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To my friend and brother, Obahiagbon, at 54

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By Sufuyan Ojeifo
I felicitate with you, my dear friend and brother, on the occasion of your 54 th  birthday (April 12, 2014).  I remember our social interactions and intellectual engagements while you were on tour of duty in the House of Representatives in Abuja from 2007 to 2011.  Our friendship began that fateful afternoon when we had a chance meeting at the entrance of the White House, which accommodates the hallowed chambers of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

I was tending to the Senate for THISDAY newspapers; and, in company with a journalist friend, Joses Sede, of the Observer, I had gone on “ward round” to news sources.  Joses sighted you and wanted to exchange pleasantries with you.   He felt strongly that I should be introduced to you and had taken it up himself to do so.  Joses had hardly mentioned my name, when you embraced me warmly and declared how voraciously you have been reading my reports and analyses; and, how in your summation of my journalistic efforts, I have been “intervening and contravening in the politics of Edo State from Abuja.”

Both of us began thenceforth to nurture a relationship that has survived expression of sympathies for different political cleavages.   I remember how, towards the sunset of the sixth session of the National Assembly, you switched platform from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) now All Progressives Congress (APC) in a bid to ensure your political survival.  You believed it was a good move.  You justified it in a telephone conversation with me.

But I was not comfortable with your decision, even though there was nothing I could do to make you to reverse it.  I was aware that securing your seat in the House through the ACN platform was going to be a gargantuan task with Rasaq Bello-Osagie, whom you defeated in 2007, effectively in charge of the structures for Oredo Federal Constituency in the ACN.  Nevertheless, I did the best I could do for a friend and brother: I prayed for you.  Sincerely, I was not in the least surprised at the outcome of your political adventure.

I was sure you were not under any illusion that you would get the ticket by the snapping of your fingers or by force of your political reputation and influence.  That you lost the bid for party nomination to a combination and conspiracy of factors was a matter of history. The import of that “short-circuiting” was that you left me in Abuja unceremoniously.  I have since then missed the proximity to the source and ambience of intellectual inspiration typified by your ebullient presence.

Now, you know how much I love those Latinate words, phrases, expressions and/or maxims with which you spice up and deodorize your thoughts, answers and positions especially during interviews.  You operate from the vantage position of a lawyer.   For those who think that you speak rubbish, I advise that they ask their lawyer friends or if they can, read up law texts and they will come across many of the Latinate dictions which you deploy effortlessly to drive home your points. They will begin to appreciate your locutions and interventions.

Your Obahiagbonese (peculiar coinages) attests to your legerdemain in the intercourse between English and Latin, sometimes, with a spice of your local Bini dialect.  Alas! All your verbal razzmatazz was terminated by your defeat at the primaries of your new party; but interestingly, it was not enough to stymie the flow of your usual bombasts in times of deep emotional outbursts. Your opponents had expected you to despair by their rejoicing but you had the right reaction for them such that the entire political environment was filled with a large dose of comic relief for the utilitarian benefit of the winner and you, the loser.

Your reaction to the rejoicing in the camp of your conqueror: “This has made me suffused with emotional narcolepsy that the homo-sapiens in the metro-political geographical enclave of Edo have opted for owambe-ing over legislative quo modo dicis.  Such a reckless display of narcissistic and flamboyant hedonism is capable of encumbering our nascent democracy with insidious, repercussive and cataclysmic exigencies.”

It is a painful reality that you are no longer in Abuja, at least for now, but everybody is agreed that while in the Lower Chamber, you defined a unique character for yourself, using the instrumentality of your swanky outfits. This, to me, accentuates the uniqueness in styling yourself the “son of Igodomigodo,” a sobriquet you adopted in 1999, when you were elected into the Edo State House of Assembly.  This is the way you put it in my first interview with you in 2009: I have deployed the nomenclature of Igodomigodo as a political sobriquet for ten years now, particularly as a vehicular nexus with my culturico-spiritual fons et origoand this emanated from an advertent primus mobilus to cosmopolitanise my genealogical matrix since it was not by accident that I originated from the land of Igodomigodo.

“Igodomigodo was the original, first ever, and pristine name of the Binis. From Igodomigodo, we were known as Ile-Ubini before the transmogrification into modern day Bini or Benin.  So, you can now see that when I togarise my identity with the Igodomigodo aura, I am only invoking the visible and invisible gods of my progenitors and at the same time luxuriating in an ancestral aqua of pristine Risorgimento.”

To rationalize your fecundity and your forceful submissions on the floor, you had posited in another interview: “…You cannot succeed as a parliamentarian if you are not cosmopolitan. You must be prepared to immerse yourself in societal dialectics for you to be able to contribute efficaciously in a utilitarian modus.  So, if you are a parliamentarian and you don't go through the ritual of even reading newspapers, you don't bathe yourself in the aqua of the political cross currents, then you are going to be deuced, you are going to be paralytic in your contributions….”

You have never run short of big dictions or coinages that have defined your peculiar style.   And when you “vibrate” you do not laugh.  You look very serious as if you are possessed by some spirit.  One thing I have not asked from you is whether you laugh any time you read yourself in the newspapers or listen to yourself on the television; do you?

Now, let me refresh your memory with some of your quotable quotes. On what legislators must do to make impact in the House, you said:  “They must avoid regular big stouting, suyaing, and pepper-souping. Those are not the real issues.  They must be prepared to immerse themselves in societal dialectics.  They must put their nose to the grind stone. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Ikene philosopher, once said 'the difference between my other colleagues and I, is that when my other colleagues are cavorting in the dark alleys, I am in my library working myself nineteen to the dozen.' You cannot succeed in life if you are not disciplined.  You must be puritanical in your predisposition; you must engage in an exercise of self purification and mortification; you must engage in an exercise of self abnegation; you must engage in an exercise of spiritual immolation.  You must discipline the flesh.  You must conquer the flesh.  You must allow the spiritual aspect of you preponderate the material aspect, especially when you have been chosen to represent the people, so that at the end of the day, you can really say: vendi, vidi, vicki (I came; I saw; I conquered).”

Do you remember your submission on the proposed Bill in the House of Representatives which sought to weaken godfathers' influence in politics? Read yourself: “But we would be deluding ourselves if we believe that there would be a terminus earthquake to the philosophy of godfatherism. Godfatherism is an ecumenical concept; it's an ecumenical fact, it's a cosmopolitan reality, whether in America, whether in Great Britain, whether in France, you cannot totally rule out the concept of godfatherism. It only becomes deleterious to the salubrious disposition of society when you remove the father from the God and the God now assumes the letter of a small g; otherwise, there could be a dialectical interface between political godfathers and their protégés for the general and better enhancement of society….”

I called you when I read your reaction to the news of Gani Fawehinmi's death.  You laughed it off characteristically and claimed that I taught you the tricks.  But you know I never did.   This is your inimitable tribute to Gani: ”The grand initiation of Chief Gani Fawehinmi has since brought me emotional laceration and thrown me into utter catalepsy. This was a man who inured himself in the aqua of self abnegation and immolation just to give justice to the down-trodden. Can there be another GANI in Nigeria's legal firmament? I dare say I have my doubts. Chief Gani was simply inimitable, puritanically committed, inscrutably remonstrative, ideologically transcendental, quixotically cosmopolitan and ready conveyor-belt of legal tomahawks which he intrepidly deployed in his cascading fulminations against our philistinistic military and political class. His transition is not only the fall of an Iroko but indeed the grand initiation of an iconic legal salamander. We only hope that we didactically learn here-from that it is not so much our sybaritic life style that matters more than the quality of service we render whilst we sojourn on this earth-plane.”

My friend and brother, Obahiagbon, you have become a prodigious verbal contortionist.  You are imbued with the capacity to titillate your audience to no end.  Let it continue to flow even in your present tour of duty as Chief of Staff to the Governor of Edo State.  I hope you will share in your own titillation if, in your moments of introspection on your 54th birthday, you take time to read or recollect your quotable quotes and near pedagogical pontifications. Happy birthday and many happy returns!

* Ojeifo sent this piece from Abuja.
Sufuyan Ojeifo
Editor- in- Chief
The Congresswatch Magazine
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