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Opinion:Soyinka’s Wisdom Cures Buhari’s Impotence

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Tunde Odesola

Before 1975, the name ‘Gabber’ meant nothing to me. It was just any other nice-sounding monicker. But after I watched Sholay, India’s most successful movie in the last 50 years, at Rainbow Cinema, Mushin, Lagos, in the mid 70s, I began to hold the name in suspicion.

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Gabber’s initials are GS. He’s the supervillain in the 1975 superhit movie which broke all records and ran for more than five years in Mumbai theatre. His surname is Singh. Gabber Singh is the ultimate, archetypal villain of the multi-billion dollar Indian film industry.

I was taken to the cinema by one of my uncles, boda Jide. Wow! I love the electronic darkness of the cinema. With its colorful, larger-than-life pictures, booming sound effects and fluorescent-white screen, the cinema holds a spelbound charm at all times.

Sholay’s storyline is simple but arresting. The bandit, Gabber Singh, kills the family of a retired police chief, Thakur Singh, who employs the services of two small-time thieves, Veeru and Jai, to help capture the criminal.

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Clearly, I still can hear the bewitching Hemma Malini, (cast as Basanti), the commercial horse cart rider, singing and wriggling her beaded waist. I can see the tall and handsome Dharmendra (Veeru) and the sexy Amitabh Bachchan (Jai), riding their joint scooter in daredevilry, shooting their way out of harm. I can see the young Amjad Khan (Gabber Singh) smiling as he supervises the torture of Dharmendra, and the armless Sanjeev Kumar (Thakur), riding on the wave of vengeance. I can’t forget the song of avowed friendship between Dharmendra and Amitabh, Hum Nahi Todenge. Literature, good music, soap operas and movies were the hallmarks of my childhood.

FROM THE AUTHOR : Bishop Oyedepo, Enenche’s Unholy Example by Tunde Odesola

In today’s Nigeria, literature is coughing up blood, music is writhing in viral vulgarity; porn, violence and materialism reside in soap operas and movies while science and technology is the leper in a godforsaken colony called ignorance.

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It’s not only Bollywood that has a cult figure with the GS initials. Nigeria’s political theatre, Aso Rock, also does. Aso Rock’s GS is the inimitable dramatis persona called Garba Shehu, who, years ago, rode hopefully towards Abuja in the convoy of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s aspiring presidency, but changed seats after the BAT shrieked at midnight and swung the pendulum of power to Katsina.

While the supervillain Indian Gabber is a master who gives orders, the superhero Nigerian Garba is an obedient servant who takes orders from seen and unseen masters, and carries them out with the swiftness of a conscienceless sword.

When you’re spokesperson to a President without a school certificate, insult becomes a weapon against reason, coercion displaces the rule of law, sycophancy swallows merit and victimisation becomes a state art – all in the defence of presidential ineptitude, corruption, nepotism and ethnicity.

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Like Gabber, Garba is fearless. He’s no respecter of age, intellect, dignity and civility whenever a voice of reason rises against his lean and incompetent master in Aso Rock. Garba threw decorum and honor out through the window last week when Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, called attention to the weak ex-soldier’s everlasting lethargy and unconstitutional action by single-handedly locking down Abuja, Lagos and Ogun over the coronavirus outbreak without the consent of the National Assembly.

Like Soyinka, several lawyers, including two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Femi Falana and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, faulted Buhari’s overbearance, stressing that the husband of Aisha possesses no such powers to unilaterally close any state’s borders. But Garba chose not to contend the illegality of Buhari’s action with the lawyers because, unlike Soyinka, they didn’t beam a torch on the darkling failure that has enveloped Buhari from Nigerians. The poet-essayist-novelist wondered how Buhari, who had been on ‘AWOL’ (Absent Without Leave), suddenly woke up after a long siesta to start issuing orders, closing Abuja, Lagos and Ogun to movement for 14 days.

FROM THE AUTHOR: Buhari, Gbajabiamila And The Greedy Bats

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If Soyinka had only criticised Buhari for the lockdown, Garba wouldn’t have been unleashed. Soyinka became Buhari’s object of attack because he (Soyinka) highlighted the pounding absenteeism that has become the cornerstone of the Buhari regime.

However, Garba neither deployed wisdom nor common sense in his attack on Soyinka, leaving discernible members of the public wondering how many certificates are missing in Aso Rock.

In a language decipherable to a primary school pupil, Soyinka, who didn’t criticise the global medical recommendation of lockdown, revealed that he himself was in self-isolation but he stressed that Buhari should simply have gotten the National Assembly to approve his lockdown wish, lest the country descends into illegality. The laureate even called on legal luminaries to help shed light on the legality or otherwise of Buhari’s action, warning that if left unchallenged, Buhari could wake up some other time, and declare a vindictive lockdown on any state – long after the COVID 19 pandemic had ended.

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In his profoundly empty and unwise response, Garba steered the argument away from Buhari’s idleness and cow-in-a-china-shop meddlesomeness, which Soyinka raised, saying the playwright should write a fiction about coronavirus. In an infantile attempt to ridicule Soyinka and diminish his literary genius, Garba belched, “Professor Soyinka is not a medical professor… Across the world, mandated lockdowns are in place…Perhaps, Wole Soyinka may write a play on the coronavirus pandemic after this emergency is over.” It’s obvious that Garba is oblivious that all democratic countries, which effected lockdowns during the ongoing pandemic, first got the approval of their legislatures.

By trying to trivialise literature, Garba opened himself up to ridicule as a shallow image-maker, who is shockingly unaware that a captivating novelist, Dean Koontz, foretold the outbreak and deadliness of coronavirus more than 30 years ago. Medicine as an offshoot of science and technology is critical to human wellness just as literature as an offshoot of arts is the adhesive that prevents the world from falling off the map of human dignity – teaching language, culture and tradition. Unlike the misleading gospel of Garba, neither of science and technology, and arts is superior to the other. Probably, Garba is the type of parent that would force his child to study medicine when such a child has the talent to outwit Messi to the Ballon d’Or or outsing Cobhams Asuquo to the gong or beat Sanyeri to crowd applause.

FROM THE AUTHOR: The Crowning Of Shekau

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Few days after Garba’s defence, Buhari, uncharastically saw sense in Soyinka’s wise counsel as he later sought and got the approval of the Senate for the closure of Abuja, Lagos and Ogun, putting a needle to the balloon of shame inflated by Garba. A report by Vanguard newspaper of April 4, 2020, confirms Buhari’s compliance with the rule of law. Hitherto Buhari’s capitulation, Garba and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, had insisted that Buhari was right in his usurpation of the National Assembly’s powers. If the President was right, why get the approval of the N/A in the long run?

After Buhari trampled upon Nigeria’s constitution by sacking the democratically elected government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari on December31, 1983, Generals Gbadamosi Babangida and Sani Abacha wouldn’t have had the guts to seize power in 1985 and 1993 respectively if Nigerians had resisted the criminality perpetrated by Buhari and his gang in 1983.

Expectedly, the impotence of the commander-in-chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces to check the growing dehumanisation and killing of innocent Nigerians, especially in the South, by Buhari’s zombie-soldiers failed to stir the milk of human kindness in Garba. Or has Garba not seen viral vdeos of bestial soldiers, mostly of northern extraction, ordering people to swim in sewage? If Nigerians had resisted soldier-police oppression since the 1970s – as advised by the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti – the incessant killings we see today won’t occur.

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This is the essence of Soyinka’s homily to Buhari. Political aides should help their principals see issues in true perspectives. This is a better way to earn a living rather than bark at imaginary shadows.

FROM THE AUTHOR: Borno Burns, Bayelsa Boils, Buhari Dey Kampe

Tunde Odesola is a seasoned journalist, a columnist with the Punch newspapers.

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Email: [email protected]

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Opinion

OPINION: The Cults Of Lagos

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By Suyi Ayodele

Those who used Oro to win elections on March 18 are already back in the churches and mosques for thanksgiving. The pastors and the imams did not chase them away. Their thanksgiving offering and sadaqah were well received and ‘blessed’. The Muslims among them will start the 30-day Ramadan fast later this week. Their Christian counterparts are observing Lent, already. I am also putting my pastorate on notice. Nobody should doubt my spirituality after this outing. Thankfully enough, I have another two weeks to do penitence before the next Holy Communion service in April. I would have been in the “State of Grace” to partake in the spiritual meal. God, forgive your son all his shortcomings (Amen). Let somebody shout Hallelujah! My people say a man lives according to the epoch he finds himself in. Let us do Oro today. First, my tribute to the owners of this world (iba awon to n’ile aye). Oro is not common. It is not a daylight affair. It is a deity that speaks to the deep of the night. The whirring sound by Oro sends fears into the spines of the non-initiates.

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Eeeeeepaaaaaaaa!!!!!

Oyi rerere! – The whirlwind!

Ori firi – You see it in a flash!

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Oku firi – You die in a flash!

 

There is a town called Ikole-Ekiti; it is the headquarters of Ikole Local Government, my local government area. Ikole salutes itself as one who knows not to do with children and sacrifices one to the gods (Ikole ri hun m’omo se, han modidi omo s’ebo). There is a short story behind the oriki (praise name). In those days when humans were humans, there reigned an Elekole, who had many wives and children. Among his numerous children was a particularly beautiful one, a girl, known as Eyinjuewa (the eyeball of beauty), his favourite. Being the king’s favourite, the princess became a spoilt brat, rude and arrogant. Ikole also has an Oro festival, Isemole (complete restriction), that is celebrated till date. During the festival, no woman is allowed to come out. We grew up to know that tradition.

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One day, during the Isemole festival, Eyinjuewa got into an argument with one of the oloris. Being her brat self, the princess told the olori that she, being a wife to the king, had no right to talk down on a princess, especially the king’s favourite. The two women were in the kitchen, with Eyinjuewa stirring amala delicacy. Isemole was at its peak, with the Oro at its most whirring sound. Peeved by Eyinjuewa’s arrogance, the olori challenged her thus: “If indeed you are the daughter of Elekole, go out there and see Isemole like a true child of the oba”. Game! Eyinjuewa’s pride was challenged. She forgot tradition. In her madness to prove that she was full blue-blooded, she did the unthinkable. Eyinjuewa opened the kitchen door, holding the stirring stick in her hand and ventured out. Instantly, the legend states, she dried up on the spot! Oro did not spare her. It is axiomatic: that “bi obirin ba fi oju kan Oro, Oro a gbé” (when a woman sees Oro, Oro must swallow her)! After the incident, Ikole people composed a warning song to register Eyinjuwewa’s recalcitrance; a princess born into a cult but fails to observe the tenets of the group. That is the real Oro. It is a cult that women have no role in; they are forbidden to be initiated into the Oro cult.

 

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FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Why Is Emi L’okan Afraid Of Awa L’okan In Lagos?

 

What is the place of Oro in Yoruba religion? Yoruba traditional system is controlled by three levellers of authority. Sitting on top of the hierarchy is the Oba and his council of chiefs. That is the only segment of the ladder that is open for all to see. The second layer is the Awos, which is made of cult members (Oro) and the ogbonis (the real Osugbo and not the modern day Reformed Ogboni Fraternity (ROF), that accommodates all Tom, Dick and Harry. The third, which incidentally is the most powerful, are the real owners of the night; our mothers, the “eye buruku abi’ga winiwini” (the bad bird with beautifully arranged feathers), the witches, and to an extent, wizards.

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Oro plays important roles whenever a member of a Yoruba community is to be excommunicated. If for instance, a man commits an offence which punishment is banishment, the Oro cult is called in to escort the culprit out of the town. Such a man is never to return to the community. It is a deity that was used in the days before civilisation, to execute criminals. In 2019, Yoruba popular Fuji star, Wasiu Ayinde Marshall, KWAM 1, at the height of the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode must go campaign, hinted that Ambode would be chased away from the Alausa Government House with Oro. Ambode, we all can recall today, lost the APC governorship primaries to the incumbent Babajide Sanwo-Olu. That was four years ago. Why has Ambode not been able to return to the Tinubu political family ever since? That is what an Oro does when it is employed in the case of any adversary.

 

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The All Progressive Congress, APC, in Lagos last Saturday called out Oro cultists during the gubernatorial and house of assembly elections. The ‘initiates’ came out in their numbers and were on the street, performing ‘rituals’. I saw some of the videos. I listen to the voices of the Oros. I laughed heartily. An acada man, who was watching the videos with me, wondered why I laughed. I told him what he saw on the streets of Lagos were comedians. He did not believe me. The acada pointed out the all-white dresses and the white tattoos on the bodies of the Oro devotees and I asked him not to pay attention to the costumes or the marks on their bodies. My argument was that if the real Oro comes out, those Babajide Sanwo-Olu arinjo dramatists would flee in different directions. I mean it. My mind raced back home. I remembered Orangun (my family deity), whose cognomen is: “umole ko pa aaro re hi ku finrin finrin ke si gbohun ebeora (the deity that ‘kills’ its chief priest completely for him to hear what the gods have to say). How will Orangun be out, and some mere mortals will video it? How will Ajale be at its elements and women will be by their window blinds, recording it? Who will dare do that? Truly, Eko gba ole, o gba ole (The thief and the lazy are accommodated in Lagos). What you saw on the streets of Lagos on Saturday are not Oros. The pots and the hyssop and the concoction are not the Yoruba traditional “sesere and agbo”. But they achieved the purpose for which they were deployed. The victims of the hyssop dipped into the pots are the Igbo non-native of Lagos and others who got scared and stayed off the polling centres, leaving MC Oluomo and his goons to have a field day. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the president-elect, was clear in the build up to the February 25 presidential election that it would not be business as usual. On more than three occasions, especially when he was in his Yoruba enclave, he called for Ayajo (invocations) on his enemies. I have a faint idea of the capabilities of Ayajo. I equally know that a man who openly asked for Ayajo has more than enough in his traditional kitty. It is therefore not a surprise that on Saturday, March 18, Tinubu’s APC called in the Oro Cult to save the lord of Lagos from a second humiliation.

 

FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Tinubu And My Journey To ‘Exile’

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This is why I find the Oro cults the Tinubu political family employed last Saturday in its quest to secure for Sanwo-Olu, a much desired second term in office, despicable and condemnable in all ramifications. The act is a total desecration of the Yoruba tradition. Ironically, those who deployed that infamy said that they were preserving Yoruba from the domination of the Igbo. The whole exercise showed how desperate the political class are. Sanwo-Olu, I understand, is of the Christian faith. I have been searching the internet to see where and when he professed his faith by denouncing the activities of the various Oro cults called to scare away potential voters from the Saturday election, especially those whose ancestry are not Yoruba. An elder, who I tried to sound out on the matter, told me: “Iwakuwa laa wa òhun to ba so nu, lo difa fun eni ti obe re so nu to lo la Inu pepeye” (we search for whatever is lost in odd places is the diviner who consulted for a man who lost his knife and then opened the bowel of a duck to look for it). This is the level that Professor Yakubu Mamood’s INEC has taken our electoral system. Expectedly, winners and losers were declared at the end of the charade!

 

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The implications of the Lagos Oros are grave for our democracy. As much as I do not by any iota of imagination believe that the various Oro cults that were on display in Lagos last Saturday had any potency, my Yoruba background tells me that whether a gun has a barrel or not, no one should allow anybody to point it at him. The non-Yoruba residents in Lagos who stayed off the polling centres because of the Oro are justified. So, for the non-Yoruba residents of Lagos, who got scared and stayed off the voting centres because of the Oro cults, one cannot really blame them. Who could have said categorically if those jokers in white apparels and the equally theatrical ones slaughtering one unfortunate black goat had the capacity to harm people! While the acts were being perpetrated, where were the security agents? A system that allowed the Lagos scaremongers to perpetrate their shenanigan without repercussions, has set the pace for future anarchy. Very soon, a simple dispute between an indigene and non-indigene will lead to deities walking our streets naked. And I envisage that a day will come in Lagos, when the real ‘Lagosians’ will call out their Oros and non-indigenes will follow with canes. The days are numbered when Oro will turn to humans. Then, whatever is left of the vestige of Yoruba culture will be lost.

 

It was the Oro cult in Lagos. We had something else in other parts of the country. In many of the voting centres in Benin City, for instance, Igbo voters were completely shut out. This is what one of the respondents told me at the Ologbosere Primary School, Upper Sokponba, where there were 61 polling units and one could count the number of non-Benin voters by the fingertips: “You no be Yoruba, no be your people say make Igbo no come vote for Lagos”? I could not ask him further questions. His argument was that if the Yoruba could chase away the Igbo from voting in Lagos, why should the case be different in Edo? Sad, but valid. That is one of the negative implications of Lagos Oro on election day. This democracy is 24 years old. Not even in the days of General Olusegun Obasanjo’s “do or die” did we witness this type of perfidy. In one of the centres in Lagos, voters had to engage the services of ferocious dogs to protect themselves from thugs, who were moving about freely on a day that there was supposed to be restriction of movement.

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FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: On The Path To A New Nigeria?

 

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My summation of the March 18 elections is that humanity is lost in us all. Before you contest this, ponder on what Bayo Onanuga, one of Tinubu’s media aides said, after the Lagos charade: “Let 2023 be the last time of Igbo interference in Lagos politics. Lagos is like Anambra, Imo, any Nigeria state. It is not a no man’s land, not Federal Capital Territory. It is Yoruba land. Mind your business”. If these words came from the Onanugas of this world, what else do we expect from the MC Oluomos! We are back in the woods of perfidy!

 

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

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OPINION: Senator Kalu Cannot Be Among The Prophets

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Senator Orji Uzor Kalu happened on Abia politics during General Sani Abacha’s ignominious transition to civil rule on the platform of the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP). The party was among the rogue four that had all its roots and branches inside Abacha and gleefully adopted the dictator, who was transmuting into a politician as their consensus presidential candidate in a transition programme that was a sham and shambolic.

Of the defunct parties, scorned as five fingers of a diseased hand by the late erudite Bola Ige, the UNCP stuck out in every material sense as the thumb. Barring Abacha’s sudden passing, Kalu was primed to win its nomination for Abia Government House.

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But obvious was that the politicians who endeavoured to deodorized the skunk that Abacha’s transition was, unfurled in no unclear terms to Nigerians as solipsistic dregs, who lived in the dictator’s rectum.

Whatever Abacha wanted, Kalu and others were present and available as tools to confer a semblance of legitimacy on it. Kalu and the few who volunteered as pawns in Abacha’s chessboard were in those heady days, the only politicians in the country who walked free, lived free and slept with both eyes shut.

All others were endangered. Among Nigerians who despised Kalu and the rest of the cheerleading rump in the Abacha’s political programme of annihilation was the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Tinubu and NADECO members were the conscience of the Nigerian society, which Kalu and company on the other hand endeavoured to suppress. Tinubu and other pro-democracy figures offered the mass of the people hope against the Abacha moving train and its occupants. Outside the murderous train and its obnoxious occupants, every citizen who dissented risked life and limb; faced hell and high waters and all manners of every day existential threats. Scores were dispatched, trying to redeem our society from the cut-throat political space Abacha, Kalu and others transformed it to.

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READ ALSO: OPINION: Nigeria, Let The Igbo Go

Those who went down fighting did so for the enthronement of unfettered participatory democracy and decent clime. Nigerians craved for a breather as jail houses swarmed with opposition figures; as bullets flew at against them at every turn and hurried self-exile the only life line for opposition voices. While the evils raged, Kalu and others worked for the perpetuation of the repugnant system, which only benefitted them.

With the dawn of democracy in 1999, it was incongruous that Tinubu and Kalu who pursue diametrical ideals would sail in the same boat. The former found family in the progressive hue Alliance for Democracy (AD) while the latter nestled in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) whose successes had the fingerprints of the departing establishment.

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One of the peculiar oddities of the Nigerian political space is its high turnover of itinerant politicians. In our country a politician can change his political leaning far much quicker and at a frequency more eerie than the famed British weather. Here, it fits perfectly for politician to be a progressive in the morning, a conservative in the evening and anything in-between the belts. This best explains why the likes of Tinubu would beat their chests as progressives and a Kalu we all know would materialise to claim the same badge.

Sharing the same party makes it even all the more dizzying to some observers. But not to many because our land is that of absurdities, perhaps the only place in the Universe where light and darkness cohabit in a perilous union against everything that enhances life and living for the citizens.

Kalu is the subject of this discourse simply because of his treachery against his party, the APC and its presidential candidate in the lead up to the February 25 presidential election in both his Abia State and the South-east region.

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His public display of his ballot paper, thumprinted for APC in the presidential election scarcely obliterates the fact that he didn’t show up in any South-east, APC presidential campaign for Tinubu. Kalu was not seen any of the presidential campaigns held across the entire six regions of the country.

It will not obviate the fact that he neither sponsored a single Tinubu campaign poster in the whole of his Abia State, much less a billboard advertisement. Those who walked their talk for the party, particularly in Kalu’s Abia pinned him pants down in negotiating off the patronage of his Abia North voters to a rival political party for the presidential election and the opposite for the National Assembly election in which he contested.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Is Emi L’okan Afraid Of Awa L’okan In Lagos?

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Few posers have become compelling: Why did Senator Kalu ensure that he shied away from APC presidential campaign rallies in all of the South-east? Was it for nothing that he did not identify with his party’s presidential flag bearer during the campaigns in his Igboland? Knowing the disadvantages the APC faced in his Abia, Abia North Senatorial District and the entire South-east was Senator Kalu incapable of financing the production of campaign materials as lowly flyers and hand bills for his party’s presidential candidate? Was it possible he wasn’t acting out a personal agenda against Tinubu? These are not hypothetical questions, they’re fact-based and demands reasonable explanations from the Senator.

While a few may have forgotten that all Kalu wanted was the APC presidential ticket for his former classmate, Senator Ahmad Lawan-the outgoing Senate president-not a few expected that he would work for the presidential candidate of his party with the primary won and lost.

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There are no surprises that Kalu right now has his eyes fixed on the position of the Senate Presidency, which may be micro-zoned to his region but what circumstances would support for a man to reap where he did not sow? Kalu should be reminded that the same Bible he now quotes copiously disapproves that a man who did not work should not eat: 2 Thessalonians 3:10. This engagement is a fair challenge to Kalu to make known his efforts at working for the electoral success of the President-elect, Ahmed Bola Tinubu and the APC for all to hear and see besides his thumb print for the party and the public show he made out of it.
Voting for Tinubu after laying traps and preparing the terrain for his fall at the electoral field is a classic facade which takes the definition of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds to a whole new level.

Who and what exactly is Kalu fearful of when he took to his verified Facebook handle to nag at his percieved opponents for the Senate Presidency over character assassination and politics of calumny, when none of his targets has even had time to bother about him? Any wonder the Bible declares in Proverbs 28:1 that “the wicked flees when no man pursueth.” While it is his prerogative to dream to be Senate President, he needs not be reminded that it is only fair that those who worked or at least made attempt to work must be numbered first for reckoning.

Any system that rewards treachery and betrayal cannot guarantee peace and cohesion. And only beckons on unavoidable implosion. Kalu knows this because he has been a governor.

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He also needs not be reminded that every ruling party has a sacred responsibility of ensuring that who ever is to emerge a Senate president must not be a saboteur to the president or even remotely seen to be one.

This engagement would be incomplete without also drawing the attention of APC leadership in Abia and the national secretariat to the fact that the bitter pills Senator Kalu served Tinubu in the February 25 presidential campaigns, he served Ikechi Emenike, the party’s governorship candidate in the state.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Tinubu And My Journey To ‘Exile’

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As it was with Tinubu, Kalu shied away from issuing any kind words in favour of Emenike’s quest in the state and also did not show up in any of his campaign rallies. If these are not definitive of anti-party activities, pray, what else does, especially from a principal officer of the Upper Legislative Chamber, who ought to be a rallying point and leading light in APC’s electoral battles in unfriendly Abia and Igboland?

How would the party make in-roads in the South-east with the exaggerated sense of self-importance from a polarising figure like Kalu? It is counter-productive and injurious to the party for Kalu to just remain APC by words of mouth and for his egotistic interest of riding on its wings for his individual political survival.

Emeka Chidiebere writes from Aba

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The above article is strictly of the writers’ opinion and does not in any way translate to that of INFO DAILY MEDIA

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OPINION: Nigeria, Let The Igbo Go

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Tunde Odesola

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

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

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

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

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

FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Tinubu, Atiku And Political Obituary (II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Email: [email protected]
Facebook: @tunde odesola
Twitter: @tunde_odesola

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