Boisterous after the judicial victory that confirmed that his principal and boss, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, won the 2023 presidential election, Kashim Shettima Nigeria’s Vice president had some brutal jokes for former vice president Atiku Abubakar who was the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party in the last election.
To say that the election was a heated battle would be to put it mildly. Months before the election, the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition People’s Democratic Party had been served a notice that they were not about to enjoy the understated frills of the traditional two-horse race.
For long, the entrance of Peter Obi into the race on the platform of the Labour Party threatened to blow open the race. His eponymously named “obidient” movement served up a whirlwind. Suddenly, Nigeria’s two heavyweight political parties found themselves looking over their shoulders, not at the activities of each other but at the threatening pace of a man and political party who had been nonchalantly dismissed as neophytes in Nigeria’s charged political race.
For Shettima who served as governor of Borno State for eight years, controversy has always been a rather inconvenient bedmate. As governor of the state, he was severally linked with the activities of Boko Haram.
When he was drafted into the race by Bola Ahmed Tinubu ,the fact that a Muslim-Muslim ticket was a reality for the first time in Nigeria hit many with the force of knots.
The APC’s febrile defense of the ticket did little to douse considerable public anger.
The rest is history as they like to say but for Shettima,it appears that a penchant for dry and simply offensive sarcastic quips is only getting sharpened. It should get him into more trouble with the passage of time.
Nigerians remember his nonchalant description of former vice president Yemi Osibanjo as an ice scream seller in the heat of the politics leading up to the last elections.
On this occasion,he drew from his sagging sag of sarcasm to say that they will not retire Abubakar Atiku to Dubai or Morocco but rather to Fombina where he will rear broilers, goats, and the rest.
Shettima may have only been joking, but there is no doubt that he salted old wounds in the process.
For him, politics may have very little to do with emotions and everything to do with nerves as jibes must be thrown. But his dry wit and distasteful jokes appear arrogant and appalling.
He jokes over an election many Nigerians believe was stolen in broad daylight don’t just cut it with many Nigerians.
Atiku Abubakar has vied to become Nigeria’s president a record six times and lost each time to emphasize the herculean nature of running for Nigeria’s highest office.
With most of his time now spent in other countries, he has in many ways become the symbol of the archetypal Nigerian politician: nomadic and nebulous.
As the latest quest to become Nigeria’s sixteenth president coughed up another defeat, Nigerians were eager to gleefully remind him of the allegations of corruption which have trailed him for much of his public life.
Nigerians would have enjoyed Shettima’s joke a bit more but for its provenance and the fact that it hints at something far darker.
It smacked in many ways of pot calling kettle black and a desperate attempt to trivialize the poignant issue of a court verdict that did little beyond branding the judiciary as an institution that does not reflect the will of the Nigerian people.
For Shettima who is Nigeria’s second citizen in the grander scheme of things, the relief from the court verdict may only be temporary if together with the president, they do nothing to better the lot of Nigerians as long as they are in power.
A hundred days into their time in office, the signs do not look really look good. Their supporters may argue that it is still early days, and that they are distracted by external issues like litigation, but Nigerians have been down the road before and never particularly found the ride enjoyable.
It may be that at this time, jokes are important in a country increasingly degenerating into frightening depression.
It may also be fitting that the jokes are coming from the highest seat of power.
A lot of caution is necessary otherwise the joke will soon be on Nigeria.