We must kill the VIP

Muyiwa Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management, and Author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding

When Fela Anikulapo Kuti called them Vagabonds In Power, he was only partially right. However, the VIP would like to see himself as a Very Important Personality. What makes you important? What is the essence of this your importance? What gigantic impact have you made on your society to warrant this vainglorious self-importance? Today, the term VIP has taken on all kinds of different meanings. This is one of the vestiges of colonialism, which has refused to leave us. Rather, it has now become entrenched in our national social and political culture. It is indeed a disheartening indicator of how far we have come as a people. Almost 60 years after independence, colonial mentality and poverty mentality continue to undermine whatever efforts we claim to be making at building a great nation brand. In a world where the values of liberty and equality are the hallmarks of civilization, we have stupidly maintained a culture of VIPism, in which a group of morons carry on as if they’re superior to the rest of us.

What makes the VIP more important? Why do people in public service call themselves VIPs? Are they not supposed to be public servants whose primary role is service to the people? It is a tragedy of monumental proportions that this cancer has been allowed to fester! They have maintained this culture by keeping the generality of the people oppressed and poverty-stricken. They forget that when one Nigerian is poor and oppressed, we all are poor and oppressed because each one of us is a microcosmic summation of brand Nigeria.

The VIP mentality is such that it makes these so-called VIPs look and act stupid. I was travelling business class a few years ago. On getting to the immigration area, I noticed that there was a queue at the business class fast-track area, with about 10 people on the line. Surprisingly, the economy lane was empty! So, I promptly passed through the economy lane. And as I went through, I looked at these people on the queue, which was supposed to be the fast-tract, standing stupidly in line when the economy lane was completely empty. Stupid VIP mentality. They wanted the rest of the world to know they were travelling business. Very silly.

During the colonial era, the colonial masters were the VIPs. They had to be! They were the lords and masters. Their era was based on the concept of racial inequality. When they left, the new political class became the new VIPs, and they have remained so ever since! How far have we travelled towards creating a civilized society? Not very far! On the roads, the VIPs daily torment us with their SUVs, sirens and convoys, far worse than in the colonial days.

In our society today, you find VIPs everywhere you go. At most parties, you have separate privileged seating for VIPs. At corporate functions, you have the High Table, for the VIPs. In some cases, you even have VIPs among the VIPs!

At our airports, you have the VIP Lounge, where the world’s highest paid government officials pass through, since they must not be seen to mingle with the rest of us. In other parts of the world, I am yet to see a sign that says VIP Lounge at any airport. Since I have never been privileged to enter any of these VIP Lounges in our airports, I have always wondered what they have in there. I guess, however, that it must be a shade more comfortable than places designated for the rest of us. This may even explain why our airports are in such decay! Those who have direct responsibility to give us decent airports have cleverly designated more comfortable places for themselves! So, as they say, we are on our own!

At shows and concerts, we also have special seating for VIPs. To book your place in such privileged areas, you have to pay for what they call the VIP Ticket. It is also possible that you are so important you get a VIP Invitation card. My thinking is that what makes you a VIP in this country is the amount of money you have in your bank accounts. That explains why the VIP tickets usually cost a lot more than the regular tickets for these shows. Just as the Nigerian legislator earns more than 10 times the pay of his Ghanaian counterpart, a VIP ticket often costs about 10 times what you pay for a regular ticket!

Now let’s head for the bars and nightclubs! It has now become an established trend that any bar worth a glass of lager must have a VIP Lounge! In these VIP Lounges, you enjoy privileges beyond the reach of the regular bar crawler. In some of these bars, the VIP Lounge is by membership only and members pay anything from N100,000 to N500,000 or even more per annum in several of the bars. In the VIP Lounge, you enjoy exclusivity, and maybe more comfortable leather sofas. I am even inclined to think that the flat screen TVs in the VIP Lounge show more exciting stuff than you will see in the NON VIP areas!

In other, shall we say ‘more civilized’ societies, who are the people considered to be Very Important Personalities? Who are the people that receive preferential treatment wherever they go? They are elderly people, women and children, and the physically challenged. In such societies, only ambulances and policemen on emergency duty make use of the siren! In my country, it’s the rich who get all the preferential treatment and all manner of characters use the siren! Not satisfied with their VIP status, some people have now created a class called VVIP!

As my personal contribution to efforts at killing the VIP, I have thought of new meanings for that abbreviation in addition to Fela’s Vagabonds In Power. Some of these are: Very Irresponsible People; Very Incorrigible People; Very Indecent People; Very Idiotic People; Very Ignorant People; Very Ill-advised People; Very Impertinent People; Very Imperious People; Very Impudent People; Very Incompetent People; Very Irrational People; Very Immodest People; Very Idle People; Very Infamous People; Very Inferior People; Very Insane People; Very Incoherent People, etc!

I wish to call on all civilized Nigerians to come up with more descriptions of the VIP in the hope that we can discourage this uncivilized practice. When you consider that VIPs are the ones running the affairs of this country, you will understand why the country is the way it is. Sad to say, but we live in pre-historic times.

Muyiwa Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management, and Author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding

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