What a wonderful surprise it was recently, to have put forward my way, by a good friend, an e-mail with an online video attachment featuring the honourable Patrick Obahiagbon of the Federal House of Representatives in action on Nigerian national television. For readers who do not know this gentleman and who have never seen or heard him in full verbal flow; it is sufficient to say, that he is one of a kind and a class act. He is one of the biggest attractions of the current crop of legislators who sit in the Federal House of Representatives. And, I suspect he is the one, to whom, his colleagues turn, whenever they seek respite from the tedium of their legislative work.
Representative Pat Obahiagbon has much to say and a very interesting way of saying that which he has to say. He is in love with words. And I would go as far as wagering my last naira note, on the fact, that were he ever to be marooned on a desert island, and allowed a single choice of textual companion, to keep him company during his isolation; his choice, would without a doubt be a dictionary. He is a dictionary buff and a lover of the spoken word. He is a verbal contortionist and a man of bombast; and one who never tires of entertaining his audience.
Many moons ago, it was my pleasure to make his acquaintance when he, I, and others, were busy with our backs bent and heads buried in various tomes as part of our quest to satisfy the onerous requirements of the Council of Legal Education. Back then, just like know, he stood out in a crowd, and not simply because of what he said or how he said what he said, but also because of his distinctive fashion sense.
He caught the notice of those around him, including those who had never had the pleasure of hearing him speak, by reason of his distinctive sartorial style. In an institution and environment renowned for its conservatism and in which most people were attired, as a matter of course, in formal business suits and ties, he chose to attire himself, in distinction to others, in ensembles of matching traditional Buba and Sokoto (shirt and trousers) outfits.
But it wasn’t simply his distinctive choice in outward garments that stood him out; it was also how he chose to wear his fashion. For some reason or the other, his trouser length, always seemed to suggest that there was an ongoing battle between the hem of his trousers and his ankles. The hem was always so many inches above his ankles, in a manner redolent of Michael Jackson’s style in his hey day as the King of Pop music. His trouser length was also evocative of the style preferred and popularised by devotees of the Hare Krishna movement.
But to cap it all, he also wore his head clean shaven. He also adorned the ridge of his nose with a pair of spectacles, which he could very easily have obtained from a collection maintained by, one or the other of, Chief Obafemi Awolowo or Mahatma Ghandi. He looked a mystic and sounded mystical; he was, and remains an interesting spectacle to behold.
My initial contact with him was not entirely auspicious. In our first encounter we disagreed about certain seating arrangements in a tutorial session, and exchanged words and glances which were far from cordial. But to his eternal credit, at the end of the session, he walked up to me, with his hand extended in a gesture of friendship, and declared in his unmistakable baritone voice:
‘My name is Pat Obahiagbon formerly of the University of Benin, you and I stand to gain much more from each other by being friends than by being enemies.’
He was a class act and I have not, even till this day, forgotten that memorable encounter. And neither have I forgotten what ensued in the tutorial session that day. For Pat was to take centre stage in the most riveting fashion in a run-in with the tutorial master of the day; a man widely regarded as being very eccentric and an expert on the subject in view; a certain Mr. Adubi. As it happens, it fell to Pat to analyse a rather difficult question for the benefit of the class. And his attempt to unravel it proceeded thus:
Pat: ‘With respect sir, this question indents on omnibus.’
Mr. Adubi: ‘I beg your pardon’.
Pat: ‘Sir, I say again, that this questions indents on omnibus.’
Mr. Adubi: ‘Mr. Man, please come down to my level. Please have another go at it. And this time, please remember that even the venerable Lord Denning uses language that is easily understandable by children’.
Pat: ‘Okay sir, I shall have another go. With respect sir, I submit that this question is a cul-de-sac’.
At this point in the exchange, the tutorial class burst into fits of laughter. But Pat remained unperturbed insisting that the question was inaccessible to reason and therefore beyond resolution.
That encounter was to be for me, a prelude to, and a basis for, many more entertaining encounters between us; encounters which would leave me in stitches of laughter, but much richer in stock of vocabulary. From then on, whenever I saw him, I was quick to seek his views on topical issues affecting the country. On one occasion, I sought his views on General Babangida’s administration; to which he responded:
‘General Babangida’s rule has left Nigeria in a state of higgledy-piggledy.’
On another occasion, I asked him what his views were on the prospects of a political battle between the Ibrus and the Igbenidions in the old Bendel State. He looked me square in the eye and said:
‘Bendel State is about to witness a state of political kamikaze’.
In an entirely different setting before a full class of candidates, he challenged a lecturer on his perceived failings in providing certain important literature in a timely fashion; telling him on that occasion:
‘Your failure to provide this pertinent literature, on time, has left us in a state of maniacal bewilderment.’
But this was not to be his best contribution to the verbal arts. In another dramatic encounter in which he volunteered to read out a specific provision of a piece of legislation, and to do so verbatim; he could not resist the temptation of adding his distinctive stamp to the task, and in doing provoking the ire of the lecturer leading the session.
The text in question read, and I quote:
‘If a legal practitioner objects …’
But in his rendering, he said:
‘If a legal practitioner demurs …’
To which the lecturer cried out on hearing, “where do you see the word ‘demur’ in the text?” Pat was quick to respond in firm style, saying to the lecturer:
“Madam, ‘demur’ is another word for ‘object’.”
The lecturer was not impressed. And she went on to threaten him with failure in his exams, should he decide to adopt such an approach in his finals. At this point, the whole class erupted in laughter.
Pat is a loquacious man and one given to bombast; but his exotic vocabulary, no matter how highfalutin, is properly founded in the dictionary, as even a cursory check will reveal. Although, prosodically, he may not be the most poetic sounding in his delivery, he is none
theless, a master of his art.
Over the years, on occasion, I have thought about Pat and wondered about his well being. And, anytime I am opportuned to meet anyone from the University of Benin from that period, I am always quick to ask after his welfare. So, it was particularly satisfying to discover recently, that he now pursues a career in politics; a profession which guarantees and provides him with a ready platform and audience.
For readers unfamiliar with Pat’s verbal antics, the online link of the video attachment, to which I make reference, at the beginning of this article, is contained below.
The taste of the pudding, they say, is in the eating and without wishing to over-egg the pudding; I encourage readers to sample the delights of this verbal contortionist by clicking on the above link.
I can say, with hand over heart, that all those years ago, he was good fun to listen to, and on the strength of the above link, he still remains so.
And so, from one associate to another, I say:
Pat, keep on discombobulating as you discharge your onus propandi in the behalf of your constituents!!!