Of Striking Behavioral Similarities Between ‘Danfo Drivers’ And Partisan Politicians

When James Freeman Clarke penned down the quote that says, “The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman think about the next generation”, it is logical to reason that the politician he had in mind when he was authoring the quote was Partisan politicians, and not participating politicians.

For the sake of clarity, political participation refers to voluntary activities undertaken by the mass public to influence public policy, either directly or by affecting the selection of persons who make policies. Examples of these activities include voting in elections, helping a political campaign, donating money to a candidate or cause, contacting officials, petitioning, protesting, and working with other people on issues. Those that are engaged in any of the foregoing activities are referred to as Participating politicians, who in most cases end up becoming Statesmen who are no doubt skilled, experienced, and respected political leaders or figures in any given society. On the other hand, partisan politicians are committed members of a political party. In multi-party systems as practiced in Nigeria, the term is used to describe politicians who strongly support their party's policies and are reluctant to compromise with their political opponents. Unlike the participating politicians, most of them end up becoming “godfathers”. It is against the backdrop of the foregoing that the phrase “partisan politicians” was deliberately chosen to cast the headline of this piece so as not to create the impression that all politicians have some striking behavioral similarities with “Danfo drivers”.

At this juncture, it would not be wounding to say that casual observations have shown that partisan politicians behave and reason exactly the same way some funny danfo drivers do.

For instance, there is no denying the fact that a typical “Danfo” driver in Lagos is a king of comedy. The reason for literarily crowning him the king of comedy in this context cannot be farfetched as he has a way of being witty, sarcastic and creative at the same time. Yet he may not have participated in any of the comedy shows that were organized in Lagos by the management of Stand-Up Nigeria. He also may not have read the American ace humorist, Mark Twain, but he delivers the spoken language, albeit in Yoruba, with the wit of Twain, interspersing his message with comic side of life and drawing from the rich patois of street boys that are infamously known as “Area boys” in Lagos to create concrete images.

Against the foregoing backdrop, there is no arguing the fact that partisan politicians, particularly in this part of the world are truly funny. After all, Will Rogers, who was a cowboy and beloved American humorist, during his earthly journey said, “Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.” The irony is that he made this comment in the early 20th century, during the height of America’s humorist period, but it seems to be truer now than ever before. Along with Rogers, the wit and satirical commentary on all subjects, specifically politics and politicians, by iconic humorists, such as Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde, entertained and informed Americans for the early part of the 20th century.

Without doubt, the danfo driver’s funny, witty or creative disposition is further heightened as whenever the side mirror of his bus is damaged he creatively make do with the mirror he apparently stole from his wife’s vanity table. Yes! The “Danfo” bus driver is wont to tie the domestic mirror to the side were the original damaged side mirror was with rope or wire.

Ostensibly not done with his laughable creative disposition, he was wont to literarily constrict a mini-sized stool meant for the kitchen in-between two front seats in order to add extra passengers to the front compartment of the bus all in the bid to make extra money from the transportation fare. He is less hot and bothered about the inconveniences the other passenger on the appropriate seat would experience by squeezing additional passengers in-between the front seats. Just as Danfo drivers resort to faking things that surround his business, the politician is not left out as he equally resorts to displaying fake projects to some gullible electorates in the bid to deepen his electoral credibility and acceptability.

Against the foregoing backdrop, it cannot be said to be an exaggeration to say that Will Rogers’ quote that says that “Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke”, is finding expression in the conducts of politicians as I have never stopped to imagine that they may have been the reason why Nigerians are wont to experience comic relief which psychologists unanimously attributed to be a major contribution to happy mood and long life. Analyzed from the foregoing perspective, it is not surprising that in 2003 the World Values Survey revealed that the world’s happiest people lived in Nigeria. In 2012, a Gallup poll revealed that Africans were the world’s most optimistic people. In Nigeria specifically, 88% of people were optimistic about their futures. In the same vein in 2017, the World Happiness Report (WHR) in its Report said Nigerians seemed quite happy, and ranked them the 6th happiest people in Africa and the 95th happiest in the world. To a non-Nigerian that is reading this piece, can you beat that?

Introspecting into the fakeness of the politician through the eyes of the danfo driver is unarguably explanatory in every sense of the word as the danfo driver is wont to ostensibly beat traffic officials at their game, and wont to equip his bus with empty fire extinguisher. Not done yet, any long rope that looks like a seat belt is converted to a seat belt by him. Upon sighting any traffic official, he will bellow in such a way that the nerves on his neck could be conspicuously seen by the passengers while his blood shot eyes would somewhat pop-out from their sockets. The danfo driver would bellow at the passenger sitting by his side to put on his seat belt (to which some passengers had on some occasions screamed “Ah! Ah!! Where is the seat-belt, is rope your seat-belt?”). However, a typical Lagos passenger that is always in a hurry has had no option than to obey the oddball danfo driver by strapping the belt-like lash around his or her shoulder.

Not only are partisan politicians seen as funny themselves, notable comedians have in the past used them as butt of their jokes. For instance, Akpos (a popular comedian) some few years ago shared the following views at a public forum: “When Nigerian politicians loot public funds/money from Nigeria, they keep it in Switzerland. When sick, they go to Germany or India. When investing, they go to America. When buying Mansions, they visit London. When shopping they go to Dubai. When on holidays, they visit Paris or Bahamas. When educating their children, they select Europe. When praying, they go to Saudi Arabia or Jerusalem. But, when they die, they all want to be buried in Nigeria! Please, ask them for me, is Nigeria a cemetery?”

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Articles by Isaac Asabor