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KAYODE: TIME TO KILL THE 'VIP'

By NBF News
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WHEN Fela Anikulapo Kuti called them Vagabonds In Power, he was only partially right. However, the VIP would like to see himself as a Very Important Personality. Today, the term VIP has taken on all kinds of different meanings. This is one colonial left over that has refused to leave us. Rather, it has now become entrenched in our national social and political culture. It is indeed a disheartening indicator of how far we have come as a people.

During the colonial era, the colonial masters were the VIPs. They had to be! They were the lords and masters. Their era was based on the concept of racial inequality. When they left, the new political class became the new VIPs, and they have remained so ever since! 50 years down the road, how far have we travelled towards creating a civilized society? Not very far! On the roads, the VIPs daily torment us with their SUVs, sirens and convoys, worse, perhaps than in the colonial days.

In our society today, you find VIPs everywhere you go. At most parties, you have separate privileged seating for VIPs. At corporate functions, you have the High Table, where the Special Guests of Honour sit. In some cases, you even have VIPs among the VIPs! So there are Guests of Honour, Special Guests of Honour, Distinguished Guests of Honour, Special Guests, etc.

At our airports, you have the VIP Lounge, where the world's highest paid government officials pass through, since they must not be seen to mingle with the rest of us. In all my travels, I am yet to see a sign that says VIP Lounge at any other airport. Since I have never been privileged to enter any of these VIP Lounges in our airports, I have always wondered what they have in there. I guess however that it must be a shade more comfortable that places designated for the rest of us. This may even explain why our airports are in such decay! Those who have direct responsibility to give us decent airports have cleverly designated more comfortable places for themselves! So, as they say, we are on our own!

At shows and concerts, we also have special seating for VIPs. To book your place in such privileged areas, you have to pay for what they call the VIP Ticket. It is also possible that you are so important you get a VIP Invitation card. My thinking is that what makes you a VIP in this country is the amount of money you have in your bank accounts. That explains why the VIP tickets usually cost a lot more than the regular tickets for these shows. Just as the Nigerian legislator earns more than 10 times the pay of his Ghanaian counterpart, a VIP ticket often costs about ten times what you pay for a regular ticket!

Now let's head for the bars and nightclubs! It has now become an established trend that any bar worth a glass of lager must have a VIP Lounge! In these VIP Lounges, you enjoy privileges beyond the reach of the regular bar crawler. In some of these bars, the VIP Lounge is by membership only and members pay anything from N100,000 to N500,000 per annum in several of the bars. In the VIP Lounge, you enjoy exclusivity, and maybe more comfortable leather sofas. I am even inclined to think that the flat screen TVs in the VIP Lounge is flatter than what they put in the NON VIP areas! I am told topless dancers even perform in some of these VIP lounges!

In other, shall we say 'more civilized' societies, who are the people considered to be Very Important Personalities? Who are the people that receive preferential treatment wherever they go?

They are elderly people, women and children, and the physically challenged. In such societies, only ambulances and policemen on emergency duty make use of the siren! In my country, it's the rich who get all the preferential treatment and all manner of characters use the siren! Not satisfied with their VIP status, some people are now trying to create a new class to be called VVIP!

In the company where I work, we have never had a High Table at any of our corporate events. It is a deliberate policy. We never have Special Guests or Special Guests of Honour. We believe that every invitee is special to us in one way or another. It has worked perfectly for us, because our functions start and end on time. We do not have to wait for the Chairman of the Occasion, or the Very Special Guest of Honour. I was at a book launch recently.

The event started more than an hour behind schedule because we had to wait for the dignitaries to arrive (as usual). Then the representative of the First Lady of the State arrived more than half way into the ceremony.

After the MC had thrown a jibe at her, she told us she was not informed early enough, and of course, she had a whole lot of other engagements! Of course I had to leave before the event ended because I too had other engagements! I have always believed it is unfair, even rude, to keep your invitees waiting, simply because some people do not have the discipline to be punctual. Thankfully, these are issues I don't have to deal with where I work.

As my personal contribution to efforts at killing the VIP, I have thought of new meanings for that abbreviation in addition to Fela's Vagabonds In Power.  Some of these are: Very Irresponsible People; Very Incorrigible People; Very Indecent People; Very Idiotic People; Very Ignorant People; Very Ill-advised People; Very Impertinent People; Very Imperious People; Very Impudent People; Very Incompetent People; Very Irrational People; Very Immodest People; Very Idle People; Very Infamous People; Very Inferior People; Very Insane People; Very Incoherent People, etc!

I wish to call on all civilized Nigerians to come up with more descriptions of the VIP in the hope that we can discourage this uncivilsed practice. When you consider that VIPs are the ones running the affairs of this country, you will understand why the country is the way it is. Sad to say, but we live in pre historic times.

• Kayode is a company executive in Lagos