A friend made a dash abroad last week and soon became nostalgic of home. She called. “How is Naija?” She asked me, and I told her what I always tell myself whenever I escape to dreamland. “Naija is cool. Change has truly berthed this golden shore.” My friend was curious. “Cool? Is it about the Not-Too-Young-To-Run law? Or have the killer herdsmen been caged finally like the degraded Boko Haram terrorists? What cooled Nigeria?” I hissed at the simplicity of my friend’s thought.
Optimists are simple people, and women are great players of the game of optimism. That is why they get laid more than once by tricksters. What is my own about any Too-Young or Not-Too-Young law? That law would have been cool if it had included a Too-Old-To-Run section. In any case, the old man who signed the law immediately postdated it to 2023.
What else should the elderly use old age for if not to cheat the young? You are too young for this moment; 2019 is not your year of maturation. That is what the president told the youngsters who wanted to rule Nigeria. And he meant it.
“So what cooled Nigeria? E ku fasting? Is rice now N2,500 and beans 4,500?” My friend continued her cynical inquisition. Does my friend now price rice and beans per grain or what is she talking about? “Sai Baba!!!” she continued. “Dollar nko? Is it now N22 per dollar?”
I am beginning to suspect my friend. Has she travelled back to the years of Sani Abacha? I know our president dreamt of the golden years of Abacha some two weeks ago. Is my friend now a member of Buhari Media Organisation? The N22/$1 figure she mentioned belonged to Sani Abacha’s Central Bank. Even then, Abacha’s favoured elite were the only Nigerians with gate pass to that official rate.
What have we not seen in this country? It is not good to be ordinary, driving on the dusty road of crude destiny. Ordinary Nigerians have always suffered. They suffered yesterday, they smiled it off; they are suffering today and they are praying and rejecting it in their prayers. May tomorrow not be in the womb of suffering, they pray, and I join in saying amen.
Today’s too-young-to-think generation won’t know that when Abacha sold dollar to his class at N22, the under-class who needed to pay school fees abroad bought theirs at N88. They won’t know and their parents who should remember are obsessed with the politics of 2019. Abacha had two exchange rates in 1996. How many does Buhari have today, 22 years after? They won’t ask.
I told my friend God has done it for Nigeria. Now, the judiciary has grown balls to fight corruption. A Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governor kissed the canvass last week; one other had his mugshot everywhere online holding his multibillion naira charge board. Several others who thought justice had been caged are now in the oven of karma. “I read about it, the jailed man, Jolly Nyame, Danjuma’s man. I hope you guys are learning how power works?” She said in a very sly tone. I always knew my friend to be very subversive in thought. What could she be thinking with that nexus she just introduced?
Even if her thought was correct, is it not true that these guys were rats who infested our kitchen and ate our power cables? “Rats with the temerity to eat the manhood of power. They even ‘colluded’ (or are colluding) to chase Lion out of his den. Very rude, audacious rodents. Who gave them teeth sef?” She asked, and I ignored her. This is Ramadan. I won’t allow any lewd newsroom language ruin my labour of faith. But she wouldn’t stop. Women may not have balls but they are very tenacious, especially when pushing an agenda very dear to their heart. She went on whining about how Nigeria had been messed up. I cut her short reminding her of how today’s cleaners were part of the dirts of the past. That is why they are presiding over the beatification of Abacha.
She wouldn’t listen. “Eating the cables of power; deflating the manhood of power is a capital offence. Can’t an old man enjoy his old age again without wearing boxers?” I reminded my friend that this power she is romanticizing is encased in empty boxers; boxers without punches. All air, no substance. Besides, she should know that today’s rats are very tenacious. Their method is called nibbling…eating a lot, in small bits, slowly, quietly, and blowing fresh air. That is how they eat long and live long unnoticed, uncaught. They eat safely and promise a tomorrow of continuous fumigation of the inner recesses of the kitchen.
“Enough of this talk about judges and justice. Can we discuss a more serious matter?” She begged. What else can be more serious than a big man going to jail without an option of fine? Jolly Nyame, man of means, reverend gentleman of God! Money does all things – or should do all things. Is it not said that any case that money can’t decide will be left to rot in the unswept corridors of power?
Who was that person who shamed money? Is money no longer the senior of all values? When the privileged is robbed of his privileges, the ground must quake. So, what more serious matter has my friend to discuss? The Not-Too-Young-To-Run law? Oh! That one. Should anyone with the energy of youth beg or lobby for power? Anyone who desires power goes for it. The law can’t be a short cut. Law can be helpless where the will to use it is absent. So, how does this new law help the youths who would rather follow than lead?
Buhari already said the youth are lazy. And he was right. They won’t fight for the hook; they would rather beg for fish. No law can help the laid-back. These old men they are clapping for, did those ones beg to be relevant? Their Rome didn’t become an empire in a day. They woke up very early and started building their own city of power. Buhari joined the Army in 1962 and fourteen short years after, he was already a state governor; two years after that, he was in charge of all our oil – in land and at sea.
Twenty-one years after he joined the army, he became Head of State, Commander-in-Chief! Who wrote his own Not-Too-Young-to-Govern law for him? Who did? He did it by himself and he signed it for himself, retiring the established order. The youths of that past were very prepared and impatient to beg. They did not live long in their Surulere flat. Their duplex is still there in Maza-Maza. You know the Yoruba venerate indolence with Surulere; and the Hausa talk of immediacy when they utter the word maza-maza.
I told my friend the new law makes little sense to me. Even with the law reducing age qualifications, how many of the qualified will step forward? Among the few who will step forward, how many will be able to raise the millions for nomination forms and the billions to buy delegates? Why not also a Not-Too-Poor-to-Run? That one won’t happen. It will deregulate power and empower the unfavoured. So, anyone who wants power should go get it. If you are too young to die, you can’t succeed to the throne of your ancestors. That is a Yoruba proverb that the young appear not listening to.
They are old enough only to invade the Senate and steal maces. They are good enough as social media attack dogs and cyber snakes stalking preys for smart paymasters. That is the lesson in the presidential admonition they got at the bill-signing ceremony.
Wait for your time, the president counselled them. And what was their response? They laughed. They are not old enough to contest this year and the next. It is rude enough that they went for that law. Should a child seek to be his father’s bed sharer? Power belongs to the fathers of the land. It is bad manners to watch the mouth of eating elders!
Children of the power elite are the ones who are not too young to rule. The ones born outside powerhouse delude themselves if they think of power as a freebie. They cannot rule, they can only serve the powerful. They are not only too young to rule; they are also too poor to hold office. They also don’t think! Now, some youngsters stole the mace in the Senate chambers some weeks ago. Why couldn’t those ones think like the big men and their children who sent them? Those who can think would rather see mace as an item of business – not of theft.
The ones who are not too young to think are thinking mace and thinking business. How about selling mace in multiples to that Senate, to the House of Reps and the 36 state’s House of Assembly? When daylight robbers snatch one, you bring out a replacement sharp-sharp. Some proposals must be exchanging hands on that already. This is where the idle Nigerian youth should get himself some sense. But these young ones applauding Buhari’s signature, will they ever wake up? And the ancestors in our public space are smart. Their kids are smarter. As you read this, they are digging deep, thinking how to domesticate that new law in their family pen.
The ones who are too young to rule are those sending themselves to Europe through the deserts of Libya. Children of the power elite don’t struggle for empowerment. Rather, things fall in place for them in the right places and in the right measure. These are the ones the Not-Too-Young-To-Run law was made for. It is not a law for the ineffectual poor from challenged backgrounds.
The pioneers of Nigeria who schooled abroad came back to lead the liberation struggles. They came back to demand power from the British. They did not beg for it. The generation that profited from the labour of the heroes past are the ones describing today’s youth as lazy and hasty. They are the generation of Buhari asking the young to defer their quest for power till five years’ time.
Do not blame Buhari, he spoke for his class. The Nigerian power elite may lack values, including character; but they do not lack good old commonsense. They think and act ahead. Why don’t they make a law against old men shooting their way into our space and staying put? If you are old with tired bones and tendons, retire! In their old age, they say they are still virile and aren’t going nowhere. At worst, they hand over to their crown princes to continue the relay race.
The children of the ex-this, ex-that going abroad to read are not coming back to change the narrative of the country. If they come back, they are coming to consolidate their heritage. That is why the hustlers here should calm down and join the right queue. And that is the queue of positive action, not of a law that was not made for them. They are too powerless to legislate themselves to power. They should read history.