Both George Obiozor and Ibrahim Gambari have come a long way, all too probably together. The twain are both professors of related disciplines, and are also diplomats. Apparently, they are well regarded in that constituency, if not beyond. It appears that their paths have crossed. This is the impression one gets from an Arise television interview Obiozor fielded. Obiozor was at Arise to defend the suitability of Gambari as the new Chief of Staff to President Buhari, following the death of the last incumbent.
Perhaps, as was indicated, Obiozor sounded elegant in his logics and delivery. But was he elegant in sound and judgment? That is exactly where the issue lies. Between sound and payload may be a chasm, as it appeared there was in Obiozor’s defense of his colleague. In contention must be some of Obiozor’s claims and categories.
According to Obiozor, Gambari is an elder, a man soaked in experience. With due respect, Obiozor is miscounting the numbers. The idea of eldership and experience is not only not linear, it does not exist within given contexts. In fact, the very concept of being an elder is pre-bibliographic. It has no place in modern register, in context.
The very concept of being an elder existed only because experience was once linear. Immediately there was the invention and diffusion of portable records, that is, books, the idea or reality of being an elder vanished. With books and writing as staples, no one needed to be an elder anymore. That was why early Europeans, “a people of the book” used the terms patronisingly for Africans but not for themselves.
The details are as follows. Before books, it was practically impossible to transmit experience save by direct observation or participation, that is, linearly. But after books became staples, all experiences could be canned and mined easily by any local boy. For instance, Aristotle was reputed to have owned and read all the books in his age. And it showed. The guy was implausibly wiser and more experienced than any elder of his time. In other words, since the modern age, there is little need for a guy to swagger about he is an elder.
This matter is very important. It is because there has been too many geriatric persons about, claiming to being elders, and thus gifted with invaluable or indispensible experiences. Apparently, that order of indispensability of elders’ experience is what Obiozor was pushing on behalf of his Gambari.
However, the matter is that, well before the age of 45 or thereabouts, psychologists tell, one is set in stone in his ways and means. In other words, you stop having transformative or any new experiences. What this means is that, by 45, you have stabilised a set of heuristics, to pack and interpret your experiences. That is, whatever “new” experiences come to you are interpreted and categorised by preset heuristics. In other words, in not being able to have new heuristics, you are not able to have new experiences. You merely exist, like Miliken Hill, like carved deities.
Perhaps, we should illustrate. A given Apple phone in the hands of a teenager is 100 times more interfaced and experienced than the same computer in the hands of his grandfather. Why? The old man’s capacity to learn, to experience, the new is tending towards zero. You may recall Bill Clinton once confessed he was so bad at computing that his kid was instructing him. And he never quite learnt.
The fact of this explains why virtually all great mental and even physical achievements happen well before you’re 45. From Achebe to Einstein, men’s greatest works come before they are 45. In other words, it can be taken that Gambari, for all practical purposes, is no more experienced than a 45-year-old active diplomat. No more, no less. That is, all his years after 45 are not really years of experience, they are years of existence, of geriatric innocence. Lest his enemies jubilate, it is not a Gambari thing. It is a universal order. That is why, all over the world, presidents are expected to have been 35 to 40 years. The idea is that, at about that age, you have had all the experiences you need to run a nuclear plant or a whole country. At about 40, you have seen it all. The rest is existence.
However, it must be put on notice that there is nothing wrong or right with employing a 90-old-man, if he is capable. The only point is that it cannot be on the basis of his being more experienced than a 45-year-old man. He is not. He has existed longer but is by no means more experienced. To illustrate, Trump was not elected because he was an elder. Trump was elected because he was an adult. Simply, put there are no more elders in the house. Eldership is passé.
Next is Obiozor’s claim that Gambari is eminently qualified. Really? But in what context? The fact is that, to be qualified is to have been the best of the brightest. Is Gambari such as one? We have our doubts. Here are the reasons.
The search for excellence, by logic, leads ineluctably to diversity. If you wanted to headhunt the 25 greatest mathematicians in the world today, they are likely to be a motley crowd of Japanese, Chinese, Americans, Israelis, etc. If you hire the 25 greatest living information technologists in America today, you did get a mixed bag. You will have White, Indian, Jewish, Russian-Americans, etc. And they will come from the various districts of the United States.
That is to say that, in any system, local or international, where excellence is alleged to be over-concentrated, ethnicised or group closeted, then that system is rigged, is not hiring on the basis of excellence.
Now, what we know about the Buhari regime is that it is closeted nepotism at its worst. Decidedly, key posts that should be manned by the excellent all happened to be manned by Northerners/Muslims/Hausa-Fulani, almost. In other words, the Team Buhari employment criteria, by the very logic of its betrayal of diversity, is proof it is not by excellence as criteria. Diversity, we repeat, is a marker of excellence.
Immediately diversity is missing, that is the very definition that a system is built not on meritocratic but on entitlement orders. That alone forecloses on any attempt to preach that any man on Team Buhari is there on meritocratic grounds.
Now, this Gambari guy or elder fits the Team Buhari bill perfectly. He is Northerner/Hausa-Fulani/Muslim. So, he is a further proof that “talent and excellence” in Team Buhari have by logic to be Northern, etc.
It is thus misplaced to speak of Gambari’s qualification as stellar. Even if it was, it has been tainted by the nepotism of his masters. That is, once the team is tainted, no single member can be granted a reprieve. In other words, Gambari is not culled because he is brilliant, if he ever was. Gambari is called because he is of the elect, of the ruling or entitlement house.
Also, there was the issue of Gambari having served Abacha. But the Abacha in issue is the dictator. While we are opposed to dictatorship, we insist that Abacha cannot be singled out for condemnation. As dictators go, General Yakubu Gowon, exacted greater genocide than any dictator in living memory other than Hitler. And Gowon was aided and abetted by many who are in honour, not excluding Chief Awolowo and Clark. Yet, the conspiracy is that he is a good man, since he only killed millions of others, of Igbo. And it was folks like Saro-Wiwa that canvassed, by gestures or words, such inhumanity. In other words, Abacha, by Saro-Wiwa’s own standards, was merciful to have taken only a few lives as to preserve Nigeria. Yes, a few of us can censor Abacha for the Wiwa execution, but those who approve of Awolowo or Gowon can’t join us. Abacha’s real error was that he was a thief or he was caught a thief. Thus Gambari is not tainted by Nigerian, all too Nigerian, standards of serving a dictator. Gambari is for serving a thief who masqueraded as a dictator. In other words for Obiozor to defend Gambari on Abacha as dictator is to fall into the trap of those who approve of Gowonism and genocide on others, on Igbo, while wanting to preserve their own people.
In all, the greatest failing of the Obiozor apologia is that it happened. By defending a non-issue, Obiozor intentionally or otherwise lends approval to the regime of Team Buhari and thus nepotism at high places. It would have served him best if he spoke like the Ogboni. If asked: How do you feel about Gambari? He perhaps should have answered, “How I feel is in my stomach.” That is the way of the Ogboni. End of discussion. All else is in humour.
Quotes on the nature of the universe
“Bear your burdens with smiles. Smiles make heaviness come lighter than feathers.”