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Date Published: 07/29/10

Governor Sylva and the Show of Shame By Tochukwu Ezukanma


In a democracy, the will of the people is the fundamental source of all power. The government is only an instrument created to serve the people. And as such, the governing power is primarily answerable to the citizens. Nigeria is a democratic aberration: elections do not even reflect the will of the electorate and government officials cannot fathom that they are in office purposely to serve the public. Not surprisingly, they constituted themselves into a special group slated to live in breathtaking opulence at the disregard of the people.


This band of panjandrums that imposed themselves on Nigerians through fraudulent elections live in their own world. It is a world ruled by greed, corruption, arrogance and of course, a crass disdain for the common man. It is a world flush with conspicuous consumption, wasteful spending and remorseless exploitation of the system. Sheltered in their islands of stupendous wealth and unbridled privileges in an ocean of poverty and deprivation, they evoke images of medieval feudal lords. The Bayelsa State House is one of these islands of Pharaonic magnificence amid vast encompassing poverty. Astonishingly, the River’s State governor, Timipre Sylva saw the necessity to show off “the opulent Bayelsa State House, called Glory Land, to the world via the CNN”.


He conducted the CNN journalist, Christian Purefoy around the State House mansion. He showed him the mansion’s amphitheatre that in Sylva’s words, “reminds you of the glory of Rome”. The amphitheatre may be reminiscent of Rome, but not the Rome of Marcus Cicero and Augustus Caesar – that was at the pinnacle of martial splendor and military prowess – yet governed by benign and enlightened power. It could not be redolent of the Rome which through marvelous engineering feats, exceptional administration of the law and genius for organization and governance held sway over what was then the civilized world. It could only be evocative of the fallen Rome, that is, Rome after she had been overrun by hordes of Nordic barbarians and the pall of the Dark Ages settled over her.    


Before the fall of Rome, the amphitheatres of Rome coexisted with proud, cultured and comfortable citizens whose individual rights and legal immunity from despotic acts of governing officials were upheld by the constitution. They glittered in tandem with dazzling achievements in science, literature, political organization and jurisprudence. After barbarianism enveloped Rome, some vestiges of the old Rome continued to glisten, but this time, amidst anarchy, despotic arbitrariness, moral decay, ethical collapse, economic misery, etc. So, as Christian Purefoy beheld Governor Sylva’s amphitheatre and Glory Land against the backdrop of the realities of Bayelsa State, Niger Delta and Nigeria, it must have been the ingloriousness of the fallen Rome, and not the glory of Rome, that came to his mind.


The governor “…was virtually genuflecting before Purefoy, begging him to accept his invitation to play in his proposed 18-hole golf course”.  The most powerful and wealthiest nation in the history of the world is the United States of America. Interestingly, the official residence of the president of USA, the White House, has no golf course. The White House does not in anyway convey the image of gilded opulence, royal dalliance, or aristocratic hedonism of monarchial despots. It is not Romanesque or suggestive of “the glory of Rome” because it was not designed for a sybaritic autocrat coronated to lord over his subjects. It has an aura of dignity, solemnity and conscientious adherence to duty because it is the official home and office of the 1st citizen of a democracy elected to uphold the responsibilities of statecraft that will obviously absorb his total attention and engross all his energy.   


The endeavor to replicate the glory of ancient Rome in 21st Century Nigeria is nauseating absurdity. It is an unpardonable exercise in profligacy. It is unconscionable and morally reprehensible to attempt to cast the governor’s mansion in Romanesque grandeur in a country where a disproportion percentage of the general population is poor and in a state writhing in violence and steeped in mass poverty.    


In the whole episode, the CNN journalists and the world must have discerned not the glory of Rome, but the shame of Nigeria. The shame of Nigeria is conscienceless power elite that have shown no qualms in the depredation and strangulation of this country in attempt to gratify their insatiable greed and indulge their outrageous fantasies.  


Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria.


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