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Unmasking the masquerades by Femi Onakanren



Femi Fani-Kayode has apologised for comments made to a journalist

By Femi Onakanren/Lagos

Increasingly, it has become clear that most commentators on Nigerian politics are ignorant, novices or just plain anywhere-belle-face apologists.

There is often a lot of uproar and agitation when issues align with preferred biases but at the center of all the opprobrium, there doesn’t seem to be any substance or vision beyond wishful thinking and self interest powering the social activism.

The real players know how to play the game and have been successfully exploiting the weaknesses of their following for many decades. It is like the dance of the Masquerades. The initiates know the rites, meaning, codes and procedures. To the uninitiated, it is all glamour and magic of the pomp and pageantry.


Nothing that happened with Femi Fani-Kayode should surprise anyone. Integrity was never a requirement in Nigeria’s political history or calculations; its always been about self interest.

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar, the then PDP presidential candidate

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo blasted and ridiculed his former Vice President (two terms) Atiku Abubakar. Only to turn around and present him as fit for the Presidency when their interests were aligned.

Incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari was pro no-tolerance-for-corruption until his presidential ambitions could be realized through beleaguered former Lagos State Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu (not casting aspersions on either character but the rumors around the APC chieftain would have been expected to dissuade any collaboration between the parties). SE has supported the PDP for years, even against the indigenous All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) because they also recognize that numbers, not sentiments, win elections. Basically, in today’s Nigeria, there is no moral or ideological compass to guide or determine how leadership should be selected, elected or delivered beyond pecuniary gratifications.

Afenifere, Ohaneze, Northern Elders Forum, Niger Delta agitators etc. are no more than just vehicles for political relevance and ambitions by their arrowheads and godfathers. Our politics is too entrenched in ethnic and religious bigotry and mischievous and malevolent partisanship to pay attention to the real issues of governance. Unfortunately, the people are willfully caught in the snare and the gladiators entertain to satirical delights. Ultimately, the politicians know that the game is the game.

National leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu shake hands with President Muhammadu Buhari

National leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu with President Muhammadu Buhari

If we, the people, truly desire real change as a nation, the conversation has to shift to a politics of ideology and character and not of personalities and/or interests. The current amorphous nature of the definitions of integrity, accountability and stewardship of our political system leaves a lot of room for misdirection and malfeasance. This is perhaps why successive generations of politicians and leaders are almost indistinguishable. Like begets like and birds of a feather flock together.

We must realize that the country has long been held hostage by different interest groups. The unfortunate part is, none of these groups have sincerely demonstrated that they have the interest of the people and country at heart. The people are caught in a like classic case of Stockholm syndrome; the biggest victims are the loudest champions and supporters of their oppressors.


We may be disappointed in characters like FFK and the cross carpeting brigade but the sad reality is that politicians will be politicians. They are the same throughout history irrespective of geography, religion, culture or race. Yes they can be instruments of change but, as with all tools, the competence of the one wielding the tool is paramount. We are yet to come to the realization that we, the people, are the wielders.

The question is not how to change the politicians, it is how to make the system work for the benefit of the people and posterity. Many say we need strong institutions and not personalities. I say strong institutions without the right personalities are exercises in futility; the tale of the Great Wall of China readily comes to mind.

FFK will not be the last. There are many who serve vitriolic speeches and content to the public whilst privately wishing they had FFK’s access, recognition and opportunity. It’s the nature of the game.

The important thing is for the people to not game themselves in the drama. The dancers in the ballroom can hear the music but the audience seems to be tone deaf and responsive only to the mesmerizing movements of the Masquerade.


The masquerade is an integral part of most Nigerian cultures. They are venerated as incarnations of our ancestors and connectors to/reminders of, our roots and origins. Whilst the aspects of Masquerades are necessarily eerie and unorthodox, there are things unbecoming and unexpected of such a venerable figure.

It is a taboo to unmask a Masquerade. But when the vessels are corrupted and preaching their own messages, the bearers of the token would have abused the privilege. Our politicians forget they are Masquerades on parade.

They forget that Masquerades only have value as long as there is a people who value the culture. Once they fail to uphold the people and culture, unmasking the Masquerade becomes inevitable.

– Femi Onakanren, a Business Development Specialist and can be reached via email at

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