By Tunde Odesola
The muffled weeping is unmistakable. It cuts into the thickness of the night. It sounds so far, yet so near, like wind whistling through a palm plantation. The weeping is so ghostly; so sinister it makes the hair stand on end, sets the teeth on edge, makes the head become heavy and transfixes the feet. This eerie weeping belongs only to the egbere, a vicious gnome in Yoruba folklore, who inhabits the forests and moves about at night with a mat. Anyone who dispossesses the egbere of its mat comes into stupendous wealth.
But the egbere will fight you to the death to protect its mat. In the quest for earthly possessions, many mortals have been dispossessed of their lives during combats with the egbere. When you dispossess the egbere of its treasured mat, make sure you kill it because if you don’t, be sure to have it as an irritable company, forever following you all about in tears, weeping, gnashing and urging you to return its priceless mat.
The egbere is not alone. In Ireland, it has a kindred called leprechaun – another gnome – whose pot of riches is highly sought after by Irish in search of instant wealth. Gnomes are, indeed, universal phenomena, symbolizing the existential duality of evil and good.
The Nigerian political leadership is an egbere capable of doing good but never does. Toss the coin of Nigeria’s egbere political leadership up a million times, it’s gonna land on its evil side. Generally, Nigeria’s egbere political class is so awfully dirty, annoyingly sluggish, utterly irresponsible, horribly selfish and insanely corrupt. Clutching its mysterious mat, our egbere political leadership weeps and wanders about aimlessly, seeking applause where its (in)actions deserve attacks.
Last week, Nigeria’s egbere political leadership was sighted in Ondo town. In this particular instance, it was enveloped in characteristic darkness. It took the halo of a Primary 1 pupil, Dele Rasheed, to shed light on our egbere leadership’s irresponsibility. Little Dele it was, who exhibited the passion and diligence lacking in governance, taking her school homework to the ATM of a bank beside her residence, to do. To do her homework, the six-year-old Dele needed adequate electricity which our egbere governments have shamefully failed to provide despite the billions of dollars spent by the Olusegun Obasanjo, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari administrations on phantom electricity provision.
The ingenious story of Dele’s plight shattered my heart into smithereens. I later braced up and I waited for the usual ridiculous response of the Buhari government to criticisms as Nigerians online condemned its failure to provide Dele with electricity, forcing the Ondo jewel to risk her life at night at the ATM. I waited to read those stupid government excuses and the blind support by some members of the public profiting from the misgovernance in the land. But there was none. The egbere and Buhari’s media aides were busy afield confronting a raging battle.
They were in Borno bailing the shameful flood of protests that drenched the President when he visited the North-West state as frustrated citizens, tired of burying thousands of family members and relatives killed by Boko Haram, massively booed the Major-General for living in perpetual denial of the fact that Nigeria now has a superior President in Lieutenant General Insecurity. I shook my head when I read the statement by Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, alleging that the opposition was behind the booing of Buhari in Borno; it’s obvious that media propaganda promoting a bad product has a short shelf life. Oga Shehu’s claim that a perpetually mourning ‘people came out to welcome’ the President was an unforgivable cold-blooded lie in the eyes of God and of Man. Several days after the show of shame in Borno, no government media organization has broadcast the hailing of Buhari in Borno.
Last week, the egbere political tendency moved from Borno to Abuja, where the Minister of Health, Dr Ogbonnanya Onu, announced Federal Government’s intention to gift N36m to anyone who finds a cure to the ravaging coronavirus. Onu’s statement sums up how worthless the Buhari administration views the citizenry. It also shows why academics who invest in intellectual property are held in disdain by an egbere leadership that promotes political thugs and motor park touts whose annual earnings are far more than professors’ life earnings. This kind of beggarly promise is what you get when a president’s son rides motorbikes worth more than N100m and his daughter flies presidential jets to buy zobo. Need Onu, a PhD holder in chemical engineering, be reminded that the winner of Big Brother Naija Season 4 got N30m cash and other prizes worth N30m, including a brand-new SUV, a trip to Dubai, home makeover, a year supply of Pepsi and Indomie; a smartphone, two tickets to watch European football final, among others?
Onu knows that there are scant public health facilities in the country that can conduct procedural tests for common tropical sicknesses such as typhoid, tuberculosis and Lassa fever let alone conduct extensive research on the novel coronavirus. He knows the country’s health system is a huge calamity, the reason why the President and the members of his cabinet jet out to treat ear, nose and throat infections, among others. Onu only made the N36m promise to taunt ‘sufferhead’ lecturers, professors, researchers, etc, who don’t get a mite of what the Federal Government doles out to the Super Eagles during a weekend game. He knows the N36m promised can NEVER be won by any Nigerian researcher using any public research facility in the country. In Onu’s promise lies the answer to why students are abandoning classrooms for chatrooms to engage prospective ‘magas’ in Yahoo-Yahoo.
Well, the egbere leadership later left the Ministry of Health and headed to the Supreme Court – all in Abuja, where it spread his mat and slept like Jonah. When he woke up refreshed, it headed southward to Bayelsa, where it is currently directing the blockbuster movie, “The highest bidder (Season 1).”
Though the egbere is reputed for weeping, it’s tears are not for free. The egbere doesn’t care if the labour of our heroes past go in vain inasmuch as there is money to share among stakeholders. One would think that the egbere would shed tears in remembrance of the late Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed, who was killed in a military coup on February 13, 1976. To the egbere, the dead should be left to remember the dead just as the living should be allowed to enjoy the spoils of office.
I see the egbere ambling towards the tent of the Amotekun with its mat, yawning and scratching its head in the hope that it would get enough space to nestle and regain the energy lost in its peregrinations. The six-joint owners of the Amotekun must expunge the clause in the Amotekun Act that states that Amotekun officers cannot be sued. This is an invitation to impunity. Are the six state governors planning to immortalize Amotekun officers who take innocent souls, rape or abet terrorism? The egbere is knocking on the door of the Amotekun, it must not gain entry.
Tunde Odesola is a seasoned journalist and columnist with the Punch newspapers
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