By Lexzy Ochibejivwie
he 2022 Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) conference (or is it convention?) has come and gone, but the impact it made would not be forgotten easily. The fallouts too cannot be forgotten. One is particularly trenchant, and it is the Shettima fashion faux pas.
Some netizens have since got into a tizzy over the blunder he made out of everyday fashion. They have since poked fun at him and still do. Meme-makers have tapped into Shettima’s gaffe to delight their joke. Content-hungry Skit-makers would certainly have got their teeth into the opportunity offered by the grotesque appearance of Shettima to expand their fan base across social media platforms.
In the coming weeks when campaigns begin formally, politicians in the opposition would surely draw upon amusement generated by this episode to make some crooked statements. In just one day at one place, Shetima caused a stir than he did, when he served for eight years as governor of Nigeria’s State of Borno, between 2011 and 2019. What other ways are heroes and villains made, if not this?
That his principal, Bola Tinubu did not show up at all is good for him. If Tinubu had, the frenzy would have been more intensed than we are witnessing. But Shettima saved his principal’s face, and took the bullet for him.
At the opportunity granted presidential aspirants to speak, Shetima, acting as a stand-in, spoke so well, and displayed mastery of statistics and knowledge of the economy. His poise was something to admire, something to cheer about, something to remember for a long time coming. The awareness that he seems to have of critical areas of the economy shows that he could run the show, should he chair the National Economic Council and be given the leverage to resuscitate an economy that has already failed.
But on the said day, his poor fashion sense caricatured all the savviness that he exuded. If one is looking for a typical example of how one’s wit, confidence, and good intentions could strait one’s recklessness, Shettima is certainly one. Other speakers came, he could not just avoid been singled out for ill because his dressing did not come up to par.
By wearing a black suit, a red tie and a gym shoe, the former governor of the State of Borno gave the impression that he is still far from trend. He could have been more modestly-dressed and let the media take focus on what he did right on the day.
Several calls pointed out that the way the APC Vice Presidential nominee of Nigeria’s general election to come appeared is an initial indication that he, his principal and their team would be careless with just about anything and everything.
Already, an opinion has been advanced that a person that is incapable of dressing appropriately for an occasion would be incapable of addressing Nigeria’s visibly intractable problems. If one’s dress sense is a mark of how organized a person is, if it is a good sense of propriety, then the foregoing opinion is true.
Nigeria certainly offers a bigger occasion than the NBA conference, and if Shetima could not come to the fashion table, it would be difficult to live up to expectation should he be given the chance of being part of steering Nigeria’s leadership.
A contrary opinion also goes that Nigerians like to cry foul where there is none. It has been said that we just like chasing shadows.
There is also the view that Nigerians like to play with everything, and would rather opt for the shaft, than the grain.
Some have argued that what Shettima has worn should not be an issue at all. Their major call is that at a time when Nigeria is in dire need of resuscitation, it is foolhardy to be talking about an issue as trivial as the way Shettima looked in public.
As a result, many have reasoned that the craze for fashion should not be slaughered on the altar of competence. Some Nigerians have also pointed out that fashion and public service do not match at all.
There are others who have argued that a person with deep insight is more useful and, as such, more appreciated in today’s Nigeria where there are problems requiring urgent solutions, than a dandy.
To those who hold this view, any view that falls short of this is not a civilized one. Yet Nigerians are by far the most civilized people on earth. And let’s assume we are. But it has to be said that there is some sort of unanimity in the way people react to issues all over the world.
The way Americans, for instance, would react to most issues might not be any different from the way Nigerians would. I would aver that man is the same all over the world, whether black or white, christian or muslim, rich or poor, lettered or unlettered. The only difference, perhaps, is in the degree to which men react to issues.
Let the point be made that Americans will react to the shabby dressing of Shetima in the same way that Nigerians have done. Not that the actions of Americans should be the parameters with which to judge the conducts of Nigerians.
But the truth is that it is possible that most Americans would also laugh at and come at any politician who appeared in public and whose looks appear to have undermined their poise as a people and make nonsense of their national pride.
Two instances of two US Presidents I followed closely while they called the shot in the United States is worth illuminating here to show that were Shettima to be an American, Americans would also have tore him with their mouth for not dressing properly.
The first was President Barack Obama. Sometime in August of 2014, the White House put up a news conference on Syria and Russia, and President Obama wore a tan suit. Just a tan suit, and this was all Americans needed to set the media space on fire.
Obama was severely insulted at a time when the global audience had their eyes on the horrors perpetuated by the Assad regime and the spine the Russian government under Putin offered him. Obama’s choice of wearing this colour of suit, was not out of any sinister motive, but it earned him a lot of flak.
The American press came at him. Trust netizens, they almost wore him out. A few highly intolerant Republican politicians said he was not a serious person and only good for nothing.
This incident, trivial as it was, would snowball into a scandal in the history of American politics christened the “Tan Suit Gate.” Is it not ridiculous that an incident as trivial as a president in a tan suit would breed backlash? It was not an incident that was anticipated at all.
But it happened in one of the world’s oldest democracies and to that country’s first and so far only black president. Like we have seen in the Shetima’s example, while some saw nothing wrong with Obama’s choice of tan suit, others saw it as a serious blunder.
The second case of fashion scandal worth presenting here is the one that happened to President Donald J. Trump. On June or so of 2021, President Trump was at the GOP convention in North Carolina.
Before a charged atmosphere and at very important event, President Trump became the butt of the joke. Over what? It was said that the pant he wore looked awkward.
At that time, it was said that the way Trump wore his pant made it looked as if he was wearing it backwards. Preposterous indeed. But this shame happened to no less a person than President Trump, arguably the most powerful man on earth at the time he was in charge of affairs in the United States.
And for what? A pant observed to have been worn backwards. I am surprised that a name was not couched for this scandal — say “Pant Gate” — as it is usually the case for other scandals suffered by some Presidents before Trump. It is not my intention to dwell on fashion errors of powerful men in the United States, but I must note that the Junior Bush also experienced this severally, when he held sway as that country’s president.
So, the reactions by Nigerians on the Shetima’s outfit is justifiable and healthy; it is understandable too. It is not going to be the first time that Nigerians would laugh at the dress sense of politicians, nor would it be the last.
Last year, early last September, we recall that President Buhari undertook a 3-day Working visit to Imo State. But badly-sewn trouser by a mischief of a tailor, gave the president a punch in his face. It was a time that afforded Nigerians some laughs, and mocked at the president’s nonchallance.
In fact the President departed Imo State for Abuja as Nigeria’s first and only President to have worn a badly-sewn trouser to a state visit. It would hard to break this record for many years to come.
Seriously, we really do need to remind that good dress sense is necessary for public office. Every occasion demands its mode of dressing. As occasion impresses fashion sense on someone, so should one’s status as a public figure.
In fact, everyone requires a sense of fashion and must lay necessity on appearance. The elementary school pupil already knows the propriety of dressing in school. The Pope knows the importance of a cassock.
The importance of a hood is known to a monk. The importance of the free-flowing red buluku is not lost on the juju priest. The judge well knows the importance of the black gown. Every form of dressing is a form of address.
So too, every address is a dressing. It has been said that you are addressed the way you dress. As a prospective Nigeria’s Vice President, Shettima’s appearance ought to be an address to Nigerians.
It ought to speak capacity and an assurance that Nigeria’s affairs would be conducted properly. It ought be an assurance, a statement that the capacity to piece together an already too shattered country is available.
What Shettima shout have put on ought to be a trend, a testament that he is following up with current realities. But his inappropriate dressing to a formal occasion as that gives the impression that he is hardly-poised, and lack the capacity to set aright wrong things.
As a would-be Nigeria’s Vice President, when you dress remotely like the remotest man in one of Nigeria’s remotest villages, you become impracticable and lose the confidence of people. Of course, any leader who presents himself as a laughing stock is taken as such. Pure and simple.
But in Shetima’s misfit of a fashion, there is an underlying message. As noted earlier, what one wears is a message. What one decides to or not to put on is an expression of belief or disbelief; it addresses where one belongs. What one wears is a product of a renegade mind — an expression of either a liking for or an aversion for something.
Sometime in June of this year, Human rights lawyer, Chief Malcom E. Omirhobo showed up at the Supreme Court in Abuja, conspicuously half-donned in a native doctor’s attire, a lawyer’s wig and gown. Eyebrows were raised.
Many called Mr Omirhobo unconventional and crude. But what he wore was a strong statement that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. His dressing was a statement that the same parameters should be used to handle religion across boards and at all designations of life. More importantly, Mr Omirhobo’s dressing was strictly an assertion of his faith — that he is first and foremost an adherent of African Traditional Religion, before being a Supreme Court attorney.
But Mr Omirhobo did not have to say this before being understood; what he wore to court was his voice. So too, by wearing a chaos-ladden outfit to an important and widely-televised conference, Shetima might just be making a silently loud statement that he is one who doesn’t quite gel well with western cultures.
He might also be pushing an equally relevant statement that Nigeria is a house burning, and that we should rather be thinking of putting out the fire, than be chasing rodents. Or the grimace-looking Shetima might just be making a statement that should push comes to shove, that the cure-all that Nigeria needs now to get past her quagmire is lost on him.
He might also be passing a message that should he become Nigeria’s Vice President, he would be a flexible leader who would know when to be formal when necessary, and be informal when the occasion calls for it.
By interfacing an informal wear as a gym shoe and a formal one as a black suit, Shettima might just be making a pre-campaign statement that the leadership style of he and his principal will take the interfacing model domiciled in the Ikogosi Warm Spring — a wonderful site where warm and cold spring merge, while retaining their thermal configuration.
Mr Ochibejivwie writes in from Warri, and can be reach via email on [email protected]