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All Our Presidents’ Men

Perhaps because the indices of our future appear so grim, humour has been the one thing lacking in the change we earned from the last presidential election. Yet nowhere else has our otherwise stolid President’s sense of humour been advertised as in the coterie of men he has as yet chosen to work in his team. So rather than join in the wonder as to why he is taking his time to open the floodgates I’ve been whiling the time away comparing and contrasting them with presidential appointees of all time.

All the more so because waiting till all are in place would make the task amount to more than a Sabbath Day’s job. Our first port of call has to be at the dock of his Vice. Though not exactly an appointee, it’s however tenable beyond doubt that he could never have been forced on him. After all they are supposed to have run on the same ticket where what affects one affects the other. So much that at the death of the President only the other can take over. And by all standards – even as a soldier – Mr President was known for choosing able deputies. In the present case, they do make an intriguing pair physically and mentally.

Making it appear as though the pair was hatched for one to possess what the other lacks. While the boss is of that tall, lanky, fair and of the breed that walks the carpets of the world, his second-in-command is, well, a little shorter and briefer to the ground. To cut the story to his height, he would not immediately strike any observer as in the least of a prepossessing mien. The prepossession however pales when it comes to the stuff of which men are separated from boys. While the former served out a military career in which he indulged in all the fancies Nigerian soldiers were wont, the latter honed his tools in the legal profession. It is noteworthy that unlike the many desk generals with which our nation is blessed Mr President tasted battle. Likewise, the Vice President has contributed his quota in salvaging the nation courtroom and classroom apart.

Before their arrival by our exercised franchises the reverse has often been the case. Often we have inherited men with no proven governmental experience. They were usually thrown at us by godfathers looking for stooges that would not rock their boat of control. Thus men have been enthroned over us who knew not white from black; saw their executive offices as sinecures where they should step on no toes and generally took us on a merry-go-round. Thusly, they ended up running all-inclusive governments that were neither of the left, right or centre. Their running mates were in turn often rivals cast at them by rival political camps that made their presidency unworkable from day one. Already there is talk of the present pair lacking all the credentials of a possible Mbeki-Zuma confrontation that re-echoed here back in the days. When having copied Mandela’s prisonto- president transition we also wanted to dethrone a President with his Vice or vice versa.

A situation that so we the grass suffering while the elephants duelled on end. The noose only gets tighter when the President’s Media and Publicity men mount the rostrum. Arguably the bone that has often offered contention most in previous administration, it appears the men here were chosen with caution not thrown to the winds. Without going as far back as to the civil war when their roles began to get untoward recognition, recall can be made to the immediate past regime when certain earlier imbalances in first-time appointments led to the late acquisition of an attack dog. PMB sure knows his onions and they come as layered as ever.

In his case when the first appointee to the post needed a second he went for a consummate gentleman who could not hurt a fly with his hand let alone his pen. In fact, the gentleman in question has so much going for him going for him that they need no reiteration here. When the rest in the pack were losing their heads in the heady days of the elections, he kept his. Cool as cucumber as ever he did the job like it was supposed to be done. Any wonder he won in the end? In fact his choice by PMB is doubly positive. Just a look at the   chubby guy and you won’t be in any doubt that unlike some of his predecessors hitherto, he needed no pot-boiling appointment or the other to get by; that rather bloom into an overinflated balloon like some of them, he is only bound to lose weight due the pressure on the job.

Well, I cannot presently make any predictions as to whether he will be getting more or less phone calls after his tenure as by his standards he may yet get a third tenure. Then there was the appointment that shut the mouth of critics for good – that of the Group Managing Director of the NNPC. Before it they had been riling that all the appointments afore had avoided some particular tongues and zones in the land. It even did not only silence them for where the bloke was from. All were in chorus with the rhapsody that the appointed is also a peg in a requisite hole. We in the fourth estate could not but applaud with words in columns and articles.

At least with the dexterity the publishing outfit he founded way back then in Lagos was minting stories week in week out nothing can be excluded from the hint that he is going to do a yeoman’s job. Before then had come the service chiefs. No doubt, wading through the minefield of security appointments will be carried out with caution. Lest insurgents lurking in the shadows as ever took advantage. The truth remains that whether in a closet or on the pages of a national newspaper, security matters as always ought to be treated as top secret. Surfeit it to note however that it’s now an open secret that Mr President does not suffer rotund service men gladly.

As though rather than in the eating, the taste of the pudding has everything to do with the cooking as well. And knowing what too many cooks can do to the broth, he cannot be too far from the kernel of the fact. O yes, his men at the security front are also a select breed. Never mind where they are from. After all one past sporty one from the most unlikely of places almost got himself an ICC reprimand for his overzealousness. This, by the way, must have prompted his replacement with a meatier colleague from more tolerable region whom many were at a loss regarding his fitness. But it appears that with PMB we are slowly returning to our senses – what with one of the newly-appointed chiefs leading his men in well advertised fitness exercises. Ostensibly he even did innumerable press-ups to the disbelief of the gathered. Indeed it is already fuelling rumours at busstops regarding the trimming of obese officers and men of our armed forces.

The discussion of the topic at an outdoor garden in Abuja recently led to an unsavoury outcome when a debate arose as to whether the police should be counted in the purge. It turned out one of the revellers was indeed a serving officer of the force. It turned out he wouldn’t hear about it lest he sent someone on the longest trip. With the fifty-litre tummy he brandished, none appeared in the mood to take him on a bet. The discussion was however changed per the circumstance to the officers and men of the Custom and Excise Department. No sooner did it spread than a rather rotund young man who claimed he was a clearing agent resident in Abuja had scatting remarks to make. He was however shouted down by another thug who wanted to know the seaport he was clearing goods from in the arid town. When the next commentator posited on good authority that perhaps the bulge issue was why their Comptroller General resigned we fell silent in unison. Instantly, all of us there present reappraised ourselves as to whether we could make the President’s men. •Isidore Emeka.

-Isidore Emeka Uzoatu

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