Daily Trust (Abuja)

27 January 2011

Nigeria: A Kidney for the Job

opinion

Spare a moment for the Nigerian public space. It is littered with all manners of pithy descriptions of the absurdities of the Nigerian condition. So when somehow, an individual not quite up to a job or who got a juicy appointment that is not merited, the Nigerian population talk of "jobs for the boys".

It is very loaded; and in a sense, it is a form of self-deprecating humour, which underlines a strangely suffocating fatalism as well as an understanding of the depth of the depravities within the loops of the power elite. It is that "job for the boys" phrase which inspired my piece today. Ok, if "jobs for the boys" is somewhat familiar, what about the phenomenon that Professor Okello Oculli describes as STD, or Sexually Transmitted Degrees? Well, we noted that many young graduates report for national service these days clutching impressive results, but they are often very poor in expressing themselves, either through speech or writing. You then begin to wonder how they earned those certificates; until Oculli solved the problem, pointing to the pervasiveness of STDs in our school system: Sexually Transmitted Degrees!

Not that I am given to a fatalistic surrender which characterizes the Nigerian social consciousness, but I did a re-working of "jobs for the boys", in the light of the WikiLeaks revelations of recent days, promptly denied by the way, that Sayyadi Abba Ruma, former Agriculture minister, and a leading member of the presidential entourage, donated a kidney to the late President Umaru Yar'adua sometimes in 2002. Phew! Now you see where my title is coming from? But it is not only a donated kidney that enters today's piece; unfortunately, we have to include a liver that will not be described as lily, and it belongs to my friend, Garbadeen Muhammed. Garbadeen had the unenviable task, last weekend, of defending how Bukola Saraki, the Kwara State governor abandoned honour, by refusing to back the pro-zoning stand, of the Northern presidential candidates at the PDP convention, which Goodluck Jonathan, in a transparently-organized heist, convincingly won.

If you follow contemporary international news, you would not have missed a story on Aljazeera at the weekend, filed from the Philippines, on the harvest of the kidneys of poor people in that country. Often going for just $2000, these people before long, spend the money paid for the harvested organ, and sink deeper into the poverty which prompted the organ donation in the first place. It is a worldwide problem: the poor donate kidneys to richer patients from around the world and get little in return. But if for a moment the WikiLeaks report were true, that one big man in Nigeria donated a kidney to an even bigger man, the rewards surely won't be in heaven! As we noted earlier, the man named in this week's leaks, Abba Ruma, emphatically denied ever donating a kidney "to Yar'adua or to anyone else", according to DAILY TRUST of Monday, January 24, 2011. The leaked stories, he further added, were "useless talk from unserious people". Fair enough!

But let us for just a moment assume that such a donation actually happened. The likely result is very easy to predict. He that donated an organ to an ailing president was certain, just as night follows day, to witness an impressive rise in profile. He would become a leading light within the presidential ensemble, having earned the right to a juicy appointment, such as heading the importation of fertilizers; the supervision of water supply contracts or sitting atop spending to revive the comatose sector of agriculture; for example. Were the organ donor politically ambitious, he might even begin to eye governorship of his state, often to the utter discomfort of the sitting governor, especially if he happens to come from the home state of the organ-receiving president! In the meantime, the sitting governor becomes fatalistic hoping for the worst in every direction. This is the likely possibility that a donated organ can unlock!

But it is not only a donated kidney, even when denied, that concerns us here. Garbadeen Muhammed is certainly not lily-livered. But I do not envy him, for the trouble-shooting exercise he conducted on behalf of Doctor Bukola Saraki, as reported by DAILY TRUST on Friday, January 21, 2011. The nut and bolt of the situation was that Governor Saraki of Kwara State betrayed the position of the Northern Political Elders' Forum and the four presidential aspirants from the North. He chose to cast the votes of his state for Jonathan, against Atiku Abubakar. Instead of an apology, spin went into overdrive, thereafter, because Saraki knew, that with that act of betrayal, he has inflicted upon himself a political damage he may never recover from. His decision was powered not by the so-called reaction of Kwara delegates, but the personal interest of the governor. The argument that people in Kwara felt disappointed because Bukola Saraki was not made the consensus candidate could very well have been made by Generals Babangida and Aliyu Gusau, as well as the delegates from Niger and Zamfara states.

To also insinuate that the delegates chose to vote against Atiku freely, gave the process the credibility it did not have, because even an unborn child knows that the delegates were herded into the position they took, by the governors, including Saraki and his delegates from Kwara. The underlining reason is the need to ensure the personal survival of the governor, when out of power. Our governor was afraid of being given the treatment that his close friend and ally, James Ibori has received, since the advent of the Jonathan dispensation. But what Bukola Saraki did not think through, was that he frittered away a historical opportunity to become, arguably, the most likely inheritor of the Northern political platform, in 2015. He lost the strategic plot in his opportunistic embrace of the short term, tactical advantage. But his loss was a culmination of a crisis: he boxed himself into a corner by surrounding himself with only those who told him only what he wanted to hear, as they enriched themselves fabulously along the way! There is no amount of spin that can undo the damage that the young man has done to his own political future. The most regrettable fallout from his action is the injury he also inflicted on the reputation and reliability of the people of Ilorin and Kwara state. And that is the worst part of his decision! You see what I mean now? It is not a good week for kidneys and livers, even when they are not lily-livers!

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