The Nigeria Village Square (NVS) has once again live up to its robust reputation as a marketplace of ideas. It is a place of colliding paradigms where polemics, sound arguments, biting satire, political commentaries, robust ideas, pleasurable recidivism, sycophantic effusions, tribal jingoism, professorial conceit and journalistic narrative all cohere and in an intellectual ferment.
Even where NVS states its disavowal toward abuse, clever writers still pump out effusions of bitchery to remind readers that Nigerians are natural rule breakers. The burgeoning NVS followership and the public trust it had gained over the years as a reliable public domain is derived mainly from its embrace of diverse voices that calibrate unpleasant truth. To impact well on its reading community, NVS must see truth as part of the woof and warp of human beings, no matter our station in life. So far, it has live up to this journalistic tenet.
Of a far deeper concern is the Internetised, intellectual battle between Moses Ebe Ochonu and Ajayi Olatunji Olowo over a posturing, prankstering gink, called El-Rufai. Condensed together, “Dealing With El-Rufai Nuisance”, “Dealing With El-Rufai Nuisance -A Rejoinder”, “Ajayi Olowo’s Libellous Falsehood in Defence of El-Rufai’s Corruption” and “Moses Ochonu on El-Rufai: What a Continual Mudslinging?” are treatises in chastisement. The combatants in their struggle for the soul of El-Rufai -for good or bad – are behaving like glabrous sages who have received divine instruction from God to release time-driven wisdom to stubborn, sceptic and thankless readers. As the Abuja lawyer massages his boss’ legacy, the Vanderbilt University History Professor goes for his bibliography to debunk dreadful myth of the old, artful dodger called, El-Rufai. The kernel of the argument – El-Rufai’s corruption – sails close to being lost to juvenile vituperation which may soon ship into tribal warfare.
As Ochonu’s discursive prose flies in with its menacing missiles from the US, Olowo responds from Abuja with his mutually assured destructive riposte to keep the balance of intellectual terror in place. Ochonu’s relentless thesis is a robust articulation of El-Rufai’s corruption when he oversaw ‘the fraudulent PENTASCOPE Nitel’ management. Olowu’s flailing and combative parables have more to do with stopping Ochonu from writing excrement against his godfather – El-Rufai.
As I write, I am certain that each of them is pacing his study room like caged tiger searching out for more insult, propaganda, colourful testimonial and shocking revelations. It is of credit to NVS Intellectual maturity that it had not made any silly move to smother the possibilities of reasoned engagement by creating soft sanction, gag or censorship as we watch Ochonu and Olowo become more rigid in their prejudice.
Even though the two warring writers have sailed close to trading insults, they have so far kept to the Addisonian virtues of talking common sense and plain speaking. They have both passed the test of public decorum in the handling of their words. Having said that, I want to believe that there was a relationship between Ochonu and El-Rufai at one time. Far from being bosomy friends, the relationship exhausted itself when Ochonu’s supplication for favour was turned down by El-Rufai. Or so it seems, according to Olowo. Although Ochonu has sternly defended this lie and offered readers a peep into his academic chronology that showed no obvious gap for any period of job hunting in Abuja. Ochonu is human and like one, we see where he overplayed his academic achievements to underscore any historical notion of playing the underdog for a topdog like El-Rufai in his days as the Abuja supremo.
Then again we see Olowo as he shows pathways of enviable loyalty and in the same breadth projects a dangerous delusion of the righteousness of El-Rufai when he chaired the PENTASCOPE Nitel management. Ochonu is perceived as the over-educated posing mandarin who is yet to learn that we live in a hysterical time where clever, knowledgeable folk like him is a persona non grata in Nigeria. America that understands the true meaning of human capital is now getting the best out of him and he is getting the best out of America as we can infer through his scholarship and engaging public intellection.
Olowo is the upwardly mobile, bewigged Thespian who because of money, position, fame and influence has to mute his social conscience and defend the indefensible. Reuben Abati has just relocated to this planet! So is Prince Kassim Afegbua, the spin doctor for Ibrahim Babangida. Above all, the relational harmony of the different collage of writers on NVS has encouraged a kind of fearless articulation against orthodoxy as seen in many of the provocative pieces on this platform.