Editors’ note: The writer, Buchi Obichie, takes outgoing Senator Ben Bruce to task for his seeming inability to apply the same ‘common sense’ principles he frequently reels out, to making any notable changes in his constituency. She notes that as he exits the red chamber, the senator would be remembered more for his tweets, than for any credible action(s)!
“Buchi, common sense is not so common!” That’s an expression my younger brother frequently uses whenever he is exasperated – as he often is – by the brazen ignorance of folks. See, my brother has always been the most intelligent amongst his siblings – myself included – and as such, he is often short tempered when confronted with blatant displays of notable stupidity!
Anyway, his expression always causes me to remember another individual who tries to impose the necessity of common sense upon the populace.
Ben Bruce came into national prominence as the organizer of the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria pageant. Then after leaving NTA where he served as DG for many years, he became more visible with his media organization, the Silverbird Group.
But Bruce’s reputation soured when he won election into the Senate to represent the Bayelsa East constituency; and with his newly added fame, Bruce began feeding the citizenry with ‘common sense’ speeches on social media and via his TV channel.
Nigerians became accustomed to the senator rounding off with the words “I’m Ben Murray-Bruce and I’m just trying to make common sense," after dropping his ‘golden nuggets’.
We did not always enjoy the nuggets. Sometimes we found them hypocritical. At many other times, he just came across as being highly obnoxious. However, we had no choice but to take them in - and then react accordingly.
To be fair, Bruce did often make sound points. Like when he tweeted, “For Nigeria to make meaningful progress, our leaders have to be more interested in the price of leadership than in the perks of leadership.”
He also tweeted at another time: “The problem with Nigeria isn't people, it’s the structure! If we don't fix our structure, even an angel will have challenges leading Nigeria.”
However, I often wondered if Bruce really got down to putting his words into action, rather than just talking about stuff.
See, one thing I love about my younger brother is that fact that he doesn’t just talk…he acts. His head is not just filled with knowledge…he actually puts the knowledge to good use. In my family, he is the one person who can be counted on to take on a task and see it to completion….whatever it takes. No matter how complicated a situation is, we count on him to find a way forward; and he most often does. We know he doesn’t just have sense…he actually uses it!
However, I don’t know if I can say same for Mr Bruce.
As I wrote this piece, I went on the web to try and find some noteworthy constituency projects initiated by the senator, and I couldn’t find any. In fact, what I ended up finding were complaints and criticisms leveled at Bruce.
In August 2017, Bruce’s constituents from the Brass, Nembe and Ogbia local government areas in Bayelsa East, threatened to recall him from the Senate, for failing to attract any constituency projects.
In April 2018, his constituents again disowned him, saying he did not deserve re-election in 2019. They berated him for ‘poor representation’ and advised him to leave politics and return to his entertainment business.
In 2015, Nigerians lambasted the senator for his anti-corruption tweets; asking him to account for the N8bn purportedly used to refurbish the NTA. They wondered how he could apply his ‘Midas touch’ to his Silverbird Group, but couldn’t do same with the NTA.
In June 2018, after comparing the Nigerian president to his US counterpart, Nigerians again lashed out at Bruce for hypocrisy; pointing out that he had taken a swipe at President Buhari for not having any achievement in three years when he (Bruce) had nothing to show for his time in the Senate.
In defense of himself, the senator has pointed out bills he presented on the floor of the red chamber; amongst which are the Ward Security Bill, Independent Prosecutor Bill and Alternate Energy Bill. However, none of them was eventually passed.
Recently, Ben Bruce announced that he would not seek re-election to the Senate, in honour of a zoning arrangement in his constituency. He pointed out that in keeping with the tradition started with the tenure of Senator Melford Okilo, it was time to step down for another individual from another local government area in Bayelsa East.
And just like that, 'common sense announced its exit from the hallowed chamber!'
But was it really common sense if it did not lead to any note worthy achievement(s)?
What will we remember about Ben Bruce after the Senate? Not bills. Not constituency projects. Only tweets, outbursts – though usually much deserved - against the ruling party and maybe the way he rallied the PDP troops during the infamous invasion of the National Assembly.
At the end of the day, common sense is really not so common, as my brother keeps pointing out. However, if you are like Senator Bruce and you keep shoving your ‘superior knowledge’ down our throats, then you better be able to walk the talk. Its either you ‘put up or shut up’!
This opinion piece was written by Buchi Obichie.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of NAIJ.com.
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