By: Oludayo Tade
“…Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish”(Robert Green, The 48 Laws of Power)
The crass disregard for people in the lowest rung of the stratification system defines the character of the Nigerian society. It is a system of subordination where might makes right and the seeming ‘worthlessness’ of the masses or common man is shamelessly uttered by those who have benefitted and extracted benefits from the system and are responsible for the state of quagmire which the society has been plunged into. Whether using ‘umbrella’ in rainy or sunny times or busy ‘sweeping’ monies into their deep pockets, very few of the ruling class regard their people; majority are exploitative in their talks and domineering in their social relations. Their communications are laced with arrogance, threat and intimidation; all oriented towards silencing unfavourable tunes. Forgetful of the system of government in place, they silence through their anti-democratic laws and cramp active voices into detention. These parasitic elites whose milking of the common patrimony is the only credentials they can portray are sad to see anyone bring them to accountability. This is the sad tale in the viral video of a former Minister Femi Fani-Kayode (FFK) where he hurled insults on the Daily Trust Journalist, Eyo Charles for daring to give him an opportunity to clear the air on the motivation for his project inspection in certain part of the country and who ‘bankrolled’ the trip and in what capacity. He lost the opportunity given to him to state his own side of the story. He lost the moment to shine with egoistic vituperations, vainglory and unsound response.
Nigeria’s ruling class have little or no regard for their people and are ready to unleash this reckless character anytime. The tool of intimidation deployed by FFK was that he was a former Minister with political history from 1990, former Senior Special Assistant and a lawyer. In and out of office, his trips show he still holds the levers of power and enjoy the ideological state security apparatus and are ready to intimidate anyone who dares to ask him to what honour do we owe his project evaluation trips. Someone who is happy to appear before the press for them to listen to him is unhappy to be answerable and turned it to what late Fela Anikulapo called roforofo fight with a harmless journalist. Robert Green’s 48 laws of power counsels the powerful to “always say less than necessary” because “the more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish”. Unfortunately, FFK dared to speak live thinking everyone would be unreflective in their assessment of the ethical expectations of someone of his calibre. Apparently lacking meaningful response, he showed his helplessness by resorting to use his erstwhile political position (Do you know who you are talking to? Bankroll who? a former Minister; a lawyer?), his relationship with media owners (“I will report you to your publisher”) and economic status (“I am not a poor man, I am not poor and I will never be”) to intimidate everyone to silence. Unfortunately, he was not appreciative of the fact that a “soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15: 1) because whoever keeps his mouth and tongue keeps himself out of trouble (Proverbs 21:23). Indeed, only a man of little knowledge talks more than necessary because “whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding” (Proverbs 17:27). While no human being can tame the tongue because it is a restless evil that is full of poison (James 3:8), it is advised we are quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger (James 1:19).
FFK’s “do you know who you are talking to?” dramaturgy reminds us of similar performance of a former labour leader turned politician, Adams Oshiomole who ought to appreciate people’s suffering but with power, he lost the empathy and asked a poor widow in the city of Edo to “go and die”. He also described someone as “stupid”. The ‘slapping Senator’, Elisha Abbo could not have a lowly placed store attendant talk to him anyhow and must humiliate her with ‘dirty slaps’. He is also stated that the lady was “very stupid”. Notwithstanding the economic and social power Yinka Ayefele commands, a former Governor of Oyo State, Late Senator Abiola Ajimobi still dressed him down owing to disability after the demolition of his music house. To him, Ayefele ought not to get preferential treatment because he was an employer of labour because ‘thieves also employ people’. Just like his forerunners were treated with public condemnation and associated backlashes, FFK was also not spared for directing a ‘very stupid’ movie.
This ‘bigmanism’ is what poor people have reproduced in “I better pass my neighbour”, a character of showing superiority over another person or making life difficult for them. This tyrannical conduct of disrespect is not only in the political realm but has strong presence in the family where might makes right culture is nurtured to produce disrespectful, uncouth characters and unsympathetic citizens who lord it over people whether in Church, Mosque, Media house, Educational institutions, organisations among others. What FFK’s low ethical public conduct unveils is how the fourth estate of the realm is being stifled to do the bidding of the ruling class — an industry largely controlled by the political class and their business friends. Good enough, Daily Trust management stood behind their man.
Unfortunately, it is not only FFK’s conduct that is condemnable but those of journalists present at the press briefing who saw no need to write a story on the assault on their profession and intimidation of one of them. Some of them were even blaming the man who asked the question. This is why it took more than 72hours for another media house to release the visual because the event was ‘bankrolled’ and they might have been begged to ‘kill’ that part while their colleague’s esteem and journalism is assaulted. Those who fail to challenge their oppression will continue to be subordinated and intimidated. The powerful will continue to use the instruments of the state to perfect the intimidation of the masses unless they are challenged. Tyrannous characters are in every social institution but if we dread them, we become slaves for live. From the public condemnation and the battered ego which greeted the vainglorious Femi Fani-Kayode, we are all counselled to respect everyone no matter their social status and appreciate the wisdom in being quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.
Dr Tade, a sociologist sent this piece via firstname.lastname@example.org