By Martins Oloja
As I was saying, we need to purge ourselves of the spirit of hypocrisy that will not allow us to see the logs in our eyes before seeing others’. And so with the log in our eyes, we cannot see the Mugabe in most of our state actors; most of our power elite who keep blaming the Zanu-PF principalities and military powers that sustained the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe for 37 years.
In the same vein, because there is still no art to find the mind’s hypocritical construction in our faces, we can blame the Gucci Grace in Zimbabwe without remembering the Grace Mugabe in most of our First Ladies, First Daughters, First Cousins, First Nephews and First Mistresses in Abuja, 36 states and 774 Local Government Councils in Nigeria.
Can we justifiably denounce Grace Mugabe’s ostentation, vanity upon vanity without remembering the graceless Grace all over the place? A governor who would use state resources to celebrate a noisy 50th birthday of his wife for more than two days on a continental and global television network when salaries of workers and pensioners remain unpaid for months is a Mugabe. And that First Lady (celebrator) that accepts that dirty gift is worse than the Gucci Gracein Harare.
There are governors and there are governors. The governors who would not pay even workers’ alaries and pensioners but could afford to organize lavish wedding for sons and daughters in Dubai, Lebanon, Morocco, London, America, etc are the Mugabes of Nigeria. Top members of the ruling party, the state actors and the opposition top shots who cannot invest in education quality in their country and regularly celebrate graduation of their children from top universities outside the country are the Mugabes in our midst that we should send packing too.
What is worse, all these visitors to federal and state universities (presidents and governors) who cannot enroll their wards in Nigerian universities they fund are remarkable hypocrites who should be designated as the Mugabes of Africa.
We have been writing about Gucci Grace because the loud but little Grace in poor Zimbabwe loves Gucci, a very cheap designer bad and watches, not more than $1000 USD. What do we say of the Imelda Marcos all over the place who are obsessed with the most expensive and famous designer handbags in the world such as Hermes, Fendi, Chanel Diamond,($261,000)Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, Leiber, Lana Marks Cleopatra, The 1001 Nights Diamond Purse by House of Mouawad ($3.8 million), to mention just a few?
Are most people aware that spouses and even mistresses (who don’t work) of most of public officers regularly buy these very expensive designer handbags and wristwatches when they travel? It is fashionable to abuse Grace in far away southern Africa, but we need to ‘shine our eyes’ on the Mugabes in the poor country who earmark large sums of the state resources to take care of the ostentatious lifestyles of the Grace in most of our First-This, First-That.
Let’s clarify this: It is not only the age of Zimbabwe’s Mugabe that has made him an object of reproach and a blighter; the age of his ideas that could not revive the country’s economy and improve governance is a critical factor. But the most reprehensible of all his sins against his people is the old man’s sit-tight spirit that ruined his country. As a South African had noted here last week, the teacher, the revolutionary and the tyrant “left land and resources for his people while Mandela left quotes and poems”. But in contrast, the land and resources Pa Robert seized from the powerful and productive white minority could not create wealth, as they could not eat the good of the land for lack of knowledge and empowerment.
In the same vein, there are some former governors too who are so Mugabeic in all their ways. They want to remain in office and power forever even when no one can remember any remarkable achievements after eight years as governors. They get themselves elected as senators or get nominated as ministers, yet they are unfruitful and can’t be bothered. Some one-term former governors who are now ministers are warming up to return as governors for another term of four years without any blueprint on what to do to improve the once-misgoverned state’s critical infrastructure and education quality. They want to be governors again and have access to state funds they don’t account for. They want to make their First Ladies glow again. Some of the former state governors who hardly visit the states they under-developed are sleeping on duty at the Senate. Some who just left office are warming up to get (s) elected to the Senate. They don’t have any sense of entrepreneurship. The only thing they know is how to be at the Senate. The professionals such as lawyers, physicians, architects, engineers, journalists, etc don’t want to return to their first love. They want to remain in politics they hardly use to develop their country. There is but one mind in all these sit-tight, never-do-well dealers, sorry leaders, all bent against their country’s progress: They are the Mugabes in Nigeria we need to flush out in 2019.
Enough is enough! Yes, as I was saying, it is not the age of their tenure that complicates issues for us; it is their lack of creativity. After all, Lee Kuan Yew we all love to quote in motivational speaking on leadership quality was in office for 31 years. And behold, he led the multi-racial one-city country from Third to First World. He developed the country’s education to what is now a world-class through significant investment in quality teachers, learning environment and focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, (stem). Today the only resource they sell to the world is human capital. But the Mugabes in Africa can be there for 37 years and move their countries from Thirdto Failed World. They are neither Yew nor Mandela, the poet.
Is there any continent in the world that parades a galaxy of Mugabes at all levels? Is there any country in Africa that parades Mugabeic philosophy of build- and-also-ruin-your country than Nigeria? In the late 1980s in Abuja, it would take about 45 minutes to drive from Abuja city centre to Minna, capital of Niger state. But the state, (Niger) that has produced two former heads of state who live in Minna, is shamefully inaccessible from Abuja. The road from Abuja to Minna now takes about three hours drive because of terrible potholes. Same for Lagos-to-Ota road in Ogun state where a former head of state and formerpresident used to run Africa from his Ota farm. The story is not different from Port Harcourt, capital of River State to Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa state where President Buhari’s predecessor hail’sfrom. The road is a sorry sight. But all these former presidents who could not build critical transportation infrastructure anywhere in the country they have ruled let alone in their home states have private jets to fly over all the bad roads that lead to their country homes.
So, they cannot talk about Mugabe and his Gucci Grace. Reason? The Mugabe in all of them is unspeakable. Some of them failed to invest in quality education the way Singapore’s Yew did but they have their private schools and universities, thanks to their country’s revolt against transparency and accountability. After all, Mugabe left land and other natural resources for his people. What have our ex-this and ex-that left for us since 1999? Tell me one unique item apart from huge debts that they left with absolutely nothing to show for the (debt) burden!
Why should we talk and write about Mugabe and Grace in Africa’s most populous country where there is a strange form of gerontocracy nurtured by peculiar silence and conspiracy of the power elite? There is also a Mugabe spirit in what drives diplomatic posting in Nigeria at the moment. Haven’t you just read that an 82-year old retired Judge of the Federal Court, Sylvanus Nsofor last week presented his Letter of Credence to the United States’ President Donald Trump as Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States? Did you not also read the other day that a 77-year old retired Justice of Supreme Court, Justice George Adesola Oguntade (retired in 2010) was also posted to the United Kingdom as Nigeria’s High Commissioner?
What could have blackmailed the Senate to clear an 82 year-old Justice who retired from judicial service in 2005 to be designated as an ambassador to the United States? The Mugabe in the nominating and confirming authorities and the new ambassadors is also humiliating. There is no question, all of them, the presidency, the senate and the Nsofos and Oguntades are the Mugabes of our time that have also let their nation down at this critical time when very developed nations are being led by the Macrons of this world.
And so the conclusion of the whole matter is that before we raise our voices gain to condemn Mugabe and his graceless Gucci Grace, we need to readjust ourselves before the mirror in our rooms and judge what we see. As I was saying, that pastor who does not want to be posted out of the megacity’s pulpit after about two decades is a Mugabe in Christ. That unethical governor who cannot pay workers’ salaries and pensioners but releases millions of Naira to mark his wife’s birthday, celebrates his son’s or daughter’s weddingon national television is worse than Mugabe.
A 74- year president who in 21st century nominates an 82-year old retired public officer as an envoy to any country encourages gerontocracy (a form of oligarchical rule in which an entity is ruled by leaders who are significantly older than most of the adult population) and should be called a Mugabe. And an 82-year old retiree who accepts a sensitive diplomatic posting too should not blame his grand children’s classmates who call him a Mugabe when they organise protests against mass unemployment of their young fathers.
Oloja is a former Editor of The Guardian Nigeria from where this article was culled.