May 29, 2015.
I was at the Calabar International Conference Center CICC. There was also a mammoth crowd. The place, though still under construction, was hurriedly opened for the inauguration of the new Governor, Senator Ben Ayade.
I got there early with the CrossRiverWatch team. I saw the entry of the outgoing governor Imoke. He wasn’t a loud governor. Not given to long convoys and loud sirens. But unusually, he arrived in six vehicles. With a retinue of security aides numbering about 20. He was still governor and he got all the accolades complementing his office.
I was always going in and out of the packed hall. But I spent most of the time in a bus at the car park monitoring events from inside the hall on CRBC radio, live.
Events proceeded until it was time for oath taking. The new Governor took the stage and took the oath. The moment he said” So help me God.” He became the Governor and Imoke became the former governor.
According to protocol, they can’t be two governors on the podium on that day. The former departs immediately. The former listens to the opening address of the new Governor on radio while driving out.
In the thick of the activities, I was taking note of these quotable moments. I also took note of Imoke’s departure. The official vehicles reduced from six to two, with four DSS operatives and a police van. Even some officials that accompanied him to the venue didn’t follow him back.
I also saw when the new Governor, Ayade was leaving. Immediately he stood up, a human ring was formed around him by men in suites. They made way with him to the doorway and to the long staircase and straight to a waiting vehicle. Not the one that brought him.
The vehicles in the convoy were uncountable. It was difficult to tell which one was official and which was not. There was a long stretch of armed DSS operatives and police on both sides of the convoy numbering over 100. The snail speed convoy took over two hours to come out from the CICC to the roundabout.
Only few months later, Buhari visits Cross River state to do groundbreaking for super higway and was seated on the podium, Imoke arrived and was stopped from going to the podium for coming late, by same DSS officials who were clearing thoroughfares for him only months earlier.
His arrival anywhere now, no longer heralds any jumping around and fidgeting and saluting. He may now have to personally call out to someone to arrange flights and reservations, when it was someone’s job a while ago. He may now have to personally notice that the lawns are overgrown before arrangement is made to mow them, which was someone’s job a while ago.
Few months after office, we arrived lagos from Calabar on board the same flight with Mrs. Imoke. She was in the business class, while I sat beside her younger sister in the economy cabin. Upon arrival, we waited for our luggage by the conveyor belt and it was nice seeing her picking up her bags by herself along with her sister and dropping them in the trolley. There are no more aides waiting to handle that on arrival. She was even barely recognized by anyone at the arrival lounge, unlike before. We exchanged greetings and while I picked my small bag and moved on, I kept pondering on the foolery of power.
I cannot claim that the former governor, whom I respect very much, is my friend. Far from it. I no reach. But I can claim that he knows my name and knows me when he sees me. He is also more accessible now that the security people around him have reduced. So one of these days we ran into ourselves in Lagos and in a brief chat, I can say he feels now that, there are people he drew so close while in government that, with the benefit of hindsight, he should have kept far away, and there are those he kept so far, that he should have drawn very close.
Even Duke has felt the taste. He couldn’t even muster a win in his pooling unit in an election he was Presidential candidate. His palatial mansion, once a beehive of political rent seekers, is no longer flooded with people. The door bells are hibernating.
I am regurgitating these thoughts today, in memory of the transience of power. In this my small life, I have seen power come and I have seen power gone. In Cross River, in Nigeria, around the world, in history, I have read about and seen men and women of great power, stripped of their privileges at the expiration of tenures especially, and then the stark reality stares them in the face like a burning spare to the thick of the night.
Beginning with the 6000 appointees who have been commendable off-loaded by Governor Ayade, most of who are now panicking because they weren’t prepared to be disengaged. The one apparent lesson is the one they taught us in the Boys Scout: “Be Prepared.” Never be caught unawares. The trappings of office have an expiry date. Like snowflakes, they fade away with the rising of another sun.
And this circle is not about to stop. Even for governor Ayade, he has 29 days from today to beginning a new circle that will last another 1,460 days. So in 1,490 days from today, he will also drive in a long convoy, with the full complements of office as governor, to whichever venue he may choose, and hand over to another person and leave in two vehicles with four security aides, and the levers of power will continue their sojourn, regardless.
Citizen Agba Jalingo.
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