[From NEXT] Big Man Big Trouble

Aboard a Lagos-Abuja plane last week I sent a message (just before take-off) to a friend, joking that one of the things to be thankful for, apart from not being late for my flight, was that Ogun State governor, Gbenga Daniel, was not on the flight.

For those of you who still have hard disk space in your brains to register news beyond Jos and Jonathan, you will recall that about two weeks ago, newspapers reported an incident that happened aboard an Abuja-Lagos IRS flight.

Businessman Greg Osu held a business class ticket. When it was time to take a seat, a small problem arose. The seat allocated to him happened to be next to Mr. Daniel’s. Mr. Daniel’s aide-de-camp would have none of that nonsense. How dare an ‘un-excellency’ feel audacious enough to sit beside His Excellency? Mr. Daniel’s security team therefore pushed Mr. Osu out of his seat, despite his protests.

Unfortunately for Mr. Osu there were no other business class seats left on the plane. Eventually the pilot persuaded him to take a seat in economy class, for the sake of peace. That was not the end of the story. When the plane landed in Lagos, Mr. Daniel’s aides handed Mr. Osu over to airport police, who detained him for a few hours.

Join me in welcoming the latest crime in the statute books of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: “embarrassing the big man” – the crime that an eyewitness says Mr. Osu was accused of, by Mr. Daniel’s ADC, when Osu protested his eviction.

I’m trying to picture the scene. I’m wondering: whilst this was happening, what was the governor doing or saying? Did he decide to stay out of the matter and allow his aides handle the ‘minor’ issue? Was he perhaps somehow unaware of what was happening? Did he really feel uncomfortable having to sit next to someone he didn’t know? Is Ogun State so broke that it cannot buy two business class seats for its executive governor?

Apart from monumental corruption, incidents like this have come to define Nigeria’s political class over the last decade. It was easy to excuse the military – after all what other language did they know besides aggression? But our politicians have convinced us that they are students of history, and masters at applying the most obnoxious inventions of the khaki boys, to keep us, the helpless herd, in check.

Have you forgotten what the convoy of Ikedi Ohakim did to Elizabeth Udoudo and her two children in Lagos a few years ago?

I had my own experience a few weeks ago as well in Abuja, where I was to share a stage with the Senate President, at an event to mark World Book Day. I was about to take my seat (this was before Mr. Mark’s arrival), when two of his security aides challenged me.

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