2023 And ‘The Pharaoh’ Who May Not know ‘Joseph’

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Governor Udom Emmanuel

The renowned William Butler Yeats had severally been lost in synthetic streams of consciousness. Yet, he found the inspiration to address some apocalyptic realities. A result of his pool of thoughts was his poem, “The Second Coming”. It was indeed an avenue for the world-class scholar and poet to tutor the inhabitants of the earth on the Christian faith. He placed a special attention on the preaching of the Second Coming of Christ. But, as he witnessed the indecorous break in time and the disorder in the order of universal speculations, he gladly made a global proclamation that “Things have Fallen Apart” and that “mere anarchy is loose upon the world”.

Entrapped in extraneous muse which engulfed his sensation, a 20th century African scholar jumped on William Yeats’ poetic vehicle to announce his literary mission. Professor Chinua Achebe could no more hold his peace, after a flight of an imagination overwhelmed him. Achebe reflected on the bulging stretch of time which discomfited human expectations. Of course, the world was (and might still be) awaiting the Second Coming of Christ and all its accomplices. But worried by all the doubts that flipped Yeats off the spectrum of actuality, causing him to announce that “The falcon can no more hear the falconer”, Achebe bursted that “Things” have really “Fallen Apart”. He used that giant leap to teach the universe the absolute erosion of Africa’s cultural norms, as imported cultures were taking the central stage.

In like manner, and as Achebe became helpless and could not detach himself from the gluing sensation that connects with Yeats’, so is yours truly lost in this pool. The mind blowing pulse finds expression in the archetypal story of Joseph in the Bible. The allusion has no intentions to interrogate the personality behind the fate of the Israelites in Egypt. There is neither no inclinations towards seeking reasons why the New Pharaoh abandoned his history to do the abominable. The focus is basically to affirm the doubts that formed the decision of the New King. Indeed, the step taken wasn’t far from achievement of national interest or cohesion. None can deny too, that it was the genesis of their national disasters. The two results are directly proportional to the calculations of both the heart and thinking of man, and the mind and wrath of God. While one is directly implicit, the other is inescapably retributive.

“Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” (KJV), as drawn from Exodus 1:8 is a popular verse of the Bible. The statement forms the foundation for this thesis. First, to situate the object of the discourse, it is imperative to survey the environmental conditionality propelling the decisions of the new king. The previous verse (VS 7) had said, “And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them”, (KJV). Also, the first three proceeding verses (VS 9, 10 & 11) stated, “And he said unto his people, Behold the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens,” (KJV).

Before dwelling in the kernel of this ‘provocation’, yours truly finds a blending circumstance in the previous chapter (Genesis 50). In the last three verses (VS 24, 25 & 26), Joseph, the Prime Minister seems to be possessed by some revelatory instincts. After seeing the sons of his son, Ephraim, even unto their third generations, Joseph, at age 110 now becomes a ‘Prophet’ proclaiming blessings upon his descendants and clearly foreseeing the tribulations of his brethren. He is not only perturbed by the torment and sorrows that they will pass through. He can vividly see the end of all the drama and emphatically states, “God will surely visit you”. Joseph reiterates the promise of God to bring the Israelites out of the land of Egypt unto the land flowing with milk and honey, according to His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Before giving up the ghost, Joseph instructs his brethren to carry his own bones with them, as they would be moving out of the land. This statement remains the most powerful and marks the beginning of what should be expected.

To tie it up, a short statement has to be made in reference to the context so cited. Two major shifts have occurred. First, Joseph is no more the Prime Minister of Egypt. Secondly, the old Pharaoh who knew Joseph has died. A New Pharaoh now occupies the throne. The Israelites have explosively outgrown their population as expected by the indigenous people of Egypt. Their relationships have eroded. Irrespective of Joseph’s role in sustaining the land as a global Economist, the intimidating population of the Israelites is becoming a threat to the Egyptian people. Now, fear and disgust have motivated the king of Egypt to cause a brutal enslavement of the people of Israel in an attempt to reduce their numbers. Of course the effort fails and Pharaoh decides to cut them out, using infanticide. But the question is, has the New Pharaoh been able to successfully decimate them?

Having established the compass to properly guide this argument, it is now time to dwell on the politics of succession as regards the leadership of Akwa Ibom State. No doubts, the current leadership would expire on May 29, 2023. About three months to the time, a new governor will definitely emerge. While various strands of the political class have their choices, ordinary citizens have theirs too. One thing is sure; each person’s choice depends solely on who they are in contact with, what they’re exposed to and how their concerns are perhaps being situated.

At the very last count, about 21 aspirants have flaunted themselves. They’re all ready to present both their CVs and blueprints for assessment. One thing is sure, it has been stated that this essay has no interest in interrogating the personality of the New Pharaoh. To be clear, the New Pharaoh defines a character typology of a new governor. By this notion, while the name would obviously not be important, the traits would definitely be.

Again, this piece remains insistent not to seek reasons for which the New Pharaoh undertakes the action of dealing ruthlessly with the people. It has no reason to ask why the Pharaoh feels more secure to abandon his own history. But in contrast, reminding the Pharaoh of his history is non-negotiable, for as Thomas Eliot would wish to remain relevant, his position reverberates that “a people without history is not redeemed from time.” We shall now board a flight with the state-owned Ibom Air for a visit to this history.

Joseph, ‘a child of destiny’ is sold as a slave into Egypt, following the sins of jealousy and envy that conspired against him. With his talents, he’s seen walking straight to the king’s Court, where he is pronounced the Prime Minister. His reign in Egypt establishes the nation as a seat of civilization and prosperity. All nations of the world now see Egypt as a centre for trade and investment. Even his kindred are accorded the status of prominence, as his father is respected with a national funeral at death. Delegations are being sent with Joseph and his people as they take their father’s corpse back home for burial. Such an individual with a lasting impact is being denigrated by a so-called New Pharaoh. Is it that the New King can’t connect with history? Or is it because of his personal trait of wickedness?

Perhaps the New Pharaoh thinks his pretence of forgetfulness would propel “national (state) growth or development. He may be right that the Israelites are more than him and his own. He calls a meeting with his agents and agrees with them to “deal wisely with the people.” But as he does same, “the people are exceedingly multiplying.” He sets out “taskmasters to afflict them” with their burdens, but this does not stall their growth. He progresses to ‘killing’ their male children, so they would wane in strength, but “Moses is still being raised.” One thing the New Pharaoh fails to understand is that in spite of the deliberate attempt to afflict the people, they’re still waxing stronger and stronger.

Apparently, the present administration in Akwa Ibom State shares basic inalienable relationships with the cited context. The leader of this government came into the then transiting administration on the last working day of July 2013 (less than 2 years before becoming Governor). Starting from the known to the unknown, it can be seen from the performance of this administration, what it feels like to have a New Pharaoh as our Governor. Of course, very respected sons and a daughter of this state filed out to vie for the office in 2015. Most of them were integral members of the state government for years. Highly experienced, vast in knowledge and rich in contact base and goodwill to the people, they were all dribbled out of the contest, while a banker, a greenhorn in politics became the most favoured. The result hasn’t been overstated. It is what it is, “a mystery”, in the words of Obong Victor Attah.

As it happened in 2015, the pot is boiling for a repetition in 2023. There are a few favoured men in the system. One presently sits at the Exco. One or two others are standing in the corridor, who are yet to begin learning the ropes. Like the present, drained in abysmal gutters, of underperformance, the one at the Exco would just be two years by 2023. Should he be given the flag and the mandate, the result can’t be unpredictable. If one of the two at the corridors assumes the office, over bloated failure won’t be unexpected. Question is, has the state fared well under the banker whose credentials were chorused to have been highly rated? Has the same banker lived up to expectations as a prudent manager of resources?

Apart from the foregoing, it is the character trait of this New Pharaoh that scares the most. The New Pharaoh is certainly a stooge placed on the post for some ‘drilling business’. It is true that the New Pharaoh has not been with us. The New Pharaoh rules (can rule) over us with absolute distinction to the negative. One of the qualities of a good leader is his addiction to history. A man who disposes glorious history for pecuniary or parochial benefits isn’t fitted for leadership. Like the New Pharaoh who knew not Joseph, morality should teach mankind that a man, who saves you from ‘death’ yesterday, deserves all the respect and reciprocal love.

Accepted, the people are more than him and his own. But that shouldn’t be factored towards why the New Pharaoh should call a meeting where decisions would be taken for him to “deal wisely with the people”. As it happened in the past, the people can’t stop multiplying. The afflictions of his taskmasters would not stop them from growing. He may have progressed to killing their male children, but “Moses” is still being raised in the palace.

The big lesson has been learnt. The current dispensation is the best experience for the state. At this material time, it should be incontestable that no single man should wield the absolute power to impose a leader on a state. If democracy still retains its foundational import, then the masses should be granted the singular right of deciding who presides over them. The first hasn’t been palatable. The next would definitely not be. The New Pharaoh who voluntarily forgets the verdict of history, just to flaunt his superfluous ego and high drive for cockiness must tread courteously.

As others would like to put it, a man who is not on ground cannot deliver on governance. Of course, experience remains the best teacher. Some are called Lagos-returnees, but everyone certainly has a base. Some are called home-grown and the difference is clear. Two things are important at this juncture. First, the Akwa Ibom Governor in 2023 must understand that governance is about the people at the grassroots. If he’s not been around, he will, like the biblical New Pharaoh, pretend to be ignorant. But if he’s always around with the people, pretence would travel far, to allow room for orderliness.

Secondly, the context shows how Pharaoh’s decision to decimate the Israelites got built under the false premise of protecting the indigenous people of Egypt. Like it was in those days, some aspirants have practically been walked out of the contest because of some calculated blackmails and false premises of arguments. The Pharaoh is selling a familiar mantra as a cocktail to drift the sensibilities of unsuspecting members of the public. But as it happens in the referred biblical context, shouldn’t we pray against the 10 Plagues? More so, as some of these men have made sacrifices like Joseph did in the past, won’t it be disastrous to attempt paying them back the other way?

The election year gently comes as days keep vanishing away. The champions of political process in Akwa Ibom State must learn to respect agreements. They must learn to be trustworthy. The leaders must avert the idea of imposition. The people must be allowed to freely make their choices, so that the next governor would know his people by their names. Only this will save the state from parading a wrong governor as ‘the Pharaoh’ who may not Know ‘Joseph’.

Joseph Atainyang is an Uyo-based journalist and public affairs commentator.

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