Monday Lines: The Wreck In Adamawa [OPINION]
By Lasisi Olagunju
There are books and films on the life and times of Efunsetan Aniwura, the second Iyalode of Ibadan. She was rich, powerful and cold-hearted. Her success as a woman; her manly carriage and ruthlessness made her a perfect mark for envy and destruction. And she lost everything. But Iyalode did not say goodnight gently; she did what real men do. On one occasion, one of her favourite slaves, a female, laced her food with poison. That slave was stupid. She should have known that no one became Iyalode raw and untoughened in those pristine days. Efunsetan was not a fragile rodent to be killed with ordinary poison. Iyalode looked into the meal, saw death and fed it to the bearer. She challenged the culprit; the culprit confessed that she was merely a messenger. You were sent? And you didn’t tell ‘them’ that you were too small to deliver the message? That slave of Efunsetan ate the food, poison and all, and lost her life. She had to die, because, according to Efunsetan: “Àimo isé kò níí p’esin l’ógun (Not knowing how to say no to errant errands kills horses in battle).” She was right; in ancient times, men took equines to war to go and die. And millions perished, especially during the two World Wars. Throughout history, unfortunate horses died in wars they were drafted to fight. Indeed, Britain had a Horse Mobilisation Scheme under which thousands of horses were moved into the First World War (1914-1918), initially for cavalry, later for transport. History says on a single day during the Battle of Verdun in 1916, over 7,000 horses lost their lives. They had to die because their ladle did not know how to say no to hot, searing sauce.
There are many stupid horses in our government agencies; INEC has a large number of such. They are a herd always ready to deliver any message, no matter how bad, for anyone and to anyone, if the fodder is right and the legumes rich enough. If you were sent on a slave errand and you delivered it as a slave, then, you are a slave. If you were sent to deliver a message of evil and you did as asked, you are definitely evil. And there are consequences for delivering messages. When I read the statement by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, conveying President Muhammadu Buhari’s suspension of Hudu Yunusa-Ari, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Adamawa State, I shook my head for the fallen man. The man won’t stop being in the news until another stupid stallion does worse than he did. The REC fed a big dose of poison to Nigeria’s democracy with his illegal declaration of the president’s candidate as the winner of the governorship election in that state. And he was audacious and bold about it. He didn’t do it at midnight or before dawn as soldiers of fortune do. He did it as a breakfast treat for Nigeria. The APC candidate was set to lose the election but Yunusa-Ari came out to raise the dead. He didn’t wait for the collation of results that would affirm the lady’s loss; he simply used his powers to decree her as the winner. What he did was novel in the history of electoral heists in Nigeria. Since then, he has not had peace; his employers say he is on the run; a news website insists he was flown to Abuja as a hero in a private jet. Whatever it is with him, the fact this moment is that he is a fugitive; the REC has become a wreck. But did he act alone? To his right were three very powerful security chiefs in the state. I would be stupid to assume that those ones too acted alone, unilaterally. No, but they have melted away, anonymous. Yunusa-Ari is the sole soil man carrying the shit can. He is the only enemy Nigerians know by name because he delivered the message with the rash of a slave.
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If you serve power and the powerful, serve them with all your sense intact and alert. Your interest, and your name, must never suffer. There were at least four big men, including the REC, on that ingloriously high table in Yola. Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri has vowed that he will punish all of them for endangering democracy. What can the governor do? He may be a raptor in power, but his falcon has neither the head nor the beak of the eagle behind those owls. If I were that governor, I would look beyond the messengers. Who had the power to direct those four chargers to be at that point that hour? We don’t know them; we can only guess and we are not guessing wild. They must be people who are not just in government but are in power. We know also that the flies of those who deployed Yunusa-Ari and others to do what they did are not following their corpses into the grave. If the unthinking tools have to go down, they have to go down alone as mere sacrifice ingredients. Messengers are expendable bullets; they are kept only for battle. When servants like those in INEC become burnt out, they are cast into Hades by the same persons who used them badly. An incredibly effective horse was nicknamed ‘Warrior’ during the first World War; his other name was “the horse the Germans couldn’t kill.” Warrior served and saved his lord and won many battles for him; he dared and overcame machine gun attacks and burning stables. He survived the war and returned to England by Christmas of 1918 only to be killed by his owner 23 years later – because of the cost of feeding him with “extra corn rations.”
Where I come from, our ancestors know it is impossible for people to escape being sent on errands. It happens. But they warned (and still warn) that if you are sent on a slave errand, deliver the message as a freeborn. That wisdom is alien to persons who have had the (mis)fortune to manage our elections since the beginning of Nigeria. We saw that in that man in Adamawa; he thought he could drop any ‘dirty bomb’ and get away with it. Now, they say he is on the run; his employers want the police to declare him wanted. There are possibly many like him – others may have been subtle (and therefore successful) in doing their own damage. Nigeria’s election chiefs work in a cut-throat, complex world of greed and temptation. The opportunity for mischief and misbehaviour is ever present where they work. Appropriating the thoughts of V, the mystery author of ‘The Mafia Manager’, because the INEC chiefs are allowed to stand with wolves, they think they should howl – but they are no wolves with the survival sense of the canid. Read their stories – they always come in as angels; they always exit injured and wrecked.
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But they enjoy the work they do while it lasts. Wherever Yunusa-Ari is hiding (or not hiding) now, I can swear he is eating Tuwo with lamb limbs and thighs of rams. The reason Nigerian power-seekers will give anything to get right there in INEC – or at least tuck their agents in there. The job gives them the power to veto popular votes and be the elector of governments. The office kits them to compete with judges and the courts; the real super powers in our game of thrones. Occurrences like Adamawa’s are potent reminders that Nigeria and optimism must not cohere in the same sentence. But, there are people who would insist that the Nigerian leprosy is mere rashes; they say the blight will soon disappear with the right doctor in the ward. Some hold, in their trusting innocence, that no evil will be evil enough to shock Nigerians to positive action.
Machiavelli, teacher of painful truth, said “by the delusions of seeming good the people are often misled to desire their own ruin.” He added that the people “are frequently influenced by great hopes and brave promises.” Building castles of hope on Nigeria is futile but I get posts of hope and optimism every day from patriotic Nigerians who think, strongly, that Nigeria can still be saved. Two weeks ago, before Adamawa happened to us, I got one from one of my old professors in Ife. I got another from a reader, a fan, who strongly believes in Nigeria, its destiny and in the government that will come on May 29, 2023. My teacher wrote to me: “I’ve just read your piece on ‘The Terrorists Are Back.’ It’s as usual engaging in style. But it’s rather hyperbolic in its portrayal of what seems to be the hopelessness of the Nigerian condition. We still have cause to cheer…” The other message: “My name is Kayode Sufianu, a constant reader of your Monday Lines. I have read almost all the weekly articles since one of them was posted on my old school platform about a year ago – St Charles Grammar School, Osogbo, Class of 1974. That was the first time I got to know of your writings, regrettably. You are one of the best writers I have ever come across – the manner of expression, the almost unimaginable but apt references to writings of different authors, some of whom I never heard of nor read; deep knowledge of Yoruba culture and understanding of the Nigerian situation is legendary. You are also fearless. But permit me to say that yes, the Nigerian situation is bad, but is it hopeless? I don’t think so. However, my fear is this, if everyone, every Nigerian believes, intuits and concludes that NIgeria is irretrievable, there is a great risk that the volition will take on form and manifest. Therefore, we must nurse hope and promote it – that Nigeria will pull through and fulfill her potentials to become a great nation. Does that sort of mimic ‘renewed hope’ slogan? It’s just coincidental but perhaps against all odds, the president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, may be the one to start the renewal process. Best.” Both messages posit seriously that Nigeria is not irredeemable. They may be right; I may be wrong. They are not alone on that rostrum of hope; millions, North and South, are with them, shoulder-to-shoulder.
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Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher and cultural critic, was described as “the eloquent and menacing prophet of an impending catastrophe.” That characterization came after he warned of “an apocalyptic tenor spawning a mood of gloom and a good deal of anxiety, anger, and terror.” His warning was for the 20th century but the things he saw manifest more clearly around here this century. After witnessing the crude novelty in Adamawa which has, so far, attracted only the huff and puff of official reluctance suggesting complicity, can we still say that there is hope for sanity here? There can’t be regeneration wherever foul play is fair play. We have seen the audacious move to enthrone a governor before the election was concluded – and even without the votes. We have heard the state telling us the principal culprit is missing, and is beyond the long arm of the law. We have watched a public television station opening the legs of our democracy for the rapist’s address of larceny. We’ve seen how that station did it without the consequences usually suffered by its private-sector competitors. We are seeing how easy it is to commit the greatest of crimes and slip into the eternity of immunity. We should also see how hope for redemption is increasingly the devil’s water on the highway to optimism. But we are too ‘trusting’ to see everything we should see. “Sometimes”, wrote Ayi Kwei Armah, “a whole people need healing.” We are that people.
OPINION: May Tinubu Never Need Our Pity
By Suyi Ayodele
“From tomorrow, don’t pity me. I applied for the job, I campaigned for it, and I got the job, no excuses, I must deliver….” I chose to begin today’s piece with the words of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was sworn in yesterday as the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces. He spoke at the Presidential Inauguration Banquet and Gala Night held at the State House Conference Centre in Abuja on Sunday, May 28, 2023, a few hours to his inauguration. Even as I sat down to write this, the ceremony was going on in Abuja, and I could hear the ecstasy of the supporters of the new president as they milled round their television screens to savour the joy of “a dream come true” as Tinubu stepped forward to take the oath of office. I must congratulate them; the Emilokan loyalists, and more importantly, the man of the moment himself, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
I was locked out of my Facebook account for almost a year now because my device crashed. While trying to retrieve the old Facebook account, I decided to make use of an alternate page. I could not imagine the type of messages I read on the pages of many of my friends, who salute themselves as “Tinubu’s loyalists”. It was on account of those messages and posts, that I decided to begin today with the words of the man, who, for over two decades, put all things in place to ensure that he got to where he got to yesterday. There is no doubt that President Tinubu knows the task before him as the president of Nigeria. If not for anything, his speech, as quoted above, shows that he has an idea of what is ahead of him. One is also tempted to believe that Tinubu must have been briefed about the happenings in the Buhari presidency, especially after the February 25 presidential election. The man, if he is as ‘enigmatic’ as he is being projected, must have known that Buhari, has, in the last few weeks, been acting like the saying of “Bi Oyinbo ba ma loo, nse lo ma nsu si aga (when the colonial master wants to leave a house, he defecates on the chair). Tinubu has asked that beginning from Monday, May 29, 2023, nobody should pity him because he applied for the job, struggled for it and he got it. My people say “ohun ti omo ba je lo nyo omo” (whatever a child eats is what fills him).
There is a proverbial song and dance in my home place known as “ujo jigirinjingin.” The simple interpretation is a song and dance of mockery. An old acquaintance tried the dance with me on Saturday. I ignored him initially because I did not see any reason for what he was saying. So, when I stumbled on the quoted words above, I sent a message to him and asked for his interpretation of what his god, Tinubu, meant. As is normal with him, the old pally asked me to figure it out. Here is how I figured it out; for I know he would get to read this piece. Tinubu’s message at the dinner was and is directed at his aides, followers, hangers-on, and those who would want to make excuses for him the way they did for the perilous Muhammadu Buhari for good eight years. While Tinubu might not necessarily be saying that he would fail on the job, one cannot rule out that having been briefed about the emptiness of the shell, Buhari turned Nigeria into in the last eight years, the man knew that he has some herculean tasks ahead of him. We would come to that and how well he would be able to navigate the deliberate obstacles his predecessor placed on his path. The day has not even broken yet for Tinubu and his presidency. But it is gratifying to note that he has sent a bold statement to his Abobakus and the keep-dancing-we-are-watching-your-back (ma jo lo a now ehin re) clappers that he knows the enormity of the task he has gotten himself into.
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Of all the messages I read on the Facebook accounts, one particular individual stands out. The guy was and is still consistent in his clamour for Tinubu to clampdown on those he (the Facebook user) believes are the president’s enemy. I laughed. There are characters in this world. If the wild boar had been like a pig, it would have ruined the community (Imado iba se bi elede, a ba ilu je); if the slave were to be king, nobody would remain (eru iba joba, ki ba ma ku enikokan). Another friend, who noticed that I was back on Facebook, called to draw my attention to the said posts and wondered how a supposedly enlightened individual would, because of politics, throw overboard every decent principle. I responded to the caller by saying that I would love it so much if Tinubu would go after his ‘enemies’. The caller asked why. I responded to him with this short story.
At the beginning of creation, the ant was not as small as it is today. It was an appreciable big insect and loved by many. But it had a character flaw; it avenged any wrong done to it or perceived to have been done to it. Each time the ant took its fight to its enemies, it got reduced in size. The ant became worried, and it decided to consult the Oracle. The Oracle responded by saying “Eru esan ma nwo ni lorun ni” (The load of vengeance breaks one’s neck). The advice to the ant was to learn how to let go. A day after the advice was given, a nursing mother spread her mat outside and laid her baby on it, not knowing that there was an ant under the mat. “What an insult”, thundered the ant. In fury, it crawled out of the mat and went straight for the sleeping baby and gave him a venomous sting. The shirling cry of the baby startled the mother out of her sleep. She carried the baby and looked for what afflicted him. When the mother spotted the ant, she went for the kill and sent the insect to the great beyond. That marked the beginning of the animosity between humans and the ants. Till date, once an ant is spotted, humans go after it.
If Tinubu believes he has ‘enemies’, he should go after them. Where is the wisdom in advising a child not to contract leprosy when we all know that after the affliction, the next abode for a leper is the bush? The only thing I would advise in case Tinubu decides to go after his ‘enemies’ is that he should not behave like the witch who kills without any bloodstain in her mouth. The president should identify his ‘enemies’ in the open and fight them in the open. Nobody should fight a proxy battle on behalf of the new lord of the land. The idea of “e je ka ba wa ise” (let us look for a work for him), a euphemism for roping individuals, would be counterproductive. Gbangba ni asa nta (The hawk snatches in the open) should be the signature tune of the “baba-will-deal-with-them” orchestra. Not every ‘enemy’ is a prophet. So, not everyone will be accused of “defiling church members” and arraigned accordingly! Incidentally, Tinubu appears to have a better idea of how he would run his administration. In his inaugural address yesterday, he said, among other things, that “Our administration shall govern on your behalf but never rule over you. We shall consult and dialogue but never dictate. We shall reach out to all but never put down a single person for holding views contrary to our own.” I sent this portion of the speech to my friend with the hope that its import would sink.
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Tinubu is the president, irrespective of how we all feel about it. However, the pains of the last eight years are well distributed across the country, and they spare no demography. It is Tinubu’s choice to decide if he would look for the biblical Balm of Gilead to soothe the afflictions that the Buhari presidency constituted or chase after inanities. Where Tinubu spoke and asked that nobody should pity him was the same place Buhari spoke and compared Nigerians to his sheep and cows in Daura, which he said are more amenable to control than Nigerians. This is why nobody should wonder why Buhari left behind a ruined estate for his predecessor to take over. Like a rapist who has no feeling for his victims, the only way Buhari could think about Nigerians is to compare them with his sheep and cows! But that is not a problem. Posterity has a way of compensating individuals for their actions and inactions. After pillaging our land till the last hour of his inglorious reign, the wife of the one who serially raped us and our sensibilities, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, asked that we should pay her pension for being the wife of the president. Mrs. Buhari, while speaking at a book launch in Abuja on Friday said beyond the pension, former first ladies should also be given vehicles, sponsored medical treatments and some other perks. She justified the largesse by saying: “I married my husband as wife of a former president, I am going in a few days as wife of a former president a second time”, adding: “when the pressure comes, nobody wants to know whether you are out of the Villa or not.” We all can see how the husband and wife reasoned while their eight-year stay in the Villa lasted. As far as they were concerned, they were doing Nigerians a huge favour!
The desire of any patriotic citizen is to see that the nation is better off to the delight of the citizenry. How anyone would defend the eight years of Buhari is another topic in human reasoning. The Nigerian Tribune posted a vox pop article titled; “What we will remember Buhari for, Nigerians speak”, on its Facebook page on Friday. Of the close to 4,000 respondents to the post as at the time of penning this piece, well over 90 percent had one terrible thing or the other to say about the man who preferred his sheep and cows to the people he was elected to lead. Even in his lifetime, history is already negative about Buhari. The same history awaits Tinubu and his new presidency. The earlier the new president realises it the better for all of us. I have no problem with those who want to deify any leader. The leaders themselves are not deceived by such hypocrisy. Thomas Erikson is the author of the international bestseller: “Surrounded by idiots”. In the book, the author identified four types of human behaviour and gave them colour red, yellow, green, and blue. In interaction and perception, Erikson said one could be red (those who don’t conceal their true identities and opinions), yellow (the optimists); green (those who are careful not to offend others) and blue (those who never finish anything because they have many things in their hands). A leader succeeds by the quantity of the colour he surrounds himself with. The author’s admonition in the book is that no enterprise should have a preponderance of the same colour if the business must thrive. There is a timeless principle of life I learn in my cradle. The man who says let us make the world a better place will not live in it alone. Likewise, the one who serves bitter leaves as breakfast, lunch, and dinner, will also have his full portion. We all have individual convictions about how Nigeria should be run. Our overall interest, I think, should be that Nigeria should return to the drawings of its founding fathers. Tinubu is already in the saddle. Nigerians are anxious to put the plagues of the last eight years of Buhari behind them. The steps Tinubu takes or fails to take in days ahead will decide if indeed we have any hope of getting out of the present wood of despair. One can only hope that he would not one day in his presidency throw a pity party and expect Nigerians to dance to the rueful tunes therefrom. I bet, that will be in short supply!
OPINION: Tinubu, Fix The North, Embrace The East
By Lasisi Olagunju
There is a road in Canada that is officially known as ‘Road to Nowhere’. Road signs there say so. At the terminal point of that road is virtually nothing apart from an access to a shooting range and a gated path that leads also to nowhere. A political journey can mirror a cruise on that road. There is also a popular town in Norway officially called Hell; the road to that town is the Road to Hell. In Oyo State, Nigeria, there is a town called Ilu Aje (town of witches); the road to that town is paved with misery. Each of these places has a history behind the weirdness of the name it bears. Road to Nowhere. There is a rock song of that title too. Its supposed writer and Talking Heads singer, David Byrne, told Q magazine in 1992 that the song is “about how there’s no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn’t mean anything, but it’s all right.” Those words sound so much like the Nigerian experience with democracy. It has not been pleasant for the peasant, yet the chorus is “it’s alright.”
Another leg of the journey starts today. A new president, complete with his own cabal, takes charge of Nigeria. In every home, the unasked question is: The journey which these people are starting with us today, where is it taking us? Igbó rèé, ònà rèé. It could be ‘Nowhere’; it may be ‘Somewhere’, the choice is for the driver to make.
I can hear prayers binding the devil and declaring that today’s journey will lead not to nowhere, not to hell or to the witchy world of grief and anguish. The prayer will be answered only if the new regime breaks ranks with the Buhari tragedy and the personal flaws and failings of the principal characters on the new stage. How is that possible? In a government that will run well and end well, there must be certain ingredients in its leadership: “trustworthiness, fairness, unassuming behaviour, capacity to listen, open-mindedness, sensitivity to people, sensitivity to situations, good judgment, broadmindedness, flexibility and adaptability, the capacity to make sound and timely decisions, the capacity to motivate, sense of urgency, and initiative, initiative, and initiative.” This list of essential attributes I took from G.R.K Murty (2009) who paraphrased Marvin Bower in his ‘The Will to Lead’. Now, did you see a single item from that list on Nigeria’s leadership menu in the eight years of Muhammadu Buhari? His review would have been positive if he had had a space for just two of those demands. But, no; the man had his own priorities and they were selfish and sectional. It is only operatives and direct beneficiaries of the outgoing regime that will swear they saw equity or fairness or competence in the leadership experience that is expiring today. We wait to see which of those items Tinubu is bringing to the table.
From the frenzy I see around Bola Tinubu who takes over today, it appears that everyone holding the hem of his garment has a personal reason for doing so. They await the “So help me God” end-line of his oath of office for them to unfurl their ensign of claims without objections. That is an expressway to failure. Real lovers of the new president should tell him that personal and institutional rebirth is the sacrifice. What will matter ultimately is how he uses what he has just got to cleanse Nigeria of its bad head.
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There is also something about a government engine that is run on grudges, bitterness and vengeance. The Buhari regime had more than a full tank of that toxic fuel. There was an unreported meeting between President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Muhammadu Buhari shortly after the General from Daura became president of Nigeria in 2015. At that meeting, the old reportedly told the new to forget and forgive anyone who might have hurt him in the past: “Now that you have become president with the support of everybody, it is time for you to forgive everyone who might have hurt you in the past.”
The host casts a serpentine look at his guest and asks: “including Ibrahim?”
“Yes, especially Ibrahim,” the guest responds, curtly.
The new man bites his lips, nods and changes the topic.
The ‘Ibrahim’ in that conversation is Ibrahim Babangida, the man who sacked Buhari in August 1985. Someone very close to two of the three actors told me that story days after the encounter. He had no reason to make it up.
You remember how General Buhari spoke repeatedly with bitterness about losing power in 1985 and his subsequent detention. The man simply could not imagine his new power ignoring a vengeance that was just thirty years old. He wanted a pound of flesh but apparently, he realized the folly of his kite going after the fox. He talked to himself or he listened to the big boss. But because hawks feed on preys, there were other victims. You remember how he spent his eight years not tired of mentioning his repeated failures to be president in 2003, 2007 and 2011 and how the courts failed him. He eventually became president and the courts got raided and thoroughly whipped. Can you remember too how the outgoing president described the South-East as a dot in a circle? You remember his reference to Igbos of the South-East as those who gave him just “five percent” of the votes that made him president in 2015? You remember how that unfortunate comment dictated government policies and alienated that part of the country permanently from Buhari and his government – and how he did not care? And, please do not forget that there was no pervasive agitation for secession in the East until official vengeful alienation burst the people’s long pipe of endurance. A new regime comes in today; it will succeed only if it stops talking about continuity, charts its own course and brings the country together under the roof of fairness and equity.
Vengeful leaders lead into the gully; they hurt their nation and their people. They destroy themselves too and cancel everything that recommends them for leadership. That explains the thought of the elders who say revenge destroys the seeker. In William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (Act 3; Scene 1), we see Salerio asking implacable Shylock what he wants to do with a pound of Antonio’s flesh. What is it “good for?” He is asked and Shylock replies that it will “feed” his “revenge.” He says Antonio “hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million…” So why would he not sink his cleaver knife into his debtor’s thigh and go to bed in a meaty mirth? Let no one tell him not to do it; he will do it because he is human: He says: “If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not take revenge?” Shylock promises to “execute” and “go hard” and “better” others in doing wrong. He thinks revenge and vengeance are the way of a world which forgets nothing good, nothing bad. And, because he is fixated on revenge and will not listen to wise counsel, he ends disgracefully.
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Instead of Tinubu looking for a list of enemies to hurt, his friends should advise him to draw up a list of things to do to heal Nigeria. He should look at the North especially. Anyone that will fix Nigeria has northern Nigeria to fix first. The North is Nigeria’s problem incubator. Particularly because of the North, the population of Nigeria is projected to hit 400 million in the year 2050. At about half of that figure today, 133 million of the population are multi-dimensionally poor. It can only get worse. If the North is not saved from itself and from its ways, the country is doomed and whatever government or president comes in today is doomed as well. UNICEF’s current statistics says that “one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria.” The North gives Nigeria that dubious reputation. The brand of religion that is practised there is nowhere else in the world – not even in Afghanistan. In May 2017, the Sultan of Sokoto told a gathering of northern Muslims in Kaduna to end Almajiri and embrace education. “Almajiri does not represent Islam but hunger and poverty. Almajiri system of begging does not represent Islam and must therefore be distinguished from Islam. Islam encourages scholarship and entrepreneurship and frowns on laziness and idleness as exemplified by itinerant Almajiri. Therefore, attempts must be made to stop the practice of the Almajiri system of begging among Muslim faithful.” That was from the Sultan six years ago. What has changed? Nothing, except that the uneducated children of the past have grown to master assault rifles to demand their share of Nigeria. Is it not said that an untrained child will not fear God and will not live righteously? The untrimmed Iroko has grown wild; it now demands sacrifices from the state.
Three years ago, the Sultan cried out again that the North was the worst place to live in Nigeria. The North is not safe, he said. “In fact, it is the worst place to be in this country. Bandits go round in the villages, households and markets with their AK-47 and nobody is challenging them,” Sultan Abubakar told a meeting of Nigeria’s Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) in Abuja in November 2020. You cannot have a vast region of misery and lawlessness as the North and have peace of mind. My people say the child that is not built will sell the house that is built. We saw how the joy of the multibillion naira Abuja-Kaduna rail service was destroyed by the North’s children of the forest. That is what you get where priorities are not right and the vehicle of state faces where the world backs. If the North remains a region of subjects without citizens, there cannot be peace in Nigeria. If it remains a vast desert of the uneducated poor, banditry will not end. It, in fact, will spread and it is spreading anguish already from the North to the South.
Coming down south, the West will always fix itself. But the Tinubu presidency is putting the ‘pesky’ Yoruba elite on trial. Like debauched widow-inheritors, they are upbeat that it is their turn to fill/feel the space and build castles on Mars. The world waits to see if they will stop saying that Nigeria, as it is, needs restructuring because it is fundamentally defective. We won’t keep quiet. Leaving Nigeria in the hands of its abductors is leaving the proverbial madman to roast his mother’s corpse; he will endanger all of us with the entrails. Tinubu’s friends should keep reminding him that the foundation is the most critical part of a building. If Tinubu and his victorious people say from today that they are satisfied with ugly, decrepit Nigeria because they are the latest inheritors of the estate, we should be around and we will be available to remind them that those who negotiated Nigeria had wisdom and saw clearly that the chemistry of the Nigerian soil was not balanced; they insisted on what they knew was safe for all. The negotiators of Nigeria knew that a wrong foundational decision would give them a building with a fissured base; a house that would endanger everyone; that would soon sink and collapse under a weight it was not designed to carry. The founding fathers considered everything and rejected a multi-storey unitary Nigeria with an emperor reigning in the penthouse. They opted for a federation of manageable low-rise structures in the Nigerian estate. Angels of confusion soon systematically converted what we inherited to a choking, poorly constructed skyscraper without elevators and with a foundation cracking under a weight it cannot carry to success and safety. The structure today chokes and puts all of us in harm’s way. History will pat Tinubu on the back if he surprises himself and rebuilds the house using the original plan of the architects.
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There is an undeclared civil war going on in the East. People get killed daily, the murderers are not known, the state shrugs its shoulders, it picks its teeth and belches. But the crisis is an ill-wind that should not become a firestorm. Smothering the fire should be a deliberate agenda of the new regime. Equity and fairness in a restructured Nigeria appears the only remedy here. If the Igbo say they want Senate presidency and if you won’t support their aspiration, Tinubu, please don’t oppose them. If Nigeria fixes the East with the tools of equity, the country will have the mouth to tell the Igbo man to embrace peace. And, really, the alternative to peace is misery in unimaginable proportions.
Nigeria has a generation of angry youths who want a Nigeria that is safe and prosperous. They worked for candidates they believed would work for their future; they did very hard work to birth their dream nation. They came out disappointed and angry and are watching what is unfolding. They need to be convinced that with what we have as a country, elections can be nuts with kernels.
Tinubu is leaving Bourdillon, Lagos and will be the Lion of Aso Rock for four years – or for eight years – at the end of which a Daniel will come to judgment. He will be judged not by the number of roads or bridges he built; he will be judged by how well he tamed his own personal foibles; how well he detoxified northern Nigeria, settled the quarrel between the Igbo man and Nigeria and got the entire country rebuilt for the wellness of all. If the country, however, remains its odious, unwashed self after Bola Tinubu’s regime, he would have tragically proved right the millions opposed to his person, his politics and his methods, particularly the feudal rungs he took to the throne.
OPINION: Bola Tinubu And Nigeria’s Coat Of Arms
May we consider these two sentences: ‘You are stupid’ and ‘I am stupid’? While ‘You are stupid’ may be a wrong prognosis of another individual’s personality, ‘I am stupid’ is a dispassionate diagnosis of self. The former may draw arrows from the quill, the latter may draw pity or derision from the heart.
I’ll tell you what – the depiction of the symbols on the Nigerian Coat of Arms screams, ‘We’re stupid!’ If we, Nigerians, are not stupid, after almost 63 years of age, why can’t we, as a country, sensibly define the symbols on our coat of arms?
Information on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs identifies the country’s ‘map, coat-of-arms (sic), flag, anthem, and pledge’ as ‘National Symbols’.
Dryly, the ministry goes further to say, “Coat of Arms: The coat of arms of Nigeria consists of a black shield with a wavy white pall, symbolizing (sic; American English) the meeting of the Niger and Benue Rivers at Lokoja. The black shield represents Nigeria’s fertile soil, while the two supporting horses or chargers on each side represent dignity.”
There goes the beggarly information Nigerians and foreigners alike get about the country’s coat of arms, a supposed symbol of the quintessence of Nigeria. ‘Coat-of-Arms’ in one breath, ‘Coat of Arms’, in another. When both coats ram into each other, the wreckage is the coat of many errors that we currently have.
Please, hear how the National Museum of American Diplomacy describes America’s coat of arms on its website. It says, “The Great Seal of the United States is a unique symbol of our country and national identity. The Great Seal is impressed upon official documents such as treaties and commissions. The Department of State affixes about 3,000 seals to official documents yearly.
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“In 1782, after six years and three committees, the Continental Congress decided on a less abstract seal and incorporated a design that reflected the beliefs and values that the Founding Fathers ascribed to the new nation. Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, designed the 1782 seal to symbolize our country’s strength, unity, and independence. The olive branch and the arrows held in the eagle’s talons denote the power of peace and war. The eagle always casts its gaze toward the olive branch signifying that our nation desires to pursue peace but stands ready to defend itself. The shield, or escutcheon, is “born on the breast of an American Eagle without any other supporters to denote that the United States of America ought to rely on their own Virtue…”
But, shamefully, Nigeria’s coat of arms parades an eagle that doesn’t exist anywhere in the plains or plantations of the country – a red eagle! And the way it stands spinelessly like a stray witch on the coat of arms, toeing the green and white arc on the black shield, is so depressing.
Even the Foreign Affairs Ministry website, sadly, has no words to describe the strange red eagle; it just perches there aimlessly, doing nothing, but its redness probably signifies the various blood-sucking leaderships that have afflicted Nigeria even before independence.
I observed that the Nigerian military has a penchant for white horses. There’s no explanation for the idiosyncrasy. But I suspect the military, like all other walks of Nigerian life, suffers post-colonial hangover. I have noticed, too, that white horses were used during the inauguration ceremonies of past Nigerian presidents in this political dispensation.
Since independence, however, no agency of government has ever explained the symbolism of the two white horses in the country’s coat of arms. Why use white horses? Why not use the more popular colour, brown? Or black, to proudly identify with our colour?
In this era of super-smart kids, what would the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, tell his grandchildren when they ask him questions about the stupidity in our coat of arms? What would Tinubu tell his grandchildren when they ask why Nigeria’s rivers Niger and Benue are depicted as white when they are not even beaches? What would he and his contemporaries tell their grandkids if they query the soundness of their forebears’ minds?
There’s also no word from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on the red flowers sprouting on the green forming the base of Nigeria’s coat of arms just as the country’s motto, “Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress,” inscribed on a banderole, is unworthy of mention.
A look at the website of the Embassy of Nigeria in Tel Aviv says the Nigerian coat of arms was designed and adopted in 1960. There are 178 years between 1782 when the American coat of arms aka the Great Seal was designed and adopted, and 1960 when Nigeria designed its coat of harms. How then is it difficult for Nigeria to design a truly great coat of arms that would symbolise the peoples, heritage, culture and language of this great country? If patriotism and creativity inspired the American Coat of Arms, what can we say inspired the national embarrassment we call a Coat of Arms?
Some unintelligent members of the leading political parties may turn up their noses and say sarcastically, “Of all the challenges besetting the country, is the coat of arms the most pressing issue?” And I say unto them, “Oh ye sluggards, what singular challenge facing the country has ever been confronted frontally by any government, past or present?” I add, “Ye laggards, don’t you know that the coat of arms is a country’s CV, a preview into the rai·son d’ê·tre of a nation, the essence of a people?
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Speak of the devil and he doth appear! Just now, one of the white horses on the coat of arms has bolted! It’s cantering from the Eagle Square, Abuja, where they were taken in preparation for the presidential inauguration coming up in three days. The second white horse follows in the trail of the first.
Second Horse: Charlie! Charlie! Wait for me, wait for me, I’m homesick too – after 62 years. This country is all desert now, no pasture.
First Horse: (Slows down for Second Horse to catch up) Lizzie, I told you long ago that it was high time we left Nigeria, but you remained ensconced in our past colonial glory. I told you to wake up to reality, but you won’t listen. The generation that knew the Queen is fast diminishing; this new generation of Nigerians will kill and eat us one day or serve our heads to their god of money.
(Both increase their speed)
Lizzie: We are old, we can’t make it back to England on foot. I have arthritis. There’s no hay, no water…
Charlie: I got it all figured out, just follow me…you’ll be back in England by air…
Lizzie: I think we should make restitution to this country, in particular, and all other countries that we colonised – in general.
Charlie: Lizzie, no amount of restitution will assuage the sin we committed here. Remember, we call them fantastically corrupt, if we give restitution, they will embezzle it, kill and jail themselves over it. Most of the restitution money will find its way back to England before the end of the year.
Lizzie: I don’t see this country ever recovering.
Charlie: No, not until kingdom come.
Tunde Odesola is a senior journalist, columnist with The PUNCH newspaper and a guest writer in INFO DAILY.
Email: [email protected]
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