Survival Of The Smartest: The Jerry Gana Phenomenon By Olugu Olugu Orji mni

Survival Of The Smartest: The Jerry Gana Phenomenon By Olugu Olugu Orji mni


I fell in love the very first time I encountered him. If memory serves, it was at the official launch of MAMSER in Makurdi, Benue State. For those too young to know or afflicted with amnesia, MAMSER, short for Mass Mobilization for Self Reliance, Social Justice and Economic Recovery, was one of those high-sounding, convoluted initiatives spurned by self-styled military president, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida who held sway between 1985 and 1993.

The sobriquet, ‘evil genius’ that is generally generously applied to IBB does great havoc to his finer, nobler attributes. In matters of ferreting out men and women of calibre for public office, IBB will qualify as one of Nigeria’s best. That is how Jerry Gana, Professor of Geography was unleashed on the national dais.

That fateful day, the late Ozzidi king, Sunny Okosuns shared the platform with Jerry. While Okosuns crooned, the rest of us swooned. Just when we thought we had had enough, Jerry seized the stage; working the audience like a master microphone magician. By the time he was through, I could have sworn IBB was an angel of God!

Though he had had a brief stint in the Senate of the ill-fated second Republic in 1983, it was via MAMSER he clambered up the big stage. Since then, he has managed to remain visible and relevant in successive administrations. That is not necessarily a bad thing. If intellect and pedigree were the criteria for leadership, Jerry would still have been more than qualified for every position he has held. For a man who earned a first degree in 1970 and wound up as a Professor a decade and a half later, he is in the best position to champion meritocracy because he was cooked on that crucible.

Unfortunately, Nigeria’s brand of distinction is hardly achieved through intellect and merit. Consequently, whenever excellence happens in public affairs, it is by default or attributable to exception-to-the-rule. Unlike in academe where people are distinguished by what they can offer, the avatars of Nigerian politics are those versed in chicanery and demagoguery.
 

Those intent on making a successful transition from one to the other must confront impossible odds. They must repudiate every principle once held and trample on the very values that enabled them to distinction. That, in brief is the story of men like Jerry Gana.
For Jerry Gana specifically, it is even worse; and at this juncture, a personal confession is appropriate.

During my university days in the 80s, I was one of those who felt leadership in Nigeria had been unduly monopolized by Muslims. Since we did not seem to be making any discernible progress, I yearned for the time a Christian (a practising one) would get there and make a difference. When Jerry showed up, he seemed like the answer to my longing. With M.Sc. in Rural Resource Planning and a Ph.D. in Market Place Systems and Rural Development and a Certificate in Education, Jerry could feign dumbness as his CV spoke eloquently for him. Jerry arrived with so much more. For those who have encountered him at his evangelical best, he is a preacher without compare. His grasp of Christian doctrine is vast, his homiletics absolutely gripping. If he had chosen the vocation of Christian ministry, he would have been one of Christendom’s heavyweights.  

So when in 1992 he took a shot at the presidency, I rooted unreservedly for him.

It is over two decades now and all I can say is that I now know much better. While I still hope for the day a truly committed Christian will steer the ship of the Nigerian state to a soothing harbour, I repose no such hope in men like Jerry Gana.

Twice he has been Minister of Information, once he served as Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources and he pioneered the Ministry of Co-operation and Integration in Africa. He once served as Presidential Adviser on Political Matters and was foundation Secretary of the both PDP and its Board of Trustees. As a member of the famed G34 that metamorphosed into Africa’s largest party, he should ordinarily have secured his place in the hall of fame of Nigeria’s democracy.

Sadly, that is not the way it reads. Looking through his extensive records of public service and political engagement, I’ve come to the painful conclusion he served neither God nor men. It is yet unclear to me who he serves but I’m absolutely clear about who he doesn’t.

In evangelical parlance, Jerry Gana will be branded a backslider, a reprobate and an apostate. The standard prescriptions for his ilk are repentance and deliverance. A sterner saint like the venerable W F Kumuyi would have additionally ordered sanctification and restitution.

I first noticed Jerry’s unravelling in the heady days of the dark-goggled generalissimo, Sani Abacha, who Jerry served with unmatched zest.

Frank Ovie Kokori was then the General Secretary of the cantankerous and powerful oil workers union, NUPENG that had taken on Abacha’s behemoth. Naturally, Kokori became a target. For weeks, the regime claimed it had Kokori in custody but most people knew that to be untrue. For so long, Jerry Gana kept repeating and embellishing the lies until Kokori materialized from hiding. Since then, Jerry has never looked back or relented.

He is ready to say or do anything as long it earns him continued relevance. He is the quintessential man Friday: the voluble venal virtuoso. With one leg planted firmly in the Church and the other deep in the putrefying morass of national mis-governance, Jerry Gana has become the personification of survivalism: the major plank of the gospel of everlasting political life.

I do not know who ordered a National Honour for Jerry but the appropriateness of it could not have been more apt.

Professor Jerry Gana, CON. How so fitting!   

OLUGU OLUGU ORJI mnia
nnanta2012@gmail.com

************
The Paradigm supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in Op-Ed are solely those of each individual author and does not necessarily represents our editorial policy.

Follow us on TWITTER via @Theparadigmng and like our FACEBOOK page via www.facebook.com/ParadigmShiftNigeria.

Send your articles for publication to editor@paradigmshiftng.com. You can also send your eye witness reports, photos and videos to iwitness@paradigmshiftng.com

Click here to subscribe to The Paradigm Newsletter

Comments

comments

Share your thoughts


I fell in love the very first time I encountered him. If memory serves, it was at the official launch of MAMSER in Makurdi, Benue State. For those too young to know or afflicted with amnesia, MAMSER, short for Mass Mobilization for Self Reliance, Social Justice and Economic Recovery, was one of those high-sounding, convoluted initiatives spurned by self-styled military president, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida who held sway between 1985 and 1993.

The sobriquet, ‘evil genius’ that is generally generously applied to IBB does great havoc to his finer, nobler attributes. In matters of ferreting out men and women of calibre for public office, IBB will qualify as one of Nigeria’s best. That is how Jerry Gana, Professor of Geography was unleashed on the national dais.

That fateful day, the late Ozzidi king, Sunny Okosuns shared the platform with Jerry. While Okosuns crooned, the rest of us swooned. Just when we thought we had had enough, Jerry seized the stage; working the audience like a master microphone magician. By the time he was through, I could have sworn IBB was an angel of God!

Though he had had a brief stint in the Senate of the ill-fated second Republic in 1983, it was via MAMSER he clambered up the big stage. Since then, he has managed to remain visible and relevant in successive administrations. That is not necessarily a bad thing. If intellect and pedigree were the criteria for leadership, Jerry would still have been more than qualified for every position he has held. For a man who earned a first degree in 1970 and wound up as a Professor a decade and a half later, he is in the best position to champion meritocracy because he was cooked on that crucible.

Unfortunately, Nigeria’s brand of distinction is hardly achieved through intellect and merit. Consequently, whenever excellence happens in public affairs, it is by default or attributable to exception-to-the-rule. Unlike in academe where people are distinguished by what they can offer, the avatars of Nigerian politics are those versed in chicanery and demagoguery.
 

Those intent on making a successful transition from one to the other must confront impossible odds. They must repudiate every principle once held and trample on the very values that enabled them to distinction. That, in brief is the story of men like Jerry Gana.
For Jerry Gana specifically, it is even worse; and at this juncture, a personal confession is appropriate.

During my university days in the 80s, I was one of those who felt leadership in Nigeria had been unduly monopolized by Muslims. Since we did not seem to be making any discernible progress, I yearned for the time a Christian (a practising one) would get there and make a difference. When Jerry showed up, he seemed like the answer to my longing. With M.Sc. in Rural Resource Planning and a Ph.D. in Market Place Systems and Rural Development and a Certificate in Education, Jerry could feign dumbness as his CV spoke eloquently for him. Jerry arrived with so much more. For those who have encountered him at his evangelical best, he is a preacher without compare. His grasp of Christian doctrine is vast, his homiletics absolutely gripping. If he had chosen the vocation of Christian ministry, he would have been one of Christendom’s heavyweights.  

So when in 1992 he took a shot at the presidency, I rooted unreservedly for him.

It is over two decades now and all I can say is that I now know much better. While I still hope for the day a truly committed Christian will steer the ship of the Nigerian state to a soothing harbour, I repose no such hope in men like Jerry Gana.

Twice he has been Minister of Information, once he served as Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources and he pioneered the Ministry of Co-operation and Integration in Africa. He once served as Presidential Adviser on Political Matters and was foundation Secretary of the both PDP and its Board of Trustees. As a member of the famed G34 that metamorphosed into Africa’s largest party, he should ordinarily have secured his place in the hall of fame of Nigeria’s democracy.

Sadly, that is not the way it reads. Looking through his extensive records of public service and political engagement, I’ve come to the painful conclusion he served neither God nor men. It is yet unclear to me who he serves but I’m absolutely clear about who he doesn’t.

In evangelical parlance, Jerry Gana will be branded a backslider, a reprobate and an apostate. The standard prescriptions for his ilk are repentance and deliverance. A sterner saint like the venerable W F Kumuyi would have additionally ordered sanctification and restitution.

I first noticed Jerry’s unravelling in the heady days of the dark-goggled generalissimo, Sani Abacha, who Jerry served with unmatched zest.

Frank Ovie Kokori was then the General Secretary of the cantankerous and powerful oil workers union, NUPENG that had taken on Abacha’s behemoth. Naturally, Kokori became a target. For weeks, the regime claimed it had Kokori in custody but most people knew that to be untrue. For so long, Jerry Gana kept repeating and embellishing the lies until Kokori materialized from hiding. Since then, Jerry has never looked back or relented.

He is ready to say or do anything as long it earns him continued relevance. He is the quintessential man Friday: the voluble venal virtuoso. With one leg planted firmly in the Church and the other deep in the putrefying morass of national mis-governance, Jerry Gana has become the personification of survivalism: the major plank of the gospel of everlasting political life.

I do not know who ordered a National Honour for Jerry but the appropriateness of it could not have been more apt.

Professor Jerry Gana, CON. How so fitting!   

OLUGU OLUGU ORJI mnia
nnanta2012@gmail.com

************
The Paradigm supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in Op-Ed are solely those of each individual author and does not necessarily represents our editorial policy.

Follow us on TWITTER via @Theparadigmng and like our FACEBOOK page via www.facebook.com/ParadigmShiftNigeria.

Send your articles for publication to editor@paradigmshiftng.com. You can also send your eye witness reports, photos and videos to iwitness@paradigmshiftng.com

Click here to subscribe to The Paradigm Newsletter

Comments

comments

Share your thoughts

%d bloggers like this: