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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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Tunde Odesola is a seasoned journalist, a columnist with the Punch newspapers.
OPINION: Oluwo And The Glorification Of Ignorance (1)
Welcome to Ìwó, the ancient Yoruba land where the parrot sings in paradox the poetry of truth and treachery.
The parrot is not a treacherous bird. For the Yoruba, the parrot is a sacred bird of historic symbolism, bearing on its head the feathers of truth, trampling underfoot the evil of treachery.
Abomination! Even though they domesticate it, the Yoruba don’t kill the highly revered bird, whose prized tailfeathers they use in ritual performance.
In Ìwó and many other Yoruba towns, the parrot is sentineled at home to keep an eye on intruders and spill the beans about their wrongdoing.
In Ìwó, the parrot sings to the rhythm of the agidigbo drum, whose proverbs only the wise can discern. Only the truthful can understand the song of the parrot. Little wonder the Yoruba christened the parrot Ayékòótó – the world despises the truth – but the empty barrel booms and expects a resounding applause for wisdom, forgetting that the cowl doesn’t make the monk, the sceptre doesn’t confer royalty, bombast is the signature of ignorance, a sophist thrives on fallacious argument.
Culture and tradition are rich in Ìwó though the town is home to Christianity with the Nigerian Baptist Mission especially, and other Christian denominations having a remarkable presence. Oba Samuel Abimbola, the predecessor to the immediate past Oluwo, Oba Asiru Kiladese, was a Christian. African religion worshippers are not without a place and presence in Ìwó, making the land similar to all Yoruba communities in terms of guaranteed freedom of worship.
When he was leaving Ile-Ife, the presumed cradle of the Yoruba with his entourage on an expansionist agenda, Yoruba mythology says an Ife prince, Adekola Telu, who was one of the sons of Oduduwa, consulted the Ifa oracle to foretell what lies in the belly of the journey ahead.
Ifa predicted that Telu’s peregrination would take him to a land brimming with parrots. “Dwell in the land,” Ifa told Telu. So, Telu transmigrated under the canopy of the wilderness, bursting into plains, ascending unto hills and descending into valleys, waddling through water.
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Then, he arrived at a river called Obà. And saw a bountiful flock of parrots with dazzling plumages. Eureka, Telu found it! Thus Telu settled around the riverbank and his coast soon enlarged. In the fullness of time, the settlement moved from around the river to the present-day Ìwó, where the land was even more auspicious.
The Oluwo of Ìwó, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi, Telu I, is my friend. I met him physically before he was installed as king by a former Governor of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. A colleague, Soji Adeniyi, formerly of The Nation newspapers, introduced Akanbi to me in Osogbo when he was staking his claim to the throne of his ancestors in 2015.
After Akanbi spoke with me, I was sold on his conviction to take Ìwó to greater heights; he spoke about the need to reinvent teaching, modernise farming, uplift arts and culture, and make Ìwó the proud home of the odíderé, the talkative bird the Anglo Saxon call parrot.
On the night of the second after my meeting with the prince, I went to seek a private audience with governor Aregbesola. On recognition, I scaled the outer rings of security and, in no time, arrived at the anteroom of the governor, where I met a clutter of people who looked tired.
I said my name to the security operatives and said to myself that that wasn’t the place to be at that moment because of the multitude. I was rearing to leave when one of the Department of State Services guys called my name and opened the door to the Governor’s Office for me. I was surprised but I grabbed the opportunity, all the same. I couldn’t have seen the governor till the noon of the next day if the governor didn’t fast-forward my visit.
Between the Governor’s Office and the anteroom, there was a little room to the left. I looked and saw High Chief Abiola Ogundokun, one of the foremost leaders of Ìwó. I greeted him and moved on.
“Ha, Tunde, a ma ri e ke, se ko si o?” Aregbesola ushered me to a seat, expressing surprise at the visit. “Ko si, sir,” I said, assuring him that I came in peace. I went on to tell him about the vision of Akanbi for Iwo. Aregbesola listened to every word I uttered without interruption.
When I was done talking, the governor said he was more predisposed to having a young man installed as oba than an old man. But he didn’t promise anything. I thanked him for the audience and left, stopping to greet octogenarian Ogundokun on my way out.
The Oluwo is my friend, so I won’t dwell on all the controversies that have characterised his reign. As good friends, we exchange chats on sundry issues – on a weekly basis. Vehemently, I disagree with the king all the time over his views about some issues relating to culture and tradition.
Some few months ago, there was a day our chats became so heated that I thought he was going to take offence and lay a curse on me. I had reached a point of no return and was past caring, anyway, but the king was slow to anger.
The bone of contention was what I considered his utter lack of understanding of the responsibilities the crown has thrust upon him and his grossly inadequate knowledge of myths, legends, folklore etc as they relate to culture and tradition.
A few days ago, I told the king that I was going to escalate our divergent opinions on Yoruba worldview in the media. Not one to slink away from confrontation, Oba Akanbi pelted me with more telephone texts of his thoughts on Yoruba mores – wrong and plenty enough to tear a crown.
Monarchy system of rulership was founded in Ìwó by Adekola Telu, son of the 16th Ooni of Ife, a female called Luwo Gbagida. Oba Akanbi himself testifies to this fact of history. Why Akanbi chose to call himself Telu I, however, beats the imagination when Adekola Telu institutionalised kingship in Ìwó over 600 years ago.
The Oluwo seems to be on a futile mission to erase certain aspects of Yoruba history because he lacks the understanding that history, whether good or bad, defines the experiences of a people and is critical in unravelling the present to prepare for the future.
The more I observe Oba Akanbi, the more I agree with the words of George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, critic and political activist, who said, “Beware of false knowledge: It is more dangerous than ignorance.”
In his ignorance, the Oluwo fails to realise that there is no society that doesn’t have its traditional worship system. In his religious adventurism and intellectual mediocrity, the Oluwo seeks to curry the support of Muslims and Christians by acting as though he’s fighting paganism whereas he’s unable to distinguish between culture and childish messianic advocacy.
That the Igbo cherish the kola nut and use it to bless their festivities doesn’t make them fetish, they are only affirming their trado-cultural essence. The Yoruba put honey, water, salt, sugar etc in the mouths of their newborns during christening. This practice is not contained in the Holy Bible or the Holy Quran. And it’s not idolatry.
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In an interview, the Oluwo proudly said that he removed an 800-year-old deity from his palace. What nonsense! If it was in the advanced world, the actual age of the priceless treasure Akanbi called a deity and threw away would be determined through carbon dating, and it could lead to breakthroughs in unravelling of some historical, environmental or biological events.
Has the Oluwo stopped to ask himself why Europeans looted from Africa artefacts that he calls deities? Do Europeans worship the looted African artefacts? No, they don’t. Europeans know that without the old, there cannot be the new. Without the Old Gbagi market there cannot be New Gbagi, without Old York there cannot be New York, without the Old Testament there cannot be New Testament.
* To be continued.
OPINION: Between The Content Of Our Character And The Colour Of Our Currency
By Suyi Ayodele
There was a Second Republic politician, a stark illiterate, who played a prominent role in helping a particular government to power. He was duly compensated with the post of a commissioner in the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. As time went by, the man had irreconcilable issues with the appointing authority, the governor, and he was fired. The commissioner boasted that nobody would ever occupy the office he left. Nobody took the boast of an illiterate seriously. The governor went ahead and appointed a replacement. When the sacked commissioner heard about the appointment, he approached the new appointee and said: “Bùòdá, èyin ni wón gbé s’íbè. Aso tí ìpìn bá bó sílè kò sí baba eranko tó lò wo láíláí” (Elderly one, you are the one appointed. Whichever cloth the insect, ìpìn, puts off, no other animal will ever wear it). But before the new man assumed duty, the government changed every piece of furniture in the office, changed the rug and repainted. They knew that the immediate commissioner was very versed in metaphysics. The former man laughed it off. He waited like the old vulture he was. The new appointee was sworn in and moved to the office. Then the unexpected happened. The new man collapsed and was rushed out. When contacted, the sacked commissioner said he was shocked at the ignorance of the government, which went about changing the office paints and the furniture. He intoned that whether the furniture was changed a million times and the walls painted as many times as possible, the curse he placed was on the nomenclature of that office. The government got wiser thereafter and never appointed anyone into that ministry until the government ended its tenure.
Ìkórè (harvest) season used to be the liveliest period of our Anglican Communion in the days of yore. We always looked forward to those colourful celebrations. The healthy competition among the various egbé (groups) in the church was infectious. The womenfolk were the most colourful. My late mother belonged to the Egbé Ìgbàlàyemì (Salvation Befits Me) group. Women younger than her were grouped into Egbé ÌwàbíOlórun (Character like of God). There were other groups, fighting for the Àsíá (plaque). Those women could sing. Most of their songs then were philosophical as they were didactic- speaking to morals, ethos and the dignity of humanity. One of such songs speaks to our discourse today. I crave your indulgence to render the lyrics in its native form. It goes thus: Ùwà l’ènìyàn – Character is the man/Hójé hùnkàn pàtàkì – It is of great value/ Olori Egbé yá múra súwá o – Leader of our group, pay attention to your character.
The women of my mother’s epoch (1927-2006) knew that character is of great value. At any given opportunity, they impressed on their leaders that they would need good character to be able to steer the ship of the groups to the shore of glory (ibùdó ògo). So, they constantly encouraged their Ìyá Egbés to be mindful of their character. Character is the man. What wisdom!
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The educationists, who designed our curricula for our early education, were equally wise. They included in the learning processes of those days, ethical orientation programmes that ensured that before we started our classes, we were made to affirm the place of good character above academic excellence. We called it “Àkósórì” (rote learning). Most of the “Àkósórì” were poems written by the best of that era in children’s literature, Joseph Folahan Odunjo, popularly known as J .F. Odunjo. As we assembled to pray and listen to the daily instructions from the headmaster, we would recite one Àkósórì or the other. One of such recitations has its first clause as: “Tojú ìwà re òré mi” (Take care of your character, my friend). The recitation says money, beauty and education without character is nothing.
For wrote another poem in his Alawiye Series, titled, “Ise Logun ise” (Work is the antidote for poverty). He emphasises the need to be self-dependent and rely on one’s efforts and cut off entitlement mentality. The import of the messages in all the poems is about good character. If any man, and by extension, a nation or a people must make any progress, the character of such a man or people must be above board. No nation without leaders of good character can make any progress. You may change the policy directions as many times as you can, without a change in character for positive dispositions, nothing will change. These are the lessons we were taught in those good old days. The question now is: How many of our leaders still remember those messages? How many are applying them in the running of the nation?
On October 26, 2022, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, announced that our currency, the Naira, in 200, 500 and 1000 denominations would be redesigned. The CBN top shot said that one of the principal factors responsible for the policy is the issue of hoarding of the banknotes by some Nigerians. Like edible commodities, some Nigerians are in the habit of hoarding the nation’s banknotes. According to Emefiele, over 80 per cent of the currency in circulation was outside the vaults of the commercial banks. He gave a worrisome figure. Of the total sum of N3.2 trillion printed Nigerian currency in circulation, as at September this year, a huge sum of N2.73 trillion was in the hands of individuals, outside the vaults of the various banks. What the CBN Governor was saying in the usual government diplomatic parlance is that some greedy Nigerians are in possession of over 80 percent of our entire money in circulation.
I was privileged to be taught elementary Economics in secondary school by two brilliant minds; Messrs Alebiosu in Form Four, and Fabamise in Form Five. These two gentlemen, if they were to explain the scenario painted by Emefiele, would simply say: because such a huge amount of our currency are outside the banking halls, where the banks could lend them to investors, our economic development is halted and where there are no companies and cottage industries, the unemployment rates will be high. Alebiosu and Fabamise would then swear that should that be the case, poverty, a very crushing one, would be the lot of the people. Simple Economics! That is exactly what we are experiencing in the country today. The CBN boss said that to arrest the situation, we would have to redesign our currency notes from the N200 denomination to the highest, which is the N1000 note. Then, measures were put in place to ensure that those hoarding the Naira notes would not be able to deposit them in large figures. I will not bother with all those measures for just one simple reason: those who have the capacity to hoard 80 percent of our money in circulation also have the capacity to frustrate any measure aimed at getting at them.
Why would anyone, for instance, bury say, N1 billion in a hole in his bedroom? What sort of human beings would mop up over 80 percent of a nation’s money in circulation and keep that to themselves while poverty walks the streets of Nigeria in three piece suits? The answer is, again, character. Only a man of character, and good character for that matter, would realise that a wealthy man among millions of poor relations is the poorest of all men. Character alone would teach a man that appropriating a communal purse for personal use is tantamount to pure madness.
That is why, on a personal level, I find Emefiele’s policy of redesigning the Naira as not only inappropriate, but highly ridiculous. I will leave economists and financial experts to deal with the issues of the implications of the policy on the nation’s economy. I will equally not bother myself with the negative effects many of the aforementioned experts said it would bring to bear on our already comatose economy. My point here is: how long, after the redesigning, will it take the same hawks to mop up the newly introduced notes and hoard them the same way they did to the ones Emefiele and the voodoo economists of the Muhammadu Buhari administration are planning to change from December 15, 2022 to January 31, 2023? How do you redesign a currency without a corresponding redesigning of the character of the players in the nation’s economy? It is amusing, you know. The policy reminds me of the story of a Second Republic politician told above.
Rather than changing the colours of our Naira notes like a chameleon, Nigeria needs to change the characters of the money bags, the politicians, the businessmen and women, who get tax reliefs without any corresponding effects on the lives of the average citizens. When the government gives the monopoly of virtually every commodity to an individual, such a government ought to go a step further to check how much such commodities cost in the Nigerian markets. When a multi billionaire gets tax relief for many years, we need to ask him what he is spending the extra money on. Is it on what is beneficial to the mass of the people or what? We need to put a punitive system in place such that once we discover a huge amount of money on someone’s farm; such an individual is heavily punished.
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If it is true that a few Nigerians are hoarding over 80 percent of our Naira notes, we need to ask ourselves questions. For instance, how many of our past governors have been indicted for financial infractions? How many billions of naira have we traced to them? Where did they invest the money? How many of them are in jail houses for such infractions? Was it not recently that the same government, which promised to fight corruption, granted amnesty to former Governors Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame of Plateau and Taraba States, respectively? These were individuals jailed for helping themselves to their states’ funds and before they could finish their terms, they were set free. What message is the government passing to the current and future hawks occupying leadership positions in the country? Is it our currency and its colours that should change or our orientation as a people? I can go on and on. For me, I think the issue of currency hoarding goes beyond changing the colours of the Naira notes. What Nigeria needs, and what it lacks in a very devastating magnitude, is the ethical orientation that would make such hideous practice a condemnable act, punishable by the laws of the land. What we need is a strong institution that punishes infractions like currency hoarding or currency decimation. A country which promotes, worships and rewards rogues like Nigeria does can change the colours of its banknotes as many times as it wishes; without a change in the character of those running roughshod over the affairs of the country, the currency redesigning becomes another hollow ritual! Like we say in my Ekiti dialect: hi a luffecti – it will have no effect. The exercise is like a woman who changes her husband without changing her character, she will still come back to the same old problem.
Suyi Ayodele is a senior journalist, South-South/South-East editor, Nigerian Tribune, and a columnist with the same paper.
OPINION: Adamu’s Lamentation Equals Buhari’s Failure
By Suyi Ayodele
Lord Henry Peter Brougham lived between September 19, 1778 and May 7, 1868. As a British statesman, Brougham was involved in the transformation of Great Britain. He participated actively in the birth of the 1832 Reform Act and the 1833 Slave Abolition Act. His greatest weapon in abolishing slavery was education. His most memorable quote: “Education makes a people easy to lead but difficult to drive, easy to govern but difficult to enslave”, remains evergreen. He followed his principle about the invaluable importance of education all through his political careers. The greatest of his achievements was the establishment of the University College London. He later became Rector, University of Edinburgh and also established the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. That is how good leaders transform the lives of their people. But not so with Adamu Adamu and the government he serves as Minister of Education.
Adamu’s Wikipedia entry says: “He is a polyglot and speaks Hausa, English, Persian, Arabic and French”. That is where the beauty of his personage ends. He has been in government as a minister in charge of the nation’s education for almost eight years now. In government and governance, Adamu Adamu is a monumental failure. He admitted that himself on Thursday, November 3, 2022. He spoke at the 66th Meeting of the National Council on Education (NCE), which was held in Abuja. Most media platforms that reported the event had similar and fascinating headlines; “I have failed – Education Minister Adamu Regrets Not Ending Out-of-School Children Crisis”, the platforms reported. We are in the season of elections. Adamu’s ruling APC is seeking a revalidation of the mandates Nigerians gave to it in 2015 and 2019. Like the witches of old confessed their atrocities at the village square, Adamu was out on Thursday to confess his abysmal performance in the Ministry of Education, where he has ruined everything noble and ideal about that sector.
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When you look at Adamu and his confession of failure, one cannot divorce him from his appointing authority, General Muhammadu Buhari. The elders say no one can cut the thumb into two and conclude that the head is not a relation of the neck. What the Buhari-led administration cannot destroy does not exist. Or, better still, what the Buhari-led administration has not destroyed since the Daura retired General came to Aso Rock Villa in 2015 does not exist. Fights against corruption and insecurity, which Buhari and his promoters anchored the Daura General’s quest for the presidency on, have since gone to the dogs. Name any segment of Nigeria’s national life that is still standing under the administration; you will find none! Many Nigerians believe that the latest medical tourism of Buhari to London at the wake of the migration of diplomats from Abuja, was his own stylish way of japaing! The arguments were so strong that one could hardly fault them. On a personal note, I don’t want to believe that Buhari ran away to London so that he would not be around when the security threat advisories issued by the USA, the UK, Canada and other sane countries become a reality. There is an old Ekiti folk song that makes nonsense of such a venture, to wit: ” “Ò dàrán Sule ò sà rí’Bádán, Íbádán he hi tì’rán hó mó bo hàlè ko yà júyá re” – he committed a crime and ran to Ibadan; Ibadan does not obliterate crimes; return home and face the consequences of your action. As much as I don’t believe the theory of Buhari japa, one cannot but question the wisdom in the timing of the medical trip, especially, when the president was not in any life-threatening medical condition. But how are we sure of that? Has Buhari ever told us what ails him since he has been spending our patrimony on his unending medical jamboree? Yeah, only on one occasion. He once told us that his ears were aching such that he could not fly to Lagos from Abuja for an official assignment. And, in all honesty, the president behaves very much like someone whose auditory canal has a perennial problem akin to what my mother tongue calls “eti ndun e” – your ears are paining you (transliteration). Don’t let us bother about the full semiotic implications of that clause in my mother tongue; lest we are accused of being uncharitable to the exalted office of the president.
But I digress! Let us return to Adamu and his lamentations. The minister, who once walked out on Nigerian students on a live TV interaction, said that he noticed that with almost seven years in the saddle as the Minister of Education, he is the longest serving minister in that ministry. That is highly commendable. Buhari has retained him in that position not because of Adamu’s sterling performances, but because the appointing authority does not appear to have put any measure in place to estimate the performances of his appointees. In a cabinet where the man in charge is truly in charge, an Adamu Adamu would not have lasted six months. So it is not shocking that the man came to openly admit that he had failed. According to him, his priority while coming to the office was to solve the problem of out-of-school children. Amend that to read: “not-in-school children”. Seven years down the line, Adamu’s scorecard reads: “Seven years ago, when I became Minister, I made it (out-of-school-children challenge) my priority and up till this moment, it is my priority. I recently received a phone call from one of our elders where he informed me that I am now the longest-serving Minister of Education. I didn’t know and I didn’t really care because the only thing that worried me was that I came into office with the resolve to remove out-of-school children and I have failed so for seven years. I have been unable to do this”. That is another novel happening in the Buhari regime; where a student will score himself F9 and will still be retained as the Head Boy!
Adamu is from Bauchi State. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), recently released its data on out-of-school-children. According to the report as published by most media in Nigeria on August 26, 2022, Bauchi State has the highest number of 1,239,759 out-of-school children. The records are there in the archives of the Ministry of Education, where Adamu holds sway as the tormentor-in-chief of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and other allied unions in our universities. It is also not an irony that Katsina State, the home state of General Buhari, follows Bauchi State with 781,500 out-of-school children amongst the educationally-disadvantaged states of the North. In performance, using all indices, Adamu and Buhari are dizygotic twins! One can now see why Buhari has not noticed that Adamu has been a non-performing minister in his cabinet. When an administration has the penchant to reward failure with political patronage like the Buhari administration does, an Adamu will be in that cabinet for its entire lifespan! Why should anybody be worried about Buhari again? A man who steps on his own white garment will not blink an eyelid before he sets another man’s babariga on fire! Little wonder that while the entire country is shouting itself hoarse about the insecurity and mindless bloodletting in the country, Buhari sits in his parlour drinking fura da nunu, picking his teeth while crossing his legs.
But Adamu should not be delusional that he has only failed in the primary education segment. The Bauchi-born “polyglot” (of what use?) should equally know that he has taken our educational architecture back to the Stone Age. While we will concede to him the garland of the longest serving minister of education, we will also like to add to his laurels, the trophy for scoring a hat trick as the only minister of education who has succeeded in keeping our children out of their campuses for nine months in 2022 and eight months in 2022. Yet, we are still on the verge of another ASUU strike! Why Adamu and Buhari have decided to attack education in such a vicious manner requires our collective enquiry.
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, a clear postulant in esoteric matters, thought he could pacify the wizards of the North by taking their out-of-school-children off the streets. He established 165 Almajiri schools all over the northern zone. When the agents of change kicked him out of power and handed over the leash to Buhari, the first thing the new administration did in 2015 was to discontinue the Almajiri schools’ programme. No explanation was given. One can only hazard a guess. The most probable cause is the lazy argument that the Almajiri phenomenon is a religious thing- an argument that flies in the face of logic when one considers the fact that the elites of the north have their children in choice schools outside the shores of Nigeria.
If indeed Almajiri is all about the Islamic religion, how come that Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) remains one of the most educated prophets in history. If Almajiri is about religion, is the north of Adamu and Buhari more Islamic than Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirate, UAE or Qatar? In the UNICEF report of June 2022, the world body listed the number of out-of-school-children in Saudi Arabia to be 177, 254 (2020); UAE, 947 (2020) and Qatar, 2, 947 (2019). But in Adamu’s Bauchi, the figure is 1,239,759 and Buhari’s Katsina State records 781,500. The ‘two gentlemen’ go to Mecca for the holy pilgrimage. Then you wonder what they learn from the holy land! In Qatar for example, an Education City spanning 12 kilometres was established to house multiple educational and research institutes. This is how one website describes the city: “Education City, our flagship initiative, is a pretty unique place. During just one short walk—or tram ride—around campus, you could be visiting an Ivy League university, cross the street to browse one of the region’s largest libraries, and then attend an open-mic at the neighboring university behind it”. Check how many Nigerian leaders go to these Arab countries for holidays and you will be tempted to wish them ill luck in their next voyage!
As we speak, due to the lack of fidelity on the part of the current government and its congenital tendencies to always break its own truces, our children will soon be back home as another strike action looms. Following the injunction secured by the government against the eight-month old strike action by ASUU, and the intervention of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the university lecturers called off the strike on the understanding that 50 percent of their withheld salaries would be paid immediately and the balance spread over months. What did the government do after the lecturers honoured their own side of the bargain? Rather than pay the agreed percentage of the withheld salaries, the Ministry of Labour and Employment advised the government to pay a “pro-rata” salary to the university’s teachers. Olajide Oshundun, the Public Relations Officer for the ministry, while justifying the government’s betrayal of its own cause, said that the lecturers “were paid pro-rata according to the number of days they worked in October. You cannot pay them for work not done. Everybody’s hands are tied”. Crass arrogance. But a more cerebral body, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCNU) has faulted that, warning that the Federal Government cannot apply for no work, no pay policy to the university lecturers. Professor Yakubu Ochefu, CVCNU Secretary General, reminded the government that the lecturers reluctantly suspended their eight month-strike on the basis of “trust” and urged the government not to play pranks on the intelligence of the lecturers. You ask me: Ochefu can as well take his counsel to the Marines. This government is not just deaf and dumb; it finds it difficult to comprehend any logic. What will follow Chris Ngige’s “pro-rata” salary for ASUU members is pregnant, nursing a set of triplets and at the same time asking for conjugal benevolence from the husband!
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Already, the University of Jos chapter of ASUU has set the ball rolling. On Friday last week, the UNIJOS ASUU asked all its members to stay at home until their withheld salaries are paid. Professor Lazarus Maigoro, the branch chairman of ASUU who issued the directive in UNIJOS said: “In view of the bottleneck placed by Ngige towards paying our members the backlog of our salaries, the congress of ASUU, University of Jos met today 4th November, 2022 and resolved to stay at home, though not on strike until the backlog of the withheld salaries are paid. For the avoidance of doubt, our members are back to work, willing and ready to work but are unable to work. Based on the revised academic calendar for the 2020/2021 session approved by the senate of the university, lectures should have started already but the challenge of lack of payment of salaries has constrained our members from going to the classroom to teach. What this implies is that the students who have resumed already will have to wait indefinitely while we wait for our withheld salaries to be paid to us, unfortunately, the struggle continues”. Game! ASUU, as I was penning this, had called its NEC meeting to review the whole issue. It is now clear, even to the blind that Adamu has not only failed in his “priority” of putting an end to the growing out-of-school-children in Nigeria, he has equally succeeded in making our university undergraduates become not-in-school-children! May posterity judge between us and our leaders of this epoch!
Suyi Ayodele is a senior journalist, South-South/South-East Editor, Nigerian Tribune and columnist with the same paper.
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