The two men said: “Let there be battle!” At first some were rattled. But then there was much good that came from the fray. And so, after a short period, seeing that their exertion was good, the two men rested, with neither one bested.
By Chudi Okoye
How fortunate for us that the two firm friends are feuding! How fortunate indeed. When you think of it, this makes a kind of metaphoric sense. A major feud brews over a brewery investment. It’s between the professor and the trader, the two respectively current and former governors of the same state. Many of those behind the principals are belching as if they’ve had a surfeit of the brew from the brewery. They go at it with unconstrained logic and unrestrained fervor. But like most sodden folks, they will hopefully shamble their way home to deep slumber and wake up to sobriety the morning after the night of heavy bingeing. Then, as they amble out of bed, they will realize how fortunate it’s been that their principals had this feud.
It is all so Shakespearean. And even Biblical. In a lyrical passage at Psalm 8:2, the Psalter declares: “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength.” In just the same manner we might declare: “Out of the mouths of the professor and the trader has thou divined renewed purpose.” It is compelling, though this is not as yet obvious to the warring parties.
The partisans have retreated to their corners and are hurling brickbats at one another. The anger is deep, on both sides. The professor’s side feels he’s misunderstood and unfairly vilified for making an innocuous comment about what he perceives as the trader’s shrinking brewery investment. The trader’s side is seething, seeing nothing but mischief and envy in the professor’s levy of criticism which it considers a deliberate attempt to bring down its principal. The exchange has become rather rebarbative and prickly.
The acrimony is intensified because it has a class dimension which isn’t obvious to many observers. The professor wrote in a haughty manner. The wily trader justifiably exploits this to feign the underdog: in his response, he affects the part of a plain-speaking trader who is younger and not as educated as the professor. He doesn’t dispute the professor’s grading of his governing record in the state, saying instead, meekly, that he tried his very best. He then says the professor should do better with his world-acclaimed education and connections. Well played.
But this seemingly inoffensive response only partially pacifies the partisans. There are booby-traps despite the excited claps elicited by the measured response. The quarrel has become a class war: the traders in the community are up in arms because they feel one of their own has been slighted. So are the young who have long co-opted the sexagenarian trader into their millennial cohort. And so are the not-so-educated. Never mind that the trader who calls the professor “my senior brother” is less than a year the younger. And never mind that the trader is a savant who has taken business and leadership courses at some of the world’s most prestigious colleges. But all is fair in warfare.
So it has become a revel of deprecations. But it’s not just that. There’s as well an orgy of imprecations. The jabs seem straight out of the Bible’s ‘Imprecatory Psalms’ – you know, those like Psalms 69 and 109 (and many others) that rain curses and abuses, invoking judgment and calamity upon one’s enemies or those perceived as enemies of God. You think I’m kidding? Check this out. Amid the slanging match, a hitherto somnambulant Ohanaeze Ndigbo suddenly bestirred itself to invoke the retribution of Igbo deities upon the professor for daring the trader. The pan-Igbo body panned the professor with cant and impolitic viciousness. But the apex group’s vexed reaction ended up a negative. For, it prompted a loquacious spokesman for one of the major political parties to unleash a long-rehearsed attack line, asking if the trader, who has carefully nurtured a national profile in his presidential quest, is now merely an Igbo candidate! So who now is hurting the trader’s quest? This is what happens when emotive men with mixed motives enter the fray. Perhaps they should just stay away!
Thank goodness for the trader’s measured and emollient intervention. Amid a simmering kettle of churlishness, he showed his mettle. It might have been self-serving (it’s allowed: he’s a politician!), but in time it could help pull the partisans back from the brink. Thank goodness too for the professor. He had promised a further intervention after his first, but he seems to be staying his hand, despite bristling provocation from partisans who cannot see the risk of baiting him. The restraint of both principals should enable us now to take stock, as we recover from our shock. It should help us to see what we’ve missed amid all the bashing and clashing and frenzy of emotions. Which is that there’s a packet of benefits we can pocket from the current racket. There’s some goodness in the rudeness!
For one thing, there’s now an implicit wager between the professor and the trader. In his smacking earlier piece the professor had said the trader’s presidential quest is going nowhere, as he is unlikely to win the coming election. For his part, the trader has dared the professor, with all his erudition, to do better at governing their native state. Hmmm. Can you now see? Neither man can afford to fail. For they would have proved the other right. The trader must pull out all the stops to win the presidential election, duly picking through all the weaknesses outlined by the professor in order to correct them. And the professor must now govern the state far better than any predecessor had done. A Pascal’s Wager of sorts, benefitting both the state and the nation if both wagerers win. A feud that seems like a syndrome of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) could indeed produce, for both protagonists, another kind of MAD: Mutually Assured Delight.
There’s also this: the feud, despite the fears of a few, shows the professor’s and the trader’s geopolitical zone in a good light. What some rue as roiling cantankerousness rather shows the range in the zone. It’s not strange; it is democracy at work. This is particularly welcome because the trader’s tumultuous rise to national prominence has proved rather head-spinning for some of his supporters, so much so that something like a cult of personality has built up around him. It is understandable. Decades of misrule in our nation has produced a lumpen mass of hungered citizens long yearning for redemption. The trader’s populist message seems to have caught on with many among the huddled masses. And they have become attached to him in a way only occasionally seen in our national politics. They have become quite protective of him, as an embodiment of their long-strangled dreams, to the point of becoming intolerant of any criticism directed at the trader. It is undemocratic and it is unhelpful. It is this intolerance and over-protectiveness that the professor punctured with his piercing piece on the trader. It may hurt the trader’s flanks for a while but it sends a reverberating message: our democratic tradition is alive and well, despite the mob instinct. The professor deserves praise for his bravery. The trader deserves praise for his equanimity.
This should be reassuring to those in other geopolitical zones worried about the instinct of the trader. Is he truly a nationalist as he projects, or is he dancing to some hidden ethnic agenda? Mischief makers had been hinting at the latter, though there’s scant evidence of a primordial bone in the body of the super-cordial trader. The professor did all a huge service by puncturing that presumption. No one from any other geopolitical zone has given the trader as close a tackle as he got from the professor. It shows the nation that there’s a diversity of interest within the trader’s zone as there is elsewhere, perhaps even more so. And there’s a yearning for alliances across the nation to attain both regional and national goals. That is as it should be. This fracas should help to allay any paranoia about an ethnic agenda. The credit for this goes to the two men in the arena. The professor had the instinct for a close-marking critique, while the trader understood and took it well. The two displayed temperaments that should reassure the nation at large.
So all in all, though it has been a heady few days for the professor, the trader and their phalanxes, it has been rather beneficial for our democracy. There has been, we can say again with boldness, some goodness in the rudeness.
Hurray for democracy!