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Opinion: Random Musings On A Lazy And Failed Country, Nigeria



By Tony Abolo

All countries are thinking of post – COVID-19 stimulus packages for their economies. We are still in lock-ups and lockdowns and extensions thereof. We are still holding meetings to decide on Economic Sustainability, through a Vice President chaired Economic Sustainability Committee. Fancy stuff, fancy name!! As if the nomenclature will put food on the table of 199 million Nigerians.

Nigeria is a strange, very strange country. It could be better. But it cannot, simply because the domineering ethnic neo-colonialists, want it in their shape of mind; unprogressive and unreflecting. There is no clear agenda to move us from a primitive 13th Century mind set unto a 21st Century not to talk of 22nd century. I have a book titled “Thinking Backwards”. It means something else, alright, but the title aptly depicts the kind of thinking that permeates the nation, a more or less backwards thinking!!

While tiny Madagascar has gone ahead with its COVID-19 Organics, big for nothing Nigeria, with its Epidemiologists, Pharmacognocists, Virologists, Infectious Diseases Doctors are waiting for a go ahead for a nod that may never come from the inner recesses of Aso Rock. Why should such persons be funded for researches and breakthroughs for Nigeria when Buhari needs every Kobo for his school feeding program for students on lockdown at home and for his Lawyer led COVID-19, Presidential Task Force? They can keep waiting.

READ ALSO: Opinion: COVID-19 Responses And The Intelligence Quotient Of Nigeria’s Political Leadership

And so COVID-19 is on. In Benin, Hausa Quarters was sealed up pending when the residents would yield to community testing. That is the intention and the statement of Government. But what do the Hausa community interpret the action as? A resident tells me, “Edo State Government says, all Hausa wey dey sell yabas (onions) and tomatoes should not sell again ? Fancy the mindset of the uneducated!!! “When I prodded further, the response I got was – “You test you die, you no test, you die”. Logic, informed by religion that is driven by stoic philosophy. Can we all really continue to stay in the same country?

I am amused at the spate of congratulations being sent by politicians, especially from Edo State to the new Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari. It is not hard to know what their intentions are. But come. Since when has an unconstitutional position of a Chief of Staff become so meaningful that politicians want to hang on to it to show relevance, “fake love”, and hopefully, it gains them ascendancy in their ambitions? Funny lot they all are. A Chief of Staff is no more than a Head of Administration, a head clerk, a Personal Assistant, no matter what anybody wants to make of Professor Gambari. It is only in Nigeria that political positions take a life of their own and assume larger life than they should be. A Governor or a President are what? Heads of Public Service Bureaucracy. Period. Here we adore and worship them. This is why they do nothing important for four years and consider every official act as a favour of graciousness to the people who are their electors and masters. “What a cheek!!!”.

After eight years of Buhari, I wonder what he would be remembered for? Sitting in front of a screen, doing video meeting conferencing? What, exactly? Obasanjo after eight years left us with a lasting wide ranging impactful GSM. In fact, but for that revolution, Buhari could not be doing any COVID-19 era video or audio conferencing. Still asking, what in eight years and after, would Buhari be remembered for? As one who through a Minister went about with sacks of Ghana – must – go bags distributing billions to persons we are yet to ascertain are the poorest of the poor or as someone with plastic plates and spoons, feeding non schooling children in their homes and spending about N697 million a day under the guise of school feeding program? Ambition, Shakespeare said, should be made of sterner stuff. In a twist, I would say in this school feeding program, at a time the Federal Treasury is running empty, populism “wayo” can be better designed and not so patent like this. Or is this Nigerian style socialism?

READ ALSO: Opinion: The Reign Of Abba Kyari

Nothing proves it better that a past time habit of Nigerian Governments is telling obvious lies. 22 or so Chinese arrived Nigeria in late March 2020. They were received at the Airport by the Health Minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire. We were told they came to assist with the pandemic as they are said to possess great experience with treatment and recovery in the COVID 19 pandemic patients. When the media enquired where they were, after a month, we are told they were technicians and no longer medical personnel and that they came to work with CCECC, a Chinese construction firm working on Federal Government projects. Asking further, we are told they have run out of their visa stay. Next, they cannot leave because there are no outbound flights? Who granted them visas in the first place? Who flew them in? What and where is the truth of the Chinese COVID 19 travellers?

Just when you think, you are through and through with the leadership of this country, there is one more inane act. How could we in the wake of a drop in or lack of crude oil sales, less income, impending job losses, all the Federal Government could do by scaling down on the Federal Budget is a 10% cut of its total expenditure from its original 2020 Budget. That amount represents a 0.6% cut. Clearly this is a country that has lost its head? Do we have serious leaders, anywhere in Nigeria? Are there thinking people in governance in Nigeria?

READ ALSO: Dele Giwa Exposes Buhari’s Failure

Lastly, as I sit musing about things, whenever I hear of the Kajuru killings in Kaduna State and the massive Almajirai movements from the North to the South, against the Presidential directive barring crossing State boundaries, I keep asking myself, does Buhari hear of these events? And if he does, what goes on in his mind? Does he consider Southern sensibilities or the core issues of securing the land? I just wonder about his mindset or the musings in his mind – like I too am musing now.



OPINION: The Ibadan Protest Against Hardship




By Suyi Ayodele

An Ibadan man accompanied his wife and daughter to the market in search of salt to add to their tasteless pot of soup. That was in March 1881, when the city was besieged by hunger and war. It was a season of famine. The man who accompanied his wife and daughter to the market lost one of them right there, he became ‘wifeless’. What happened? His wife was bartered away to an Egba man by his daughter for a measure of salt! Yes! The daughter exchanged her mother for salt! That was the terrible situation Ibadan was at that time. The economic strangulation of that period took away the most critical ingredient from the people’s table, salt. Ibadan people and those from the adjoining towns and villages prepared their meals without salt and ate what the Yoruba people call àté (tasteless meal). The situation arose because Ibadan was at war with so many of its neighbours such that there were economic blockades against the city. How was the matter resolved? The entire episode and what the Ibadan did can be found in The Rev. Samuel Johnson’s book: “The History of the Yorubas” (556-560).

Ibadan is not just the capital of Oyo State. In the Yoruba political and social configurations, Ibadan is much more than a mere capital of a state. There is something peculiar about the city. In elementary geography, we were taught that Ibadan is the largest city in the West African sub-region. Again, the city of Bashorun Oluyole is more than being the largest city in West Africa. Ibadan is the capital of the Yoruba race. It is a city that every Yoruba man or woman must pay attention to what is happening there. The people of the city salute themselves as “Ibadan Mesiogo.” The simple translation of that praise name is Ibadan people know the answer to every poser; and you cannot get the best of an argument with an Ibadan person. The city has a way of influencing what happens in other Yoruba towns and villages. It is a unique city, a pacesetter of sorts! The old Western Region always waited for Ibadan to act and the others would follow. If Ibadan boils, the entire Yoruba landscape boils. Check out the history of the city, there is no tribe or sub-ethnic group in Yorubaland that is not represented in Ibadan. As a result of the numerous wars and battles, the forebears of Ibadan had fought, won and lost, all tribes, as far as those from Benin Republic, Togo and others, have their kith and kins in Ibadan. It is a city nobody should toil with.

Before the debut of the present political dispensation, Ibadan played significant roles in bringing about democracy. During the era of the expired dark-goggled military tyrant, General Sani Abacha, Ibadan was the city which never allowed the perfidious two-million-man march for Abacha to transmute from a military dictator to a pseudo-civilian president to take place without consequences for the organisers of the shame called solidarity march. The city defends democracy. It also has the capacity to end democracy, when it veers into dictatorship. Ibadan, as the capital of the then Western Region was a study in democracy and fairness. It played that role adequately well in the First Republic. It was also from Ibadan that the beginning of the end of the First Republic started. A dynamic city, Ibadan never suffers fools gladly. When the First Republic was turning to a one-party state, with brazen political shenanigans being displayed arrogantly by the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) government of the day at the centre, Ibadan responded appropriately. By the time the smoke of the operation wetie cleared, the First Republic was gone! The same feat was repeated in 1983, when the then ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) announced its “moon slide” victory at the state gubernatorial elections. The riots that broke out in Ibadan on August 13, 1993, over the governorship election in the old Oyo State (Oyo and Osun now), spread like a harmattan conflagration to the defunct Ondo State (now Ekiti and Ondo States). Barely four months later, the Second Republic died like its predecessor.

FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: What Is Killing Our Obas?

Yesterday, Monday, February 19, 2024, Ibadan was in the news again. Very early in the morning, residents of the city trooped out in their thousands in protest against the hardship in the land. It was a “peaceful” protest though; it was nevertheless a pregnant one. The protesters were out on the streets because of the rising cost of living and economic hardship Nigerians are subjected to in the last eight months. The Monday protest by Ibadan residents is significant, especially, to good students of history. Anytime residents of Ibadan are subjected to economic hardship that has the tendency to cut short their lives, they always rise to the occasion. They do this, when, for instance, essential commodities are going out of the reach of the people.

Nigeria is not at war at the moment, but Nigerians have started selling one another to cushion the effects of the present economic hardship. Just as the Ibadan young girl bartered her mother for a measure of salt, mothers have started selling their children to raise money to buy food so as to take care of the remaining children! We are in terrible times. Things are not adding up again. Prices of essential food items have gone out of the reach of the poor. Even the rich are gradually feeling the heat. The tension in the land is palpable. Nigeria is at its combustive end. Nigerians now eat to be alive, and not to be filled and satisfied. Prices of goods, especially food items, are as unpredictable as the weather. The price of a measurement of beans in the morning is no longer the same price in the evening in the same market and by the same seller! The real tough times are here. The pains and agony in the land are real and menacing. A friend said, “The traders are mean and exploitative.” He had more to say: “What has exchange rate got to do with the prices of gaari and plantain?” He asked. I responded by asking what the gaari seller would do anytime she needed to buy a Milo beverage for her child and discovered that the price had tripled from what she paid the last time. This is elementary Economics. The gaari seller is merely reacting to the pull of market prices. She needs to make profit to be able to buy other items that her household needs for survival. For instance, if the plantain seller has an on-going building project, and he bought a bag of cement at N5,800 mid-January, with the same bag of cement going for N10,000 now, he would probably not sell a bunch of plantain for the same N3,00 he sold it in January. This is why the idea that the government would try to control the prices of food items is laughable. It shows that we have complete novices at the helms of our economic policies. How on earth do you control the prices of what is not yours? Same way the decision to break into storehouses of some businesses, or to seal up some stores as done to Sahad Stores, Abuja, by the Federal Consumer Competition and Protection Commission (FCCPC), remains base. It is a confirmation of the height of cluelessness of those in government at the moment. If you release all the items in all stores and silos in Nigeria today, how long will they last? When they are exhausted, what follows?

FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Emir Of Kano’s ‘Insult’ To Tinubu

Truth be told, this government is like the typical hawk that thinks the man below doesn’t see it. Who in Nigeria does not know that this regime is a heavily transactional administration? Who is not aware that while the poor people are struggling to make ends meet, our new husbands are living in obscene luxury? When you run an absolute transactional government with the meanest of personnel superintending over the golden departments of the State, you cannot but have a catastrophe of the present magnitude. The rate at which Nigerians are being impoverished on hourly basis by this administration, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu may go down in history as the most unfeeling president ever in the history of the country. That, itself, is as sad as it is ungodly! Nigerians are no fools. I hope the government knows that. They can make comparisons. Nigerians knew that the administration of the People’s Democratic Government (PDP) was bad for them. That was why they voted the party out of power in 2015, after 16 years, and replaced it with the present All Progressives Congress (APC) regime. The people also know that life was much better under the PDP than they have now. Worse still, Nigerians can also see that there seems to be no difference between the eight years of General Muhammadu Buhari’s absent leadership and the eight months of President Tinubu’s bizarre leadership with oddball economic policies! This is becoming too much of a disaster for the people!

This is why I became agitated when the news flashed that Ibadan residents had joined the fray. Penultimate week, it was in Niger State that women trooped out in protest. Last week, Ota people in Ogun State were also on the streets. I saw the video of the protest. I asked myself what the government was doing to arrest the situation. Midway into this piece, a senior colleague sent yet another disturbing news about the protest that broke out in Otukpo, Benue State, over the high cost of tuition fees at the Federal University of Health Sciences, Otukpo (FUSHO). In Ibadan, the protesters were more direct. One of the placards they carried had the inscription: “Tinubu gooooo”. Some others read: “End food hike and inflation”; “Tinubu don’t forget your promises”; “Give us good health facilities.” I pray President Tinubu will pay attention to these cries by the people. My wish is that the president acts and nips these pockets of protest in the bud lest other cities pick up the baton and what started as isolated protests become a coordinated and simultaneous venture across Nigeria. Ibadan has a way of enhancing democracy; same way it has the capacity of either resetting or unsettling demons and ‘democracy’.

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OPINION: Emir Of Kano’s ‘Insult’ To Tinubu




By Suyi Ayodele

The land of Samaria was once under intense hunger. There was hunger in the land, occasioned by a serious famine. The famine was caused by the siege laid on the city by another king, Beh-hadad, the king of Syria. The situation was such that cannibalism became the order of the day. Two women agreed to eat their sons. The first one, in her fidelity to the agreement, killed and boiled her son for supper. The duo ate the meal. When the time came for the second woman to also offer her son, she reneged. King Jehoram was passing by. He heard the wailing of the first mother and inquired what afflicted her. The woman narrated her sordid story. Of course, the king was troubled. He rented his clothes, and put on a sackcloth in mourning. He took a personal oath and promised to have the head of Elisha the prophet, blaming him and his prophesies for the trouble in the land. This account is rendered in 2 Kings: 6 25-31. Every bad leader blames someone else but himself, for the failure of his government. Something similar is already happening in Nigeria. Parents have started selling their children to buy food for others! Samaria is already here. Is President Bola Ahmed Tinubu aware?

In a situation akin to what my people call: omo ina laa ra si’na (you send the child of fire to fire), the Emir of kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, sent the First Lady, Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu, to her husband, President Tinubu. The emir told Mrs. Tinubu thus: “Tell your husband to address hunger and insecurity in Nigeria”. The emir admitted that the two issues of hunger and starvation “did not start with this government but the situation has become more alarming and needs urgent attention.” Again, the Kano foremost traditional ruler admitted that “although we have several means of communicating to the government on our needs and requests, but your way and means is the surest way to tell the president the actual happenings in the country.” Alhaji Bayero spoke through an interpreter to the wife of the president, who was in his domain to perform a formal duty. Check the emir’s background, you will find him a well lettered individual. But he chose to speak in Hausa to a non-Hausa-speaking guest. There are ways with emirs, when they address ‘aliens’. But I will not delve into that here.

It is rather unfortunate that the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, who lost his tongue for the complete eight ruinous year that the Bayyajida II, General Muhammadu Buhari, ruled this country would suddenly find his voice in the eight months of Tinubu’s administration. It is true that once one is down because of a big problem, the inconsequential ones would seize the opportunity to trample on one’s tummy, and the balls to toys. Where was the Emir of kano when Buhari brought this country to its knees? For eight solid years, where and when did Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero send any message of “urgent attention” to Buhari to address the insecurity and hunger in the land? Do we blame the emir, or the man, Tinubu, whose masquerade has refused to dance very well in the arena to give one courage to point out and say: “here comes my masquerade? One can only hope that Tinubu will understand that more insults would come his ways from very underserving quarters unless he sits up and act. If there are people in his government putting ‘sand in his gaari’, the president should get rid of them unless he is a ‘sand-sand’ man himself. Nigerians are tired of excuses. Tinubu is the one elected president and not all these guys that are running all over the place, doing nothing like Sisyphus in Hades. So much for emir Ado Bayero and his bad-belle message.

FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: What Is Killing Our Obas?

Now, how does one defend president Tinubu in this matter? On what ground should one stand to say what the emir said was, and remains, unbecoming of a man of his stature, given the calamities that have been the lot of Nigerians in the last eight months. However, one must point out the anomalies in the emir of Kano’s message to Tinubu. Our elders say that only a madman will say this is where my brother was disgraced yesterday without doing anything about it. So, I will impose on myself, and briefly too, the role of a devil’s advocate, here, if only to set the record straight.

A lot has been written about the level of hunger in Nigeria today. The last eight months of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s government have been horrible for Nigerians and Nigeria. The streets are not smiling. But our new husband, President Tinubu, is behaving like he doesn’t know our situation. Ikún, the deaf squirrel itself, ought to have heard the agony in the land by now; how much more the president. But, if President Tinubu has the tendency of the deaf, we as diviners also have the duty to repeat his divination several times (korokoro laa ró’fá adití). The messages from the divination boards are not good. They are very ominous. Hunger has joined our legion of afflictions. President Tinubu can no longer pretend not to know what is happening. And it doesn’t matter what his hangers-on are telling him. Nobody is happy in Nigeria anymore. That is the bitter truth. The lamentations from those who broke limbs and heads to put Tinubu in Aso Rock Villa are louder. They wail, nowadays, more than those of us they labelled ‘Tinubu’s enemies’. Like I told a very close friend; I have passed the stage of being labelled ‘Tinubu’s enemy’. Why should anyone befriend failure in the first instance? Who romances sheer ineptitude, if not a hypocrite?

Every king has an inner caucus he listens to at critical moments. I witnessed that several times when Kabiyesi Òjó Àmúpìtàn Olúyeyè Òjoyèbugiòtèwó (he who gets to the throne and uproots the tree of conspiracy), was the Onise of Odo Oro Ekiti; the oba of my town. Whenever there was a knotty issue, Kabiyesi would listen to all the people; he would allow them to talk. Then turning to his chiefs, he would ask (depending on the matter), a particular one among them this: “Ngbó Obadòfin, Kú a ti wí? (Listen Obadòfin, what do you say to this?). Once Kabiyesi asked any of his chiefs that question, the one so asked would know that the oba was looking for the truth and nothing less. And he got more than enough pieces of quality advice. Who is that inner man who can tell President Tinubu the whole truth and nothing but the truth about our condition? Who has that capacity? Who has the boldness, the courage and goodwill to tell the president that Nigerians are dying of hunger in instalments? Or, better still; do we ask, what truth does Tinubu tell himself when he is alone? I read a disturbing piece on Sunday. The author, Taiwo Adisa, Nigerian Tribune’s General Editor, wrote that some close associates of the president could no longer reach him to give him the feedback from the streets. Is that true? Is that why the president has been unfeeling in the past eight months? Who are the ones who see the president as they wish? What do those few privileged ones tell President Tinubu?

FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Vultures And Hornbills Of The North

I am not a prophet of doom. And I am not afraid to be labelled, also. Disaster looms at the rate we are going. Hunger is already in the land. Unfortunately, there is no market in Nigeria from Nasarawa to Ògún, Gombe to Anambra and everywhere else, where there are no foodstuffs on display. What is lacking is the purchasing power. The quality of our Naira has depreciated so much that a huge amount of money buys nothing from the market. A senior colleague buys a particular brand of milk regularly. He says it has a low cholesterol level. The last time I drove him to the store, a tin was sold for N650! He refused to buy it. I refused to persuade him to buy it. The following day, I asked him how he managed to have his cereal without the milk. He told me that he resorted to taking Cocoa beverages. What a life! That is the situation across the country. The Tinubu government responded by saying it would release millions of tonnes of grains to the market. I shook my head in pity. Is that the solution? When the stocks from the national silos are exhausted, what will the people resort to? Or, are the stocks from the exalted silos inexhaustible? Besides, how much will it cost a trader in New Benin Market to travel to the silos in Auchi to buy the grains and bring the same back to Benin to sell? In Benin City and adjourning towns and villages, a litre of fuel goes for an average of N660. Due to the bad roads between Benin and Auchi, commuters spend an average of seven hours for a journey of less than two hours before. They are at the same time at the mercy of kidnappers and other felons on the highway. So, Mr. President, if a trader succeeds in making the journey to Auchi and back to Benin after 14 hours, how much will she sell a mudu (measurement) of beans? This is the problem confronting the people all over.

I decided to write this piece at home yesterday. Staying at home afforded me the opportunity to know another level of suffering in the land. Intermittently, I heard people knocking at my gate. Each time I tried to check, I discovered they were people I had never seen in the neighbourhood before. They were carrying all manner of containers, looking for water. I realised that there are boreholes around but no water. Why? In the last one month, there has been no electricity supply in the neighbourhood. One of them told me that they were just approaching any home with overhead water tanks to ask if they could fetch water. I had no choice than to open the outside tap for them to fetch water. That would be at a huge cost of N660/litre fuel to pump the water. It then dawned on me why I saw some fellas who came to the Edo State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), secretariat with jerry cans in the booths of the cars to fetch water. The implication here is that once there is power failure and electricity is cut off, the people suffer. This is another area that this government should look into. It is not just about releasing the never-sufficient grains; it is also about providing the means of cooking the grains for the people – water, gas and the ingredients to make the meal palatable.

FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Restructure Nigeria Before We All Die

I am worried for President Tinubu. I am worried that he is the one demystifying himself. Where are the attributes of his ‘Lagos Magic’? They told us he is the sole architect of modern Lagos. Where is the magic wand? In under eight months, everything has collapsed under the watch of the ‘chief strategist’ himself! They boasted that the president would come to government with the best of brains? The last of Thomas Erikson’s tetralogy is titled: “Surrounded by bad bosses and lazy employees”. The first chapter of the 2021 book has this sub-title: “Really Bad Leadership-and Its Appalling Consequences”. In it, the Swedish behavioural expert says: “Good leadership is dependent on the boss and the staff understanding the symbiosis they are working in and both parties realizing that they are dependent upon each other to get the system work”. He goes further: “…Every one of us, at some time or another, has had an incompetent boss and wondered why he or she doesn’t do their job better. Some bosses don’t exercise any leadership at all, which makes them unnecessary. And that raises the question: a boss who doesn’t actually lead – what’s the point? (Page 11). This is exactly the question Nigerians have been asking in the last eight months. Who is leading this government – the same super magician we were sold in February 2023? Nigerians have also been asking: where are the technocrats, the best brains they told us were coming? Who in this government can match our Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala? Who among the Tinubu boys is in the same league with Oby Ezekwesili? Who among the present lot can compete with Akinwumi Adesina, Frank Iweke Jnr. and the powerful host of technocrats that were in the previous Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s governments that these present lords termed ‘clueless’ and accused of ruining the nation? What sort of leadership is Tinubu providing? My people said when the lead giant ant misses the road, its followers become a flock without a shepherd. What exactly is the economic drift of this administration? What is its focus? And how long does the government think the people will endure its voodoo monetary policy of “ways and means”, which, in street parlance, is printing of money to pay federal government workers’ salaries every month, before something would snap?

“Is Hangry Real? The Connection Between Anger and Hunger (Why Hunger Sometimes Erupts as Anger)”, is a June 24, 2023 publication in the “Verywellhealth” platform, written by one of their contributing writers, Mark Gurarie. In the piece, the author says: “To feel hangry is to feel anger and irritability due to having an empty stomach. Though it emerged as a pop-culture term, ” being hangry” is real. Researchers have linked feelings of irritability and anger to low levels of blood sugar and the hormones released as a result.” Underneath the piece is this piece that elaborates on the risks of hunger by asking the hypothetical question: “Can hunger cause anger?”, which it answers thus: “A study says there may be risks. The data showed hunger was associated with 37% of changes in irritability, 34% in anger and 38% in pleasure, which suggested the emotions were caused by fluctuations in hunger. “Hangry” here, is a neologism, a combination of hungry and angry. It is defined as “bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger” (Oxford English Dictionary, 2018). Experts in the field assert that being hungry can make one to be “irritable”. Our streets are filled with countless people with irritable behaviours. They have started acting in groups. That accounts for last week’s protest across some cities of the country. Banning the movement of food items from one state to another, or from one region to another, is not the solution. Every state or region has its own advantage and no part of the country can hold the other to ransom over food supply anymore. If the situation is not immediately addressed by the government, it will snowball into something unpalatable. We can no longer pretend that all is well with us as a people. If nobody wants to tell the president this, let us on this page tell him: Mr. President, Nigerians are hangry.

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OPINION: Tinubu, Matter Don Pass Be Careful




By Lasisi Olagunju

The last premier of the Western Region, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, asked his guest what the town was saying. The guest told him the town was solidly behind him. The guest backed his claim with a cassette which he said contained the adulation with which the people of Ibadan welcomed every step so far taken by Chief Akintola. The premier listened to the cassette and brightened up. He thanked the guest, Chief A.M.A. Akinloye, as he took his exit. Akintola’s young confidant and aide, Adewale Kazeem, walked in. The premier told him of Akinloye’s good news and gave him the cassette to listen to. Adewale listened to the cassette, sighed and was downcast. The premier looked at the worried face of Adewale Kazeem and asked why. “The town is not good,” he told Chief Akintola, and added that the content of the cassette was not a true reflection of what the town was saying about the premier and his government. A shocked Akintola intoned “ta l’a á wàá gbàgbó báyìí (who do we believe now)?” The young man told the premier: “You had better believe me, Baba.”

The above happened sometime in 1964. A year later, the problem multiplied for Chief Akintola who became increasingly troubled, his hands unsteady; “he could no longer write his signature on a straight line.” One day, he was advised by the same aide, Adewale Kazeem, to resign his post as premier and end the raging crisis in the region. Akintola’s response was: “Adewale, ó ti bó; ikú ló má a gb’èyìn eléyìí (Adewale, it is too late. It is death that will end all this).” The above details are on pages 161 and 172 of the book ‘SLA Akintola in the Eyes of History: A Biography and Postscript’. The book, published in 2017, was written by a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Kehinde. The author did not put those conversations in the book as hearsay. He heard them directly from Adewale Kazeem who rose in life to become a well-respected oba in Osun State.

At 5.50pm on 6 August, 1962, Chief Obafemi Awolowo left his place for the residence of the Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, for a 6pm appointment. It was at the height of the political crisis of the early 1960s. Awo arrived at Balewa’s 8 Lodge on the dot and wasted no time opening their discussion. He asked Balewa: “Are you sure in your mind that this crisis will end well for all of us and for Nigeria?” Chief Awolowo said “Balewa replied in a low, solemn voice that he was sure it would not end well…” (See Awolowo’s ‘Adventures in Power’, Book Two, page 249). And, did it end well? There is no point answering that question. We all know how it ended. Today, there is a new fire on the mountain. Things are bad; very bad. Paris-born Nigerian singer, Bukola Elemide (Asa) sings: “There is fire on the mountain/ And nobody seems to be on the run…” The first time we heard a cry of fire and fear in our politics was in the Western House of Assembly in 1962. Since then, the mountain of Nigeria has been badly scarred by political bush-burners. A fresh blaze is balding the skull of the poor today and the consequences cannot be imagined.

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There are consequences for everything anyone does or does not do. Even the words that I use here will have consequences. Ethnic and business ‘friends’ of the president will abuse me like they’ve always done to poets who refuse to do palace clowning. They forget that I am a child of the farm; I walk the furrows, not the ridge. I am beyond their shot. Authored by researchers Iain McLean and Jennifer Nou, a piece appeared in the October 2006 edition of the British Journal of Political Science. And the title? ‘Why should we be beggars with the ballot in our hand?’ That is the question we dare not ask here without them saying we should bring our heads. They say the president is our brother who cannot do wrong. They forget that we were not taught in Yoruba land to merely chase away the fox and pamper the cocky bumbling hen. We were taught to give justice to fox and then to hen – one after the other. How is keeping quiet when the ‘war’ is all around us going to help “our brother”?

The hunger that is in town today is more serious than the hunger that made Sango burn down a whole town. Yet, our leader appears not worried. He is not scared. It is business as usual. Why are we not fearing the consequences of our misbehaviour? A journalist recalled that sometime in 1965, Prime Minister Balewa was at the airport in Ikeja and was asked what he was doing to quench the fire in the Western Region. The big man looked around and declared that “Ikeja is part of the West, I can’t see any fire burning.” Truly, he was kept busy with positive assurances by flightless birds around him. He lived in denial, or in self-deception, he ignored the firestorm. The fire he refused to see grew uncontrollably wild; it became a blaze so much that when the cock crowed at dawn on January 15, 1966, it was too late for the head of the Nigerian government to save even himself.

There were protests in parts of the country last week by hungry Nigerians. But President Bola Tinubu’s trusted people said the protests were unreal; they said the president’s policies are good and popular with the people. They are telling the president that the hungry are not very hungry. They said it was the opposition playing politics, inciting the poor against the state. I saw Lagbaja, the mystery musician, from a distance at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, on Friday. I tried unsuccessfully to reach him and get him to sing: ‘Mo sorry fun gbogbo yin’ to those telling the naked president that his garment is beautiful. The ‘sorry’ is more for Tinubu. He is the one chosen and crowned to rule; and he is the one whose tenure is being measured by mass suffering, mass hunger, mass kidnapping. He is the one being scaffolded from the ugliness of the street. Tinubu is an elder. Should it be difficult for him to know the next line of action when a load is too heavy for the ground to carry and is too heavy for the rafters? We say in Yoruba land that when the going gets tough and life faces you, shoot at it; if it backs you, shoot it. When you are alone, reconsider your stand.

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Did President Tinubu read Segun Adeniyi of Thisday last week? The columnist asked him to go and watch again the Yoruba mainframe play, Saworoide. If you are not Yoruba, look for the plot summary of that play, it should be online. Read it. It should tell what the warning is all about. They are all prophets – the warners. Did the president read Abimbola Adelakun of The Punch last Thursday? She warned that “things are getting out of hand.” Did Tinubu read Tunde Odesola of the same newspaper the following day? He wrote that in Tinubu’s Nigeria, “the poor can’t inhale, the rich can’t exhale.” Farooq Kperogi of Saturday Tribune has written twice (last week and the week before) on hunger and anger in the land. He warned Tinubu two days ago not to see himself as Buhari who misruled big time but escaped the whips of consequences. Festus Adedayo yesterday in the Sunday Tribune likened today’s Nigeria to ravaged Ijaiye, a defeated community of hopelessness. I, particularly, find very apt Adedayo’s reading of today’s suffering as Kurunmi’s war-ravaged Ijaiye of 1860/61. In 2024 Nigeria, respectable people beg to eat; mothers sell one child to feed another. It is tragic. Bola Bolawole’s offering drew from French and Russian histories of social and political tragedy. I do not know what Suyi Ayodele of the Nigerian Tribune is cooking for tomorrow, Tuesday. I will be surprised if Tinubu’s ‘friends’ have not reported these warners to him as his enemies. That is how we are being governed.

The naira is ruined, the kitchen is on fire. We thought the regime of Muhammadu Buhari was the last leg of Nigeria’s relay race of tragedy. Now, it is clear he was actually the first leg in a race that won’t end soon. Tinubu took the baton from his game-mate and said his wand is made of hope in renewed bottles. His first eight months have proved that it is not true that the child does not die at the hands of the circumciser. This is better said in Yoruba – àsé iró ni wípé omo kìí kú lówó oní’kolà! This one is dying – or is dead. Before the president’s very eyes, the country has become a vast camp for stranded people; a nation of displaced people who live on food rations. The people now ask who is going to be their helper. Legendary Ilorin musician, Odolaye Aremu, at a moment of anomie as this, lamented that the one we said we should run to for safety is urging us to run even far away from where he is (eni tí a ní k’á lo sá bá, ó tún ní k’á máa sá lo).

Cluelessness is a physician treating leprosy with drugs made for eczema. Who told the president that opening the federal silos is the solution to a bag of rice selling for N70,000? It was N7,000 nine years ago. The protesting people from the north and in the south are not saying there is no food in the market. There is no scarcity of foodstuffs. It is not a demand and supply problem. There is food in the market, but the food in the market is priced beyond the earnings of the people. That is the issue, the problem, and it cannot be solved with handouts from grain reserves. It can only be solved with a magic that will shrink the price of foodstuffs to a size within the financial capacity of the poor.

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Some say it is age that ails Tinubu making him unfelt in this season of pain. But, he won’t be the first old man to be king. There was a prince in Ofa who owned neither calabash nor plate (kò ní’gbá, kò l’áwo). But he had a large piece of cloth as his only item of value. He did not use it; it was too unuseful to the poor old man who would rather lend it for a fee to others for use on their special outings. The man’s condition remained critical, his poverty unremitting. He prepared himself and went to an elder for consultation. He sought counsel on what he could do so that he might gain importance. He was told to give up the large piece of cloth, sit back and watch. He did as he was told and soon after that sacrifice, the king of Ofa died and the people of Ofa made the poor old man king. They said among themselves that “this one will not be long before he dies and another will take his place.” But the old man became king and refused to die. Instead of dying, he became increasingly robust, younger and stronger. Life and living in Ofa became good and pleasant as well. The poor became prosperous and the rich richer. The people of Ofa fell in love with their king; they no longer wanted him to die. He reigned long and well. At the end of his journey, the departing king was satisfied that he had good tidings to take to his alásekù – those who reigned without destroying the crown, the ones who passed the stool to him for him to pass to others. This Ofa story belongs in the grove of the wise; it is deeper than I have told it. Its code is with the elders.

All who are favoured are counselled to take it easy with life. They should cast away the garment of greed, of hubris and of lust for the self. If they care, they can take counsel from these lines from the ancestral scroll: “Do not run the world in haste. Let us not hold on to the rope of wealth impatiently. What should be treated with mature judgment should not be treated in a fit of temper. Whenever we arrive at a cool place, let us rest sufficiently well and give prolonged attention to the future; let us give due regard to the consequences of things. We should do all these because of the day of our sleeping, our end (Má fi wàrà wàrà s’ayé, K’á má fi wàrà wàrà rò m’ókùn orò. Ohun a bâ fi s’àgbà, K’á má fi sè’bínú. Bí a bá dé’bi t’ó tútù, K’á simi simi, K’á wo’wájú ojó lo títí; K’á tún bò wá r’èhìn òràn wò; Nítorí àtisùn ara eni ni).

Tinubu’s salvation lies with his orí inú- his inner head. That is the priest he should consult. It is what he should go and ask for the way. His reign is painful.

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