By Ayannuga Olufemi, Abeokuta.
Former Governor Segun Agagu once said ” when I left office , I was shocked to note that unlike when I was in office when several birthday cards would have arrived days ahead of the birthday event, I was surprised that I received only a handful, surprisingly they came from my bosom friends, no phone calls, no radio/TV greetings and no newspaper adverts” The words of William Shakespeare “Parting is such sweet sorrow ” readily comes to my mind and this was further corroborated by Kate Dicamillo when she said ” There ain’t no way you can hold onto something that wants to go, you understand ? You can only love what you got while you got it ”
Sometimes I ask myself why is it difficult for those that have held political and public office to continue to maintain the lifestyle they were living while in office ? Few days ago, I met a close big brother who was a political office holder in the last government that just rounded up and he was already complaining of financial handicap , as a matter of fact I saw him driving his old Corolla and I asked him about his jeep cars to which he told me frankly “Femi I can’t maintain it now , this is a new government and a new party ” . Suddenly, I remembered how I have read Dr Reuben Abati’s masterpiece titled “WHEN THE PHONE STOPS RINGING.” I shook my head and remembered what the Yoruba’s normally say: “igba o lo bi orere , aye o lo bi opa ibon” meaning “life and position are transient; not endless ”
My uncle told me a shocking story of one of the front line politicians and a leading NPN stalwart in the early eighties. He took the city of Ibadan and entire south west by storm with his affluence and fleet of cars while holding a strong political position in those days. He was one of the first few Nigerians who used SHAGARI MODEL vehicle in those days. His last days was spent in penury, even his house which was a gigantic masterpiece and architectural beauty in those days he could not maintain till he died.
From counsellors, Chairmen of local governments, board members, Commissioners , Permanganate Secretaries , Directors, School Principals , Legislators, Ministers, unions and associations leaders , cooperative societies’ leaders , community leaders etc one is forced to ask why do they find it difficult to maintain the ‘larger-than-life’ and extravagant lifestyles they were living while still in office?
One is also forced to ask where are all the circle of friends, crowds and sycophants they surrounded themselves with while in office? Why the sudden stoppage of phones ringing around them even those ones kept with their personal assistants ?
I once discussed with a leader in position of power and he said ” comrade, I have seen things in my life, it is better for me to live a lowly life now while in office. What is the use of living a life that I cannot maintain after the office?” To me that is wisdom. Why build a gigantic structure that you can’t maintain after leaving office ? Why buy an exotic automobile that you can’t even fuel with your meagre salary or wages after leaving the office not to talk of servicing it? How on earth can I maintain a car whose tyre is almost fifty thousand naira per one?
Another word of caution is to keep a very low social lifestyle. What is the use mingling with a circle of friends who purchase an average of five hundred thousand naira worth of clothing materials for “owanbe parties” while in office ? Have you ever asked yourself if you can still continue with that lifestyle after leaving the office? It is often said jokingly that: “even the position of permanent secretary is not permanent.” In the same vein, you can’t be Governor for ever; the maximum is eight years. Is it not wise to stick to your old friends who have been with you through tick and thin when you were a ‘Mr Nobody’ than all these newfound “evening friends” like they say in my place? These good old friends will still drink gaari and groundnut with you even in the state house but your newly found sycophants are milling around you at your legislative or commissioner quarters to eat the “government chicken and drink the state house wine and juice” They are simply “the stick breaks and the birds fly away friends” you can be rest assured that when you retire as a permanent secretary for example you will see them no more . Do you know this is the reason why our politicians always have an endless appetite for political positions, from Governor to Senator , from Commissioner to a legislature from a chairman to a commissioner and the circle goes on and on simply to satisfy their hunger for a fake life of affluence at the expense of people’s Commonwealth.
Perhaps we need to look at other politicians and world leaders from other climes who chose to live a humble life , Uruguay’s former president, Jose “Pepe” Mujica, was dubbed the “world’s poorest president” for good reason. When he was elected as Uruguayan president in 2009, Mujica Jose donated ninety percent of his presidential salary to charity and ditched the lavish presidential palace, opting instead to live in his ramshackle farm with his wife. For the longest time, his sole personal asset amounted to a 1987 Volkswagen Beetle. When eventually he left politics his almost mystical reputation as a humble political leader remains — and we suspect will linger for a while.
Shortly after being elected the first female president of Malawi, Joyce Banda sold off the presidential jet and the fleet of sixty Mercedes limousines in an effort to steer the then struggling country to financial austerity. “I am already used to hitchhiking,” she had joked. Later, the money earned from selling the plane went to feeding more than 1 million people, the state treasury department said.
Let me end this piece with the words of Mujica Jose popularly called the world’s poorest president ” I’m called ‘the poorest president’, but I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more, this is a matter of freedom. If you don’t have many possessions then you don’t need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself, I may appear to be an eccentric old man… but this is a free choice.”
Writes from Abeokuta