OPINION: Why Is Emi L’okan Afraid Of Awa L’okan In Lagos?
By Suyi Ayodele
Someone staked his claim to the presidency of Nigeria with the audacious slogan of Emi L’okan (it is my turn). And he seems to have got it using the Hausa/Fulani/ Kanuri alliance to drive his claim. The real owners of Lagos are on the street now demanding their right to rule themselves. They seem to be saying, “Awa L’okan” (it is our turn), also forging an alliance with southern ethnic groups, particularly the Igbo. Now, the ajoji godogbo (audacious alien) is jittery and threatening the landlord because the owner wants to rule his land.
For those who think only the Igbo are behind the February 25 tsunami in Lagos, if truly they are Yoruba and have roots in the Yoruba cosmology, I recommend them to find out the full meaning of the name of a renowned Babalawo of yore: Kuro-ki-Onile-jeun (leave so that the owner of the house can eat). Kuro-ki-Onile-jeun has two other siblings: Oju (Eye) and Ahinhun (The one who snores). These trio were the powers behind any divination, according to the legend. No diviner, no matter how dexterous, could be successful without giving due recognition to them. Oju spoke for the people. Ahihun represented the poor masses. The third, Kuro-ki-Onile-jeun, was the minister in charge of indigenous (home) affairs. Once a Babalowo had any of the trio against him, he simply packed his divination bag and headed home. Could it be that for the past 24 years, the political godfathers of Lagos have neglected the real people and the day of reckoning is now? There is a saying that amplifies that: “Ko mo oju, ko mo Ahihun, ko tun mo Kuro-ki-Onile-jeun, oluhun fe se awo asedale (he does not know Oju, neither does he recognise Ahihun and completely neglects Kuro-ki-Onile-jeun yet boasts of a lasting divination expedition). If people can be comfortable with the Emi L’okan (it is my turn) philosophy, why should the same people feel bad for Lagosians saying “Awa Lo’kan” – it is our time?
We are in a very interesting time at the moment, political wise. By this Saturday again, Nigerians will file out in their millions to elect governors and state legislators across the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Whatever tension we are feeling across the states cannot be divorced from the political tsunami of February 25, when the presidential and national assembly elections took place. That date will remain in history as the night of the long knives for all political gladiators, who were thoroughly demystified by the outcomes of the elections. Great was the humiliation hitherto the lords of the manors suffered that ever since, there has been “no peace for the wicked” in the camps of those who were lords over us for decades. Interestingly, the vultures have momentarily forgotten their feud. They are all back in Lagos begging and asking for mercy from a people they have spent the past 24 years raping with crass impunity. They are scared!
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On a personal note, I feel greatly satisfied, and elated that for once, Nigerians showed uncommon resilience and demonstrated their capacity to do that which is right, ideal, and noble. The outcome of the February 25 elections and the attendant disappointments, especially the remarkable ineptitude displayed by INEC, pale into insignificance for me, given the loud messages Nigerians sent to the locust that have eaten up the nation’s political and economic fields over the years. The lessons from the elections are something Nigerians, and this time around, the youths, should keep for future political engagements. The political equation is almost balanced. The APC has 57 senators-elect as against the 42 by the other opposition parties. While APC has 162 House of Representatives members, the opposition parties have a total of 165 members. All the opposition parties need to do is to get their acts together and no single party would be able to pass any anti-people bill in the National Assembly. That is a great win for the people.
Since February 25, politicians, who in the past would have been sipping cognac in their living rooms, celebrating the ‘victory’ of the presidential election, are practically on the street as vote canvassers. Interesting! We have seen governors in the last two weeks going from one market to the other and from one worship centre to another. One of them in the Niger Delta region was spotted kneeling down to beg traders for votes. The souls of the 24 states where the gubernatorial elections will take place on Saturday, March 18, are up for grabs. Nobody is comfortable again. Governors, ministers, big men and women, are, to use the exact word of a Nigerian billionaire, “pounding the street”, for votes. The commoners are no longer common. Teachers in Delta State suddenly had their service years extended from 60 to 65 years. Wow! In Lagos, the epicenter of the current tension, residents who had their vehicles impounded and auctioned at very ridiculous prices have suddenly become the darlings of the erstwhile tough-talking Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. The almighty LASTMA officials have abandoned their old acts. They are now seen counselling Lagos drivers on “safe driving”. God bless February 25, 2023! More importantly, God bless those resilient Nigerians, who, through their votes, showed that power resides with the people. How are the mighty (godfathers) fallen and the weapons of war (politics) perished. How would Nigerians have believed that the strong man of Lagos motor park, who, three weeks ago threatened those who would come and vote for any other party, apart from his APC, with fire and brimstone, would one day turn a preacher of peace. Oh, you did not see the video of MC Oluomo, begging Lagosians for forgiveness and preaching peace like the one who “preached in the wilderness”.
The most interesting thing to me now is the type of tension brewing every day in Lagos. Eko Akete, Ilu Ogbon (Lagos the centre of wisdom) is no longer at ease. Different narratives are flying all over the place. The Centre of Excellence is no more excellent politically. Those who have held the state by its jugular for over two decades are now changing the narrative. They are yet to come to terms with the devastation visited on them by the avant-garde political movement headed by the underrated Peter Obi of the Labour Party. Labour Party, which to me, is the party of the future, did not only demystify the ‘owner of Lagos’ and proponent of the Emi L’okan political philosophy, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the party, and its supporters ensured that Tinubu did not only lose Lagos on February 25, but that he lost Ikeja, where he voted and lost the polling centres on Bourdillon Road, where he resides. Nobody expected it, not even yours sincerely. But it happened. How? Who did it? Why did they do such a thing? Trust them, the lords of Lagos have a single answer to these questions. Ask them how, and they tell you “Igbo”. Who did it? – same answer, Igbo. Why? They want to take over Lagos, they say shamelessly as if the Lagos votes were cast by the Igbo alone. Now the Igbo race has become the hydra-headed political monster. That is funny.
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The abrasive sentiment in Lagos now and to a greater extent in many parts of the South-West, is “we must not allow the Igbo to take over our land”. I hear that tale every day. I shudder at how otherwise educated fellows suddenly turned tribal bigots. I asked a fellow what will be the gain(s) of an average Nigerian in Lagos, if Sanwo-Olu wins the March 18 elections. I asked him to also educate me on what an average Lagosian will lose in case Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of the LP wins, too. The fella gave me the parrot line: “the Igbo will take over Lagos”. Really! Who is in charge of Lagos at the moment? I asked him. He said I would not understand. And I want to understand. This is why I am probing further. LP scored 582,454 votes on February 25. Are we saying that only the Igbo in Lagos gave Peter Obi that figure? The APC of Tinubu also scored 572,602 votes. Is anybody by any reasoning saying only the Yoruba group did the figure? Did, for instance, a Joe Igbokwe, vote for Peter Obi because he is an Igbo at the expense of his political benefactor, Tinubu, who rehabilitated him such that he can hardly find his way to his native Nnewi hometown in Anambra State? Which ethnic nationalities gave Abubakar Atiku of the PDP his miserable 75,750 votes at that election? Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani community or voters from Mars? Can we just wake up and smell the coffee before it goes cold and stale.
How come the Igbo race is now a threat to the Yoruba land of Lagos? How did that happen? In the history of this political era, who has empowered the Igbo in Lagos more than Tinubu himself? Why are his ‘friends’ of yesteryear now his ‘enemies’ today? Something is wrong and those plying the wares of “Igbo will take over our land” know the truth but it is too bitter for them to either acknowledge or swallow. Fact is that the rabble-rousing crusade of Obidient political war cry is an idea that has come of age. Lagos is peculiar. In the current dispensation, all original Omo Eko (indigenous Lagosians) know that from 1999 till date, ‘strangers’ have been ruling and pillaging their fathers’ farmlands. From Tinubu to Babatunde Raji Fashola, from Akinwunmi Ambode to the current Sanwo-Olu, an Isale Eko man will tell you that the roots of the foursome cannot be found in Iduganran to the backwaters of Agboyi. None of these four governors can boast of original Lagos ancestry. So, if the true Lagosians are now saying they want their land back and they find the remedy in a Lagos Islander, Rhodes-Vivour, it would not matter to them if the vehicle for such actualisation is driven by an Igbo, a Kalabari, an Ibariba or a Tapa from Nupe land. That is the current reality in Lagos today. It would not matter to them if Rhodes-Vivour’s mother is Igbo, his partner’s grandmother is from Kutuwenji and his first cousins are descendants of El-Kanemi of Bornu. All they want is a clear break from the old order; only God can stop that!
I have argued here on the rights of the minority in a piece titled; “Oodua Anthem and the Rights of the Minority Groups”, published on May 18, 2021, which was in defense of the Ijaw people of Ondo State. It is rather unfortunate that an Ikechukwu Ibeto, who has lived his past 50 years in Lagos is no longer regarded as a Lagosian because a gubernatorial election is in the offing and his distant cousin is on the ballot. It is equally more unfortunate that an Adebayo Omosule, who sold his grandfather’s grave to an Uzoma Nwokeabia, to build a warehouse on Ikorodu Road, is now the one shouting “Igbo will take over our land”. How did we, for instance, allow the political class to brainwash us that their fight for political survival is the survival of the poor people on the street? The early 70s, especially after the civil war, were fascinating to me. A room exists in my father’s house today which we, all the children, know as “Yara Ibo” (the room for the Ibo). The room was so named because it was where all the Igbo people who came for casual jobs in our fathers’ cocoa plantations, after the civil war, were first housed before being distributed to other cocoa farmers in the town. We called those Igbo “Onise Odun” – A year-labourer- because they were not paid for their labour until December of each year when cocoa would be at its peak. Their children attended the same L.A. Primary School East, Saint Andrew Primary School and Saint Thomas’ Catholic Primary School with us. They ate our pounded yam, and we shared their akpu (fufu) and ofe’onugbo (bitter leaves) with them.
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I went to Lagos during my undergraduate days to see a friend around Mafoluku. My would-be host was on morning shift when I got there. The couple who received me and entertained me before my friend arrived, were Igbo husband and wife. There were Yoruba and other tribes in that building, who knew me as a regular caller but never catered to me. Is that fantastic Igbo couple part of the ‘strangers’ we are being told want to take over Lagos? For the five years I spent in Lagos in my last employment, I can count the number of times I paid transport fare from Ketu, my base, to Victoria Island, my office. Why? A friend, an Igbo, from Imo State, would always pick me up at the bus stop in the morning and drop me off in the evening. When it rained, he would take the extra effort, veer off the expressway, to drop me off in front of my house. On the job itself, one of the greatest supports I got came from another Igbo fella from Anambra State. I can bet that many people share the same experiences as mine. Now the political class and its nauseating selfish disposition is asking us to do away with that love and some people are clapping! Can’t we distinguish between good governance and ethnic jingoism, anymore?
It is true that we have some very bad Igbo guys. There are very many of them. It is equally true that not every Yoruba person on the streets of Lagos is without faults. We have them in large quantities too. No tribe is extremely bad, and no tribe is extremely good. We are like the proverbial talking drum (Gangan), which backs some people and faces others. The locust political class should go and wean itself of the fallacy of hasty generalisation. There are so many people who are angry with the hegemonic hold of the Lagos biggest landlord in the state. They want the lord’s knees off their necks so that they can breathe. Among them are the EndSARS victims and their parents. You have the Lagos elites and those who are genuinely tired of the shenanigans of the past 24 years. The real Lagosians (Omo Eko gangan) are in that group, too. The huge Igbo population, with their misplaced aggression, are there also. Aggrieved APC members queued behind the LP during the last elections. Undecided voters, who were pissed off by the activities of the many MC Oluomos of Lagos numbered among the lot. These were joined by other tribes. The only thing is that an Igbo man led the revolution. But that is not limited to Lagos. LP has about six senators and 34 House of Representatives members from that election. These guys won across the states of the federation; voted for by all Nigerians who seek the good of the land. March 18 is another day to circumcise the New Nigeria born on February 25. Let the consolidation be nationwide and let Nigerians have a fresh breath of life in many states across the country, Lagos inclusive. Let Awodi (hawk) soar and let Alapandede (Swallow) fly; whoever says no to the other, let its wings break!
Suyi Ayodele is a senior journalist, South-South South-East Editor, Nigerian Tribune and a columnist in the same newspaper.
OPINION: Akeredolu And Parable Of Onirese
By Suyi Ayodele
I am personally scandalised by the news coming from Ondo State about Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and the state of his health. This piece, I must confess, tasks my humanity more than anything I have ever written on this page. I however decided to do it because of the way I feel about it. Without any intention to disparage anyone, I make no bones saying that if the matter were to be about any other governor, I would not have bothered to dwell on it. Arakunrin Akeredolu occupies a position in the history of constitutionality in Nigeria such that we cannot ignore the news coming from his state. For whoever wants to contest it, Akeredolu is more than a governor of a state. He is, if all things were to be equal, the constitutional moral compass that Nigeria and Nigerians are expected to use to navigate through the shambolic democracy we are running in Nigeria.
Morally, nobody should play politics with the health of others. Doing so is completely inhuman. Only God knows who will live or die as well as the when and how of our transitions. As mortals who do not have any idea of what tomorrow holds therefore, we are enjoined to be circumspect when discussing the issue of death and illnesses. A very recent example is the brazen manner the former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, went about the health issues of the immediate past president, General Muhammadu Buhari. If Fayose were to be the giver of life, Buhari would have long been buried and forgotten. That Buhari lived and lives today, does not in any way, however, vitiate the fact that while he hid his health status from the Nigerian public throughout his eight years in office, he nevertheless expended our common patrimony to service his so many unknown ailments.
At a time, Buhari abandoned leadership and spent well over 100 days outside Nigeria attending to one health matter or the other. The only occasions we were told what ailed the Mai Gaskiya was when he could not make it to an official engagement in Lagos due to an ear infection and the last two weeks or so of his exit from power, when he had to stay back in the United Kingdom to attend to a toothache. God bless our leaders. They treat us like the proverbial iwofa (pun), who, when he is ill, the rich creditor says: “oh, the silly one has come up with his tricks again”, but when the son of the rich creditor is down with fever, his father says; “just try and swallow this fish stew” (bi iwofa ba nse aisan, won a ni alakori ti gbe ise re de; bi o ba nse omo olowo, won a ni ko ro ju fi obe eja s’enu). While Nigerians were dying in their hundreds, killed by treatable diseases, our president was in the UK to see a dentist! I know that one day, God will judge between us and our rulers.
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Buhari left the Nigerian populace to speculate about his health issues for good eight years. He was not the first president to do that. Before the National Assembly invoked the novel “Doctrine of Necessity” on February 9, 2010, to empower the then Vice-President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to serve as acting president, his then principal, the late President Musa Yar’Adua, had been in and out of the Aso Rock Villa attending to his health challenges without transmitting a letter to the National Assembly or handing over to his deputy as required by the constitution. Yar’Adua left the shores of Nigeria on November 23, 2009, and it took the nation 47 days before Jonathan was asked to act as president. Even at that, not a few ‘erudite’ scholars picked holes in that noble decision of the National Assembly, describing the action as illegal.
For instance, the late Professor Omo Omoruyi, in his reaction to the decision, said that the National Assembly acted illegally, stressing that the legislators ought to have respected the sanctity of the constitution and its supremacy. It never mattered that Yar ‘Adua, who took an oath to preserve and defend that same constitution, openly raped it with impunity! Yar’Adua was eventually announced dead on May 6, 2010, days after he was sneaked into the country under the cover of darkness by his close associates. He was said to have passed on Wednesday May 5, 2020, at about 10.30pm. Nigeria and Nigerians have General Olusegun Obasanjo to thank for his infamous: “Umoru, you don die” telephone call to the ailing Yar’Adua, who, as the candidate of the PDP in the 2007 election, was hovering between heaven and the earth. While Obasanjo remains culpable for imposing Yar’Adua on the PDP and the nation, the late president, his immediate family, and those political profiteers, who knew well his debilitating health conditions but egged him on to take over the most tasking job in the land, have the greatest share of the blame.
The same was the case of the late self-over-indulged Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State, who, on October 25, 2012, hopped into a light aircraft and flew himself to a dismal crash. Suntai, who flew an unregistered Cessna 208B Caravan plane, the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), said had no licence, no competence, and no qualification to fly that type of aircraft. Talk of what my Yoruba people call: “akeju tin ba omo olowo je” (over-indulgence spoils the child of the rich man). You may wish to ask what a governor was doing flying a private jet without a license when half of the people in his state were living below the world poverty standard and riding camels to their farms. After the unfortunate incident during which Suntai sustained brain injuries, he became a vegetable as he was moved from the Federal Medical Centre (FCMB), Yola, to the National Hospital, Abuja, then to Johns Hopkins University Hospital, USA and finally to the Government House, Jalingo, where his aides and acolytes kept prodding him like a sagging bag of maize. He remained the governor of the state in such a pitiable state and ‘completed’ his second term in office on May 29, 2015, and died on June 28, 2017, in his home. You may wish to ask the people of Taraba State what became of governance in the state while the governor’s aides and family members were the ones calling the shots.
This is why the story from Ondo State is particularly worrisome to me. I have never met Akeredolu in person, but I have seen his images (still and motion) on several occasions. When a man is handsome in my place, there is a way the women folk salute him. They will say: “omokurin lo dara bayi. Bi eleyi o se oko eni, hi ba se ale eni” (look at how handsome this man is. If this cannot be one’s husband, let him be the concubine). Akeredolu will, any day, answer that praise name. His figure, his gait, his well-trimmed white beard, and his infectious toothy smile are disarming. He is a man, like every other human being, nobody should nurse any evil against. So, when the news first filtered in over a year ago that he was dangerously down with an undisclosed ailment, the public sympathy was with him. His aides and political associates tried all they could to deny the ill health of the governor. However, all that crashed when Akeredolu appeared in public and his gait told the story, even to the blind. His wife, Betty’s video early this year, where she was castigating one female aide of the governor for bringing local concoction to the governor was the height of Akeredolu’s health misfortune. Not a few were scandalised that while many were deeply worried about the health of the governor, the only thing the wife could think about was the activities of a suspected side chick of the governor. It was akin to the case of an infirm for whom all villagers were fasting and praying but was caught eating three square meals. That video by Mrs. Akeredolu, I daresay, triggered a public debate about the governor’s health forcing Akeredolu to admit that, yeah, he was down health wise, though there was no immediate danger involved. He stopped at that, and nobody has ever volunteered to name what ails the governor.
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Last weekend however, changed the entire narrative about Akeredolu and his health. The news came in vide the uncontrolled social media that the Ondo State governor had passed on. Sahara Reporters, an online platform, in what it termed ‘exclusive’, on Thursday, June 1, 2023, posted the following news item: “Exclusive: Ondo State Governor, Akeredolu Incapacitated, Bedridden in Ibadan; Unable to Sign Documents Yet Refuses To hand Over To Deputy.” Shortly after the publication, the rumours of the governor’s death hit the town, such that the state government had no choice than to issue an official statement. The terse statement, titled: “Ignore The Rumour On The Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu SAN, CON”, and endorsed by Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, Commissioner for Information and Orientation, states: “We have been inundated with calls and messages concerning the state of health of the Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, CON. We had chosen to ignore this wicked fabrication until it appeared that certain persons seek to draw political mileage from the disinformation. Though the Governor has been indisposed, he has been attending to state matters and delegating functions to functionaries of the Government, when necessary. We enjoin the members of the public to ignore the rumour. Aketi is very much alive”. The statement emphasised that the governor was very much alive without being specific about his condition.
The opposition PDP in the state would not have such an incomplete statement. In its “Theater of The Absurd: Akeredolu’s Whereabouts Should Not Be A Secret” statement issued by Kennedy Ikantu Peretei, the party’s State Publicity Secretary, the PDP admitted that, while “As mortals, any human being can fall sick. Whether in public office or private life. Rotimi Akeredolu is employed by the people of Ondo State, maintained with taxpayers’ money. So, it is criminal and a great disservice to keep mum over his health status and his whereabouts”. The party demanded that: “Those hiding the governor should tell the people where he is to save the state from speculation.” The Ondo State chapter of the PDP alluded to the 2010 health challenges of the late President Yar ‘Adua, when, “Akeredolu was one of the most vociferous voices, calling for his resignation and allowing the then Vice-President to take over.” The party added that: “If for whatever reason, Akeredolu can no longer discharge his official responsibilities, the most reasonable thing to do is to hand over to the Deputy Governor as required by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).” If you ask what I think of this demand, I will tell you right off that the party is right, absolutely right! I will explain why.
Like I mentioned in the introduction, Akeredolu is different from any of the run-of-the mill governors we have around. For one thing, the man who adopts the sobriquet of Arakunrin (Mr.) is a constitutional lawyer. He is not just one of the lawyers in town, but a very big masquerade in the legal profession. He is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and a former National President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). His pedigree in civil society circles stands tall. He was once the voice of the voiceless in this country. He joined forces with other Nigerians to fight the military and earned democracy for Nigeria. As a sitting governor, Akeredolu took on the Federal Government on several issues. He championed the birth of the Western Nigeria Security Network, otherwise known as Amotekun, to fight killer herdsmen in the South-West. He was, and the only governor, who issued an ultimatum to the killer Fulani herdsmen occupying any forest in Ondo State to register or vacate the forest. He backed that up with action. Even when the agents of darkness took the battle to his Owo homefront and killed innocent people in a Catholic Church, he remained uncowed and soldiered on like an akoni okunrin (courageous man). So, what has changed? Do we now have another Aketi in power? Is Governor Akeredolu saying that he does not know the capacity and ability of his current health? I ask: what spoils if Akeredolu resigns to go and face his health challenges? Will he no longer be reckoned with as former governor of Ondo State or what? Can anything, or anybody ever obliterate his achievements as the governor of Ondo State, if he resigns to attend to his health? What has he got to lose? While seeking answers to these and many more questions, I leave Akeredolu, his immediate family and his handlers to the legend of Onirese.
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The story of Onirese is a lesson in the perpetuity of good deeds. It tells us that no matter the circumstance, one’s good deeds live forever as testimonials of one’s sojourn here on earth. Onirese was an Oyo calabash carver. He was the best in the guild of carvers of his epoch. He had a long list of clienteles, among whom were kings and the nobles of the land. The then Alaafin of Oyo, satisfied by the works produced by the carver, made him the head of Irese quarters. But at one time, due to marriage and exposure to other climes, Onirese abandoned carving for other engagements. Whenever people came to him for carved calabash, he would simply direct them to his other fellow carvers. When it dawned on the people that Onirese would not carve calabash for them again, they reported him to the Alaafin and asked that he should be compelled to resume the craft. Alaafin listened attentively to the people and when they were through, Iku, Baba, Yeye, answered them thus: “Bi Onirese ba ko to lohun o fin’gba mo, eyi to ti fin sile ko ni parun” (If Onirese refuses to carve calabash again, the ones he carved before will endure forever). Nothing in life obliterates good works. How I wish Akeredolu will see the wisdom in the saying of our forebears and take time off the government house to attend to that which should matter to him most. Or is health no longer wealth? What other fame does the governor crave? What is more important in life than health? Or is there anything else in the government houses such that even at the point of death, every invalid wants to remain there?
OPINION: Still In The Forest Of The Heartless
By Lasisi Olagunju
It was quite nice seeing President Bola Tinubu as he waltzed into the chambers where he met security chiefs last Thursday. “Morning,” he greets the chiefs. “Shall we sit or…” They murmur. His gaze is fixed on his guests. What are they saying? “Eh?” He asks; they murmur.
“We just sit?” The president asks again.
“Yes, sir,” one of them finally answers. But Tinubu did not sit as ‘instructed’. Where he comes from, you don’t enter a river without greeting the crocs and the frogs of the deep. The Yoruba man stretched out his hand for a one-by-one handshake with the men who apparently were sizing up their new Commander-in-Chief – and comparing him with the ramrod one who left last week. That first encounter and what was said to have been said there made a very good start. But Nigeria is not a place where ‘friends’ are not kept under what Shakespeare describes as “thy own life’s key.” I wonder who else Tinubu has been meeting and what they’ve been telling him.
The week President Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn in in 1999, Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, a former governor of Oyo State, fired him a congratulatory letter; and he showed it to me before faxing it to the State House, Abuja, using our newsroom fax line. Two clauses there were my takeaway; I try to recall them: “The Nigeria you left in 1979 is not the same as today’s. Today’s Nigeria is a much more dangerous country to govern…” Olunloyo proceeded to pray for his fellow Owu man. I do not know how many of the prayers were answered or how much of the advice in the letter got heeded. But, I am sure, the Balogun of Owu soon found out that Aso Rock, Abuja, was a much more lethal enclave than the danger in Dodan Barracks, Lagos. If Olunloyo felt in 1999 that Nigeria was very dangerous even for a four-star General and ex-Head of State, I wonder what he would say of 2023 Nigeria.
“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” William Shakespeare, who wrote this in ‘The Tempest’ in 1610/1611 AD, was referring to this space. You need not go to hell again to engage Satan; he is here. President Goodluck Jonathan came into office in 2010 with a lot of goodwill. But he soon got abducted by interests who withered the lush in his verdant green. A governor of one northern state told a Lagos editor (who told me) before Jonathan ran into the storm that sank his Titanic that “we will help him to make enemies. Nothing he works on will work.” And it happened exactly as that governor promised. Jonathan assisted his enemies to succeed. That was more than ten years ago. The beasts of the Nigerian forest have since become more in number and have grown longer and deadlier horns.
FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Tinubu, Fix The North, Embrace The East
There should be a description for today’s Nigeria in Yoruba language; it is Igbó Òdájú (forest of the heartless). I have no doubt that the new man knows how poisonous the Nigerian snake is. The new president must have been receiving pieces of advice, many of them downright self-serving and wicked. But a man who has finally become what he has always wanted to become should have no problem deciding what end-of-office reputation he wants. One of my favourite Islamic preachers, Musbau Orimadegun, has a proverb for the new king: Oyè tí a bá fi òtè je, kíké ni àá ké e (One pampers with extreme carefulness a throne which one has won through extreme intrigues). Who advised the new president to hedge his throne with footstools of controversy so soon after he took the seat? He has incensed the poor by increasing the price of petrol. Could his advisers be the same forces who pushed Jonathan’s boat into storms and abandoned him midstream? Maybe no one advised Tinubu; maybe he advised himself after he was convinced of the rightness of the step he took. After all, he has guts; and it takes a lot of guts for a president to hit the ground running the way he did last week. Within his first 24 hours in power, his sword halved the real income of every citizen – rich and poor. That is what last week’s fuel price increase has done to all Nigerians.
A friend complained that elite propaganda was everywhere on subsidy removal and they appeared winning. I replied him that “harmattan has a way of teaching the loin-clothed what cold means.” He said he loved the proverb; I told him that in the village, every hen lays proverbs which, like running water, help us to cut through mountains and maneuver around rocks. I know Tinubu promised in the last election campaigns to end subsidy on petrol which the NNPCL said gulped $9.7 billion last year. In this year’s budget, $7.5 billion was entered for the first six months’ as fuel subsidy. I also know that the three big candidates, Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, solemnly swore to stop subsidy on petrol if they became our president. They are too tall to see the ground. They said they had to do it to save Nigeria. I heard them then and remembered the apocryphal US Major who famously said his troops had to destroy a town “in order to save it.” But what this government has done is not yet subsidy withdrawal; it is what it described as “price adjustment” – an alias for price hike. Like a pilot on his maiden flight terribly bad-landing a plane, the president did it in a what-will-they-do manner. Truly, what can the shrub do when the elephant chooses to rumble his way through the forest?
The fuel price increase is costly for the poor; it, definitely, will be costlier for the new government. The NNPCL has spoken; persons who claimed to be speaking for the Federal Government have spoken too. They were diligent enough to tell us the cost of fuel subsidy but they did not tell us, and have not told us, the cost of removing fuel subsidy. They want us to figure it out by feeling it and that is exactly what we are doing. You can see the costs in hundreds of the poor trekking to work; in cabs without passengers; in filling stations without sales. The cost is more than what the streets say. Every home is counting its ceiling boards, thinking hard on how to survive these expensive times. With NEPA oscillating between the morgue and the ICU, it is generator to the rescue. But that alternative has been priced out of the reach of everyone, including the over 22 million Nigerians who voted for subsidy removal in the last elections and the over 60 million registered voters who did not vote for anyone. An average university professor has a family; he has a small generator; the family generator consumes 10 litres of petrol per night which translates to 300 litres per month. At N500 per litre, how much will the professor buy 300 litres? People in government would say that is just N150,000; the professor would say that is a third of his whole salary! That is if he gets paid at all.
FROM THE AUTHOR: Monday Lines: Why Buhari Must Remain Tinubu’s Friend After May 29 [OPINION]
Is it subsidy that is bad or the corruption that has taken it over? NNPCL’s evacuation/dispatch data in March said we consumed 80 million litres of petrol daily. A few months earlier, the figure was 68 million. We must be sharing those litres with ghosts. If subsidized petrol is smuggled into neighboring countries, why should that sin be the burden of the poor vulcanizer and hairdresser who are now being forced to buy petrol at N500 per litre? What is the job of men of the Customs Service at the borders and who is to make them do their work? Nigeria is a very unfortunate country. Misfortune is finding a bird to kill but finding no stone to do the killing; it is finally finding a stone but seeing the bird flying away. Nigerians are the proverbial children of the butcher who eat bare bones. A producer should be happy when their product attracts higher price in the market. But Nigeria is an oil producer for whom high crude oil price is a curse, not a blessing. The country does not benefit from global crude oil price increase because, like non-oil producers, it imports refined petroleum products at a price that is determined by forces outside Nigeria.
If you see the new president, please tell him: You can’t withdraw subsidies amidst mass poverty and without refining petrol at home. The poor will die; there will be problems. The country has four refineries that eat money instead of making money. Their dead wheels munch old and new Naira notes in billions. Eight years ago, former President Obasanjo warned that any further money spent on those refineries was money wasted. Indeed, the NNPC, in a document reportedly submitted to investors at a road show in China in 2016, said it would require between $1.4 billion and $1.8 billion to rehabilitate the refineries. Obasanjo told Channels television in 2015 that the refineries had become scraps after their sale to investors were cancelled by his successor, Umaru Yar’Adua. “Eventually Aliko Dangote led a group that paid $750 million for the privatisation of two of the refineries – 51 percent privatisation – and my successor (Yar’Adua) came (in), he turned it down. In fact, he paid back the money because they (investors) had paid the money. And I went to him; I said ‘look, do you know…? And he said well, he did it because of pressure. I said ‘pressure?’, so to you what matters is pressure, not what is in the best interest of Nigerians. I said, but you know it will not work. Then I said in 10 years, if you continue, you would have spent two times the amount that these people had paid and it still would not work. And that is what happened. Today those two refineries, you can never make them work. And if we are going to sell them, we would be lucky to get $250m out of them because they have become a huge scrap…” The two refineries, the Port Harcourt Refinery and Kaduna Refinery, made combined losses of N208.6 billion in 2014; N252.8 billion in 2015; N290.6 billion in 2016; N412 billion in 2017 and N475 billion in 2018. The profile did not change in the years that have followed.
Tinubu is our kinsman; if you have access to him, tell him to use his eyes to see his nose in this subsidy removal matter. ‘They’ advised him to do it and cushion the pains with salary increase. I am not sure ‘they’ showed him where a broke government would find money to finance that increment.
I do not envy Tinubu; the country that was handed over to him last week is a huge scrap. But, if subsidy withdrawal is the magic bullet for what ails Nigeria, then let us apply that ‘solution’ to all other subsidies. Start with elite privileges, scrap them. Stopping consumer subsidy on petrol without doing same to producer subsidy is one-sided. Asking Nigerians to stop enjoying subsidy on petrol because Nigeria is broke may sound like sound judgement, but it will be easier to do if those taking the decision are not enjoying subsidies at the people’s expense too. How much does it cost Nigeria to maintain the president and his family? In the 2023 budget, the president was allocated N331.79 million for feeding, the vice president N176. 92 million. The American president and his family pay for their meals and their drinks, their groceries. They buy their toothpastes. They pay for their personal guests too. When they throw private parties in the White House, they pay for everything, including for the service of servers and waiters. When they give gifts to visitors, including foreign leaders, they pay for the gifts from their pocket. When they go on holiday, they foot the bill; they settle everything, including their hotel bills, from their own pocket. We can copy that culture here and free the millions to provide infrastructure. Fortunately, our brand new First Lady, one week ago said that her family was blessed enough not to eat from the bowl of Nigeria. Mrs Oluremi Tinubu told a church congregation in Abuja last week Sunday that “Nigeria’s wealth is the commonwealth of all. It belongs to everyone. God has blessed my family. We don’t need the wealth of Nigeria to survive…” So, the millions budgeted for feeding, for entertainment etc for the First Family and the other big families should be freed for what benefits all. That example, when set, may make points for sacrifice and fuel subsidy withdrawal easier to argue.
‘Riceman’ The Promise Keeper Is Coming
By Joseph Igho
Ahead of the Christmas season a few years ago, a pal based in Rivers State, had innocently asked me in a telephone conversation “is the ‘Riceman’ not sharing rice this year?”
To say that I was shell shocked by his enquiry is to state the least. The enquirer is in far away Rivers State where the ‘Riceman’ rice sharing stuff is not domicilled.
This I must confess is the level of awareness that people across the country have about the activity of rice sharing which Barrister Kenneth Imansuangbon engages in annually at Christmas season and which has earned him the alias ‘the Riceman’ which is gradually submerging his name.
Just so we put the write up in perspective, Barrister Imansuangbon is the Proprietor of Pacesetters Group of Schools situated in Abuja. The school has six branches in the Nigeria Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Administering the affairs of the group of schools can be very tasking but this has not stopped ‘the Riceman’ from embarking on what many Edolites look forward to in the Christmas period.
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This is the calibre of Barrister Imansuangbon, a Promise Keeper. He has adhered to this annual activity which he carries out expending his personal funds without blinking an eyelid. He has been on this project now for twenty years running.
This rice sharing in all the nooks and crannies of the 18 local government areas that make up the state is not meant for just a few categories of people. Well to do people, the creme-de-la-creme are also well captured by Barrister Imansuangbon in the rice sharing process whose budget runs up to hundreds of millions of naira annually.
At a stage years back, Barrister Imansuangbon, highly interested in ensuring that the educational standard of his home state does not fall beyond a particular level, apart from the annual rice sharing was also sponsoring a yearly quiz contest for students of the secondary school spread across Edo State. Exceptional performers in such a contest were often rewarded with big cash award plus modern day education gadgets to ease whatever hardship they may be facing as they step forward in their quest to move ahead in the education segment.
READ ALSO: Imansuangbon: Re-encting The Ali’s Education Policy
It should also be emphasized that sharing of rice annually is just an arm of Barrister Imansuangbon’s love for giving back to the society. His philanthropic gestures also involve empowerment of the less privileged; support of activities of charity organisations and my homes.
Philanthropism is sure embedded in the DNA of Barrister Imansuangbon and so he cannot just stop giving and sharing. As 2024 comes around the bend this is one of Barrister Imansuangbon’s attributes that can be used to rate him higher than most new day politicians cum philanthropists who are only forced to apply it as a methodology to gain recognition. Such will soon chicken out as the act of giving and sharing is not their way of life.
In the midst of loud barking and attack on intruders by a dog it still gives optimal respect and recognition to its owner. Edo people will sure separate the wheats from the chaff when the time comes in 2024.
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