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OPINION: Wike, South And The Sword In Ayu’s Hand

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By Suyi Ayodele

Ògún, the god of iron, approached Òrúnmìlà (Father of Divination) to be initiated into the cult of Ifá. Ògún came empty handed and Òrúnmìlà noted that if Ògún was too poor to be able to raise the fee for his initiation, he should not be too wretched to afford the materials for the sacrificial offering that will precede his initiation. Yet Ògún had nothing to offer. When it dawned on him that he would not be initiated into the Ifá inner council, Ògún offered Òrúnmìlà the only thing he had; his sword. There was an offer and acceptance and Ògún was initiated.

Shortly thereafter, the folly of handing over his only priceless possession and the only thing that made the people to fear him, the sword, to Òrúnmìlà soon dawned on Ògún. As he stepped out of the initiation room without his well-sharpened and glittering sword, the people noticed that Ògún had become vulnerable and they started making jest of him. He became the village dolt. Village boys made him dance to fatuous songs. He engaged a few in wrestling bouts and he was defeated as many times as he attempted. Wrestling has never been one of Ògún’s strong points. The god of iron is noted for his fiery temper and the dexterity of his sword, which becomes momentarily red the second he is provoked.

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The story does not end there. But I will not be going into the details of how Ògún regained his lost reputation because that one is not relevant here today. However, the lesson Ògún learnt after that incident is that no matter the situation, one should not hand over his priceless possession to the other person for any reason.

Things are happening to the political gladiators down south that should not have happened to them if they had consulted their diviners before they handed over their only sword to the north during the 2015 general election. Events are confronting them in such a way that one is forced to interrogate the much touted sophistication of southern Nigerian politics. The north, hate the region or like it, is holding the hilt of the sword as we approach the 2023 general election. Either in the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, with the entitlement mentality of the “Emi lokan” bad-mannered assemblage, to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and its self-destruct tendencies; down to the neoteric Labour Party, LP and its motley crowd of “obidients”, the south remains, as far as the 2023 presidential race is concerned, a sharply divided house in the face of the rock solid stand of the north, when push comes to shove. That is bad enough.

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I have paid attention to the happenings in the PDP as it waggles its way in the political firmament. I have no single iota of sympathy for the party. More importantly, I wish the current “flogging” of the southern elements in the north-leadership-dominated PDP should get to a level that their northern masters will ask them to queue up like naught primary school pupils and beat senses into their brains (assuming they have any). That is why I had a good laugh when, last week, the National Chairman of the party, Dr. Iyiorchia Ayu, described Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and his gang of rebellious southern elements as children. And honestly, children they are; all of them! I ask, why are Wike and his gang of cheeky “children” crying? Who collected their akara? At what point did it occur to them that Ayu retaining his chairmanship of the PDP, with ex Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of the party, amounted to the marginalisation of the south? How funny can these “children” be!

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What were they thinking when the PDP abandoned its age-long rotational principle and declared that any region could produce the president? What happened to their Asaba July 5, 2021 Southern Nigeria Governors Forum’s declaration that “the next president of Nigeria should emerge from the south”? When the PDP took the decision to throw open its presidential ticket, why did the Wikes of this world not protest and boycott the PDP presidential primaries? Why did he lead his gang of the now weeping “children” to contest the primaries and even gave positive consideration to the idea of becoming a running mate before his fellow “child”, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, was chosen? How politically savoir-faire is the decision of Okowa, who hosted the first meeting of the Southern Nigeria Governors Forum, where they vowed to produce the next president, but now accepted to play second fiddle to Atiku? Who behaves in such a manner if not a child?

Each time I come across the southern “children” talking about the lopsidedness of the structure in the PDP in favour of the north and the Fulani hegemonic propensity of the APC-led federal government, my mind races to the 1819 fable by the American author, Washington Irving. Irving wrote a short story titled: “Rip Van Winkle”. The apologue is about a peasant farmer, Rip Van Winkle, who travels to a mountainous forest, where he encounters a colony of dwarfs-fictional characters playing a nine-pins game and drinking at the same time. Being the merry maker that he is, Rip accepts a cup of the dry gin he is offered and he goes instantly into a deep sleep. He sleeps for 20 years and when he wakes up, he has developed a beard, has grown older, but remains the same as he was before he took the drink of sleep. Ask: will nature wait for a man who goes to bed for two decades? That is what the southern PDP “children”, who were part of the Asaba July 5, 2021 declaration did when they went into the party’s presidential primaries and accepted to be part of the shenanigans the PDP served them.

When the Wikes of this world left Asaba and went back to the PDP, like Rip, who escapes into the forest to avoid his tetchy and nagging wife, but forgets his mission at the sight of alcohol, they forgot what drove them to Abuja, and accepted the liquor (open-ended presidency) served them. They got drunk, went to sleep, woke up and contested the primaries. Abandoned by their so-called allies from the north and trashed by Atiku, here they are being flogged mercilessly again by their “big daddy”, Ayu. Naughty children, who forget their parents’ errands deserve paternal scolding.

As long as the southern political elites fail to keep fidelity with their avowed commitment, they will have an Ayu hanging somewhere to call them names. I don’t blame Ayu; though I also don’t approve his name calling comment, which, in my own opinion, makes him more a petty being than the statesmanship clout his pedigrees as a university lecturer, former senator and national chairman of a political party confer on him. But Dr Ayu is a politician, and politicians, I have been told several times, have their peculiar ways of doing things. The north, at any bend of our political trajectory, seems to teach us political lessons.

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In the PDP today, a northerner is the national chairman. PDP Board of Trustees, BoT, Chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, is a northerner too. The presidential candidate, Atiku, is also from the north. That is how ‘national’ the party looks at the moment. Former South-West Deputy National Chairman of the party, an “old child” from the south, Retired Commodore Olabode George, speaking while standing beside Wike in River State last week, described the situation as “antithesis and against the norm and culture of the PDP”. I laughed!

He lamented: “Party members from the south are already feeling alienated. PDP is not a private company. So, before we start the presidential campaign at the end of this month, the National Chairman must go to the south. That is what Governor Wike is saying and as a life member of the Board of Trustees of our party, I support this position 100 percent”. Bode George is 76 years old. Wike is 54 years and Ayu is 69 years old. Yet Ayu said all those asking him to step down as PDP national chairman were children in 1998, when the party was formed. Being a philosopher, Ayu knows the age difference between him and George. But he used the term, “children”, metaphorically. And I tend to agree with him. George and Wike knew that the BoT and national chairmanship positions of the PDP were occupied by northerners before they accepted that the party could pick its presidential candidate from anywhere and went ahead to participate in the primaries that produced Atiku. Why won’t Ayu call them children who cry after the milk is spilt.

Like or hate the north, the region knows what it wants politically. And the leaders over there have a way of testing the waters. Whenever they want to send a message down south, they either go to the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, Hausa service, to relay the message or get an event organised at Arewa House, Kaduna, where one of their leaders will be primed to give the keynote address. Ayu spoke to the BBC and he was followed by Professor Ango Abdullahi at Arewa House. Ango, Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, speaking at a book launch in Kaduna dropped a resounding message, to wit: the north would be more critical about who to support for the 2023 elections.

READ ALSO: Wike, PDP: When The Sword Destroys Its Pouch [OPINION]

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He knew those the region would not support; a candidate who seeks to benefit from strategies that exploit the ethnic and religious diversity of the geo-political zone. “We will not support a candidate that fails to convince us that he will radically improve the quality of governance and the integrity of leaders. Secondly, northerners will not be intimidated into making choices that do not improve the chances of real changes in their current circumstances. We will participate in all political and electoral activities as equals, and concerning other Nigerians who respect us… Northern votes will make a major impact in the 2023 elections as well, but they will be cast by people who are now wiser and more discerning”, he stated matter-of-factly. He was unequivocal. You must love him for that. That is how leaders, who truly love their people speak. It does not matter who inflicted the “scars from governance” the professor of Agriculture and former Vice-Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria, alluded to. Such, he noted, would not be allowed to repeat itself as the “northern votes will make a major (if you like, critical) impact” next year.

Great talk from a great leader of his people. Now I ask: who is that southerner, who speaks for the region the way Ango Abdulahi does for the north? When the NEF Chairman spoke, he made no distinction about the “Core North”, “Middle Belt”, or the “Hausa North”. And that is the beauty of the north when it comes to politics. No discrimination, no segregation; one monolithic north. Check the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections results. Come down south. Check how churlish and brash the “Emi lo kan” batch is once you disagree with them. Take a look at the southern “Atikulated” assortment and their uncoordinated movement, whenever they want to project their “rescuer”. Then swerve to the medley “Obidient” crowd and experience raw insults for daring to share a contrary view to their “revolution”. When will the south be able to say: “southern votes will make a major impact in 2023 elections as well”? Pray, when will the southern politicians lose their deciduous teeth and shed their child-like attitudes to issues of common interest? When will they grow up?

Suyi Ayodele is a senior journalist, South-South/South-East Editor, Nigerian Tribune and a columnist in the same paper.

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OPINION: Tinubu, ECOWAS And Its Rebellious Boys

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I danced on Sunday when President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was re-elected as Chairman of ECOWAS. I rejoiced because his re-election will give him an opportunity to correct one of his errors that has made life miserable for Nigerians. And that was the way he handled the Niger Republic crisis of last year. In his acceptance speech, Tinubu asked President Bassirou Faye of Senegal and President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo, to go and appeal to Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic to return to ECOWAS. I give it to Tinubu on this. This is what we say in our street lingo as one’s brain “return to factory setting!” This move, a departure from his last year’s initial gragra of threatening to fight those three countries, especially, the Niger Republic, over the coups that took place there, shows that someone is thinking in this government for the first time. The security of those three countries, known as members of the G5-Sahel region, to the peace of Nigeria, cannot be overemphasised.

When, Niger Republic, for instance, staged its coup against the government of President Mohammed Bazoum, and Tinubu was calling the meeting of ECOWAS Command Chiefs almost daily, many Nigerians warned him of the futility of those efforts. The North made it abundantly clear to the president then that a war with Niger Republic would amount to a war with the North. They explained that northerners share the same ancestry with Nigeriens. A friend who travelled to Gaidam in Yobe State told me that the CFA of Niger Republic was a legal tender in those parts of Nigeria. He said that when he bought some balls of akara from a seller and offered her a N1,000 note, the seller, in giving him back his balance, added some Niger Republic currency to the money she gave to him. Another colleague on that trip, who happens to know that that is normal up North, quickly intervened by exchanging the CFA with Naira notes! That is the affinity that Tinubu was trying to unsettle with his threat of war with the Niger Republic.

That empty grandstanding had its implications. One of them is the influx of bandits and other felons to Northern Nigeria. The least intelligent student of International Diplomacy knows that the collapse of Libya led to an increase in the number of armed men to other African countries. The Liptako-Gourma region – where the Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger borders meet – is believed to be the most ravaged by armed rebellion in recent years. Forcing Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic to leave ECOWAS further compounded the problem. The simple implication is that with their Saturday, September 16, 2023, mutual defence pact, the three countries divorced themselves from ECOWAS. The pact, known as Alliance of Sahel States, was designed to defend one another against any external attack. That broke the bone of ECOWAS.

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Many who postulated that the treaty would not stand have come to realise that it was a huge mistake. The lesson there is that never threaten today’s kids with expulsion; they will leave home permanently. Now ECOWAS wants those guys back, but they are not ready to come back. Now we are in trouble because those three countries provide a shield for us from the ravages of the Sahel. From their geography, they cover us from Libya. Nigeria now must worry about the security implications of not having friendly countries as a buffer against small and big arms from North Africa, particularly Libya. That is what indiscretion can cause! President Faye of Senegal told Tinubu this much when he visited Abuja on May 15, 2024. Faye, at the meeting with Tinubu, said ECOWAS must reopen talks with the guys in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic with a view to bringing them back to the ECOWAS fold. Omar Touray, President of ECOWAS Commission, amplified the importance of the return of the three countries to the regional fold when he said that Faye’s position “is in the spirit of engagement that our leaders believe should continue. Because we don’t only share borders, we share families, we share communities, and the leaders are determined to do everything possible to keep our community together. ECOWAS is not about heads of state. It’s a community of people that must stay together.”

The new ECOWAS position towards the ‘Three Rebels’ runs contrary to the argument by Folahanmi Aina, an Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, London, United Kingdom, who on October 24, 2023, barely a month after the Sahel countries signed their military pact, posited that the pact was bound to fail. His thesis is that the Alliance of Sahel States “is focused more on stoking anti-French sentiment than fighting violent extremism.” He states further that: “Collectively, these states do not have what it takes militarily and economically to fight off the threat of violent extremism, let alone guarantee the sustenance of a defense pact, given the logistical technicalities involved. Even more important is that they lack the state capacity to address the underlying root causes of violent extremism, some of which include deteriorating socio-economic conditions such as poverty, youth unemployment, inequality, illiteracy, poor governance, and environmental degradation. Their institutions are simply too weak…. The new Alliance of Sahel States is bound to fail given that it is built on a faulty foundation—a reaction to a perceived threat from France rather than a proactive posture toward the real threat of violent extremism. However, its potential to embolden would-be putschists across West Africa should not be ignored.”

The chickens have come home to roost for ECOWAS and its misadventure of threat of war. Nigeria now is in dire need of a peaceful Sahel Region if it must fight insurgency in its land and get its farmers to go back to till the land. Murtala Ahmed Rufa’i, author of the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto’s seminal series, “I am a Bandit: A decade of Research in Zamfara State Bandits’ Den”, notes that the vast forests of Sokoto, Zamfara and Niger States alone have about 60,000, terrorists with 120 commanders. The implication here is that each ‘commander’ controls 500 terrorists. If these figures are distributed to all the 19 states of the north, one can imagine the havoc this has consistently wreaked on the local populace. If Niger Republic, for instance, decides to look the other way, while felons use its borders to flux into Nigeria, your guess is as good as mine.

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This is why I think Nigerians should mount pressure on President Tinubu to eat the humble pie and personally approach the coupists in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic to get them to come back to ECOWAS. This appeal is as urgent as the errand of the king. This is not the time to delegate responsibility. President Tinubu should know that his pronouncements when the Niger Republic coup happened in 2023 aggravated the ECOWAS crisis. His threat of war and symbolic meetings of ECOWAS Command Chiefs in Abuja sent the wrong signals. He who assists the tortoise to climb a tree should also be available to assist in bringing it down. This is not an assignment to delegate. Nigerians are hungry.

There are food shortages everywhere. Simple Economics says when demand is higher than supply, there will be inflation. If farmers return to their farms without molestation, food will be abundant. Adding hunger to our current litany of woes is a recipe for disaster.

“My people can no longer afford to buy a mudu of rice to eat. You will not believe it. People now prefer to eat leaves like zogale, rama, and drink water. They don’t have money to buy foodstuff!” A traditional title holder in Birnin-Gwari, Kaduna State, was quoted to have uttered these words last week.

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If anyone is in doubt that there is hunger in the land, the above quoted sentences should clear your doubt! Nigerians are becoming herbivorous daily. The Nigerian Tribune, in its Monday, July 9, 2024, edition, did a comprehensive report on “How insurgency, banditry worsen food prices.” Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area (LGA) of Kaduna State is one of the biggest LGAs in the state. It is equally, unarguably, the food basket of the state with the production of crops like maize, guinea corn, millet, and rice in commercial quantities. The council area is also described as the “most traumatised” LGA, with terrorists, bandits and kidnappers constantly on the prowl. Commuters have abandoned the Birnin-Gwari Road which hitherto served as the link between the North and the South-West because of the activities of these felons.

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Still speaking on the food crisis in the area, the report states, “Farming activities in the area have gone down as a result of banditry. Bandits have taken over the farms from the locals. The production of crops like maize, guinea corn, millet, and rice, which the area is noted for, has become history.” Sallau Ibrahim, one of the farmers in the locality, volunteered the information. In that same Birnin-Gwari, which used to be the source of food supply to the state and other states of the Federation, last week, “a bag of maize was sold at N90,000, while a bag of local rice sold at N105,000, and beans at N85,000.” Why? Ibrahim, again, explained that many farmers in the area had been killed and scores abducted by bandits who usually stormed their communities to carry out the nefarious activities without challenge. Even in places where the farmers were not killed and allowed “access to their farmlands, they (bandits) imposed taxes or levies on them before they could harvest the crops.” Those who could not afford the imposed tax abandoned their farms. The result is the high cost of food items in the markets.

The hunger has nothing to do with the voodoo economic policies of President Tinubu’s government. The Hallelujah orchestra of the government should at least relax now that they know it is not their tin god that is solely responsible for the hunger we all face. However, the Tinubu government is not totally blameless! The hunger in the land is caused not by scarcity of food items but by their unaffordable prices occasioned by the intractable insecurity across the country as well as the prohibitive costs of transporting the food items to end users! The foreign Exchange rate also has nothing to do with it. The simple issue here is insecurity. Farmers don’t go to their farms any longer. Many have resorted to subsistence farming on their available spaces around their homes. At least Madam Remi Tinubu, the wife of the president, demonstrated that in her new video of how to plant vegetables around our homes and their benefits for our “digestive track”!

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Nigeria is a huge joke. The First Lady is encouraging us to farm around our homes. I chuckled at the garrulousness of her new-found love for farming. For instance, how many residents of Aso Rock will that vegetable garden feed, and for how long? So, if we all cultivate vegetable gardens, shall we equally grow our yams, beans and run our own rice farms and mills too? What about those living in face-me-I-face-you apartments? How many Nigerians own their houses, in the first place? How many landlords will allow gardens around their property? But I love the video all the same. It gives an idea of how those guys up there thinking.

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Nigeria is experiencing acute food shortage at the moment because of insecurity. This should be of ultimate concern to those in authority instead of the promotion of gardens around our homes. If we don’t tackle those bandits, terrorists, herders and kidnappers who make farming almost impossible in the bushes, they will soon hit our towns and those Madam Tinubu’s vegetable gardens around our homes will pale into insignificance. The news report under reference here is comprehensive enough. It shows that food insecurity is not a problem of the North alone. Down South too, people can no longer farm. I stumbled on a video of herders who reared their cows into a maize farm in Ikere Ekiti the other time. Someone also sent another video of a deliberate grazing on a cassava and maize farm in Egbe town of Kogi State. The farmers in the two videos could not do anything. Millions of naira invested in those ventures got wasted. Who will persuade those victims to go back to the farm? Little wonder that in Ado Ekiti, a friend told me on Saturday that a set of five tubers of yam was sold at N25,000!

The South-East has the best of vegetable cuisines. Someone once said that vegetables were introduced to the South-East gastronomy during the civil war. Faced with acute shortage of food supply, the people resorted to eating all manners of shrubs. Some died, and many survived. The people studied the leaves that had no toxic properties while the war lasted and added them to their list of ingredients. Nigeria is not at war at the moment; but people in Birnin-Gwari are already eating leaves and drinking water because they can no longer afford the prices of the food items. These are people who used to be the producers of those items before terrorists, bandits and kidnappers took over their land. How soon will that spread to the south, if not already there? This is why our leaders should move away from the banausic issue of planting gardens to tackling the issue of insecurity that has made real farming almost impossible. Enough of egbelekokmiyo vegetable gardens in Aso Rock Villa. Let’s get our real farmers back to the land!

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Hardship In 2024: A Time Like No Other![OPINION]

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Icon-James Tam

Nigerians are known for their sense of resilience, endurance and hard work, especially in challenging times. Like years gone, 2024 has also given face to this fact.

Since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu took office on May 29, 2023, and announced the removal of fuel subsidies, prices of essential goods have skyrocketed across the country.

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Even our education system has been affected, with tertiary institutions increasing tuition fees by 100%. I withheld judgment on the daily struggles of Nigerians until after the president’s first year in office.

To my surprise, President Tinubu’s first tenure came to completion with his stumble at Eagle Square, followed by an explanation that, as a Yoruba man, he(Dobale)was paying homage, not falling. Unfortunately, this past year has been incredibly difficult for Nigerians, with the benefits of subsidy removal nowhere to be seen in terms of human or infrastructure development.

Eight out of every ten persons suffer from malnutrition, a fact painfully evident during my recent visit to my hometown Arogbo in Ese-odo Local government Area of Ondo state. The promises of renewed hope after the turbulent governance of former President Muhammad Buhari seem increasingly distant.

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Today, Buhari’s leadership is sorely missed, as hunger claims an average of ’20 lives daily’, largely under-reported by the mainstream media.

Mr. President, it’s time to live up to your reputation as a pro-democracy advocate and patriot; and live out that messiahic leadership that would salvage our economy.

A president cannot succeed if his people are not thriving. I urge you to overhaul your cabinet, your economic team and enact robust economic policies that would ensure that every citizen, every home in this nation enjoy three square meals a day.

Icon-James Tam,
Writes from the creek of Ogidigba 2,
A suburb community of Arogbo, Ese-odo LGA ,Ondo state ,

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OPINION: Nigeria Nor Be Kenya

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Nigeria Nor Be Kenya

By Suyi Ayodele

“Kabiyesi, the message which I bring you today is the message of all the women who have left their stalls, their homes and children, their farms, and petty affairs to come and visit you today. They are the suffering crowd who are gathered on your front lawn… they are all the womanhood of Egba, and they have come to say – Enough is Enough” (Soyinka 1981, 208).

There is a trending trailer of a film titled “Funmilayo Ransome Kuti”. I have not watched the film, but I know the event that gave birth to the epochal event which forms the core of the plot. It was the Abeokuta Women’s Revolt of 1946. It was caused by the colonial government’s resolve to tax Abeokuta women. Wole Soyinka (WS), whose aunt, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, and mum, Grace Eniola Soyinka, led the action, captures it well in his memoir, Aké: The Years of Childhood. The quote above explains the central theme of the ‘war’. I remembered it as I watched the Kenya young people’s action last week.

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A friend and I discussed the Kenya riots. He was wondering why nobody appears to be bothered about the shenanigans going on in our government circle, especially in the last year. He concluded that Nigerians have become laid-back. I disagreed with him. I have a different theory about why nobody appears to be talking to protest the recent economic policies of the government that have impoverished the masses. In explaining my theory to him, I adopted the street lingo, Nigeria nor be Kenya, an adaptation of the 2020 political slogan of the Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The then National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, through a video, directed Edo people to vote for the APC governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, against the incumbent governor and PDP candidate, Godwin Obaseki. In reaction to that directive, the PDP coined the lingo, Edo nor be Lagos, meaning Edo is not Lagos, where Tinubu dictates who will be the governor. The people went ahead to demonstrate that they would not be directed by any godfather as they ensured that the APC candidate, who had earlier been the PDP candidate in the 2016 governorship election, Ize-Iyamu, lost 13 out of the 18 local government areas of the state. The margin of defeat was such that the votes the PDP got in Oredo Local Government Area alone cancelled out the APC votes in the five local governments it won in Edo North Senatorial District!

I told my friend that Nigeria nor be Kenya because there has never been any organic protest in Nigeria since the beginning of this present democratic dispensation in 1999. While the Kenya riots over the now rescinded Financial Bill were spontaneous, organic and impulsive, all the demonstrations we have had in Nigeria since 1999 have been politically motivated, sponsored and orchestrated to achieve just one aim – to put the kingmaker on the throne. For the three days or so that the Kenyan youths were on the streets, there was no room for social razzmatazz. I have not seen any video of the youths partying; of any comedian reeling out jokes and musicians dishing out hot vibes to the protesting youths. The Kenyan boys and girls were focused. They knew what they wanted and went straight for it. They mapped out their targets and went straight for them. Everyone in the Kenyan government, who is related, or perceived to be connected to the obnoxious Financial Bill either scampered to safety or was caught in the crossfire.

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From Monday to Wednesday last week, Kenya was on fire. Kenyans, mainly young men and women in their mid-30s and below, trooped out in large numbers to protest the insensitivity of the government of President William Ruto. Ruto proposed a bill termed Financial Bill 2024 to Kenya’s National Assembly. The summary of the proposed Bill was increased taxes to be paid by Kenyans. The young folks in that East African country, known as Gen-Zs, would not have any of that. They came out forcefully. The protest, spontaneous as it was, was well coordinated. All the three arms of government in Kenya collected, what in our street parlance, is known as wotowoto! I hate violence. My sanguinary disposition is low, if non-existent. Ironically, I nonetheless found the treatment meted to some government officials funny, though not totally amusing. Kenyans are lucky lots. Ordinary bill led to a three-day demonstration. I saw the video clips of the riots. Nigeria came to my mind. How will it happen that Nigerians will go on demonstration because of a mere bill?

Here, our leaders rape us serially. We don’t groan, irrespective of the bad bed on which we are raped, or the size of the instrument used in defiling us. Nigerians are used to different sizes of punishment from the various husbands that have been taking advantage of our ‘innocence’. Our husbands, especially those we have had between 2015 and date, would never bother to send any bill to our National Assembly before taking any action. They act first and inform our pliable legislators of the actions taken. How many Nigerians can recall the number of taxes we pay in this country? What about our budgets; how many do we run in one fiscal year? Nigeria is a cruise; a country of anything goes. Our resilience is like that of the proverbial woman under a man with a big phallus. She can only moan and thank her God that she survived while waiting in trepidation for when her assailant will be in the mood again. What a terrible situation!

Are Nigerians naturally complacent? I answer in the negative. History abounds about how our forebears fought oppression in the past. The Yoruba race, for instance, instituted traditional checks and balances in its political structures. Once an Oba veered off the acceptable norms and codes, the people, through their chiefs, presented the “calabash” to such a monarch. Many Yoruba Obas of yore were forced to “open the calabash”, an euphemism for suicide, because they did not rule well. The Alake of Egbaland, Oba Oba Ladapo Samuel Ademola, who was suspected to be in support of the 1946 women tax had, Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and her fellow women under the aegis of Abeokuta Women’s Union (AWU), to contend with. At the end of the Abeokuta Women’s Revolt, Alake was chased out of his palace and town. The Egba Native Authority was expanded to include more women. That was 78 years ago!

The same thing happened earlier in Aba in 1929 when, in November of that year, women in the Bende District of Umuahia and other locations in the present-day South-East, kicked against the tyranny of the colonial government-imposed Warrant Chiefs and their exploitative tax regimes. That protest led to the abolition of the Warrant Chief system in a region that is patently acephalous. The event also marked the beginning of women’s participation in politics in that zone. Those women of Igbo extraction remained heroines to date. They are pointers to the fact that Nigerians are not complacent by nature. However, the nature of the politics we adopted after the fall of the Second Republic in 1983 has changed a lot of things. We have greatly commercialised our politics and it is now a cash-and-carry venture! Again, sad!

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The Kenyan incident cannot be compared to what we had in 2020 as #EndSARS! While the first two days of the 2020 youth protest police brutality could be seen and said to be organic, the subsequent days were characterised by politicking. I keep asking: who footed the bills incurred during the protests? I am talking here about the stage, the lighting, sound engineering, refreshments and artists’ appearances. Nobody should tell me about any mass funding, or the love of the “participating artists” for the Nigerian youths. I know enough of showbiz and organisation to know that what went into the #EndSARS was millions of naira. That, however, would never justify the brutality the Nigerian State visited on the armless youths, especially at the Lekki toll Gate axis of the protest. If not now, it shall surely come that posterity will ask for the blood of the poor citizens felled by the armed men sent by the State to disperse the youths.

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What about the January 2012 protest codenamed, #OccupyNigeria? Was that also spontaneous? Was it in any way a natural reaction of the people to the removal of subsidy by President Goodluck Jonathan? During his inauguration on May 29, 2023, President Tinubu, unceremoniously, announced that “subsidy is gone”. Immediately, everything that hitherto made life comfortable for Nigerians took flight. Life has been unbearable ever since. Yet, nobody has been on the streets in protest. Why? Is there any difference between what Jonathan announced in January 2012 and what Tinubu announced on May 29, 2023? Why then did Nigerians troop out in 2012 but have remained indoors since 2023.

The answer is simple. Those behind the January 2012 #OccupyNigeria protest are either in power today or have their friends in power. The 2012 anti-subsidy removal protest remains one of the most organised civilian coups against a sitting government. Everybody involved in the planning and execution of that 2012 event had one agenda, to wit: remove Jonathan at all costs. Nothing more. At Ojota, Lagos, the epicentre of the #OccupyNigeria protest were politicians, ‘human rights activists’, ‘philanthropists’ and ‘public-spirited’ individuals. If the late iconoclast, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, were to be alive, he would have “put them together” as political carpetbaggers and profiteers! Check the list of the leaders of the protest and you will see that those who are not in today’s government have friends in it!

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While the #OccupyNigeria protest lasted, a one-time Nollywood actor, Desmond Eliot, for instance, asked: “Why does our president need six private jets? Why should our public officials keep their salaries when Obama slashed his? Why should we believe the government when it says the subsidy gain will be properly invested? Bad leadership and corruption must stop.” Three years later, Eliot was rewarded with one of the Surulere seats in the Lagos State House of Assembly, a position he has retained for the third term. Today, President Tinubu is asking for two additional jets for the presidency; corruption has spread its tentacles everywhere, but Eliot is as silent as the water in a clay pot. Corruption has assumed a life of its own, yet the Eliots of this world are deaf and blind to that!

What about Abike Dabiri-Erewa and Lauretta Onochie who were regarded as the ‘Amazons’ of the protests during the Jonathan government? After they found themselves in the succeeding governments, what has become of them? Are Nigerians better now than they were during the Jonathan era? Where are the likes of Banky W, El Dee, Kate Henshaw, Omoni Oboli, Bimbo Akintola, Ufoma Ejenobor and Ronke Oshodi-Oke in today’s Nigeria? Should I also mention the deafening silence of our dear Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka (WS)? Or why the people’s lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has reduced his interventions to mere academic exercises of lectures, speeches, symposia and television screens? One person argued that it is wrong for Nigerians to expect someone like WS to lead a protest in his old age, and I asked: at what age should one accommodate bad governance and State insensitivity to the plight of the masses? If not on the streets, what about incisive statements from the stable of the world-renowned scholar? Our elders say: kìí d’àgbà kí á má lá obè, eegun eran nìkan ni a leè fó mó (old age cannot prevent one from liking soup; it only stops the aged from breaking meat bones)!

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Nigerians will also recall the 2014 ‘Salvation Rally’, organised by the leadership of the APC to “draw global attention to the deliberate hijack of the Nigeria police and other security agencies by the ruling PDP.” At that rally was Rotimi Amaechi, who, as a PDP governor of oil-rich Rivers State, joined forces with the opposition against Jonathan. General Muhammadu Buhari, then APC presidential aspirant, was at that rally. So also, were Chiefs John Odigie-Oyegun, late Ogbonnaya Onu and a host of others. All these personalities became the beneficiaries of the government that took over from Jonathan in 2015. Buhari became president, Amaechi a minister, and Oyegun as APC National Chairman.

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Many Nigerians who applauded the ‘Salvation Rally’ as a bold attempt at correcting the “bad policies” of the Jonathan administration, realised too late that those behind the rally had just one common goal: to take over the government. Femi Gbajabiamila, who was then the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, said that the rally was to end impunity. Today, Gbajabiamila is the Chief of Staff to President Tinubu. Can we ask him to define “impunity” for us in simple terms, bearing in mind the shenanigans that have been the hallmark of the government in which he serves as the head of the president’s domestic staff?

At the Abuja ‘Salvation Rally’, Chief Oyegun said the ‘protesters’ wanted to end “the raging insurgency that is daily killing and maiming our compatriots. An end to the impunity that permeates the Jonathan administration. An end to the massive corruption that has left our compatriots impoverished in the midst of plenty. An unambiguous effort to ensure that 2015 elections will be free and fair.” Where is the Benin Chief today? Can we ask if the “killings and maiming” have stopped, or if “impunity” has ended, and if our electoral system now is better than what we had in 2015?

The difference between Nigerians and the Kenyans who went on a rampage last week is clear. The history of our ‘fight’ for independence in Nigeria cannot be compared to what was obtainable in Kenya. While our ‘freedom fighters’ were busy drinking cups of tea, the Kenyans were in the bush with their Mau Mau agitation. A Nairobi University professor of Business and Management Sciences, XN Iraki (Waithaka N Iraki), said that the Gen-Zs that led the riots are below 35 years old and constitute 80% of the Kenyan population.

He wrote: “Several economic factors have come together, creating the perfect storm for these mass protests. First, young Kenyans have endured hard economic times brought on by COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine. Tensions were already evident in the run-up to Kenya’s 2022 presidential elections, with complaints over rising national debt and the cost of living. At the time, President William Ruto’s alliance read the signs correctly and tapped into the discontent. As a presidential candidate, Ruto promised to lower the cost of living if he won the elections. He also promised the downtrodden, popularised as “hustlers”, better jobs. And they voted for him in droves. But in two years the economy did not grow as fast as expected. And the hustlers’ patience ran out. They have seen no transformation in their economic lives. This is despite the economy achieving a growth rate of 4.9% in 2022, edging up to 5.6% in 2023. This growth was not enough to deal with the economic backlogs. Hence, the popular question I have been asked as an economist is: if the economy is growing, where is the money?”

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The same promises Ruto made to Kenyans are what Tinubu promised Nigerians. Kenyans took to the streets because they have never had the misfortune of having selfish politicians lead them in protests whenever government policies fail. But, here in Nigeria, political merchants have been the ones organising ‘protests’ on behalf of the people. Now, the ‘protesters’ of yesterday are in power; the people are helpless. Permit this last forecast: a day is coming when the Nigerian people shall take their destiny into their own hands. A day when they will chase the political merchants away and act on behalf of themselves. When that day comes, no fortress shall be impenetrable; not even the Aso of all Rock(s) Villa. That day, the monkey go go market and he no go return! May my generation witness that glorious day.

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