Patrick Obahiagbon: “I’ve spent an hour daily reading dictionaries in the last 20 years”

Patrick Obahiagbon, the Chief of Staff to the Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, in this interview with Punch Nigeria, talks about his controversial way of speaking and why he chooses to speak that way

What is your educational background

I am by the grace of the celestial choir, a legal practitioner, a public administrator, an international historian and a diplomat. I earned a degree in Law and was called to the Nigerian Bar as a solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria about 25 years ago and I do also have a double-barreled Master’s degree in Public Administration and in International History and Diplomacy.

Why do you always speak ‘big grammar’?

I am not really consensus ad idem with those who opine that my idiolect is advertently obfuscative. No no no, it’s just that I am in my elements when the colloquy has to do with the pax nigeriana of our dreams and one necessarily needs to fulminate against the alcibiadian modus vivendi of our prebendal political class.

How do you talk to your wife, children and even your friends?

I relate with my family and friends very warmly and in an atmosphere of camaraderie, stripped of my confutational habiliment and gladiatorial homilies. I am a very peaceful, calm, level-headed and celestially attuned soul personality.

Is this the way you proposed to your wife, speaking high tech grammar?

Of course, the business of the day when I interfaced with my wife on matters of the heart had to be in plain Caeser’s language and you can decipher why that had to be so. The matter in view did not permit itself of sphinxian conundrum.

It’s a long time ago, so I can’t remember the exact words I used. We had a relationship for ten years before we got married. We’re looking at close to 20 years ago.

How does your family understand your English?

My family and friends understand me perfectly just the same way you understand me now though, I must admit that it depends on the issues on the piazza.

Is this the way you were speaking in your school days?

I’m sure if you confer with my school mates they will tell you that I no longer speak what those who just know me now call “grammar.” I could speak for about twenty minutes when I was in the university and you won’t understand one word of what I said. I must say I have deteriorated in my grammatical construct.

How did you start speaking in this manner?

It all happened when my father brought me a teaser which stated that good orators had ruled the world and you must have to be a feisty orator if you must rule the world. As an impressionable young man, I alacritously threw myself into the whirligig of improving my usage of words by amassing new words on a daily basis.

Did you write exams in school in these big words?

I used such words very-very freely in my exams both at the secondary school and in my university and little wonder I had the misfortune of my English results being seized intermittently in my O’ Levels.

WAEC released my results for the other subjects and withheld my English result. This happened for about three years. Twice, I passed the University Matriculation Examination but I could not proceed to the University because of my English results that were not released. At the end of the day, it was released after the third attempt.

Didn’t you have problems with your teachers?

It no doubt gave me serious issues at the university and that is because some, if not most of my lecturers, ran away with the erroneous impression that my attitudinal predilection had a deprecable tinge of academic braggadocio and intellectual megalomania. But this assumption was both mendacious and a fallacious ad hominem. I could not but take solace in that Latin apothegm which states that O Tempora! O Mores.

Was English your best subject?

My best subject in secondary school was government and religion and am sure that I was drawn to religion because, I now know as a student of Rosicrucian mysticism, that I was a student of divine light in my last incarnation. As for government, I just fell in love with the subject due to my early attraction in life to issues of political-economy.

So what did you score in English language?

English language was of course my hobbyhorse and passion but like I earlier asseverated, my results were constantly guillotined to my utter chagrin that I had to lapse into a jeremiad of lachrymoseim for a period of aeon. I would need to check the result again to be sure of my score.

Do you pray the same way you speak?

God understands all languages, my brother and I pray to God using any word that pops up. May I posit that the key points in prayers are your sincerity, purity of heart, walking within the compass and to what extent are you ready and worthy of receiving the benediction of the cosmic and the cosmic masters because as we say in mysticism- “when the students are ready, the masters would appear.”

Take my words my brother that more than seventy per cent of humanity don’t know how to pray but that is a matter for another day.

By the way, are there other names you call God?

God is variously known as Jehovah, Yaweh, The Great Grand Architect of the Universe, The Cosmic Host and several other names known alone to heirophants but which names are so ineffable for me to mention here.

Do you know that many people don’t take you too seriously when you talk because they think you are not communicating?

Why will I be perturbed from ensconcing myself in the palatable arms of Morpheus because people have deprived themselves of the cultivation of the regime of the mental magnitude? I read all the farrago of baloneys and vacuous bunkum from pepper soup objurgators. The spirit of animadversion remains their fundamental human right. It also remains an indubitable fact that I get millions and millions of requests daily from people all over the world requesting for my verbal mentorship which positive cosmopolitan reactions have assisted my equipoise and righteous sense of pachydermatous garb. I cannot put my nose to the grindstone daily and expect to be understood by those luxuriating in a modus vivendi, verging on pepper souping, goat heading, suyaing, big stouting and isiewulising. Has a philosophical wag not once pontificated that things of the spirit are spiritually discerned and that it takes the deep to call the deep? We will speak more on this matter of critiques and chichi dodo another day.

You were there when a teacher in your state couldn’t pronounce ‘solemnly’, how did you feel?

I was indeed sad that a teacher in Edo State could not pronounce a simple word as ‘solemn’. That was certainly one of my low moments in the service of Edo State but the eulogies must go to Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who put in place the infrastructure that made it possible to detect such an egregious ambience and this government would stop at nothing in cleansing the Augean stables.

Have you ever considered organising English classes in Edo State?

I would have loved to organise English classes, my brother, but you will agree with me that I am sufficiently busy just now.

Why do you pull your trousers up beyond the waist?

Hahahaha….That trousers style is called Yohji Yamamoto. It was my own audacious statement to remonstrate against the pervasive tendency of Nigerians especially our youths that took to the practice of putting on trousers exposing their lower anatomical contours and I will do it over and over again.

When you speak to Caucasians of English origin, how do they react to you?

My friends that are whites simply marvel and sometimes get maniacally bewildered when we engage, most times to my consternation.

Do you think that you understand English language better than the owners of the language?

I have never had the ambition to know the English language more than the owners. However, I must mention that they are shocked most times to find out several words from me they never heard of that existed in the dictionary. Yet, those words are supposed to be theirs. Na so we see am.

Have you ever met with the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka? And what’s your opinion of him?

Professor Wole Soyinka is an international personality. It’s either you have met him personally or by reputation. He is a great man and I enjoy reading him anytime, any day.

Can you ever be caught speaking what many would consider as normal English?

I speak in plain Ceasers language or what you call the normal language and let me tell you that I will hold my own even in pidgin conversation. No just try me at all at all o.

What is your take on the ongoing crisis in the PDP?

The crisis in PDP? All I can say is that I join some people to dey laugh o and he be like say my laugh go tay well well o.

Are you likely to contest for a political office?

I am still in politics, serving the good and amiable people of Edo State. Being the Chief of Staff to the comrade governor is in itself an art of daily political engineering.

Do you look forward to developing your own dictionary?

My own dictionary? I have never really given that a thought, but there is a young man in one of our universities who traveled all the way to meet me in Benin. His doctoral thesis is on “Obahiagbonism as a style of language.”

How many dictionaries do you read a day and how often do you read dictionaries?

I have read and still do read a vaudeville of dictionaries from Websters to Funk and Wagnalls, from Cambridge to Oxford dictionaries, from Black’s Law Dictionary to Encarta and from Encyclopedia Britannica to Foreignisms, etcetera. I developed my corpus of vocabulary by reading omnivorously. I have also spent nothing less than an hour daily on my dictionary for over twenty years. So, whereas the dictionary for most people is a mere occasional reference point, it is for, me a vade-mecum. It may also interest you to know that there is much to learn from our daily newspapers.

You seem to mix English with other languages…

On mixing of languages; that comes with reading omnivorously. You cannot but pick these words here and there if you have an audacious reading culture.

Is any of your children like you?

My children are still growing but I petition the celestial choir and cosmic hosts to give them the gift of kissing the hybla bee.

What is your favourite quote?

One of my favorite quotes is from the sapiential mind of the late Ikene philosopher, Papa Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo, when he was quoted as saying that, “the greatest glory is not in never falling but to rise up after a fall.”

Are you planning to contest in 2015?

I always feel flattered and smile with delight when I hear positive commentary on my tenure at the National Assembly and the wish of Nigerians to see me back at the National Assembly. I am humbled but as a student of mysticism, nothing happens in my life by accident. I am a robot in the hands of God and from that point of view therefore, 2015 would take care of itself. All my efforts just now my brother is geared towards complementing the efforts of the comrade governor in the total transmogrification of Edo State which is enough to chew at the moment. Let me however use this opportunity of your question to appreciate my numerous admirers all over the world.

How are you coping with the Governor of Edo State, knowing that the two of you have strong personalities?

When two or more personages are united only by the bonds of rendering service, that in itself becomes an agglutinating fragrance. In any case, I am very clear that Comrade Oshio Baba is the Governor of Edo State and I am his privileged Chief of Staff. So we are working together very harmoniously and in an ambiance of conviviality in our unstoppable desire in taking Edo State to the next level.

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Ugo is an author at www.gistus.com.
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