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OPINION: Nigeria, Let The Igbo Go

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Tunde Odesola

Cleveland, a city in Ohio, USA, was long regarded as the sufferhead among American cities. Bearing on its big head the weight of an unfortunate nickname – The mistake on the lake – Cleveland shares a few similarities with Nigeria. How did Cleveland get its nickname? This is how.

As recently as the late 1960s and 1970s, Cleveland was described as a city where ducks flew upside down because there was nothing worth dumping on. An unforgettable incident happened in June 1969 that made the appellation of a rundown city stick to Cleveland like a mask.

Just as Nigeria has River Niger, Cleveland has Cuyahoga River, where the city’s factories dumped their waste with reckless abandon. The Cuyahoga River, by the way, empties into Lake Erie, which is the 11th largest lake in the world.

On a fateful ‘Ọjọ́ burúkú, èsù gbo’mi mu’ day when the devil was horribly thirsty for evil, a spark from a moving train on a bridge above the river ignited the toxic chemicals floating on the river, resulting in an inferno five storeys high. The fire was quickly put out and nobody died from the incident.

If such an inferno occurred in our beloved Nigeria, your guess is as good as mine; fake pastors would’ve had a field day, the opposition would’ve accused government of arson, government would have said the fire was God’s wish, and Bubu wouldn’t visit the scene; Garba or Adesina would’ve issued a statement silent on casualties, calling on Christians and Muslims to watch and pray. The hopeless country would’ve moved on.

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Commerce, industry and life folded up in Cleveland as the former 5th largest city population in the US shrunk to become the 54th largest. The river of tears rolling down the cheeks of the Nigerian masses bearing the brunt of misgovernance such as naira scarcity and poverty is bigger than the fast-shrinking Lake Chad, slowly drying up rivers Niger and Benue, and the polluted rivers in the Niger Delta.

But Cleveland has rebounded and is holding its own as America’s third largest iron and steel producing city, arts and cultural hub, topnotch healthcare destination, champion of environmental protection and progenitor of Rock and Roll.

If Cleveland was a ‘Mistake on the Lake’, Nigeria must be a ‘Disaster on the Niger’. Or a ‘Blight on the Benue’. Nigeria’s socio-political history paints the picture of domination, suspicion, hate and jealousy among her various tribes.

The seed of tribal domination, suspicion and hatred was sown with the nation’s first coup d’etat when Igbo soldiers, Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu and Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna, in the night of January 15, 1966, led other coup plotters, who were mainly of Igbo extraction, to carry out a pogrom on Nigeria’s political elite that included Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, and more than 20 top politicians, senior army officers including their wives, and junior soldiers on duty, even as another Igbo soldier, General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, seized the reins of power when the country was descending into anarchy.

Apart from Nzeogwu and Ifeajuna, other majors that were the masterminds of the first coup in Nigeria were Timothy Onwuatuegwu, Chris Anuforo, Dan Okafor, Adewale Ademoyega, and Humphrey Chukwuka.

A list of the casualties in the January 15, 1966 coup include Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Premier Ahmadu Bello, Premier Samuel Ladoke Akintola, Finance Minister Festus Okotie-Eboh, Ahmed Musa (Ahmadu Bello’s aide), Hafsatu Bello, Mrs Latifat Ademulegun, Zarumi Sardauna, Ahmed Pategi (Bello’s driver).

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Others include Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun, Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari, Colonel Ralph Shodehinde, Colonel Kur Mohammed, Lt Colonel Abogo Largema, Lt Colonel James Pam, Lt Colonel Arthur Unegbe, Sergeant Daramola Oyegoke, Police Constable Yohana Garkawa, Lance Corporal Musa Nimzo, Police Constable Akpan Anduka, Police Constable Hagai Lai, and Philip Lewande. Unegbe was the only Igbo killed during the coup.

Yoruba leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, luckily escaped being killed in the January 1966 coup plot because he had been sentenced to a 10-year jail term for alleged conspiracy to overthrow the Balewa government in 1963.

Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the President of the country, who was on a cruise to the Caribbean when the coup occurred, had transferred powers to the Senate President, Prince Nwafor Orizu.

Then came the counter-coup of July 1966 aka ‘July Rematch’ which was more senseless and sickening than the January coup as an undisclosed number of Igbo soldiers, including Ironsi, were murdered, setting Nigeria on the path of a civil war that started on July 6, 1967 and ended on January 15, 1970 – lasting exactly 2 years, 6 months, 1 week and 2 days.

It’s true to say that the spine of the fragile unity of Nigeria was broken by the January 1966 coup, it is truer to say that the Igbo have never recovered from the Biafra War. No tribe can ever recover from a war that killed an estimated three million people.

Aborigine Indians never recovered till date in the US, Tibetans, Taiwanese and Uyghurs never fully recovered in Chinese hands, natives never recovered in Canada – in wars wherein genocide, starvation and sterilization were potent weapons for forceful land takeover and imperialism.

War is always terrible and avoidable. It’s like the bullet, once shot, it hurries to wreak havoc. It’s sane to say that the January 1966 coup was a military action, whose consequence shouldn’t be visited on an entire tribe. But warmongers would say that everything is fair in war and that the Igbo got what they deserve. However, is it right to kill an ant with a sledgehammer? Is it right to kill a dog because it barks?

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The whole concept of Nigeria’s amalgamation is insane, unnatural and pretentious because after the Biafra War, ‘No victor, no vanquished’ became the new song on every lip, whereas suspicion, mistrust and contempt sit in the belly of each tribe.

With the 2023 general elections, the chickens have, again, come home to roost. The elections have, once again, widened the national fissures of ethnicity, religion and hypocrisy accentuated by the headless regime of retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari – a beneficiary of coups. Buhari divided Nigeria so much that when people are killed anywhere in the country nowadays, the first question that comes to mind is, “I hope my tribe isn’t involved’.

Sadly, ethnicity, religion and hypocrisy have been critical factors determining the swing of electoral victory in the 2023 elections, just like past elections. Sadly, this is what the political elite designed for the masses, and it’s bearing bountiful harvests.

If not hypocrisy, what would you call Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who, as the day of election reckoning nears, has gained rapid demotion from being Lagos State foreman to being Lagos State groundsman ready to hug the homeless, lick the vulcaniser arse and stand at church entrance like a stranded sexton.

If not for ethnicity and hypocrisy, why haven’t the Igbo ever been this concerted, assertive and vehement in condemning bad governance in Igbo land especially, and across Nigeria generally, as they’ve now been rooting in Lagos?

Inasmuch as I’m an advocate of giving the job to the best hands, notwithstanding religious consideration, I’ll be remiss and insincere if I claim that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim was altruistic. That political act was in disregard of Christian religion, and could embolden an encore by the political class in future elections. Its unforeseen fallout is what’s making Sanwo-Olu’s heart beat 1,000 times per minute at the mention of Elluu Pee.

For one thousand and one reasons, the All Progressives Congress should’ve been punished at the polls but it exploited the nation’s faultlines, like other parties also did, to garner votes nationwide in confirmation of the weaponization of poverty.

No doubt, the memory of Biafra wracks the Igbo till date, the same way the loss of Ilorin, a Yoruba land, to the Fulani, rankles the Yoruba still. This is why ‘Lagos is no man’s land’ mantra provokes instant disgust in the Yoruba.

If the Labour Party loses Lagos governorship election on Saturday, the Igbo will come to great political pain, and return to the old song, “We want Biafra.” I join in the song; if the Igbo cannot aspire to be what they want in Nigeria, let them go.

Tunde Odesola is a senior journalist, columnist with The PUNCH newspaper and a guest writer in INFO DAILY.

Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.com
Facebook: @tunde odesola
Twitter: @tunde_odesola

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OPINION: The Darkness Called Nigeria

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By Suyi Ayodele

If you have not seen the one-minute-30 seconds video of Lagosians scrambling for rice at the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) facility, you must have read the news about the stampede that took place. Seven people died avoidably in that ugly incident foisted on us by bad leadership. I did not personally witness the Nigerian civil war. Archival family materials show that I was born the very day the General Yakubu Gowon government changed the police action against the Eastern Nigerian Government to a full-blown war. A child on his mother’s back does not have an idea of how long the journey is. So, I wouldn’t know if hunger killed people or not while the war lasted.

The only experience of the civil war I had was the influx of easterners to our community after the war. They came as farm hands, who were paid at the end of the year. We called them “onise odun” -yearly paid labourers. A room exists in my father’s house today that we refer to as “yara Ibo” (the room for the Ibo). However, I have read a number of books on the civil war. In all the literature that I have come across, one constant factor in the history of the war is the issue of hunger and starvation. Pictures abound showing Nigerians queuing up for food rations while the war lasted. The only message I get from all the write-ups and the pictures about the civil war is that it is only in the time of war that the government rations food to the citizens. Whatever is rationed out is just for sustenance purposes. Nigeria is not at war at the moment. But food is being rationed out to the people. What then is our problem?

The past weekend was an emotional one for me. Emotional from all angles. It has been a long time since I felt that way. From Friday, when I took the voyage of discovery, to Sunday when what I feared most for one of my big sisters happened, it has been from one mental torture to the other. I followed the media team of the Minister of Power, Mr. Adebayo Adelabu, to Ihovbor, a suburb of Benin City. The minister was in the community to inspect the power-generating plant located in the agrarian community. The plant, known as the Ihovbor Power Plant or Benin Power Generating Company, is owned by the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC). Commissioned in May, 2013, the plant is described as |”an open cycle gas turbine power plant built to accommodate future conversion to combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) configuration.” The description of the plant is that it is owned by the government; has four turbines and has the capacity to generate 500 megawatts of power for evacuation (transmission) to the National Grid for onward distribution through the DISCOs (Distribution Companies) to Nigerians. The plant, as attested by the minister, “is a brand new one.” But that is not the sordid story of the plant.

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Directly beside the NDPHC-owned plant is a private plant, owned by some individuals and consortiums. The neighbouring plan is described as “a natural gas-powered open cycle electricity generation plant, with a current operational capacity of 461 megawatts.” The Wikipedia entry on the plants says it is “an open-cycle gas fired power plant…. the finance required to build the plant was sourced from the private sector, rather than from the government. The private sector owners of the plant took the construction risk. The post-construction risk and the operational risks are also borne by the plant’s owners and their operations and maintenance contractors.” The private investors claimed to have invested US$900 million to build the plant. Nigerians would never know how much the State committed to building the NDPHC. That is who we are as a nation; a people!

The description of the private plant forced me to check out the owners of the company. After going through the list, the only thing that came to my brain is Tom Burgis’ 2016 book: “The Looting Machine – Warlords, Tycoons, Smugglers, and the Systemic Theft of Africa’s Wealth.” The sub-topics of “Incubators of Poverty” (page 61-79), and “God Has Nothing to Do with It” (page 175-208), should be of interest to anyone interested in how we arrived at this level of decadence. Suffice to say here that the private plant runs on the facilities provided by the NDPHC, and makes all the money at the detriment of the owner. Why, and how? It is the only one given what is known in the power circle as Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). The layman explanation of PPA is that whatever power the private plant generates, the government would pay irrespective of if the generated power is evacuated (transmitted) to the National Grid or not. In the agreement, the government is committed to paying the owners of the plant an average of $30 million (30 million US Dollars) every month. Now, how does this happen? This is where my sadness emanated.

In the course of the tour of the NDPHC facilities, we discovered that of the four turbines the plant has, only one was working. Upon enquiry, it was gathered that the remaining three, though new and in good shape, are permanently shut down so that the privately-owned competition plant can run its own plant, generate power and get paid $30 million every month. The problem of the NDPHC does not stop there. According to information gleaned, even the only turbine that is not shut down is never allowed to run for 24 hours in a day. The source hinted that but for the visit of the minister that Friday, the entire NDPHC plant would have been shut down for the neighbour to thrive! So, for a plant that has the capacity of four turbines which could generate a cumulative 450 megawatts at 125 megawatts apiece, what you have operational in the plant is a turbine which generates just 100 megawatts.

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If combined, both the NDPHC plant and the private plant can give the National Grid over 900 megawatts. If you add the capacities of the other eight government-owned plants in Omotoso, Olorunsogo, Calabar; Geregu, Omoku, Gbaron; Sapele and Enugu together, Nigeria stands the chance of getting 4,700 megawatts of power! But that will never be. This is because we are in Nigeria and we are Nigerians. The case of the NDPHC plant and that of private plant is like a father who makes food provisions for his family but holds the hand of his own child so that the sons of strangers can eat to their fill. If the late Ekiti-centric traditional musician, Elemure Ogunyemi were to describe this scenario, he would simply say olule a lo a k’alejo – the owner of the house must leave for the guest to live in it! That is the typical monkey market.

It is true that no economy can develop without the intervention of the private sector. The government is right, in my own little knowledge of Economics to have invited the private sector to play in our power industry. But the question is: why pay $30 million dollars every month to a private company when the same government has a similar facility that is rendered impotent? Who are the promoters of the various IPPs that are holding the nation by the jugular? What is the wisdom in shutting down three brand new turbines just for another company to be able to operate? Again, if we may ask, why would any government build power generating plants and then license private sector players to build more when it has not expanded its transmission capacities? Who does that? Who are we as a people? The PPA with all other privately-owned plants, is that whatever those plants generate that cannot be transmitted would be paid for, yet, we have government-owned plants with the same or more capacities rendered dormant!

The Ihovbor Power Plant was commissioned in 2013. As the Minister, Adelabu, pointed out after inspecting the facilities, the plant is running at about “20 percent capacity utilisation and which is a gross lack of optimisation of our investment as a country. If we have put in so much into establishing these power plants, it should be able to give us the kind of power that we require.” The minister further lamented that the plants “are well maintained and the running hours of each of these, they are all below 30,000, which means that, effectively, they have not been run more than three years even though they have been installed almost eight or 10 years ago. They are as new as a brand new turbine but surprisingly, it is only one turbine that is operational today, generating about 100 megawatts of power as against the installed capacity of 500.” The plant was conceived by the “clueless” Peoples Democratic Party-led government, while the lethargic All Progressives Congress government sustains the strangulation of its operation through the unfavourable advantage given to its private sector-driven counterpart through the denial of PPA.

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I hate making conjectures. However, the only explanation one can easily give in this case is that there are locusts feeding fat on the pains of the people. This is what my people call apapin (kill and divide). Except for Sunday night when the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) ‘flashed’ light in my neighbourhood, I cannot recollect the last time we enjoyed electricity supply. And I guess, and rightly too, that the company decided to do so because the month is almost over for the distribution of bills and collection of money! Yet, less than 30 kilometers from my neighbourhood are two power plants with a cumulative 900 megawatts. Our case has become like those unfortunate people who live by the river banks but wash their faces with spittle! The rots in the power system cut across every other segment of the country. This is why it is possible for seven people to die while on the queue for rations of rice, and nobody is going to be made to answer for that.

That Comfort Funmilayo Adebanjo and six others died in their bid to get a ration of the 25kg rice is painful. Enough. The manner in which they died and the justification given by those who organised the distribution is even more annoying. If we should ask again, why must Nigerians be made to queue for rice or any other food item in the 21st century? Why is it difficult for this government to know that there is no shortage of foodstuffs in our markets? How long would it take those in authority to realise that what Nigerians are grappling with now are the costs of the food items? If you open up all the Customs warehouses in the country today, how many bags of rice would that give Nigerians? What about my folks in Odo Oro Ekiti or Aparaki in Ogun State and other remote towns and villages; where are the Customs offices located in those areas? If my cousins travel to Ado Ekiti, the nearest Customs office, how much will they pay to get to Ado Ekiti and back home? What guarantee do they have that the ration will get to them?

The NSC spokesman, Abdullahi Maiwada, while rationalising what caused the stampede in Lagos said the avoidable incident happened “because Nigerians, who came for the exercise, did not obey simple instructions for the distribution of the items.” He added that the stampede was not because NCS was not properly coordinated but the “attitude of Nigerians”. Really? Hear him again: “We started an orderly process, and people benefited from it until Nigerians decided not to be orderly and conform to simple instructions and directives. That is what led to what happened. The CGC was at that scene from the beginning to the end of that process. He pleaded with them to comply with the simple directive, and that we have more than enough to distribute. Some Nigerians decided to go on a round trip. At a point, we stopped collecting money and started distributing it for free. But Nigerians, in their manner, started round-tripping and this is what caused what happened.” Thomas Erikson, author of “Surrounded by Psychopaths”, has an idea of characters like Maiwada and the system he represents. Erikson says what Maiwada said is the way psychopaths behave. The author gives a list of items on the psychopathy checklist to include “lack of remorse or guilt; callousness and lack of empathy; pathological lying; shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness and irresponsibility” (page 23-24). I add no more! As a people, Nigerians deserve a good life. The present government should note that and go after that. Stephen Watt, a UK professor of Philosophy, in his introductory notes in: Plato Republic, says living a good life “consists in being a certain sort of person rather than merely doing certain sorts of actions: from an act-centred morality where the primary question is ‘what should I do’? to an agent-centred morality where the primary question is ‘what sort of person should I be?’ Then I ask, again: Who are we, really?

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OPINION: Time To Question Buhari

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By Lasisi Olagunju

Preparatory to his exit from power last year, President Muhammadu Buhari warned all of us to let him be after office: “Nobody should ask me to come and give any evidence in any court; otherwise whoever it is, he will be in trouble because all important things are on record.” Buhari uttered those words in one of his very rare media interviews. That was in January 2023 – one year, one month ago. And truly, every horror so far traced to him as president has been deflected to some minion somewhere. Whatever was lost under his watch, whatever we seek after his exit, whatever we can’t find in the presidential drawer, we’ve carefully avoided going to the man we handsomely paid to look after them. The chief priest is never guilty of anything. There is always a scapegoat tethered in his honour. The orphaned animal carries the guilt.

Some of the key ‘secular’ supporters of the present president are my friends. I engaged one of them last week on the cost of living crisis ravaging the country. He told me what we’ve been reading on social media: Buhari is the culprit; he is the edá rat that peed into Nigeria’s soup pot. He left a badly managed country. My Èmilókàn friend blamed everything, including the worsening power supply situation, on the former president.

I reminded my friend that the past can’t be solely blamed for the rashes of today. Buhari didn’t float the naira and hack petrol subsidy at the same time. Today’s president did. We’ve run all our lives in this country blaming the next person. I keep reading strenuous efforts being made to do devolution of blames down to state governors. It is ridiculous. Were governors consulted before the naira was fed to the dogs of market forces? Leaders at the very top should accept the consequences of their actions. Buhari in power didn’t. He blamed his past throughout his eight years. His successor cannot be allowed to go that road. As America’s Harry Truman put it, “The president—whoever he is—has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job.” My friend agreed but insisted that Buhari left a very badly managed Nigeria, then added: “But, you know, we can’t come out against him.” I smiled, nodded and reminded him of Buhari’s 2023 promise of trouble if anyone asked him “to come and give any evidence in court.” My friend laughed. We moved our talk to other matters.

But, that is not to say Buhari should not explain what he did to Nigeria. I hope he is following his probe by the Senate. Buhari in power boasted repeatedly of his ‘integrity.’ His people call him Maigaskiya (truth teller). But what kind of integrity disdains accountability, rendering accounts? There is a 2006 book, ‘Responsible Leadership’ edited by Nicolas Pless and Thomas Maak. A chapter in that book is useful here. The chapter, written by George G. Brenkert, is on ‘Integrity, Responsible leaders and Accountability’. Integrity and accountability share an inner connection. They are, in the words of Nigerian playwright, Zulu Sofola, “lightning and thunder inseparable.” George Brenkert maintains that a leader “who is not willing to be subject to conditions involving giving an account of his or her behaviour to others” cannot claim to have integrity. I agree with him. You mouth and wear ‘integrity’ everywhere and still threaten us with trouble if we dare question you.

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Former President Buhari did not tell us why he had to threaten his successors against potentially calling him to account. He also did not define or explain what he meant by ‘trouble’. But, you remember Shakespeare’s witches and their chant of ‘trouble’ in Macbeth: “Double, double toil and trouble;/ Fire burn and cauldron bubble” Steaming hot cauldron is elevated boiler. Whatever Buhari had covered up in his boiling kettle is coming out. His warning was a cauldron of guilt.

The Senate told us last week that a total of N30 trillion was printed by the government of Muhammadu Buhari and the money appears to have disappeared. I whispered “Goodbye, Giant of Africa” when I listened to the heart-rending deliberation of our Senate on that disaster. Ahmed Lawan, Buhari’s Senate president, interjected deliberations and said what Buhari printed was N23 trillion, not N30 trillion. Godswill Akpabio, Bola Tinubu’s Senate president (who was also Buhari’s minister), interjected the interjection. He said the extra N7 trillion was interest on the original sum.

We – you and I – are the ones paying principal and interest on Buhari’s misrule. Different strokes. In the United States, convicted former President Donald Trump pays for his bad acts. Reports say he owes an additional $87,502 in post-judgment interest every day until he pays the $354 million fine slammed on him two weeks ago by Judge Arthur Engoron in his civil fraud case. So, a court can convict a big man who had been president?

It happened also in South Africa. Not here. Where I come from, a man is never allowed to be bigger than the village. A community that cowers before a bully is a town of kids. And Nigeria should not forever be J. M. Barrie’s (1911) Neverland, a land of eternal childhood, island of people who refuse to grow up. Or the puer, Carl Jung’s archetypal error-man, who is forever afraid of challenges; who is forever waiting for ‘divine intervention’ to solve all his problems. We cannot be weaned of the disease of bad leadership until the leader knows that his feet will be held to the fires of justice after his reign. Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls, while stating the position of the law on equality before the law, says: “to every subject in this land no matter how powerful, I would use Thomas Fuller’s words over 300 years ago; “be you never so high, the law is above you.”

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We’ve seen in the US judgement that President Trump is not bigger than his country. That is in the United States. Here, trouble awaits anyone who may want to query Buhari on why he wrecked our economy, printed N23 trillion plus N7 trillion interest, and what he used the printed money for. Or that he took a $3.4 billion loan without a trace of how the money was spent and on what. The former president said the consequence of asking him to account is trouble. That is the stuff master-wrestlers are made of. We call them àgbà ìjàkadì in Yoruba. They always tell their victims that they would be victims unless they know their level.

An elected president threatening trouble if asked to render an account is a guilty mind. We should, at this moment, outgrow our fear of strongmen and serve them queries. Can we be man enough for once and square up to Buhari, the heavyweight? The man’s successors in jittery whispers blame their troubles on him. They say his government wreaked today’s woes. They should ask him to come and account for his deeds – good and bad. And the masquerade should be man (or spirit) enough to step out of his guttural grove. He owes everyone who suffers hunger today an explanation that he is not the cause. His successors say he is.

The Buhari government printed money which disappeared as they came out of the mint. That is what our Senate says it is probing without mentioning the name that professed the heist. They will pan the camera away from the one who should be in the dock. There are other issues. Early this month, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project asked Tinubu to probe the whereabouts of the $3.4bn loan obtained in 2020 by Buhari from the International Monetary Fund. Buhari took that loan to fight COVID. But SERAP is asking Tinubu to promptly probe the allegations that the IMF loan is missing, diverted or unaccounted for.” It hinted that the 2020 annual audited report recently published by the Auditor-General of the Federation “documents damning revelations, including that there was ‘no information or document to justify the movement and spending of the fund’”. There may be many more of such disappearances.

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If I were Buhari, I would not wait for the Senate to call me before storming the chambers with details of the N30 trillion and other scandalous matters. I would come out and show the nation where the money is. But Buhari won’t. He is above the law and bigger than Nigeria, a serially abused country.

Is it not futile for leaders to insist they can’t be questioned? Idi Amin of Uganda recklessly printed money like Buhari and ruined his country. No one could caution or question Idi Amin, who boasted repeatedly that he was the conqueror of everybody, including the British Empire. Then he fell and maggots crept out to feast on his bloated belly. Films, books, fiction and non-fiction, have not stopped asking Idi Amin questions even after his death. Wole Soyinka’s A Play of Giants is one; Francis Imbuga’s Man of Kafira is another. Idi Amin is Boss in Imbuga’s play. He flaunts integrity and transparency. Just like today’s Nigeria in which hunger is the most uttered word north and south, Drunk and Sober, two characters in Man of Kafira, wallow in hunger while corrupt Boss lives in transparent ostentation. The two poor characters speak their frustration about a society that provides “three square meals for the transparent man and not a single trianglar one for us.”

We wait to see how the Senate handles the N30 trillion naira scandal and others. We also wait to see how Bola Tinubu will smell after his own tenure and if he will be willing to be questioned. Ultimately, leaders personally answer for their deeds and misdeeds. No fly follows the corpse of leaders into the grave. Not followers, not associates, not their dogs.

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I saw senators struggling to disown Buhari last week. Even dogs that fawned over him and graciously ate his phlegm are barking at him now. That is life. No one admits to using a missing knife to peel their yam. If I were the man of today, I would go watch or read ‘Everyman’, a 15th-century play of man appearing before God naked and all alone. Power and Strength abandon him; Beauty and Knowledge leave too. All he is left with are his Good Deeds. There are modern adaptations of that play. In Dutch, it is Elckerlijc; in Latin, it is Homulus. Duro Ladipo’s Eda is the Yoruba version.

Some governors recently warned that we were on the road to Venezuela. I have written twice on that country; the first was when Buhari’s plantain was decaying and we were told it was ripening. And we were asked to see it so, and we agreed. Venezuela is a burst country where local traders set the price of anything in US dollars and sell everything in US dollars. No one takes the country’s currency, the bolivar, seriously; it is worth less than the wrapper on sweets. But, Venezuela’s head did not go bad overnight. The destruction was gradual, step by step, leader by leader. Long before the bubble burst for that country, Venezuelan playwright and theatre director, José Ignacio Cabrujas, was asked to speak on the curse that rules his country. He said “the state is a magnanimous sorcerer”; it creates illusions and fantasies. He described the reign of one president as “the debut of the myth of progress” and the next as the myth’s “hallucinatory… flamboyant revival.” Powerful imagery that describes our case. I think of the mythical strides of yesterday and the mist in today’s promises.

Shading the truth and exaggerating optimism led us to this day of pies in the sky. Our dog is back to the same behaviour that denied it dinner yesterday. It looks like a foundational curse.

Bola Tinubu cannot renew any hope without showing us how (and why) previous hopes expired. Throughout Buhari’s eight years, the former president feasted on designer shoes and wrapped himself in expensive gowns. He ate big and belched loudly. He tooth-picked his time away while the plane drifted. We demanded to know where the pilot was, we were abused. We asked why he was imperiling a country of 200 million people, we were asked to shut up. Today, some of those who insulted us are in the cockpit; they are whispering alarms at the perilous state of the flight. ‘Where and how is the pilot?’ is the question distraught passengers would ask in life-threatening turbulence. We asked yesterday, we are asking now. All who ask the question today genuinely seek an answer. They ask it just as troubled trees of the forest whine and crackle in terrible storms.

With Buhari, there was no leadership. “In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still,” Harry S. Truman, 33rd president of the United States, uttered that statement long ago and he had reasons to say so. So that today does not end up as yesterday did, we should keep asking questions, even if they are rhetorical. We can make them
epiplectic, forked questions of outrage and rebuke. Whatever flavour we choose, what is important is that we do not stop querying power and demanding answers. Buhari was absent, or pretended to be so. His reign ruined Nigeria; he should be made to account for his deeds.

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OPINION: Should Elected Nigerian Leaders Undergo Psychiatric Tests?

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Tunde Odesola

Guitar Boy, Sir Victor Uwaifo, is dead. But the ‘Mami Water’, which he saw at the Bar Beach and sang about in 1966 when he was just 25 years old, lives on. Today, the ‘Mami Water’ swam all the way up from the deep and boomed through a giant loudspeaker at the Ojota motorpark in Lagos, singing: “Guitar Boy/Guitar Boy/If you see mami Water o/If you see mami water o/Never, never you run away/Eh, eh/Never run away, Victor Uwaifo…” Even angels in heaven can’t resist dancing to the electrifying guitarwork of the song. 🎶Pin-pin/🎶dun-dun/🎶pin-pin/🎶dun-dun/🎶pin-pin/ 🎶dun-dun…Guitar Boy!…If you see mami water o…🎶.

A garage thug, Kilimanjaro, sings along with Uwaifo in a gruffy voice, cigarette smoke billowing down his nostrils like a fumes-belching locomotive driven by a grumpy engineman.

“That time wey Mami Water dey tell Victor Uwaifo make e no run, Nigeria never turn into jungle. Now, na Mami Water herself don dey run from Nigerians. If Mami Water and Papi Water show for Naija now, Nigerians go chop dem with dem bones and fins,” Kilimanjoro bellows, coughing big phlegm up his throat, “twah!” he spits it out. “E no go better for my enemies!”

Lepa Shandy, a busybody hawker in the park, moves from one vehicle to the other, selling a jambalaya of medicines. “If you no get wife, girlfriend or olosho, no buy dis medicine o. Make you no go tamper your landlord wife or daughter if you no wan live under bridge,” Lepa Shandy announces.

She brings out another medicine in a colourful pack. “Dis one name na Caterpillar! Make una lift una joyful faces up and behold this one-cure medicine, epa gbogbo ise. Na New Delhi in New York City dem make am. E dey cure hepatitis, glaucoma, leprosy, COVID and AIDS. Dis medicine no dey cure HIV o. Me, I go tell you di truth. Just drink am with rainwater or well water. Das all.”

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“Ehs! Ehs! Wos! Wobi!,” Kilimanjaro calls out to Lepa Shandy, “Shey you still get ‘Total Restoration’?”

“Ha, e don finish, people don rush am but I go get am next tomorrow. Na dollar cause di go-slow. How many packs you want?” “I want half dozen.” “OK, I go bring am next tomorrow.”

Lepa Shandy: “Shey, una dey see so, na my medicine those wey sabi dey ask for so o. ‘Total Restoration’ dey cure all types of worms, obesity, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, bone marrow, diarrhoea, diabetes, too much sweating, poor hearing, weak vision and fear.”

Kilimanjaro: Shey you hear say lion kill person for Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife?

Lepa Shandy: I hear di news o. Man and animal just dey vex for Nigeria. Suffering too much. No difference dey between the Ife lion and Nigerian leaders. Both no get mercy. Both wicked well well.

Kilimanjaro: Di lion for go Az-o-Roc, after e visit Az-o-Roc, make e enter legislature, judiciary and the ministries one by one. After Abuja, make e come dey enter states one by one?

Kilamanjaro: Ha! Dem go kill am!

Lepa Shandy: Kill wetin!? Na Layon I dey talk about o, no bi lion o. Layon na combination of lion and ‘anjonu’ spirit. Even bomb no fit kill Layon. You no sabi say black power dey?

Kilimanjaro: Look, me I believe in action. Make we all comot for street, block everywhere, no work, make everywhere standstill. Na di only language wey our leaders dey hear bi dat.

Lepa Shandy: You don forget wetin happen for Lekki Tollgate?

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Kilimanjaro: Dem stop Lekki riot because na only Lekki di riot take place. If to say other states of the federation join, government for negotiate nah. Government dey tighten poor masses belt, dem dey loose dem own belt. All dia pikin don turn billionaire finish. Poor man no fit chop one meal a day again. Wo, me I wan listen to the great national debate for radio, biko!

Lepa Shandy: Na wah o.

Kilimanjaro: After Buhari ride Nigerian donkey to coma, e kari half-dead donkey give im paddy, Tinubu, wey no fit complain publicly because dem bi Taiwo and Kehinde, different sides of di same coin.

Kilimanjaro: (Tuning the stereo in the road transport union office) When dem go begin di debate sef?

The secretary of the park, Acapela, tells Kilimanjaro to tune the stereo to Radio Enlightenment and Freedom 700.07 FM.

Kilimanjaro: Ha! Dem just dey start di debate. Rich man pikin school versus poor man pikin school. E go loud!

Debate Moderator: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to the Great Debate! We have two schools slugging it out today. They’re Overlords Private College, Ikoyi, and Bondage Public School, Ajegunle. The topic of today’s debate is, ‘Should elected Nigerian leaders undergo psychiatric tests?’ Overlords Private College are saying NO to the topic while Bondage Public School are saying YES. The lead speaker of each school has five minutes to speak while the supporting speakers have three minutes each. I hereby welcome the lead speaker of Bondage Public School to the podium.

Bondage Lead Speaker: My name is Idris Ayomeye. I’m from Bondage Public School. I greet the distinguished chairman of this august occasion, the incorruptible panel of judges, the accurate timekeeper, my co-debaters and the esteemed audience.

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(The audience roars into applause)

Bondage Lead Speaker: I’m here to support the motion that Nigerian leaders should and must be subjected to psychiatric tests. Permit me, Mr Chairman, sir, to open my speech with these two Bible quotes: Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people”; and Romans 6:1: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin and expect grace to abound?” These Bible quotations sum up the story of Nigeria, a country, where wickedness and injustice rule. It’s a country where the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission prosecutes and secures the conviction of a Nollywood actor, Oluwadarasimi Omoseyin, for ‘spraying’ the naira while the same EFCC looks the other way when Fuji musician, Alhaji Wasiu Ayinde, and one undignifying monarch, the Olu of Owode, Oba Kolawole Sowemimo, engaged in criminal abuse of the naira. I must commend the Egba Traditional Council for suspending Sowemimo over his disgraceful act. He should be sent back to ipebi for proper tutoring. I don’t know how some characters become obas in Yoruba land.

(Deafening applause. Kilimanjaro, Acapela and many people listening to the debate in the garage jump up in jubilation)

Bondage Lead Speaker: Mr Chairman, sir, Nigeria is a country of promise-and-fail leaders. President Olusegun Obasanjo set up the Oputa panel to try the wrongs of the past, but General Badamosi Babangida, who was accused of many wrongdoings blatantly refused to show up, and nothing happened. Babangida never appeared in court despite incriminating allegations over the death of Dele Giwa. Those who killed MKO Abiola and his wife, Kudirat Abiola, are walking freely today. One of them, a Major, is even pontificating all over the country.

(Kilimanjaro grabs a chair, puts it on his head and dances, shouting, “More! More! More!)

Bondage Lead Speaker: The Presidency, police, ICPC, rights activists, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, etc see how people abuse the naira daily, yet they look away. Nigeria looks away as public hospitals have turned into morgues, public schools have become havens for hoodlums, roads have turned into deathtraps, electricity supply has turned to darkness supply! If a country can so brazenly exhibit injustice and brutality, tell me why its elected leaders shouldn’t undergo psychiatric tests. Please, tell me why.

(Shouts of ‘Tell them!’ ‘Tell them!’ Tell them! from the audience fill the hall)

Mr Chairman: (Hits his gavel on the table) Order! Order! Order! (The hall becomes less rambunctious)

Bondage Lead Speaker: (Wipes his face with a handkerchief and sips some water) General Muhammadu Buhari promised to jail the looters in the President Goodluck Jonathan administration. Who did he jail? Were we all not in this country when Patience Jonathan sought a plea bargain? Were we not all in this country when Buhari and his cabal brought in a fake airline as a national carrier, spending millions of dollars on the fake airline? Can someone tell me why our leaders shouldn’t be subjected to psychiatric evaluation? President Tinubu has been in the saddle for almost a year, chasing shadows, haunting the worst Central Bank Governor in the history of the country, Godwin Emefiele, but conspicuously leaving out Buhari, whose bidding Emefiele did. Can someone tell me why our…

Kilimanjaro: Ha!!! NEPA!!! Dem don cut light for studio o! Dem don become uncomfortable o. Haa! Naija and government magic…

Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.com

Facebook: @Tunde Odesola

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