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Teni and Buhari

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By Festus Adedayo

The National Honours Award have come and gone but its flakes are yet to subside. The most profound of its flakes came from a reaction to the quality of most of the awardees as stated by Buba Galadima. Galadima, an ex-associate of President Muhammadu Buhari, said last Friday on national television that in a saner clime, 440 out of the 470 award recipients ought to be in prisons on account of their “doubtful characters”. For me, this is a mathematical QED.

One other flake from the award was popular Afrobeat singer, Teni Apata, who collected the national award on behalf of her late father and who neither shook hands with nor greeted Buhari during the award.

I have watched the video of the award countless times and I cannot see any infraction in what the singer did. Though her bravura, pumped-up gaits and composure while walking to and fro the dais could have communicated dissent, Buhari neither extended a hand that was ignored to Teni nor did Teni extend the same to the president as the latter would have been rude to do. What then is the noise about? For me, it was typical Ibadan musician and king of Sekere music, Alamu Atatalo’s song which says if the masquerade walks in without a greeting to the Gonto – his minder, the Gonto is also at liberty to ignore the masquerade. Some kind of quid pro quo, isn’t it?

Those who were suggesting to Teni how to show dissent to the national award were just being magisterial in their ways. There are so many ways an awardee can communicate their grouse. While author, Chimamanda Adichie, rejected the offer outright and didn’t show up, the late author of Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe rejected the same offered to him by President Olusegun Obasanjo, prefixing its rejection on the manner he ran the country at the time. Profs Toyin Falola and Attahiru Jega didn’t show up. Teni’s – if indeed it was – to me, communicated the dissent more explicitly and elaborately. It was more evocative and could singe the flesh of the person giving the award more than other methods.

However, while I agree that people have the right not to vicariously offer legitimacy to a bad government like Buhari’s by accepting his offer of an award, I also agree with those who submit that disrespect for national honour isn’t disrespect to the holder of office but the country. As hotly as I may disagree with any runner of Nigeria, if offered, I may accept it, with clarifications on how acceptance of the award isn’t assenting to misrule. The position of authority desires respect though we are at liberty to disrespect the holder of the office.

For instance, if I ever come in contact with Governor Yahaya Bello, who I consider a good example of how not to govern people and the fact that he runs one of the most execrable governments in Nigeria, I will do my obeisance to him. I will also not mind the irritating, laughable allegations from a spineless wastrel he sent after me last week who must have assumed, like all narrow-minded chauvinists who assume that every beautiful lady must be a prostitute, that every writer who takes a principled stand against emperors is purchasable. My obeisance will be to the symbol of statehood Yahaya Bello represents, regardless of the exuberance and violence in his misgovernance.

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