Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
When I ventured into the power or virtues of silence in my essay of Monday September 27 2021, I received queries, suggestions, and remonstrations on how silence is not golden all the time, on how in current Nigeria, silence is an offence against reasonable conscience and the hoi polloi of our doddering nation, and how being garrulous can guarantee the presence of your voice on national radio and television and a red carpet reception in the very seat of national power. There were some who contended that it is good, fit, and proper to be loquacious sometimes during one’s career or in the history of a country, and that in the reign of foolishness over a people, loquaciousness could be taken, is often taken for profundity and could take one to the next level, as FFK has done and what Information Minister Lai Mohammed had also achieved in his days in office.
So, today I have chosen to write on this inane topic to please my foes and interlocutors. For the sake of suffering humanity, I have grandly christened the essay ‘In Praise of Loquaciousness! Don’t you like the sound of it? Loquaciousness! I guess you do! I do too. So, don’t mind my loquaciousness today if I end up saying an infinite deal of nothing in the process of interrogating the very idea and practice of loquaciousness! Is it true that loquacious people often tell a lot of lies or distort information because they hardly have time to do a fact-check or that they are more interested in the fact that they are speaking than in the quality and wisdom in what they say?
I know that there are loquacious preachers just as there are loquacious teachers, government officials and university lecturers. Football commentators on radio are all loquacious. Indeed, to be a football commentator, you must pass an examination for loquaciousness. On radio football commentary, we enjoy the loquacity of the commentator. That is why we used to mute the TV sound and increase the volume of the commentaries emanating from the radio in those halcyon years of real local footballing.
The biggest arena for loquacious people is the political theatre where politicians speak an infinite deal of nothing, make promises they can never fulfil and lie about what they have achieved and hope to achieve. I will never forget the great Dr. Kingsley Mbadiwe of the ‘come has come to become the come’ and ‘timber and caterpillar, iroko and mahogany’ fame!
Loquaciousness! In Urhobo language, when a man talks too much, that is, a dime and a dozen, he is named ‘Etakibuebu! To be loquacious means that one talks too much. Loquacity, the noun form of loquacious is almost always negative. The dictionary says that to be given to ‘fluent or excessive talk’ is to be loquacious. The words ‘garrulous’, ‘voluble’, and ‘talkative’ also describe someone who is loquacious. A politician once described another bird of the same class as suffering from ‘verbal diarrhoea! Of course, by now my readers know what I mean when I sing the praises of a person who is loquacious.
One-time governor of Edo State, former labour leader whose name I may not mention was notorious for being garrulous, and so could not differentiate between being a labour leader and a chief executive of government. Do we remember Garuba in the Television serial Village Headmaster? He was once referred to as Garrulous Garuba! What about the sesquipedalian loquaciousness of Chief Patrick Obahiagbon? Grandiloquent presentations do become the loquacious!
Loquacity is to be courted, entertained, and encouraged in politics or in a struggle for power. By talking and talking, a talker invariably gives the impression that they have something to offer. In the corridors of power, one must talk all the time to please the powers-that-be. In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare uses the phrase ‘infinite deal of nothing’ to describe such persons. To be loquacious and succeed in the art of loquacity, one must learn to mix lies with truth, or create the impression of telling the truth while lying. This is an excellent way of warming oneself into the heart of the powers-that-be. A man who seeks to grab or keep power must learn to open his mouth and say something all the time. It does not matter whether the utterance is filled with inanities. What matters is the very fact of talking.
Someone once said that government spokespersons are often garrulous. They do not mean what they say and say what they do not mean! I don’t know whether it is true. But how do you consider a Presidential spokesman who rates his current boss higher than the very cerebral Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and cleverly leaves out Northern icons Sir Ahmadu Bello?
To be sure, such a spokesman has done extremely well to please his handlers. He must not only speak for his principal, but he must also diminish the icons of his ethnic ancestry. What else can count more for loyalty and give one political relevance in the scheme of things?
I have always admired Government Spokesmen! Sarah Saunders as White House spokesperson under the Trump administration was another type of garrulous representative. She had the wooden and straight-face capacity to spin legerdemain from both sides of her Republican mouth! Little wonder the traditional press briefing of the White House was ultimately frozen months before President Trump was frog-jumped out of that sacred office by the anger of the American people!
It is only a garrulous spokesperson that will compare apples with oranges. Of course, the spokesperson is right. He did his job very well. Do we remember the pleasant and charming Dr. Doyin Okupe as Presidential spokesman? He was excellently garrulous, an ideal voice for the presidency of Chief Obasanjo. I totally enjoyed his presentations, especially once he switched on the combative mode.
Therefore, if you are a spokesman for a government, you must learn to be garrulous. Joseph Goebbels was another excellently garrulous spokesman of the Nazi cause. He was the chief propagandist for the Nazi Party and then Reich Minister of Propaganda from 1933 to 1945. I recall the garrulousness of the Biafra wartime radio commentators Uche Chukwumerije and Okokon Ndem who ‘used (their) voices to defeat federal troops on air even if the battle was being lost on the ground! To be a propagandist you must be garrulous.
All governments look for garrulous fellows and place them in charge of selling lies and half truths to the public. FFK is the greatest fit for this category of garrulous fellows in modern Nigeria. I admire his capacity to speak positively and negatively about the same subject at the same time and change his opinions openly and with deep convictions, an earnest look on his face. He has so mastered the art of being garrulous that the incumbent government has invited him to serve after a courtesy call on the president! Who says being garrulous does not pay in Nigeria!
Finally, it is true that one can be filled with inanities, puerile thoughts without being garrulous or one could have garrulous ideas when negotiating with Boko Haram and bandit scoundrels and saying that if President Buhari declares bandits as terrorists Nigeria will come to an end! What else is the height of loquaciousness from a supposed cleric?
Prof Eghagha teaches Literature at the University of Lagos