot in our collective memory and instead told a tale that would rather blame everyone except the killers in his own backyard. But Buhari failed because our memories have not been as neutered as he assumes.

Curiously, Buhari compared the special treatment the Niger Delta received from the late President Umaru Yar'Adua to the one being received by Boko Haram, and his tribalist mind concluded it is an evidence of an onslaught against 'the North'. In his limited view, the fanatical bombers are representatives of the North just as Niger Delta militants are representatives of the South-South. It perhaps does not matter to the former Head of State, that Northerners themselves have borne a terrible brunt of the activities of Boko Haram.

He did not stretch his argument far enough to see that the goodwill the militants enjoyed from Yar'Adua also had to do with Nigeria's guilty conscience. For years, that region has been pillaged, plundered and raped. The Nigerian government pampered the militants out of a sense of guilt and also to protect the national cash cow. In the case of Boko Haram, you cannot even be sure what they are fighting for and why they have unleashed unlimited sufferings.

Perhaps, the most disappointing aspect of Buhari's interview is the absence of fellow-feeling for terrorism victims. He was so fixated on equal treatment for Boko Haram that he didn't spare a thought for the bombing victims' feelings. It does not seem to matter that limbs have been maimed, villages have been destroyed and some people will just never get it together again. No, all those pale beside the problem of President Goodluck Jonathan not flying Boko Haram in presidential jets.

His callousness should not be shocking to those who have followed the man's trajectory over the years. He is an incorrigible tribalist who cannot help himself, and that is why he sees things through the prism of what the North stands to gain. It is annoying. In climes where public officials are subjected to high standards, that could have been the end of his career. Sadly, the country is stuck with such men in high places and in high numbers.

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