OPINION: Adamawa’s Bìlísì And Nigerians In War-torn Sudan
By Suyi Ayodele
Crime and criminality are not gender biased. Nigerians should have no doubt about it. Whatever a man can do, a woman can do better, goes the saying. The veracity of the age-long axiom came to life in Yola, capital of Adamawa State on Sunday, April 16, 2023. That was the day the NTA beamed live to us, the ‘victory’ cum ‘acceptance’ speech of Aisha Dahiru, who is also known as Binani, the candidate of the APC in the March 18 inconclusive governorship election and the supplementary election held on Saturday, April 15, 2023, in some local governments of the state. Binani must have been a strong believer in miracles. We all serve a God of miracles. A miracle is an unexplainable occurrence in the life of an individual. It just happens and onlookers are left flabbergasted.
The collation of the results of the supplementary election was still going on when Binani’s miracle happened. An unusual personality, Yunusa Hudu-Ari, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state decided to give Binani a miracle. Ari, a lawyer by profession, knows that by the spirit and letters of the Electoral Act, only the Returning Officer (RO) for an election has the power to declare a winner. He equally knows that that assignment will only be done by the RO when and only when all the results in the election have been collated and figures calculated for all the participating political parties and their candidates. But being a miracle worker, Ari took over the function of the RO. And he did it in a very novel manner. Without mentioning the number of votes scored by the individual contestants, the Adamawa REC declared that the APC candidate, Binani, “having scored the highest number of votes is hereby declared winner”. He tucked the piece of paper he was holding in his pocket and was escorted out by security agents, among whom was a Commissioner of Police. I watched the video of the ‘declaration’ more than five times. On each occasion, I told myself this is pure bìlísì. Bìlísì (evil), is an elder brother of wahala (affliction). Both are strands of Hausa Language which have crept into Yoruba lexicon. Nigeria’s electoral system has gone through a lot of afflictions from time immemorial. But never has it witnessed the type of bìlísì (evil) Ari imposed on it in Adamawa that Sunday.
Binani, who probably was waiting within earshot, called in the NTA crew and without batting an eyelid, addressed the good people of Adamawa. You must love the lady’s gaits and manner. She did not forget to thank “President Muhammadu Buhari for making the election of a first female governor in Nigeria possible”. Nigerians were shocked. General Buhari himself, for the first time, was scandalized. The umpire, INEC, was thoroughly embarrassed. And, again, for the first time, INEC rose to the occasion and did what it should do. It instantly nullified Ari’s declaration and summoned the usurper to Abuja. Events took sharp turns. Binani headed to court to challenge the “illegality” of INEC nullifying an already ‘declared’ result! As the drama unfolded, I began to ask myself what the sane countries of the world would be thinking about us as a people. I had thoughts running in my mind about the indignity Nigerians in the Diaspora would be subjected to by yet another shameful act. I asked: could Ari have done what he did without the backing of some powerful elements in and outside government? I answered No! I asked again, could Madam Binani have given that ‘victory’ speech without an assurance by the power that be, that ‘nothing go happen’. Again, my answer is a capital NO! Then I came to one conclusion: the locusts of this season have wasted our land and our farmlands are in ruins! I have read how INEC, the presidency and every other person who should have known, denied Ari and his ignoble act. But I tell you this, I would rather believe that Idowu is not the name of the child next to a set of twins than believe that the Adamawa REC was simply personally audacious without any drummer beating the drums for his tadpoles underneath the water. Taaa! Binani on her part also swore by her ancestors that she did not give the alleged N2 billion naira to Ari and his gang to have that ‘declaration’. I have no evidence to show that she gave a dime. However, my mind tells me that the former Adamawa senator probably gave something more precious than money!
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I have been reading comments about the incident. Many people, who hitherto had sympathy for the Adamawa female senator before the Sunday ugly incident, have since left her to her fate. Never in the history of our nation have we witnessed such desperation, especially from the womenfolk. When Binani was giving her ‘victory’ speech, what was going on in her mind? As a legislator with almost 12 years at the National Assembly, and one of those who passed the current Electoral Act, where did she put the provisions of the law when the REC declared her as the ‘winner’? Before the supplementary election, Fintiri was leading by 31,249 votes. What was outstanding in the areas where the election was cancelled and declared inconclusive amounted to 37,016 votes. For Binani to win the supplementary election, she would have to get not less than 35,000 voters in the cancelled areas! How possible is that? What would have made that happen? Miracle? So, when the REC declared her the winner, where were her morals, conscience, and feminine decorum? If Fintiri had not played maturity, and had unleashed his supporters on the streets, what would have happened? Why did it happen that when we were about saying Binani would be the face of the female struggle for political emancipation, she surrendered herself to the devil to be used? Has she not by her desperation demonstrated and affirmed that there is no neat piglet among the litters of a sow as they will all end up in the mud?
To complicate the matter, over a week after Ari was asked to report at the INEC headquarters, he disappeared into thin air. Neither the umpire, nor the security agents, have been able to trace his whereabouts. While Retired General Buhari was said to have ratified the REC’s suspension, and the Commission itself has asked the IGP to arrest and prosecute him, Ari has remained invisible like the man soaked in the African metaphysics of Afeeri (See me not)! That is a REC, who while in office, had a retinue of security agents guarding him. For all the years he spent in office, nobody in the security circles around him has an iota of intelligence that can show where he goes, who he meets with frequently, where he eases off. Yet, our elders say a threaded needle does not get lost (Abere olokun nidi kii sonu). If it is taking this long for the IGP, the DG, DSS, the NIA and other state security apparatus to track down the fleeing REC, why are we then bothered as to why the Boko Haram and other insurgent crises in the country have remained interminable? Who is deceiving who here? If indeed Buhari has approved the suspension of Ari from office, should he not be concerned about his investigation and prosecution, if found culpable? Instead of tendering a needless apology for all the pains he has inflicted on us in the last eight years of directionless leadership, would it not have been better for Buhari to deliver Ari to justice for posterity’s sake?
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The implications of the ‘disappearance’ of the suspended Adamawa REC are too grave for the sanity of our electoral system, now and in the future. Who knows if he has sympathizers among the people that will take over from May 29? If he does, can’t they just reverse his “suspension” and recall him to office with all his emoluments paid? Why suspension in the first instance? If INEC could be so bold to nullify his declaration, bar him from entering INEC office in Yola and ask the IGP to investigate and prosecute him, what stopped his appointing authority from removing him completely from office instead of the euphemism, “suspension”? It is unfortunate that even at the twilight of his absent leadership, Buhari would choose to play games with our sensibility. This same lackadaisical attitude and abject lack of testicular fortitude to act decisively when the occasion demands are what have put Nigeria on the reverse gear since the commencement of this administration in 2015. The same attitude of picking teeth when actions are required has put us in a very bad shape and endanger the lives of Nigerians at home, and in the Diaspora.
Take for instance, the plight of Nigerians in Sudan and the flimsy excuse by the government that airlifting those stranded souls from the crisis-ridden country had been made impossible by the burning of aircrafts at the Sudanese airports by the warring parties. When the information filtered in vide the Twitter handle of Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the one in charge of Nigerians in the Diaspora, as the Chairman of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), I asked if we would ever get out of the mess! From an inorganic Ministry of External Affairs to comatose foreign missions and embassies scattered all over the world, and a near laissez faire interventionist body like NIDCOM, Nigerians are on the surface of the earth like a herd without shepherds. Whenever we have a global crisis that requires the immediate action of our government, what we get are excuses and excuses like the one offered by Dabiri in her usual lines: “Our thoughts and prayers are with our citizens there, and the whole country”. We heard the same clause when the war in Ukraine broke out last year. Wars don’t start in a day. Signs are given. Other sane countries of the world reacted when they saw the signs in Ukraine. They moved in and evacuated their citizens. America, which egged Ukraine to go into the senseless war with Russia did not wait for the war to start before it moved its citizens out of the about-to-be-doomed-country. But not so with Nigeria. Our elders say a forewarned war does not kill a wise lame (Ogun àwítélè ki pa aro tó bá gbón). Our lame government under the equally absent General Buhari has never applied itself to the wisdom of that saying. It is always caught up in the crossfire of every forewarned war. It happened in China when Coronavirus broke out. It happened in Ukraine. It has happened again in Sudan.
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Our Diaspora liaison officer has told us the fate of our fellow citizens. Hear her again: “Humanitarian groups are making efforts to distribute food, water, medicals, while all efforts are being put in place to hopefully get the warring parties to ceasefire”. If you have relations and friends in Sudan, pray that the food gets to them. There is an aspect of Semantics called Deep Structure Implicature. The simple interpretation is “what is said silently”. So, we need to start to apply our minds to the idea that in addition to the cudgels and other weapons of the warring Sudanese, our children, brothers, and sisters in Sudan have hunger and thirst to contend with before Dabiri’s “humanitarian food and water” get to them. If that did not happen, your guess is as good as mine. This is where we are. The man we collectively gave our destinies to twice has turned out to be a President-do-nothing! A fish gets rotten first from the head. Whatever may be the low points of the Dabiris of this government, all began with the man who leads the pack. To understand how bad things are in Nigeria, one needs to first check out the number of Nigerians that are in Sudan. And you may also wish to ask: Why Sudan of all places? And I will answer you by saying: why not Sudan? Where on the surface of the earth have Nigerians not moved to? My people say when the home is in ruins, the bush looks like a city (bí òòdè ò suwón, bí ìgbe ni ìlu nrí). That is our situation. Nigeria is not at war yet; at least, conventionally. But we are refugees all over the world.
Nigerians are in all bad places and countries. The japa syndrome takes them to anywhere one can imagine. Even with the war in Ukraine and Russia, Nigerians are still applying to go to those countries. Our professionals packaged their baggage and moved elsewhere to work as casual hands. We see their videos; bankers tuning cleaners, engineers doing security jobs and what have you. Only citizens of nations at war suffer the way Nigerians in the Diaspora do. Those of us left at home are barely surviving too. Please, I am referring to those of us who don’t have access to common patrimony, or who are not friends of the criminally corrupt politicians. Go to our universities, you will find lecturers who are still paying for the food items they bought on credit while the dragons in power withheld their salaries last year. The North-East is the worst hit. Thousands are living in refugee camps euphemistically christened Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. Half of the money and materials meant for their upkeep are in private pockets. These are people with known homes and identified buildings but who were chased out of their homes now occupied by bandits. From Niger State to Katsina, Borno to Yobe, bandits occupy large portions of the people’s land. In Katsina, where Buhari hails from, bandits use farmers as slaves. Yet we have a government in power. Why will Nigerians not be found in Sudan, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and the hottest parts of the world? This can only happen in a country that is in bad shape. Nigeria is a good example of such a country.
Buhari has some 34 days to go. He has apologized and asked for forgiveness. Methinks, he has a golden opportunity to leave a small mark in the hearts and minds of Nigerians. Whatever it will cost him, the Daura-born General should go after the hiding suspended Adamawa REC, and smoke him out wherever he is hiding. He should not just smoke him out of the rabbit hole, he should hand him over to the security agents, get them to investigate him and arraign him if found culpable. His ‘disappearance’ is a huge threat to future elections. It is a shame on us as a people to say that a man like the embattled REC just disappeared like fart. Fishing out Yunasa Hudu-Ari and bringing him to book is far greater than any apology. Buhari should do this for himself!
Suyi Ayodele is a senior journalist, South-South/South-East Editor, Nigerian Tribune and a columnist in the same newspaper.
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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