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Two Professors on Trickster Gbajabiamila’s snooker and chess

By Tony Afejuku
18 November 2022   |   4:20 am
Last Friday my column captured Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and his fellow Nigerian polifoolicians, who played their game of games with ASUU with respect to the Union’s un-ending imbroglio with the FGN.


Last Friday my column captured Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and his fellow Nigerian polifoolicians, who played their game of games with ASUU with respect to the Union’s un-ending imbroglio with the FGN. Calls upon calls as well as diverse messages found me from different readers. Today I am relaying here select pieces from two straight professors of truth whose views and exchanges I must share with my readers at large. Ardent followers of this column are familiar with the prominent professors of radical thoughts that are radical thoughts. Kindly enjoy your reading.

Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano: Dear fabulous TA, while reading your Arnoldian musings on the ASUU-Speaker of the House of Reps cobbled up “truce,” I recalled a passage in Jean Baudrillard”s book, Simulacra and Simulations (1981), where he writes: “To dissimulate is to pretend not to have what one has. To simulate is to feign to have what one doesn’t have.” Baudrillard adds that “pretending or dissimulating leaves the principle of reality intact: the difference is always clear, it is simply masked, whereas simulation threatens the difference between the ‘true’ and the ‘false,’ the ‘real’ and the ‘imaginary.’” Now, in the ASUU-Speaker encounter, the latter was both dissimulating and simulating in one important sense, namely, he assured ASUU that he had no Executive powers to decide once for all the industrial disputes between ASUU and the FGN.

Yet he also claimed that he had no power to do anything else than “approach” and “persuade” the head of the executive branch, President Buhari, to see things differently, especially on the key points of contention, namely UTAS and the payment of the withheld salaries of the striking lecturers. Twice, the Speaker claimed that he did meet with the President on the contentious issues: twice he assured ASUU that he had secured an amicable “settlement” on those issues. When Ngige walked out on the Speaker’s meeting with ASUU, the former was “blank” about whether Ngige walked out on him or did so with his permission or tacit consent. Twice the Speaker declined to sign the proceedings of his meeting with ASUU; several times he wouldn’t give a precise time-line or moment that the President would sign the expected Executive Order to authorise the payment of the withheld salaries.

The Speaker told ASUU that the President would make a positive pronouncement on the matter within a few hours. At his next meeting with ASUU, the Speaker gave the “impression” that the withheld salaries would be duly paid.

Suddenly one fine morning, the Speaker released a press statement that the President acted within the law by not opting to pay the withheld salaries and that it was all in good faith and intended to deter disruptive future strikes. In the same statement, the Speaker said that he had indeed hoped, retrospectively, that at least half of the withheld salaries would be paid. The Speaker also “hit” the bemused ASUU with the announcement that the House of Reps would hold a national summit on the tertiary education sector, and asked ASUU to submit papers for the conference.

Clearly, then, ASUU has been “played” on the Speaker’s Snooker Table, to put it playfully and mildly. In the Speaker’s “discourse of arbitration,” we can see several elements of the classic dissimulation-simulation playbook: the Speaker claims in one breathe that he’s not the President of the Republic and thus lacks his powers; in another he claims a veritable position as the Speaker to “get things done.” At one point, the Speaker “negates” the “signs” of his position – official and constitutional position; at another he affirms as real his material and political position as an important officer in the governmental scheme of things. That is, the Speaker both asserts and negates his “value” and “power” in the scheme of things. ASUU on its part didn’t see or failed to see through “the reversion,” the Speaker’s liquidation of both the Sign (the actual powers of the Speaker as a functionary of government) and his equally un-admitted but implied lack of a veritable “reference” to an effective “demand-and-supply” position.

Thus the Speaker had, in effect, nothing “referential” or “substantial” to give or promise to or for ASUU, whose officials were shown on TV to be quietly “consuming” the dissimulated and simulated postulations of the Speaker in the glare of the ceiling-bound and ground-bound or the bright, air-suspended TV lights. Without a doubt, the Speaker sold a radiant ASUU a dummy and a model of arbitration that was only what Baudrillard would sarcastically call “the hyper-real,” namely, a model that is neither referential nor substantial, that has an “origin” no doubt at or around the Speaker’s Table but not, or has nothing, beyond that or not rooted in a veritable real time or real relationality. So, we must conclude that ASUU was “warped,” by the Speaker, in any case, in or into a “curvature” without truth and without a firm ground of inauguration into the veritable and the verifiable.

Drawing on the ideas of the great
Friedrich Nietzsche, we can argue that the Speaker had only acted a role before himself, ASUU and the Public. He, indeed, played the game of a blind man’s buff on the back of ASUU and the Public. The Speaker donned a mask, the mask of convention, authority, and the large, flowing gown, and even the large collection of microphones and the TV lights. And within the Legislative Table, the well-lighted room and the Speaker’s insignia of legislative enchantment, the atmosphere was full of illusions and dream images, eyes gliding over the Speaker’s shiny Legislative Table; the ASUU Executive members themselves must have wondered why the Speaker was unshaven, was dressed in a large, bulbous white gown, and a curved cap shuffled menacingly to an acute angle. That, indeed, was a bad omen, from a metaphysical point of view.

To conclude, we must agree with Nietzsche that Simulation, especially the one that the Speaker twice acted and played before the ASUU Executive, is, without fudging the issue, a species of “deception, flattery, lying and cheating, talking behind the back, the disguise of convention, and the constant fluttering around the single flame of vanity.”

As for the maliciously unpaid and “withheld” salaries, and all that has happened around or about those other issues, cosmic irony would have the last laugh. The dramatic personae in the Ministry of Labour and Aso Rock—- all those and more will soon fall into the great Nietzschean and Baudrillardian CURVATURE that, come June 2023, would, like the merry-go-round, “spin out,” liquidate, the referentials in this great story of Buff, Malice, the Reception of Stimuli, and the Playing of the Game. What game? The game of “splendour.” ASUU, repeat after me, this (as the great NUM leader, Arthur Scagill said to Margaret Thatcher in 1987): HERE’S GONE AND WE’RE HERE!
Professor Ademola da Sylva: Dear TA, our TA, thanks for your great piece. Permit me, as my quick response, to re-share, below, my suspicion and IBK’s expressed in our private exchanges way back on 30 September, 2022, regarding the HoR Speaker’s lacklustre Press briefing that clearly exposed his lack of any commitment to resolving of the ASUU/FG issues at stake. Tricksters they all are. But as usual, the on-going narrative will definitely end the way that all trickster stories, end! Now, the flashback: On the Speaker’s Press Conference. I read through the piece and between the lines too: the politicians are at their game again.

The document is saying nothing, no commitment whatsoever. One expects the HoR Speaker, from the interaction that his team had with ASUU, to state clearly his team’s informed position on each issue that ASUU raised, and state whether or not they agreed with ASUU, and why. As things are now, the content of what Gbajabiamila with his team plans to present to GMB is unknown to us. I guess we might be embarking on another long rigmarole and aimless journey to nowhere in particular except of course God Almighty intervenes. Remember, we are dealing with a crop of weird politicians with some curious agenda known only to this variant of political class.

Gbajabiamila and Ngige, like APC and PDP, to the best of my knowledge, are two sides of the same damaged coin. Remember that the HoR was one of the critical groups that ASUU first consulted with and presented its grievances, before the warning strike began. The HoR could, in my opinion, have intervened and prevented the crisis from deepening this far! So long as this familiar game of Chess is still on, my advice to ASUU is to have all its thinking cylinders on full throttle, neither must ASUU be caught off guard, nor should it swallow the bait of deception being cleverly packaged.

I shall follow up the above submissions next Friday with another one or two select messages before my pen rounds off on Polifoolician Gbajabiamila the Trickster-master-snooker- and-chess-player.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.