Just when I was going to weigh in on the side of my friend, Farooq Kperogi, and frown on the Presidency’s hair-splitting definition of “new media” which has yielded a confusing harem of special assistants, advisers, and consultants, turning my own aburo, Tolu Ogunlesi, into a hard-to-find needle in that gigantic haystack of social media aides, I look at my own Naija portfolio and how I get to decide what becomes an update on one’s Facebook Wall and I say, na wa o.
Typical day starts with Sahara Reporters’s and PREMIUM TIMES‘s headlines over early morning coffee before I move on to other Nigerian newspapers, African newspapers, European newspapers, American and Canadian newspapers in that order.
Today, between Sahara Reporters and PREMIUM TIMES alone, here is what I got served for coffee:
1) Saraki’s corruption trial
2) Alleged N25bn Fraud: Court Orders Arrest Of Gombe Ex-Gov, Goje
3) Fresh $40M Found In Bank Accounts Linked To Former Nigerian First Lady Patience Jonathan
4) N2.4bn ONSA Contract Scam: How Obadina Mismanaged Funds – Witness
5) Former Deputy Speaker Nwuche Received N1b For Tambuwal To Help Pad Amnesty Budget.
6) Court Adjourns Fraud Trial of Former NAF Chief Amosu And 10 Others, Suspects To Continue Plea Bargain
7) Gov. Ambode Appoints US Fugitive As Lagos New DG Of Safety Commission
This is just one week in the life of a country and one day in the life of just two of its newspapers. Readers and followers of my Facebook Wall will recall that two years ago, I decided to stop covering and writing about cases of petty theft which I defined as small time Nigerian government officials stealing less than N1 billion and stealing it in naira. In other words and by Nigerian standards, if you are on trial for stealing N900 million and stealing it in naira, you are a petty thief unworthy of mention on my Wall.
Part of my reasoning was that if I was going to devote attention to any corruption portfolio under N1 billion, I would have no life. But even this N1 billion cut off mark has not helped. In fact, the N1 billion corruption case in Nigeria is now arguably in the petty theft category.
Now, looking at all these headlines, I process them on the drive to work, seeking out anyone with interesting nuances that could recommend it as the subject of an update. That you have stolen N1 billion and above does not automatically mean that you have earned the right to be the subject of an update, for there are thousands of Nigerian officials stealing even more than you daily. There has to be originality to your own theft for it to be worth my time. There has to be something to it more than just the usual routine of what we call daily national life in Nigeria – corruption.
By the time I get to school, I check Sahara Reporters and other newspapers again, the group of thieves I read about just a few hours ago are now old news. The newspapers would have loaded up a new batch of outlandish thieves being recycled through the Nigerian justice system in an endless cycle of trials and adjournments.
So I begin to tell myself that I need a special adviser and a special assistant to help keep track of this weekly harvest of elite plunder in Nigeria. And because of the deluge, I need those two aides for each portfolio: a special adviser and a special assistant on Dasuki, on Saraki, on Mama Peace, on Buratai, on Dambazzau, on Abba Kyari, etc. By my calculation, I need close to a thousand special advisers and assistants just to keep abreast of Nigeria’s corruption portfolios in excess of N1 billion alone.
This is just small me o. Just small me in one corner and I now realise that I need a harem of aides.
Imagine poor President Buhari. On top of the multiplying reality of these gargantuan corruption portfolios, President Buhari has to supervise a complex elite game of appearing to try these criminals who are his fellow elite so that the sheer scale and volume of arrests and court appearances and property seizures and endless adjournments will sustain the people in a state of carnavalesque high. This elite game is why there are still people on trial from the governors and senators class of 2003, 2007, 2011, etc. From the Presidency to the Judiciary via the National Assembly, it is a complex game of chess which has to be constantly kept alive and serviced by an abundance of aides. Every administration has played this game since 1999 and it is continuing. Only Obasanjo broke the pact by even slapping Tafa Balogun and Lucky Igbinedion on the wrist.
Furthermore, investigative journalists have acquired the bad habit of constantly digging into the sordid corruption details of key loyalists surrounding the president – Abba Kyari and co. You need an abundance of junior aides to create an alternative reality in which these allegations of corruption against your principal staff do not exist and therefore do not need investigation.
You need to keep multiplying aides who have sufficient gall to claim that none of what I have written up here is true…
Abeg, more aides for the President.