When Jesus said — according to gospel writer Matthew—that “By their fruits, ye shall know them,” he made it seem so simple. The reality is that people bear multiple fruits, and it is a complicated matter trying to determine which should define them.
This foray into ontology came about after I read Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s spirited defence of President Muhammadu Buhari on the widespread view that he is nepotistic. The view stems especially from Buhari’s near exclusive appointment of Northerners as heads of security-related ministries and agencies in the country.
Osinbajo counters this “narrative” by asserting that there are more Christians in Buhari’s cabinet than there are Muslims and that Southerners head some of the most “strategic ministries”.
“Look at the cabinet, for example, from the point of view of religion, it has an equal number — 18 Christians, 18 Muslims; but, we have the Secretary to the Government of the Federation as well as the Head of Service who are Christians…,” he was quoted as saying.“So, we have 20 Christians to 18 Muslims; that’s the structure of the cabinet.”
If one is out looking for a defender, one can’t do better than to find someone as credentialed as Osinbajo: the lawyer, professor, clergyman and politician. And so, the naturally steely Buhari must be applauding his VP’s defence.
Even then, the charge of nepotism wasn’t fully excised. Osinbajo had to acknowledge that the parity in cabinet appointments is constitutionally mandated. And then there was the elephant in the room: the unabashedly preferential pattern in choosing security heads. On that, Osinbajo the clergyman could only point to Buhari’s self-redemptive promise to review the security appointments.
“I believe that is the way to go because you can run any narrative that will suit the figures you are showing,” Osinbajo said. “And that is where we have legal process.”
So, where does this leave us regarding the question of Buhari’s nepotism? Nowhere really. Osinbajo is right, of course, in noting that ministries such as education and finance are no less strategic than those of defence and customs. What then is the explanation for the security job assignments?
In due consideration of the arguments of the learned vice president, let’s set aside the case for nepotism? Might the appointments have been motivated by insecurity, the sense that the appointees are the ones Buhari could count on to secure his government. Let’s remember that he was overthrown as a military head of state after less than two years in office.
Could it be that Buhari is so non-nepotistic that he didn’t even realize that his security appointments constituted nepotism? That would be the rough equivalent of an American government having an all-white cabinet and attributing it to a colour-blind policy. Not plausible, you say.
Fair enough. But at least Osinbajo’s defence of Buhari points to an important reality of life: that it is dicey to label people one way or another on any scale of goodness. There are people who seem very snobbish and cold, but on closer acquaintance one finds them very warm, unassuming but shy.
In the United States, people readily lose their jobs on charges of racism or misogyny. Often it is because of a recorded rant or Facebook post that went public. In one of such cases, a white teacher at a Baltimore school was shown raging at the students and referring to them as niggers.
Disregarding the matter of the punishment meted out to such people, the questions arise: Is someone a racist just because he or she said something racist? Is someone misogynistic just because the person said something disparaging to women? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the depth of prejudice from which the expression emanated.
The ranting Baltimore teacher, for example, seemed unhinged, certainly exasperated. Was she expressing racism or merely venting her frustration, albeit in untoward language? Was she even in control of her thought?
When men and women gather among themselves a favourite pastime is to trash-talk about the other. If this is a measure of misogyny and male-hating, the world would be in big trouble. Quite the contrary, when the groups disperse they are most likely to head to the respectful — and sometimes loving — company of the other.
I recall bantering several years ago with a friend and colleague over whether a visiting white philosophy professor was racist. My friend alleged that he was, citing some disparaging comment he made about the discipline of African philosophy. I countered quite naively by pointing out that he was smitten with a black woman. To which my friend retorted that many a racist slave masters impregnated their black slaves. I had no response to that.
The point is that goodness and evil inhere in the heart. We err in too hastily thinking that we have them discerned.
“Infrastructure of the belly,” U.S. version
After sinking to the lowest of any recent president’s, President Donald Trump’s approval rating has surged to one of the highest, at about 50 per cent. That rivals President Barack Obama’s at this time in his tenure. What could have happened? There’s only one probably answer: the U.S. equivalent of Ekiti’s “infrastructure of the belly.”
After much wrangling with spirited opposition by Democrats, the Republican-dominated Congress passed a bill adopting Trump’s massive tax-cut proposal. Democrats had opposed the bill because the corporate tax cuts were greater and permanent and though sizable, the tax cut for individuals was temporary. They were also concerned about the huge budget deficit that would result, a matter, ironically, the Republicans used to champion.
Such cuts usually take months to manifest on paycheques, but Trump pushed for an acceleration of the process. And so, people saw the bump in their paycheques as early as January. It was apparently enough to swing a lot of opinions about Trump.
How long that will last is anybody’s guess. What is certain is that the tax cut is due to expire in eight years. By then, Trump would have completed a second term if re-elected. Who said the guy is crazy? Punch