29 December 2018
Ben Murray-Bruce, officially the senator for Bayelsa East, but unofficially the “Senator representing Twitter”, also has other more disparaging nicknames including “Ben Murray Dunce” and “Senator Alabi Yellow”. But Bruce prefers to be known as “the Common Sense Senator”, announcing via his Twitter handle that he is a “Common Sense Advocate” and that he is the author of the book: “A Commonsense Revolution”.
But despite these efforts to forcefully associate himself with common sense, Bruce regularly struggles to make any sense at all. Following the death of former president Shehu Shagari yesterday, Bruce tweeted:
This is shocking ignorance coming from a lawmaker. Nigeria was not making progress when Shagari was overthrown. The fact that the military dictatorship that replaced Shagari did not remedy the ills that they used as an excuse to seize power is not an indication that a functioning and progressive regime was stopped in its tracks. Shagari presided over a corrupt, inept and directionless administration whose overthrow was generally met with a sense of relief from most Nigerians. Calling Shagari a “great leader” is taking liberties with the convention of not speaking ill about the dead. That convention should not be a licence to rewrite history.
But Bruce outdid himself with his next comment that Shagari
“brought the Igbos back to prominence after the civil war by making one of them VP”. This is beyond senseless. Shagari was running for president of the whole of Nigeria, which happens to include Igboland, when he decided to make Alex Ekwueme his running mate. It was a political calculation to win enough Igbo votes to get Shagari over the line. Under the 1979 Nigerian Constitution, in order to be elected president on the first ballot, a candidate needed to receive both the most votes nationwide and at least 25% of the vote in two-thirds of the states. So Shagari was not doing Igbo people any favours by choosing an Igbo running mate. He was doing it to help himself become president.
Secondly, it is patronising and shallow to suggest that millions of enterprising Igbos needed someone to lead them to “prominence” and that the elevation of a single Igbo man automatically translated to “prominence” to millions of others that he shared an ethnicity with. The misguided belief that once someone from an ethnic group is in power or in the corridors of power, that person’s ethnic group has been elevated, may be commonly held in Nigeria, but it is not common sense. Ekwueme as vice president did very little to change the lives any ordinary Igbo person. So Ben Murray-Bruce’s fabled “prominence” must have passed them by.
Bruce has been lately chief cheerleader for the presidential campaign of Atiku Abubakar, also a Fulani like Shagari, who has chosen an Igbo man – Peter Obi – as his running mate – like Shagari did with Ekwueme. Perhaps Bruce also thinks Atiku is doing Igbos another favour.
Bruce is not running for reelection next year and it would have been nice for his constituents in Bayelsa East if their senator could point at a single favour that his presence in the upper chamber has brought them.
In June 2016 while supporting former president Goodluck Jonathan, who gave a presentation at the Bloomberg office in London, Bruce promised to introduce a “bill of rights” in the senate.
Nothing was heard since. It is not quite clear what Bruce has achieved in the senate. He is now backing a presidential candidate that is promising a lot and would most likely deliver so little. At least most observers now know that with Bruce you are guaranteed common sense in very short supply. No one with any sense would argue that Bruce’s tenure in the senate brought Bayelsa East to “prominence”.