By his public conduct last Tuesday, Orubebe does not appear to be close to being someone to be appropriately referred to as an elder…He has also lost his place in the comity of statesmen because what he did was largely un-statesmanlike.
A lot has been said about Godsday Orubebe, former Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who, last Tuesday, caused a stir when he engaged in a mild but dangerous drama at the International Conference Centre, ICC, Abuja, venue of the final collation of the results of the March 28 Presidential election. According to his profile obtained from Wikipedia, Orubebe was born on June 6, 1959, some 16 months before Nigeria got her independence on October 1, 1960. So, it means that both Orubebe and Nigeria have been running neck and neck in terms of age – while Orubebe will be exactly 56 in two month’s time, Nigeria will be 55 years old as a sovereign nation in October this year.
I remember those days when we were in school. There was this regular joke that used to provoke some bitterness among the pupils. The joke was that anyone whose age bracket fell within the nation’s independence year of 1960 was regarded as “Omo Independence”, that is, “a child of independence”. Though, this phrase was generally applicable to those who were born in 1960 regardless of the month, those who were also born in 1959 even six months before 1960 – on the eve of Nigeria’s independence- were as well lumped together as Omo Independence. The bone of contention then was that anybody who was caught behaving like a kid was always taunted by being called or dismissed simply as Omo Independence. This derisive appellation, as simple as it was, nevertheless, led to serious arguments and sometimes fisticuffs. That is the brief explanation of who an Omo Independence is.
Although, the Omo Independence of those days have now become adults, fathers, grandfathers and what have you, it is apparent that Orubebe, who now goes about with the title or prefix of “Elder”, by virtue of having attained some enviable(?) height in the church, is still no more than an Omo Independence. This is more so as his conduct and action last Tuesday amounted to a childish display of emotion borne out of lack of emotional control rather than a calculated attempt at stalling or aborting the release of the results of the presidential election. The exercise had gone smoothly while the whole world sat glued to television sets watching the proceedings with baited breath and subdued anxiety, before Orubebe suddenly signified his intention to make a remark. This was shortly after one of the results was announced by one of the Returning officers, a vice-chancellor of one of the nation’s universities. It is interesting to note that except for a few deputy vice-chancellors, all the returning officers in the presidential election were vice-chancellors and all of them except one, were male. Could it be that either Professor Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, or even the commission itself, was not gender sensitive? Well, that is a matter for another day.
At any rate, Orubebe’s unruly conduct and vitriol against Jega on the floor of the ICC that day kept people all over the country and beyond wondering if he was not acting out a script aimed at instigating or simulating anger in a section of the country that had been placed on edge as the results of the keenly contested election were being reeled out. While the drama was unfolding before television cameras, I received various calls from people across the world wanting to know what was actually going on. At a point, I jokingly requested that they should have reached out for the telephone numbers of Mrs Akwashiki, the newly appointed Nigerian Information Minister and direct their enquiries to her as that is the duty for which she’s being paid rather than suffocate me with all sorts of enquiries.
The head of a government parastatal also called me from Ikoyi in Lagos. Judging from the way he was talking from the other end, it was very clear that he was seriously frightened by Orubebe’s action. I had to calm him down by telling him that there was no cause for alarm even though what was going on at that time was not totally clear to me as well. He later confessed to me that he had thought that Orubebe was merely engaged in a dress rehearsal for an impending invasion of the collation venue by some sponsored thugs who would then provide the anticipated cover for a sort of military takeover of the whole place and the whole election process would then be declared null and voided. I am not sure he was the only person who was pre-occupied with this fearful thought. Personally, at the moment Orubebe launched his theatric display that fateful day, I had thought that he must have held a nocturnal meeting with some faceless people the previous night where it was agreed that everything must be done to put spanners in the works of INEC in order to truncate the whole process and render the election inconclusive.
But if that was the plan, it fell flat on its face as, try as Orubebe did, Jega was just staring blankly at him, unmoved and unperturbed. Even the hordes of security operatives there, were stupefied and did not immediately know how to respond to such unruly behaviour especially as it was coming from a man who had been a Minister of the Federal Republic. If Orubebe had been one of these common political thugs from the streets, I am sure the security agents would have bundled him out of the place after beating him black and blue. He was lucky though, not because he was a former Minister, but, perhaps, because he claimed to be the agent of the ruling (or is it outgoing?) Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP. Orubebe should thank his stars that he did not belong to any of these chop-I-chop or monkey eat banana parties that have mushroomed all over the place just to receive occasional stipends or financial handouts from government and unsuspecting members of the public who are easily sucked in by their beggarly antics.
It is a good thing that after blowing hot and cold and all the yabis, Orubebe seems to have woken up from his convoluted trance. He has consequently tendered an unreserved apology for his momentary misdemeanor. In what amounted to medicine after death, Orubebe said he sincerely regretted his action. He explained that politics is an emotional thing and that what happened is not something he would want to happen again. He pleaded with Niger Delta youths not to perpetrate violence because of the election of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. He said: “God has a reason for bringing us together in this geographical area called Nigeria. We should live as one. I believe in the unity and peace of this country. I believe the young ones that are coming up will learn from us the way these things are handled…”
Good sermon. But is there really anything the young ones can learn from him? The fact remains that he has secured a place in the nation’s Hall of Infamy, as his display of temporary insanity on that day, was transmitted live to the whole world via satellite televisions and the ubiquitous social media. Therefore, it may take a whole lifetime for Orubebe to repair the enormous damage he has done to himself. This is a man who answers the appellation of an elder conferred on him by a church. He also owns a church, Glory Sanctuary Christian Centre, GSCC, located in his native Burutu, Delta State. That is quite interesting.
As a Minister, he was most of the time at daggers- drawn with almost all the people around him. By his public conduct last Tuesday, Orubebe does not appear to be close to being someone to be appropriately referred to as an elder, either of a church or a community. He has also lost his place in the comity of statesmen because what he did was largely un-statesmanlike. Perhaps, when next Nollywood film makers are scouting for a crude but versatile actor, Orubebe could fit in perfectly!