by Onyeka Nwelue
Your Excellency, Senator Ben Murray Bruce,
My name is Onyeka Nwelue. We met in 2011 for the first time, at the Pent, Eko Hotel. It was all dramatized by MTV and MTN. They invited some of us young people and gave us scripts and filmed it and showed it to the world.
2011 was a great year for me. It was when I had the rare opportunity of meeting you. I was overly excited. I could see my life changing. I had dreams, a day before we met, that I would learn many things from you that would turn my life around. That meeting was the MTV Meets MTN with Ben Bruce. The video can be found online here: http://vimeo.com/54686313. I met you, my dearest Sir, and it was underwhelming, to say the least. It was a lot like visiting the Dalai Lama and expecting to meet the most charismatic man in the world, and then meeting a small town snake oil salesman in his stead. No offense meant, Sir; I am a writer, you see, and I have to use these metaphors.
I expected that meeting you will be a life-changing moment, but it wasn’t. I do not know if I should blame you for this. But if I don’t blame you, who do I blame?
We were given scripts. We were told what to ask you by the MTV crew. It happened that, at the end of the day, some of us ‘actors’ didn’t use the scripts. We were about 6 ‘young’ entrepreneurs who were going to learn one or two things from you, Sir. I can assure you that I did not learn one thing from you, because you were very distant. You were not real to me, to any of us. Do you understand what I’m saying?
Let me go straight to the point. I don’t know if any of us ever got to really learn from you after that interview. We thought we would. We hoped we would. We were so excited to be meeting the great Ben Murray Bruce who would bless us with nuggets of wisdom to inspire us to go on to become juggernauts in our own right. But no. I did not learn anything. I hope that someday, I would. You will come down to the human level and say the truth and be real.
Everything you said that day was all lies. I know, because I looked into your eyes, and my God, it was so obvious. I also saw it from the way you talked down on us. The way you talked down on everyone. You are a practiced liar. Such unflinching condescension can only be achieved with repeated practice. These days, when I see you on TV, like when you launched the electric car, sounding smart and talking brilliantly, I shake my head and say, “This man and his sweet tongue. No one should listen to him.”
You are a smart man. You can sweet-talk people into believing in everything you say. You are more brilliant than any of the Senators in the Senate. I know that you know this. This would be a good thing if you were a good man. But your brilliance is all for your capitalist mind. Everything you are fighting for is to favour yourself alone. You are a bag of contradictions. I am not trying to run you down. That, I cannot do, because as I have earlier alluded to, you’re a juggernaut. But this is for young people who have started buying into your tactics, so that they can be very careful. I have met you. I have interacted with you and I know you are good at building armies of loyal followers. I just want your followers to know what they are following.
While we interviewed you, sir, I asked you when you would write your autobiography, so we would learn from you. You never answered. You will never answer a question directly. If asked your age, you would not say it without giving a background history. You speak well. You know you do. But that is where it all ends. All fluff and no substance. You would be an amazing actor. Everything you do is for show. You live for entertainment. You capitalize on the sensibility of many Nigerians. I would have been immensely surprised if you didn’t win the Senatorial seat of your zone. Who can ignore such an exceptional showman as you?
You told us a story: how you met the Jacksons. It was so easy for you, you said. You called and they asked you to come over. So I asked if it would be equally easy to get to you. Oh, yes, you were so smart to say yes. I asked for your contact and you asked your assistant to give me a number that was for someone else; someone who kept asking me to say what I wanted, that it would be delivered to Mr. Bruce.
Your shrewdness has been continuously shown since you became a Senator. You say now that you don’t fly a First Class when you’re travelling; the next minute, you’re seated in a First Class section of a flight. You talk so much about young people taking charge of this and that; your children are studying in the best universities in America. People like you who keep talking about emancipation and financial freedom are the ones holding the world down.
My anger is not that you gave me another number to call. My anger is that you looked down on me. You’re the kind of man who doesn’t really care. I have met wealthy and successful people, but you’re the only one I met that never impressed me or never attempted to address any negative perceptions about him. What I was told about you is what I found. Very stark! You are not apologetic about it, because you keep using your medium, STV, to push your personal propaganda and trying to push yourself to people as a purist. If this works, then I will believe that young people in Nigeria can be easily deceived. The deceptions applied by politicians have been glorified by your approach towards the exigency of penury. You understand the mentality of the poor. You understand the human predicament. You understand our psyche. You go use us well well!
I don’t want to continue. Just CHANGE, Mr. Bruce, now that you want to make COMMON SENSE and be realistic with all those ideals. Recently you started waxing lyrical on Twitter, saying all the right things and winning a lot of new supporters. The words were so sweet that I was almost taken in myself. But no, I know you, Mr. Bruce. You are cunning. I do not know what you aim to achieve by coming on Twitter to make all those plenty promises. But they say this is the era of change and anything is possible. If it is possible for you to change, and finally make good on a promise, any promise at all, I will shut up and retire to my home and never say anything bad about anybody again, ever. And I will write you a beautiful letter and praise you.
I know this is not possible, but I watch you with crossed fingers.
Thank you very much for reading this, but don’t reply.
Onyeka Nwelue is an Assistant Professor of African Literature and Studies at the University of Manipur, Imphal and Visiting Lecturer of African Studies at the University of Hong Kong. He is currently on the Jury of the Woodpecker International Film Festival in India and his latest book is Hip-Hop is Only for Children.