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Okupe: Yet his own political man

By Leo Sobechi
22 May 2016   |   4:52 am
And he was seen crouching, fawning; even clowning. In a country renowned for theatre, it is not easy to separate the shenanigans of some politicians from the tomfoolery of court jesters.
Senior Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Affairs, Mr. Doyin Okupe.

Senior Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Affairs, Mr. Doyin Okupe.

And he was seen crouching, fawning; even clowning. In a country renowned for theatre, it is not easy to separate the shenanigans of some politicians from the tomfoolery of court jesters.

If he had taken to acting, he would have made an excellent talent. Though he trained as a medical doctor, he distanced himself from the scalpel. So he chose politics. But having chosen politics, his performance has so far been that of monumental lack of distinction.

As special assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Doyin Okupe helped pave the way for his principal’s downfall when a giant billboard, in want of better creative idea to announce the need for his second term, declaimed: Bring Back! And being a season of national mourning over the stealing of more than 200 young school girls from a secondary school in Chibok, the association with the hash tag calling for their urgent and safe return, the display riled the nation.

The calamity of that singular ad was that mimicking its creator, it was so huge and conspicuous, but ended up as an advertisement of vacancy of thought. Having served in a similar capacity under a belligerent dispensation, Dr. Okupe was brought to help deflect verbal darts from the opposing flank against his principal.

However, as time went by, it was becoming clearer by the day that those who hired him must have been minded about his size than political value and creativity of style. Yet he occupied with a certain swagger of supremacy, in the manner of small big men.  But for everything, says the big book, there is a time. Those now belong to time past.

Nevertheless, in recent times the big man has been heard calling attention to his existence in the name of vexatious protestations against the distribution of political bases of power and influence in his embattled political party.

In his usual style, that is usually huff and puff, he threatened, remonstrated and bragged. The part that reminded Nigerians of his recent past escapades was the threat to turncoat. And recalling that his former owner was now the Navigator of an emerging movement, his grandstanding and grandiloquence were taken with a bag of salt.

Blessed with capacity to debate, Okupe was appointed as Special Adviser on Media by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, before he went to try his luck at the governorship contest in his native Ogun State.

It was that stint, it is believed; that convinced former President Jonathan of Doyin’s usefulness to hire him again as senior special assistant on public affairs in his presidency. But pointing at that choice as evidence of poor judgment, Okupe’s kinsmen in the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), cried foul.

Short of calling the medical doctor a cheat, ACN called on the man who hired their brother to fire him immediately lest he should bring further odium to them. They alleged that Okupe failed to execute a contract in Benue and Imo States, after pocketing large sums in mobilization fees.

While Okupe stated that his hands were clean, ACN through its then spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, challenged him to prove that he did not use his spittle to wash those hands. Okupe’s lawyers were later to clarify that actually a contract was awarded to one Messrs Value Trust Investment Limited, which Okupe served as its chairman.

Okupe is no stranger to verbal warfare, but the trouble with his communication is that they beggar meaning and coherence. For instance, not long ago, incensed at the remarks by President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim that Nigeria has a large concentration of poor people, Okupe localized the issue to himself and boasted that he has never known poverty. He disclosed how he trained as a medical doctor and his father also owned a bank.

At another time, the man said the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), may fail but that PDP may not be its preferred alternative. He also went on to say that although his former principal, Obasanjo, directed that his PDP membership card be torn, that did not mean that the former maximum president resigned his membership of the party.

Okupe would have been easily described as a Janus if his only guilt was that of equivocation, but he seems to have a bigger verbal challenge. He speaks over the bar, upending his voice, yet leaving his hearers wondering for the meaning. He can speak off the cuff, saying what he does not mean as if it had bearing with reason.

In February 2012, three months before former President Jonathan rehabilitated Okupe with a fresh appointment, he turned against his former owner. The man descended on Obasanjo and tore at his buba and sokoto, telling fantastic stories about how Baba Iyabo caused the mess that could deny PDP future electoral victories: That his former principal was a liability to the party.

Whether that show of immoral courage helped to secure Okupe a favourable consideration for the job of senior special assistant to the president on media is immaterial here. However, the medical doctor turned politician went about his assignment with unremitting, but affected loyalty. In a bid to dominate his environment, he attacked, defended and parried verbal blows aimed at his new principal.

At a point, it was as if Aso Villa, the seat of presidential power, was defined and animated by the sheer massive presence of Doyin Okupe. So hateful was the man’s baleful public interventions that much of the hurt that attended the Jonathan’s presidency during the election could be attributed to Okupe. It happened that just as he alleged against his former principal, Obasanjo, Okupe was indeed a huge liability to the electoral fortunes of the man he pretended to assist.

Penultimate Sunday, Dr. Doyin Okupe, showed his other latent quality as a merchant of fortune. Though he claimed he has never known poverty, he showed how he could not stand adversity. Again, being out of office for just twelve months, Okupe showed that indeed a man who cannot stand up for anything could fall for everything. Like an evil spirit cast out from its former host, the man went back to whence he came.

Nigerians were aghast as they beheld the huge frame of the man crouching without shamelessly in a vain show of adversity-induced contrition before the Ebora of Owu. To those conversant with the scriptural account of how Nebuchadnezzar turned into an infernal creature, crawling on the floor and eating grass, the image at Abeokuta residence of Obasanjo bore a close similitude.

Perhaps, having being used to indulging in Nicodemus type nocturnal visits, Okupe did not expect that his unbefitting cringing and fawning obeisance to Obasanjo would become a sauce of public opprobrium. Consequently, to mitigate the harm, which his slovenly mea culpa before his former principal could cause his image, he retreated to his Face book wall.

Hitting his fingers on the keyboard, with sycophantic relish he typed away: “Last Sunday, in the company of some friends I met with Baba Obasanjo, principally to try and settle and resolve the misunderstanding that has existed between Baba and I since I joined the Jonathan’s administration.

“Vintage Baba, he descended on me heavily and vented his anger copiously. I prostrated and held his feet as a well-trained Yoruba man and pleaded earnestly for his forgiveness, occasionally giv(ing) short explanations for areas I considered my actions were misunderstood. Also typical of Baba, ever willing to forgive a repentant son, we embraced; I even kissed him as a loving son.”

Did Okupe succeed in fooling or distracting anyone? Recall his claim that Obasanjo remains the leader of PDP in Southwest and that the zone would defect en masse from the party unless the party rezones the office of national chairman to it. The Sunday evening visit to Obasanjo could therefore be ostensibly to receive tribute from Baba.

Moreover, since he sees politics as business, his services must be paid for by someone. “Politics sometimes is such a bad business, you hurt your friends and even benefactors, but it’s all that is well that ends well,” he wrote on his face book. If only the picture of former President Jonathan hanging on the wall had descended on his head, it would have left a poignant message to him.

Those who know Okupe intimately call him a doyen of confusion and a permanent public office seeker. For instance, when he descended on Obasanjo some PDP stalwarts in Ogun described him as an ingrate, saying that he was in the habit of biting the finger that fed him.

Among those who took the runaway medical doctor to task over his attacks on Obasanjo in 2014 included the Chairman of Transition Reconciliation and Congress Committee (TRCC), Bode Mustapha; Babatunde Oladunjoye and Secretary, Elders Committee, Ogun Central, Fasiu Bakenne.

They noted that “nemesis would soon catch up with Okupe.” Specifically Oladunjoye said Okupe’s characterization of Obasanjo as liability was the insult from “a desperate political jobber and frustrated permanent political office seeker.”

“It is regrettable that Chief Okupe, a trained doctor, has not practised for over 20 years, but was rather relying solely on hustling for political appointments and patronages. This explains his new role of devil’s advocate. I urge him to take the advice of Chief Obasanjo that a politician must have a second address and not rely solely on politics for means of livelihood,” the 2011 former governorship running mate declared.

There is one more river for Okupe to cross, so that he could join the league of real politicians: He has to win an electoral contest on his own merit and image. He has done well as party spokesman, way back to the days of defunct National Republican convention (NRC). He has done well as presidential spokesman. But he needs to have a certificate of return from INEC to qualify him as a general practice politician.