The Nigerian Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, is a big man of big dreams in a wasted nation where true dreams are long dead and buried — metaphorically speaking. Shittu dreamt of becoming a “charge and bail” lawyer and he became one in a nation where certificate forgery is as rampant as bribing one’s way out of trouble or using filthy lucre to lure poor voters into voting for a thief to lead them. He dreamt of becoming a bread and butter politician and he achieved it through corruption, political networking and godfatherism.
As an ambitious man he dreamt even bigger! He sought to be made a Minister and he was appointed into the moribund Buhari administration through political connections in high places. Only God and his godfather knew how he made it despite his nonentity status prior to the ministerial nomination. Today, Shittu remains one of the Ministers in the PMB era that could be said to have some baggage of graft allegations to deal with.
As a “struggling” lawyer before hitting it big in Abuja Shittu could never be placed in the same prestigious class as the late legal icon, the award-winning ‘SAM’ Gani Fawehinmi. And he cannot be said to belong to the same league with notable anti-establishment senior advocates like Femi Falana and Olisa Agbakoba. In the last three years in office Shittu has amassed stupendous wealth for himself, the source of which remains unclear. He has served his personal interests and not those of the nation! He cannot be described as a superlative Minister because of poor performance in office.
The Minister is a controversial figure. He has a notorious history of certain inability to manage his staff. Not so long ago his former media aide, Victor Oluwadamilare, had accused him publicly of gross abuse of power, failing to pay his emoluments and of corruptly enriching himself to the tune of millions of Dollars in cash, landed properties and posh cars. Before Oluwadamilare’s resignation and subsequent accusations six of the Minister’s aides had resigned late last year due to issues ranging from poor condition of service, non payment of salaries among others.
Having returned triumphantly to Nigeria from his New York base last week Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of SaharaReporters, has hit the streets running in his determined bid to challenge the gerontocratic status quo in Nigeria come the 2019 presidential poll. He was in Ibadan during the weekend where he spoke on a forum at the University of Ibadan. And from there he headed to the Fresh FM studio in Ibadan where he met face-to-face with Minister Shittu on a public affairs radio programme aired live. The Fresh FM is owned by a foremost broadcaster and musician, Yinka Ayefele.
The debate was a heated one, a shouting match that the anchor of the programme, Isaac Brown, was momentarily unable to handle or control. Shittu was still bearing certain grudges against Sowore over the past publications in SaharaReporters, so he had the rare opportunity of meeting one on one with the executive SaharzReporter. Sowore as the publisher of the online media has made many ‘enemies’ back home because of his dogged refusal to compromise his integrity.
Shittu drew the first blood by telling Sowore disrespectfully that he was “inconsequential” in the political scheme of things come 2019. He dissmissed the former UNILAG students union leader as a “noise-maker” asking about his “electoral worth” and advising him mockingly to go for a councillorship in his native Ife town instead. He said the popular activist was a day dreamer to which Sowore responded that the Nigeria of the future belonged to dreamers like him!
Throughout the live radio programme Sowore was calm and composed while Shittu sounded dismissive, intimidatory and haughty. But no one was intimidated, not the least Sowore, by his vitriolics and empty grandstanding. He had typically exhibited the very traits that define the average Nigerian politician of fortune: unqualified arrogance, blind loyalty to an inept system, and dogged refusal to see the larger picture. His physical looks, goatee et al, reminded one of a local fetish priest who foolishly believed that he had the whole world, like God, in his hands!
In the history of Nigerian politics since 1960 we have seen politicians suffering from the folly of grandeur. The late Molete demon, Lamidi Adedibu, was one of them. The former Governor of Kano State, the late Barkin Zuwo, was another. The embattled Senator Dino Melaye is yet another. Ditto the out-going Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose. Adebayo Shittu has shown gracelessly that aside the malady of folly of grandeur he could also be a psychophant and hypocrite combined.
In another encounter recently with the entrenched opposition in Abuja Sowore mixed it up on WE FM radio with the PDP and APC staunch defenders. The APC advocate particularly reminded the Take Back Nigeria Movement champion that the incumbent President had 2 million voters already conquered so he should try harder to beat that. But Sowore retorted that whilst he believed in the 2-million voters existing in Buhari’s northern political base that number must have been depleted by the numerous victims of Boko Haram terrorism, Fulani herdsmen massacres, accentuated poverty and unemployment in the land.
Sowore could mortally disappoint the likes of Shittu come 2019 if he gets it right organisationally by reaching out to some credible leaders of other movements in order to form a winning alliance. He may be called a “dreamer” but there is no achievement of greatness anywhere without the involvement of dreams and dreamers!
President Buhari had promised Nigerians way back in 2011 that he would not be seeking for a second term in office upon his emergence as President. But now despite the current and re-current challenges facing him personally and administratively he has conveniently reneged on the promise. Trying to extend the life span of an embattled regime described by the former President Obasanjo as a “failure” for another four giddy years — the below-average performance of same nothwithstanding — could be construed or misconstrued as tantamount to pushing one’s goodwill or luck too far.
President Buhari would be better at home in Daura tending to his many cattles and taking good care of his fragile health.
When Sowore is elected President by the electoral strenght of majority of Nigerians early next year Shittu would be obliged to look himself in the mirror and feel sorry for himself! Then and there he would have ample time to reflect soberly over the past and present and realise belatedly that all his life, in terms of positive contribution to national evolution, he had been a bundle of shit!