BY OLUGU OLUGU ORJI
I will introduce the last first, or putting it differently, the little-known before the better-known. Prostitutes. Prostitution. They say it is the world’s oldest profession. That assertion I can neither affirm nor refute, and in my opinion, no one alive can. There is something about the vocation that compels both practitioners and patrons hoard information.
In Nigeria, it is called artificial scarcity – of data, that is. Here’s my definition of prostitution: Women (and men) giving themselves away for the service and enjoyment of others for an agreed price. Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai. Gender: Male; I hope. In this perplexing season of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender), one cannot be so sure. Description: Diminutive. IQ: Very high. He earned a First Class degree in Quantity Surveying from ABU Zaria back when you got precisely what you deserved.
After many years of successful (read lucrative) private practice, he shot into public reckoning as Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises: the agency saddled with the mouth-watering task of parceling off government investments. His public service career reached its apogee when he served as Minister of the FCT; and he was unarguably part of President Obasanjo’s kitchen cabinet. His bold and courageous efforts in correcting the blatant distortions in the implementation of Abuja master-plan will remain a reference point and a watershed for a very long time. El-Rufai drips competence and self-confidence. Sometimes, he’s verbose and voluble, as if making up for his lack of an imposing physical presence. You can’t encounter him without coming away with a strong impression: good or ill.
In a leadership landscape dotted with malformed and stunted trees bearing inedible and poisonous fruits, he seemed like the proverbial good tree bearing fruits in thirty, sixty and hundred folds. I had grown to respect him and everything he stood for – well, almost everything. While in government, ER was one of the jolly riders on the rampaging PDP juggernaut. He has since disembarked, preferring to hobnob with the likes of General Buhari, CPC, the Save Nigeria Group, and lately, the nascent All Progressives Congress. He has maintained an active presence in the media, analyzing public policies with his usually well-articulated criticisms. When you add this to his well-rounded recommendations, you have a fairly good idea what constructive criticism ought to be.
Call him a genius, describe him as cerebral and you’ll be absolutely right. Even the most rabid opinion of him won’t discount this. His recently-released book, the accidental public servant has kicked up quite some dust. ER is no stranger to controversies. In fact, I think he sometimes gets his kicks by generating them. What caught my attention, though, this time around, was not just the caliber of toes he’d stepped on, but more significantly, how they responded. President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar were ER’s former bosses. Legend has it that Atiku had ‘arranged’ the accident that enabled ER into government. In the process of time, ER had so shifted allegiance to OBJ that, at a point, he literarily referred to Atiku as a criminal. It must have been during the PTDF saga when Atiku was alleged to have misappropriated funds.
From the way ER sounded on that occasion, prison for Atiku was a fait accompli. I’ve always been for tackling official corruption head-on, but what ER did that day had very little to do with combating corruption. It was back-stabbing at its ugliest. Even if Atiku was the criminal he claimed, the task of announcing it should have fallen to someone else, and it should have been handled in a manner exhibiting a modicum of humanity. That day, I began to see ER in a new light as an ambitious, self-centred megalomaniac who could do anything to further personal initiative.
That day, his unraveling began for me. Atiku did not end up in prison (at least, not yet), Obasanjo’s third term scheme failed, so the trio has since left the mainstream of government. I haven’t read the book but judging from the scathing response from OBJ, I know ER must have truly intended rubbing his reputation in the mud: precisely the treatment he’d gleefully administered to Atiku. Let me get back to prostitution as I relay the tale of two practitioners. Prostitute A and Prostitute B lived in the same house suggesting they shared as much cordiality as their peculiar line of business permitted.
They must have become pregnant about the same time because, three days after PA was delivered of a son, PB followed suit. Trouble was soon to erupt and these are the details. PB who is obviously careless sleeps on her baby and crushes him to death. While PA was yet asleep, she smartly and surreptitiously switches her dead child with her house mate’s; and pretended to go back to sleep. PA discovered, while trying to suckle her child in the morning, that he was dead. There is something about active maternal instincts because she discerns almost immediately that the dead child wasn’t hers. PB is also insisting the child is hers so they drag themselves before their king.
The wise King Solomon takes in the comical scenario and orders the child in contention to be cut in two so each woman will go with a part. Here’s how each responded to the king’s bizarre ruling. PA: “Oh no, my lord! Give her the child – please do not kill him!” PB: “All right, he will be neither yours nor mine; divide him between us!” Then the wise king brought matters to a fitting closure: “Do not kill the child, but give him to the woman who wants him to live; for she is his mother!” Whatever your opinion of prostitutes and prostitution is, you can’t but admire PA – the ‘good’ prostitute. And you won’t be blamed if you had nothing but disdain for PB – the ‘bad’ prostitute. Having been living together and being involved in the same line of work, these women would have become friends, sisters and companions.
They would have cared for each other; giving and receiving support and encouragement. Trust and fierce loyalty usually define such relationships. But when the chips were down, each one’s true colours became clearly evident. PB had no scruples about trampling on all that had bound them together as long as she had her way. If you recall how I defined prostitution at the onset, you’ll agree that definition also fits another critical trade – politics. And I do not, in highlighting this concurrence, suggest anything demeaning or derogatory. So if I assert that a politician is a prostitute of sorts, I do not make any moral judgment.
I merely state the obvious. When the going got tough, he saw nothing wrong with casting aspersions on his benefactor, Atiku. When it got even tougher, he had no qualms disparaging OBJ, the very person on whose behalf he had earlier denigrated Atiku; or so it appeared. For him, no relationship is so sacrosanct it can’t be repudiated. No ground so holy it can’t be desecrated; as long as his personal interests are duly served. For his ilk, loyalty, honour and integrity are relative and situational terms: depending on the direction the pendulum of a self-serving agenda swings. ER may have a good head but I’m afraid he has a diseased and poorly-performing heart. If he dumps Buhari this evening, it wouldn’t surprise me.
If he lampoons the Emir of Zazzau tomorrow, it will be only in keeping with his true character. Atiku has counseled copious prayers for him. I couldn’t agree more. My ideal leader would be one with a good head and a kind heart. Unfortunately in Nigeria, we are almost always compelled to choose between the two. Between the loving/caring moron and the loveless/conscienceless genius. Between the good prostitute and the bad one. So just in case you hear I’m consorting with a prostitute, you should know which, and why. Orji writes from Abuja.