By Kayode Ketefe
Politics is an existentialist enterprise and could therefore not be discountenanced in human affairs no matter the conditions or the peoples involved. Having said that, one must also stress that inordinate politicising of almost everything we often do in this country merely reflects our own eccentric national character that is far beyond the base conception of human as political animals.
This tendency to over-politicise issues came to the fore once again in the recent unusual drama involving the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and a street trading widow, Mrs. Joy Ifijeh. The famous vituperative outburst “If you are a widow, go and die” made by the now contrite governor was massively feasted on by many of his political opponents just for the purpose of “rubbishing” the governor whom they believed had hitherto managed to project the image of “a man of the people.”
Thus the vociferous voices of condemnations from those seeking to score political points understandably overshadowed those who were honestly outraged and showed genuine solidarity with the insulted lady.
An attempt is therefore being made here to critically analyse the issues involved with dispassionate objectivity in order to bring out the real implications. Most of the comments thus far on the debacle hardly went beyond the “go and die” faux pas but, indeed, there are many intertwined issues and I will strive to bring them out some of them one by one.
To start with, is it even alright for an executive governor to be in the team of task force enforcing a state’s anti-street trading law or any law for that matter? On the surface it may appear that there is nothing wrong with this practice.
It may even be construed as a reflection of passion and commitment to implementation of state’s policies. However, I venture to think it is not the best policy for an executive governor to partake in such detailed downstream execution of state policy or law implementation.
Let us look at it this way, if the officials of a task force, out of the proverbial overzealousness of our law enforcement agents, assault anybody or engage in any illegal behaviour, an aggrieved person can appeal to the state governor, to check their excesses at policy level. But would this option be viable if the governor himself is a regular “member” of the taskforce. Executive authorities should dissociate themselves from direct enforcement of the law.
Secondly, a sizeable proportion of the vitriolic vituperations, especially on social media, seem to rest their outrage and condemnations it spurts on the grounds that the woman is a widow.
That of course, could not be an official justification for breaking a law! The only time such sentiment can come into reckoning in the eyes of the law is during allocutus (i.e. A plea for mercy) after a conviction for criminal trial, and that is even with a view to mitigate the severity of punishment, rather than being an insulation to criminal liability.
The governor was therefore right to have insisted that the law must take its course. All those saying the woman should have been promptly set free upon her mouthing the sentimental word “widow” could not really appreciate the issue involved.
Another issue which people rarely mention in this incident is this: The video shows the woman groveling on the ground with two hands raised in hearty supplications, while the governor stood majestically upright with a face cap on, a hand in a pocket while fixing imperial gaze on the groveling mortal. Well, the picture of that very scene could be very annoying to a decent modern mind.
Why allowing any fellow human being to be groveling on the ground in front of you? A comrade should now allow a human, even if underprivileged, to worship at his feet. Accordingly, I if were in Oshiomhole’ shoes, I would not even listen to the woman until she had risen to her feet. She should make her plea on her feet.
Now to the ground-shaking bombshell which most people have commented on, that is “If you are a widow, go and die” utterance. Without mincing word, this is perhaps the most preposterous social odium and embarrassing faux pas Oshiomhole has made since he became a politician.
Use of uncouth language in any context by an occupier of elevated office is rightly construed as a desecration of their offices, but the language here is not only uncouth but appears remarkably callous and insensitive.
The governor has apologised to the widow whom he also gave a sum of two million naira and offer of employment. He also gave scholarship to the widow’s son. But one has nonetheless not ceased being surprised that somebody like Oshiomhole who is a reputed orator with profound sensibilities to language and its nuances could fall into such grievous verbal misadventure.
In more advanced climes with higher sophistication in human relations, he could have faced dire consequences, apology or no apology.
The governor should henceforth be wary of his utterances no matter the provocation, lest the ghost of this uncouth outburst, thought to have been interred with N2million, a scholarship and offer of employment, would continue to haunt him.
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