Lagbaja And Abuja’s Game Of Chicken By Lasisi Olagunju

At the very beginning, Lagbaja, the masked musician, asked all of us if we knew at all why we are here – in this democracy: Ki l’awa se, s’ejo l’awa ro ni’bi?

Why are we here, is it just to whine and complain?

Why are we here, is it not for enjoyment?

What are we here to do?

Leave stories and let’s enjoy  the life of our heads

By tomorrow, we are done with life and its wahala

The unending fight between President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly is not healthy for Nigeria. It is in fact, anti-Nigerian. They are using their politics to hurt the system and everyone’s welfare. What we’ve got from the APC so far are unnecessary bickering and distractions and even danger. Imagine two men driving at top speed towards each other on a narrow bridge. Everyone knows that can only be a collision course and the choices are very limited: As the cars race towards each other, one driver must get out of the way or the two die disastrously in a crash. That is called a Game of Chicken which Bertrand Russell said is a “decadent and immoral” game “played by irresponsible boys.” It is worse, he says, “when the game is played by eminent statesmen, who risk not only their own lives but those of many hundreds of millions of human beings.”

What you get here with the APC is a Game of Chicken; an experiment in mutual destruction. In this game, neither of the drivers wants to ‘chicken out’ and avoid a collision because to “swerve’ is to be called a ‘chicken.’ A chicken will always be an alias for cowardice. If you agree that politicians are animals, you won’t find it difficult to see events in Buhari’s Abuja as classic Games of Chicken. Nigerians overthrew the military because they wanted good governance. Nigerians wanted good governance because they wanted to live well. There cannot be good governance without a good government.

There cannot be a good government where a government fights a civil war on every issue. Presidential democracy glides on a tripod of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Each of these arms of government in today’s Nigeria is an open enemy of the other. It is worse, and very embarrassingly so, between the executive and the legislature. And both are controlled by the same party called All Progressives Congress (APC). Two days ago, it remembered to change its slogan from Change to Progress after almost four years running a government of bitter rivals. President Buhari presented the 2018 budget proposal to the National Assembly in November last year. Then the waiting game started.

Ministries refused to show up before the legislature to defend their budgets. Legislators, desirous of using their appropriation powers maximally insisted they must show up. Then a standoff, for five months, between the executive and the legislature. Then the leadership of the National Assembly reported the agencies to Buhari who ordered them to perform their roles before the legislature. They did and the budget was passed and transmitted for presidential assent. Then the president sat on it while the nation waited. Then on Wednesday last week, Buhari decided to sign the belated bill. He signed it but followed that act with a blistering attack on the National Assembly which, he said, altered the proposal beyond recognition. His office described what the National Assembly did to the proposal as “distortions.”

A distortion is a degradation of the original. To distort is to mislead, to perverse, to deform, to misrepresent. That is the definition the Buhari presidency gave to what the National Assembly did to his budget proposal. And despite that, he signed it! What president signs a perverted, deformed bill into law? What message did that send to the discerning? At what point did the president spot the distortions? Why was it difficult for him to withhold his assent, return the bill to the lawmakers for “corrections” instead of making it another issue for war, for a shouting match? How many wars would be enough for a leader in a term? Did we elect this president to whine at every bend on the road? And why is the National Assembly always in the news for the wrong reasons? Why can’t these two ‘siblings’ sit down and quietly resolve issues instead of stripping each other naked every market day? The president wants to look good always, right? But each time he shouts, as he just did, what does it say about his leadership of the government and the ruling party? Winning an argument or a fight at all costs may not always be in the best interest of anyone.

The Yoruba have a classic solution to the conundrum called a standoff. They imagine the damage a madman could do to a wedding reception where he insists he be hailed as the groom. If all he wants is to be called the groom, why not save everyone the trouble of an insane disruption by giving him what he wants? After all, a six-footer prostrating for a pygmy won’t lose an inch of his enviable height. And this is for the National Assembly, for Buhari and for his appointees.

Fighting all wars or seeking to play a game to its end is not always in the best interest of great players. It is worse when the actors are public officers charged with the duty of caring for the nation. They fight and lose the ball to everyone’s sorrow. The president willingly signed a document but proceeded (immediately after) to repudiate that same document, talking of “distortion.” Did we vote for a leader who must have a fall guy for everything that goes wrong or that may go wrong? The way the president spoke, you would think the National Assembly is peopled exclusively by opposition parties.

The ruling APC is still the majority in the Assembly and you wonder why it has been so difficult for that party to govern without creating scenes. Are we in the wild where deadly animals of same species fight to the death; where “male lions slaughter all the cubs when they join a new pride and where rival ant colonies of the same species fight bloody wars”? This animal called APC does not appear to know the reason for its existence. It fights as the blind does. The clock is ticking. The people are suffering – the APC does not believe this is it. On the narrow bridge it has driven Nigeria, it cares nothing if all perish as long as its god of self-righteousness is appeased.

Buhari signed the budget and wrote it off immediately. And the National Assembly replied on Friday with a 34-paragraph statement. It listed 24 items which it said were additions it made to the 2018 Appropriation Bill. These, it said, were done “after full consultations, and in many cases, requests by the Executive branch through the Ministry of Budget and National Planning.” The presidency, again, reacted almost immediately with a strong four-paragraph counter-statement headlined: “Further clarifications on the distorted 2018 budget.”

The lawmakers made several points which interest me. I take just one. The Enugu Airport project. The president alleged that the allocation for this project was cut from N2 billion to N500 million by our legislators, including the Igbos among them. The lawmakers’ statement reminded the president that the entire contract sum was N2 billion and his government had paid N1.7 billion to the contractor leaving a balance of N300 million. It even quoted Buhari’s aviation minister as confirming that fact in a recent media report. Could that be true?  If that is the truth, who then misled the president to appropriate N2 billion where N300 million was needed? Unfortunately, the president’s four-paragraph statement did not address this point. What happened?

The National Assembly is supposed to be the closest to the Nigerian people. Sadly, it is the most perfidious in aloofness. It has so much disdain for good conduct and decorum in private and public conduct. An assembly of lawmakers that gleefully announced that each of them eats N13 million a month cannot enjoy people’s confidence and love from a hungry nation. That is why it has been very easy for a loud, ineffectual executive to drown its voice even when it has a case. A wise legislature that wants to be patriotic with public funds won’t, for instance, increase its own allocation.

Wisdom should have hinted it not to do so even if the executive suggested it. You cut funds from capital projects and increased funds voted for the inanities of your fancy and you don’t think you should be whipped! The National Assembly lacked the wisdom to resist the temptations to misuse its power over the yam and the knife – and that is one of the most debilitating poisons it took in that budgeting exercise. It spoilt its case. It strengthened the case of Buhari who has declared that because of the “distortions,” he might not be able to implement the budget. That was a post-dated alibi for possible failure. And it is very common in the narratives of this government.

They fight and Nigerians suffer. And they don’t care. Grasses wither as our feuding elephants carry on with their ego wars. The people suffer, businesses die daily, turbulence reigns everywhere and our guardian angels are not in the cockpit. They are with the cabin crew, fighting unnecessary wars. And the passengers are where? They collude and take sides in a war between their common adversaries. Irony. And to the pilot, the co-pilots, cabin crew and passengers, Lagbaja shakes his head – and again warns:

Mo sorry fun gboogbo yin o (I am sorry for all of you)/ Mo sorry fun gbogbo yin lokookan/ (I am sorry for all of you individually) Tie ba ba yi je mo sorry fun gboogbo yin o ( If you spoil this, I am sorry for all of you)/ Mo sorry fun gbogbo yin lokookan  (I am sorry for all of you individually).

Truly, counting the costs these years, we should indeed be sorry for ourselves.

An Ibadan Story For Buhari’s Nigeria By Lasisi Olagunju

HISTORY is bold and brainy. It is a learned teacher of the wise. Every leader by his acts of commission or omission writes his history. One hundred and twenty one years ago in Ibadan, there was a change of guard in the traditional headship. The Baale died and a new one was installed. The new Baale came with a solemn promise to sanitize and develop the rapidly growing city. And he actually did a lot of reforms while flying on the wings of the British. The 12-member town council he established to drive his reforms introduced an intense war against indiscipline. He banned open defecation; introduced environmental sanitation and comprehensive healthy disposal of corpses of victims of smallpox. On 9 August, 1897, Ibadan had a prison yard for safekeeping of deviants. The Baale also supervised the recruitment of Ibadan sons into the colonial army.

Side by side the reforms came security challenges. Thieves and killers operated in broad daylight. They moved about on horseback and even had “battle cries.” The Baale and his council members looked away; or their body language said they were not bothered at all. The town was terrorised; the people were helpless. The trauma was worsened by the complicit, cold disposition of the rulership to the people’s ordeal. The town greatly suspected the Baale and his chiefs of profiting from the brigandage. On 16 July, 1898, one of the chiefs was openly accused of supporting the tormentors of the town and he paid fines. Insecurity continued its reign. The Baale still had no answer to the security issues.

But Ibadan had a Balogun, a no-nonsense man of integrity. Balogun was a torn in the flesh of the errant Baale who prayed hard to be weaned of the intrusions of the man of war. Then the Balogun died suddenly on 5 February, 1899 and the Baale could not hide his joy. Free at last from this war hero who had ruled the regimes of three Baales before the present. From that point moving forward, the Baale heaved a sigh of relief. He could now step out, enjoy his throne and be seen for who he truly was. He asked the Alaafin to make him the Bashorun of Ibadan. The Iku Babayeye could not say no. The strongman of Ibadan had his way. He became the Bashorun and over 100 Obas across Yorubaland came to pay homage to him at his installation. History says no Baale of Ibadan before and after him enjoyed such pomp.

Every honeymoon has a closing glee. Installation ceremonies over, thieves and assassins reasserted their hold on the city. Their exiled leader came back home on horseback with drums and flutes. The town became a city of bandits; murderers became kins of the palace. Thieves graduated to armed robbers. Helpless townsmen watched robbers stomp the streets on midday robbery expeditions. The robbers even had a special song: “We are the ones that will ruin this town.” They had special drumbeats; distinctive flute sounds. They robbed and killed the heady who stood on their way. Many homes became desolate and deserted. The town was threatened. The Bashorun was not bothered, was not aware of anything or was complicit. His interest was his reign and the sweet scent of palace intrigues. The renegades too became emboldened by the inaction of power and its leashes. They knew a Nero was in charge.

The twentieth century came and the Bashorun grew very confident of his powers and ways. He backed the British and their land reforms. He supported the introduction of tenement rates and taxes. The people were yoked with burdens of fines and more fines. And they were helpless – but they enjoyed the good things their fathers didn’t enjoy. There was money from trade and business with the white man. Then the Bashorun started selling land to the white man. He enjoyed the money and the bottles of gin that came with the transactions. He intensified and escalated the business into all land the purchaser fancied. As he stole people’s land, armed robbers stole their money and cloths.

Then the people and their chiefs revolted. One day in May 1901, a rally in front of the Bashorun’s house was all the people needed to prove the fire in their hearts. The leader thought he could talk himself out of trouble but things got out of hand. There was commotion. There was a scramble for stones – the devil was to be pelted even though the people were not on pilgrimage. Stones were about to be hauled at the Bashorun and his District Officer-backer. Then a mysterious sudden rainstorm descended on the town and dispersed the incensed crowd.

It was a season of mixed blessings. There was money in privileged pockets; there was impunity too which profited the palace. It was during the reign of this Bashorun that wife-snatching became institutionalised. It was widespread- and so was the spectacle of wife snatchers running mad. Wife losers might not have money, but they didn’t lack malevolent spells with which they wrenched sanity away from wife poachers. Great things came too. Railways entered Ibadan during the reign of this Bashorun. Roads were constructed linking vital parts of the town from Oja’ba. But then, every drug has an expiry date. One sunny day in April 1902, the sun set on the forehead of this ruler. His era ended and the people looked at the balance sheet; they counted their profits and losses. And what does history say of him today? History says this Bashorun, an orator, was wise in his ways; his reign epochal in development but it was vitiated by insecurity from unrestrained banditry and armed robbery. He failed to secure his people and was recorded as a failure. The story is best enjoyed in raw Yoruba where I picked this narration from. It is there, very well told by Oba I.B. Akinyele in his Iwe Itan Ibadan (1911:129-138).

History engages the future with cheers and jeers. Whatever was seen in that bit of Ibadan history and all other histories had been presaged. Hundreds of years before Ibadan was born, imperial Rome had a number of emperors to whom nothing else mattered apart from power. There was Nero who fiddled while Rome burnt. Like the Baale who surrendered his powers to daylight robbers, Nero “allowed his wife and mother to rule for him and then had them murdered,…confiscated senators’ property and severely taxed the people.” Some commentators, however, said that although he was very skillful in playing the lyre, it was not certain that he was “fiddling” while Rome burned; but that is what history says he did! There was Emperor Maximinus who “exhausted his empire with war.” There was also Commodus (180-192 AD) who outsourced his powers completely to strange people around him. A historian said “the nicest thing said of him was that he was not wicked but that he was so stupid that he allowed wicked friends to take control of his reign.” Yet another historian said Commodus “surrendered control of his palace to his freedmen and praetorian prefects who then sold imperial favours.” The verdict of history is that he was an absentee leader.

The makers of our constitution said security is the primary reason our government exists. Herdsmen do their killings unchecked. You don’t have the king behind you and be cowardly. That is what the swag of the murderers tells. Last week, our defence minister insisted herders must be allowed to graze their cows anywhere. Appeasement was his recommended punishment for mass murder. We shook our heads for him and for our country. Then Buhari released an epochal statement and we had cause to celebrate. Our president had a change of heart on Moshood Abiola and the June 12, 1993 election. The statement honouring Abiola and June 12 was personally signed by Muhammadu Buhari and the nation carried our president shoulder-high and applauded his smart move. We clapped for him and wished he personally took charge of the nation’s security too. Side by side the news of Abiola and June 12 was the news that herdsmen had resumed killings in Benue and shut 35 primary schools in Nasarawa. The government maintained a straight face and continued savouring the sweet public relations of the smart June 12 move.

Every leader decides how he wants to be remembered. Security issues are sensitive matters, very personal to citizens across ages. Security always trumps every other regime acts and distractions. Emperor Nero was not a total failure. He got some things right, but history remembers only how he reacted while Rome was on fire. Buhari’s friend, Abacha, truly built roads and hospitals but he is remembered forever for the killings and other atrocities of his government. Their common friend, Ibrahim Babangida, introduced Primary Health Care, built the Third Mainland Bridge, Egbin Thermal Plant and Abuja City among several other stellar projects and programmes. No one talks about these today, yesterday; none will likely do so tomorrow. The only thing history talks about when IBB is mentioned is that he annulled the June 12 election.

Today’s leaders who look away as herdsmen move from North to South, killing the young and murdering the old will also leave office one day. Unless Buhari stops the killings and takes justice to the murderers who claim to be herders, whatever else he does, the history of his reign will be that of herdsmen and their bloodletting.

Why Not A Too-Old-To-Run Law? By Lasisi Olagunju

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.

A Day To Mourn Ourselves By Lasisi Olagunju

What will happen if you break the law? A colleague based in Kano told me at the weekend that Southern Nigeria wastes itself obeying the law. Where he lives, he said, there is no such encumbrances as law and morality. Whatever serves you is sanctioned, and everyone knows. It is a free world, a democratic state of nature. My colleague stressed that up north, the law bends and serves elite-interest. He was talking about security; about accountability in government; about the coming elections and the ones of the past. Kano voters gave two million votes – all valid- in 2015. It can give anyone five million votes in future; if you like in the south, you can keep shouting underage voters, card readers etc, that is your problem, he told me. Interesting.

People who cut corners and get away with it think others are fools. Like uncontrolled leprosy, lawlessness is seeping in and afflicting the whole nation. My friend said when you engage opponents who do not obey rules, it is stupidity to play by the rule. It is worse when even the referee is blind to the rule of the game. “If Kano can deliver five million votes, who says Lagos cannot deliver seven million?” He asked. And I chorused: Why not? – if the law is waived for all! But the spirit of disobedience does not evenly perch on all players. There are still people who prefer the foolishness of obedience to the adulation that comes with unearned epaulets. Is it not said that it is the lunatic who thinks the monkey is not wise? Monkey is not foolish, it is wise; only that it has its own logic!

Rejecting the law has consequences. Cutting corners  has a prime advantage: You arrive earlier than the law-abiding. But that is where it ends; it soon comes back to haunt the unworthy. Not obeying rules has consequences — one of which is the fact that the North truly has political power which has not served it positively. Its politics has produced for it a super-rich elite. But it has also hatched an ocean of very ordinary people wracked by poverty; by disease; by insecurity. The streets of the north are home to denizens of addiction to everything negative. A system of infractions will drink blood. And it is guzzling just that in the north. It has bounteous harvests of insecurity and killings everyday across its swath of territory. The joy of political power abduction now manifests in sobs of sorrow and mourning. Thousands have died; hundreds are dying; millions have been displaced.

“In February, 21 villagers were killed in an attack by suspected herdsmen in three communities in the Atakad district of Kaura, Kaduna State. Witnesses said the herdsmen killed, looted and burned the villagers’ houses. In June, a communal clash in the Mambilla Plateau of Taraba State left scores of people dead, mostly herdsmen and their families. In September, at least 20 people were killed when suspected herdsmen invaded Ancha village in the Miango district of Jos, Plateau state… In October, 27 people were killed by suspected herdsmen in a classroom where they were sheltering after three days of attacks in the Nkyie-Doghwro community of Bassa, Plateau State. In December, herdsmen attacked at least five villages in Demsa LGA in Adamawa State to avenge the massacre of up to 57 people, mostly children, in November in nearby Kikan community. Residents described being attacked by a fighter jet and a military helicopter as they attempted to flee. At least 86 people were killed by the herdsmen and air force bombing.” That is a quote from the latest report of Amnesty International on Nigeria. It is a summary of the state of our north. The Nigerian government does not like the report at all. It says the report is untrue. What then is true?

Eight out of Nigeria’s 36 states are gory killing fields. Let us count them: You have Boko Haram’s Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.  Killer herdsmen, cattle rustlers and ‘mystery gunmen’ have added Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna and Zamfara to Nigeria’s zones of death. The first three are in the North-East, three others are in the North Central; Zamfara and Kaduna are in the North-West.  Three out of Nigeria’s six zones are burial grounds. In the remaining 28 states, there are several dark patches of death vitiating people’s existence. And it is getting worse! Everyday, someone somewhere is killed and someone is buried while unhinged murderers gather ingredients for their next feast of blood. As the living bury the dead, they also prepare for their own burial. You cannot live in these lakes of blood and be sure of being alive this time tomorrow. Life in these states is same as in the wild world of nature: brutal, brutish, bloody, short.

Killers have redefined the economy of our captured states. The states have become thriving markets for death merchandise, skills and services. Hospitals there are no longer for care of the living; they are vaults for keeping butchered corpses. In these dark corners of Nigeria, coffin makers are the nouveau riche. They produce and sell wholesale for mass burials. And they sell every day. Tailors have long stopped looking forward to sewing Sallah and Christmas dresses. Sallah and Christmas are dead festivals there. Or, they are festivals for the dead in these places. Tailors have diversified. They’ve learnt to mass-produce shrouds, burial cloths of various sizes. And they sell every day. Grave diggers roam the streets looking for mass graves to dig. Murderers provide market for their skills; their coarse palms every day have work to do. That is what Nigeria has become: a country for the dead and the soon to die —  All because there are no consequences for crime.

We keep the claim that we have defeated Boko Haram; But the enemy mocks us as we revel in self-adulation. It continues its campaign of death unfazed. Boko Haram came and blossomed in the era of the PDP, the party that self-destructed in 2015. Boko Haram is a group with a record 20,000 dead victims and over two million displaced persons. The Jonathan government did not do enough; it was derelict and we changed it. But the self-righteous Buhari government, since its coming in 2015, has magically ‘defeated’ Boko Haram more than three times.

The statistics of the ‘defeat’ is a sad reminder that “time present is time past.” A BBC report credited the terror group with 967 deaths from 150 assault and suicide attacks in 2017. That was an increase from the 2016 figure of 910 deaths from 127 attacks. Another report claimed the group has killed 3,900 children in the last three years. How many more have been murdered in 2018? The year is still young but the horror figures keep growing daily.

Killer herdsmen are terrorists. This is what our government does not want to say – and does not want to hear. The Global Terrorism Index in 2015 listed Fulani militants (herdsmen) as the fourth deadliest terror group in the world. The first three were Boko Haram, ISIS and Al-Shabab. The Global Terrorism Index noted in its 2017 report that “Fulani extremists in the Middle Belt … undertook more attacks and were responsible for more deaths than Boko Haram in 2016.” In 2013, this group killed 80; in 2014, it killed 847 across five states; Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State said last week that between January and May this year, murderous herdsmen had killed 425 persons in his state alone. Professor Wole Soyinka described what is going on as ethnic cleansing. Amnesty International is concerned just like all persons with conscience around the world. It said the atrocities of these herdsmen and the response of the Buhari government were unacceptable.

In a January 2018 report, it said: “The Nigerian authorities’ response to communal violence is totally inadequate, too slow and ineffective, and in some cases unlawful. Clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Ondo and Kaduna resulted in 168 deaths in January 2018 alone. Hundreds of people lost their lives last year, and the government is still not doing enough to protect communities from these violent clashes. Worse, the killers are getting away with murder.” That was in January 2018. How many more have joined the dead since that report? And have the killers stopped getting away with murder?

President Muhammadu Buhari came back home months ago with a tough broadcast. He claimed the IPOB had crossed the nation’s redline by demanding freedom for Igboland. Operation Python Dance promptly followed that broadcast and the stubborn was beaten off the redline. When is our president going to make a special broadcast on killings by herdsmen? Or have the killers not crossed “our national redlines”? Why has there been no audio or video sound bite of our president attacking these murderers who kill and stroll away? Why is it difficult for the Buhari government to declare killer herdsmen as terrorists? Is there something this government knows that we don’t know?

Tomorrow is a public holiday in Nigeria. It is called Democracy Day. I hope our president will put herdsmen in his broadcast. I hope he will mention our locked up hospitals. A group, Joint Nigeria Crisis Action Committee (JN-CAC), is kickstarting the celebrations with today named as Nigeria’s Day of Mourning. The group claims that “in the first 70 days of 2018, over 1,400 persons were killed violently across the country – an average of nearly 40 (persons) per state and the Federal Capital Territory.”  For three consecutive years (2015, 2016 and 2017), Nigeria has jealously maintained its reputation as the third most terrorized country in the world. That is what the World Terrorism Index says. Iraq and Afghanistan are its only senior brothers. A common denominator among the three is the defiant question: What will happen if I break the law? Breach of respect for the law and the rule of law naturally breaches peace and happiness for all. Wherever lawlessness reigns, there can’t be peace of mind. Iniquity is a breeder of pangs of pains. When the state mints excuses for law breakers, they are encouraged to do more. Tomorrow is Democracy Day and there will be no work. Can we also ensure that there are no avoidable deaths tomorrow? How do we do that?  Peace will reign, killings will stop when our country (and our government) ensures that the law is obeyed at all times and all murders are seen as crime.

2019: The Final Battle Of The Generals By Lasisi Olagunju

When crocodiles eat their own eggs, let frogs run and run. Because of the 2019 elections, an intra-class war is currently raging among a special breed of Nigerians. I call their exclusive enclave the Generals Club.  These are a lucky set of army officers who either staged the counter-coup of July 1966 or benefitted from it. That was a coup that forever changed the fortune of Nigeria and its inhabitants. The young officers came, seized and squeezed Nigeria into their suffocating cubicle. They came and became our permanent landlords. They built all the good things; they also enthroned all the bad things. Today’s loud demands for restructuring is a rejection of these gentlemen’s conundrum.

The Generals fighting this 2019 war are ruthless. They very rarely take prisoners of their victims. From 29th to 31st July, 1966, the ones their bullets missed, they buried alive in very deep graves.  They were young, dazzling and ambitious. Flamboyant and immensely courageous, they took great risks and reaped bountifully. With daredevil thuds, they put their feet on the blood of friends and foes to jump to stardom. They did what they did in 1966 and have since refused to let go of Nigeria. When they got their Operational Order that eerie night in July 1966 and started distributing weapons, they did not know they were in for a long haul. The civil war came, they killed and earned greater reputations and more epaulettes.

They are so daring they put rhyme and rhythm into their operations. The first act was on July 29,1966. Exactly nine years after, on July 29, 1975, they consolidated their hold, sacking their Commander-in-Chief. In 1979 they handed over to civilians; they did same twenty years after in 1999. The year 2019 is another 20 years, we look forward to what they have for us. They are encouraged to go on because we have offered them no resistance. Our reaction to their everything, good and bad, has been to lie supine and take them as they come. And they must be very amused at our hopeless indolence. They have their fingers on every pie of Nigeria. They hold the yam and the knife and have never hesitated to cut off any impudent finger that touched their pie uninvited.

Old soldiers don’t die, they fade away. Many of them, like neon lights, have faded away. The ones living and kicking are the everlasting lords of the land.  One of them is our president, Muhammadu Buhari. Another is his friend, Ibrahim Babangida.  There is also billionaire retired General Yakubu Danjuma. There was Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Major-General. This one was described by Andrew Young as “handsome, humble, charismatic.” He died in the cell of one of them, Sani Abacha. Their leader was Murtala Mohammed, who didn’t live long. He died at 38, a four-star General and Head of State. Murtala was mercurial, courageous and tempestuous. Bola Ige described him (in his early days) as “the Captain who drove about (Ibadan) in his car and would point his gun at any taxi-driver whom he considered undisciplined.”  There was the “textbook commander,” General Mohammed Shuwa. His Commander-in-Chief said he was “an exceptionally good commander.” Shuwa fought wars and didn’t die in battle. But he fell at home, a few years ago, at the hands of Boko Haram.

Then there is the big boss, General Olusegun Obasanjo, who has refused to age and fade. Obasanjo was Murtala’s senior in the army but became his second-in-command after they dethroned their boss, Yakubu Gowon. When Col. B.S. Dimka took down Murtala, the lot fell on Obasanjo to govern Nigeria in February 1976, a few days to his 39th birthday. Obasanjo and his class lived their lives fully in their prime, holding their destinies in the cusp of their palms. More than fifty years after their first coming and forty years after retirement, the living among them are still not tired; they still cook and serve us to themselves.

Politicians have started their 2019 wars. The Generals are laughing at amateurs firing live ammo at party congresses. Let the bloody civilians break heads and blast bones. That is their problem, the living will bury the dead. The problem of the Generals is how to keep their country. Nigeria is theirs to keep for their tribe. And they always have their way. They must always give us a president. They did in the past; they will next year. In very difficult times, they put forward any of their stock to hold the reins. In 1999 they made their boss our president. In 2015, they made one of them our president. In 2019, head or tail, it will be their show. They matter in these matters and you ignore them to your sorrow. When coups were fashionable, their nod made a difference on D-Day. Ask Dimka; ask Gideon Orkar. Now that coups have run out of fashion and democracy is the way to paradise, they have quickly rebranded. They have become the keepers of the gate of democracy.

We run to them for solutions even when they are the problem. Among them we pick messiahs, integrity and navigators. They were one solid bloc in 2015 and we had only one choice. Today, they are in factions, both sides deadly. That makes the coming polls very foreboding. Crocodiles will use their own eggs for supper; fish will eat fish for dinner. Let fragile crabs crawl away from the brewing battle.

Watch out for them. They insist they are patriots. Even when their leopard eats buffalo’s calf, they say it is for public good. But what have they done with Nigeria? In thought and sayings they claim they love Nigeria. Its unity is non-negotiable, they would say. Finicky monkey does not like the shape of his baby’s eyes; he adjusted and readjusted the eyes – then pushed them into sockets of ugliness. The Generals are the monkey. Between Gowon, Murtala, Obasanjo and their boys, Nigeria ceased to exist as a federation. They seized what belonged to the regions and gave the centre. They took the University of Ife; took the Western Nigeria Television, the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service. They seized the Daily Times, seized New Nigeria newspapers. They changed the currency; introduced a National Pledge and gave us a new National Anthem. Their boys, Buhari, Babangida and Sani Abacha, completed the rout. Till date, we are still singing their songs. North, East and West, they closed  every window Nigeria had for ventilation. They said it was out of their love for Nigeria. They still say so.

We look up to them for the choices we make. They know they are the messiahs. One of them insists he is contesting next year. The band leaders are saying they would give us a better choice. Head or tail, the story is about them and their taste. Even if you won’t vote, you still can’t escape their grip. Beyond the big ones we know, there are their boys and the boys of their boys everywhere. The exclusive club has members in unusual places. You can’t understand them. They overlap in actions and designs. Every race is theirs to win. They are concentric in operations. There are several ones seemingly minding their businesses. There is Sani Bello, ADC to Aguiyi Ironsi, now retired Colonel. Bello is quiet but deeply involved in telecoms, oil and gas, power sector, construction, etcetera, etcetera. Sani Bello belongs to no political party but his son is the current Niger State governor. General Gado Nasko, 77 years old, is a quiet farmer in Nasko village in Niger State. Like Bello, he also belongs to no political party but, in the last election, his son was the opponent of the current Niger State governor.  You see, head or tail, they win. There are others quietly controlling our affairs. Read their stories.

But these men did not become our husbands by carrying shoes for politicians. They were not like today’s overgrown boys who chase out judges for unknown causes. The Generals, in their youth, had self-esteem and went for their game. They paid their dues. They were no eaters of leftovers. Up till today, if they desire the food in your plate, they won’t beg; they’ll shake the table. That explains why there is no boardroom that is a boardroom without their fingerprints. They are men of power and money and good sense. Jointly and severally, they are the face of the class which has made and broken Nigeria since its debut. They did great and horrible things in equal measure. They broke Nigeria from four regions to 36 states. They built Abuja from a jungle; they built the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos; they gave Nigeria Kainji Hydro Power Plant and, later, Egbin Thermal Station. Remember, they also created this Nigeria of anything goes. They are Nigeria in its present good and bad forms.

Watch closely the coming battle of the Generals. They don’t fight and lose. When they fight, their opponents must fall. Now, they are at war and we are taking sides. Where witches are fighting, should an invalid go there to interlope? They are lining us up for their fight. We are all on the queue, abusing, even shooting at one another. Did you not watch the viral video of a party’s thugs in Port Harcourt last week? Those yelling at, shooting and locking up a high court complex in Rivers, how old were they?  Were they older than our Generals when they rose and pocketed our country?

What should our own be in all these? Ours should be a quiet push to make this tug the Generals’ very last battle. None of them retired after age 50 – but they still rule. Indeed, one of them was in the army for just 19 years; and he retired a three-star General with pockets of gold. Think. Instead of burdening your destiny with inheriting their enemies, why not wake up and cast off your chains?

Now, the elections are here. The Generals’ crocodiles appear set to eat their own eggs. It is a familiar treat for them. But I fear for frogs who don’t have fathers and are dabbling in these waters of wile and guile. When the big men started life, their solemn vow was to live by the sword and die by the sword. They swore to fight and die on land, at sea and in the air. They trained hard to keep their heads while others lose theirs. And the street of Nigeria is littered with skulls of their victims.

But today, they fight. They are feuding over the next presidential election, not for you but for their clan. Ailing and flailing Buhari wants another term; his comrades-at-arms are saying enough, he must go back home and play with his grandkids. They are one and the same. We must assist both sides to make 2019 their last outing. Only then can we sit back and sit down to count our losses and pick the broken bits and pieces. But before then, we must see the coming war of the warlords as portentous. Already, the drummer is asking who owns the farm between the two tenacious claimers. Is it the wilds rabbit or the farmer’s trap? We will soon know that we have no share in this house of the Generals. Let us continue our walk of ignorance slowly and surely into the bowels of 2019. But let that year be the year of retirement of the Generals.

The Kosewe Kosegbo Voters Of 2019 By Lasisi Olagunju

(Published In the Nigerian Tribune Newspapers of May 7, 2018)

The stuffs are so many now. It is not just codeine and its cough syrup. Shisha’s fumes compete with the plumes of Sango. There is Kerewa; there is Ogidiga; there is Bajinatu. There are many more. The song is Kosewe, huh, Kosegbo; the chorus is Oju ti dirty! Our eyes are truly dirty and it is not funny. We mix desert water with the springs of Lagos. We take codeine and embrace tramadol. We turn gutter water to “chemical” – we say it is our tonic. We can’t be normal; and we are not. Olamide’s song speaks and it is to the shame of our youth: “Kerewa, perm e! Ogidiga, perm e! Bajinatu, perm e! Nap e!” How does that sound to an omoluabi; a person of character? When you take codeine with APC elerin you are not likely to remain the same. If you don’t lose your kidney, you lose your balance. Nigeria is original Omo Science Student.

Wole Soyinka’s hordes stink because ‘they eat garlic.’ Nigeria’s strange voters reek rape not because they enjoy rape. Look into their eyes – they are addicted to strange stuffs. Like common whores, they can’t do without collecting stuffs. They need them to remain high. They suffer the terminal illness of selling and eating. They add other addictive things – they are wedded to opioids. They dance Olamide and gulp codeine cough syrup as blood tonic.

They are science students. But they vote! The calm watch TV, they hardly vote. In their millions, Awon Omo Science Students choose our leaders. Our constitution says you must not be a “lunatic” and of “unsound mind” if you want to be voted for, but the authors of the law forgot to add that voters too must be sane before they can vote. The ancestors were wise. The personal qualifications for appointment as king are the same for kingmakers. You can’t choose if you are not choosable.

Yesterday’s votes were cast by Codeine, Tramadol and Ogidiga. On the queue for tomorrow’s elections are Shisha, Flaker, Colorado, Skushis and Monkey tail. Elections are about exchange of influence: top-bottom; bottom-top. Voters are democracy’s kingmakers. Because like attracts like, Opioid voters will joyfully elect codeine councillors; they will bond with kerewa senators, bajinatu governors, Shisha presidents.

Debates won’t stop to rage on why we are not putting our leaders through sanity tests. Why are we not asking the system to test voters for drug use and abuse; for mental balance? Can INEC give us leaders who are sane when millions who make the choice are hooked to one form of strange thing or the other? And when millions of drug addicts choose the leadership of a country, what results should the world expect? That was my thought as I spent the better part of last week pondering on the codeine cough syrup abuse reports that have dominated the media.

We are just being unfair to codeine. It is not the sole wrecker of the present and the future. There are several others, including the unthinkable. From pit latrines to dirty gutters, addicts forage for highs. But codeine is the current champion because it allowed itself to be caught overdoing it in Kano, in Lagos and in other places. One drug seller in Lagos boasted to the BBC that he could sell one million cartons of codeine cough syrup in one week.

And, he indeed, in one single transaction sold 60 bottles of the syrup to BBC journalists in a hotel room. Codeine is not just a kidney destroyer; its abuse wrenches sanity from its addicts. It takes away wellness and implants mental illnesses of varying severity. Psychosis, schizophrenia and more!

If Benue likes, let it continue to call itself Nigeria’s food basket. That is the only trophy it holds. North-West’s Kano and Jigawa States are champions in their own way. Three million bottles of codeine cough syrup are consumed there daily. And the North-West is the vote basket of Nigeria. It has a total registered voter figure of 18,505,984. In 2015, that zone gave our president, General Muhammadu Buhari, 7,115,199 votes. Out of that figure, Kano state alone gave Buhari two million votes. And it is said to be the drug addiction capital of Nigeria.

We used to worry about Indian hemp, about cocaine and heroine, etcetera, etcetera. This cough syrup addiction is somehow. Do we have an epidemic of coughs? There is no cough epidemic but there is an explosion of cough syrup consumption. The NDLEA recently seized 24,000 bottles of codeine syrup from a single factory in Katsina.

The NDLEA, according to a BBC report, says that in Kano for instance, the epidemic “crosses all class, no matter the level – rich and poor, educated and illiterate, beggars and toddlers.” Kano has a current total registered voters figure of 5,149,070; Jigawa has 1,935,799. Now, Kano and Jigawa take three million bottles of codeine cough syrup every day. And they will vote in 2019.

Drug abuse rains are falling over our country. This addiction is not strictly a Northern problem. The drug takers are everywhere from Kano to Port Harcourt. Even the government of Lagos State has cried out that mental health is a major issue, no thanks to these substances. But where are the leaders to stop it? Or is the free-fall deliberate? How many of the millions of voters were normal and well in 2015, and how many abnormal ones will choose the next set of leaders for us in 2019?

Awon Omo Science Students are everywhere. The problem is national, even continental. It is in Chad, in Niger and in Ghana. So, let NAFDAC clamp down on drug companies in Nigeria; it won’t stop the cancer. The opioids have established routes in the Sahel. Like herdsmen and their terrorism, they are indigenous to these arid places and our borders are smuggling-friendly.

It is an emergency situation but I don’t know if our president knows. The BBC described drug addiction as “an epidemic that is destroying young lives across West Africa.” We need leaders with ideas to defeat this evil and its allies. But we are in a vicious cycle. Who chooses leaders in a democracy? Leaders cannot be better than their creators. Now, how many of Nigeria’s 73.9 million registered voters are not Omo Science Students?

Senator Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai (APC, Borno) moved a motion late last year. He spoke the lyrics of Olamide: The eyes of the entire North are dirty. It is a big factory of drug addicts. There are “meaningless deaths” and devastation of many upper and middle class families in the region. The problem is destroying “even mothers in homes, as they use codeine and other drugs as an escape from their abusive relationships and invariably get hooked on them,” he said. The senator spoke about all the 19 northern states. What is happening in the south?

We are actually a nation on codeine. That should explain how we’ve managed to stave off the pains of our existence. Despite the pains, we are the happiest on earth. Money crisis for parents; admission palaver for children; unpaid salaries for father and mother; joblessness for graduate children. And the family must feed and live like human beings. Increased problems increase the dosage.

You forget your sorrows and pains when you are high on something. But Aroni won’t stay at home as long as Onikoyi won’t stop waging wars. As the pains come back, you seek better relief and take more of the pain killers. Increased dosage hooks the taker to take some more. And when he takes more, he increases the pace to psychosis. He starts living in his own world of dance without drumbeats. He lives a fantasy world complete with its own ‘painless’ realities. He falls in love with Olamide:

Kosewe, kosegbo; kosewe, kosegbo

Won ti po omi gutter po, oju ti dirty

Won ti po chemical po, awon omo Science Students…

Eemo wo’lu, eni ire lo, ore mi ti high, oh my God!

About 60 per cent of Nigeria’s voting population are young men and women. Majority of abusers of psycho-active substances are young people. A new generation of unwell persons is being bred, experts have warned. When a whole generation of voters has impaired relationship with reality, what leadership will it produce? Or what leadership has it produced? Like the kidneys of abusers of opioid stuffs, the country is failing but an army of (in)hailers won’t agree.

So many millions feel they are champions. They are Omo Science Students. They voted in 2015. They will vote in 2019. But you won’t vote because you are clean! Can you now understand why things are not what they seem; why reality is easily denied; why the unreal is the real; why the wise shocks with his belief in facades; why the eyes of tomorrow are dirty …And why the chorus is forever Kosewe, huh, Kosegbo….!?

Benue’s Murder In The Cathedral By Lasisi Olagunju

The wise continue to die daily on our lazy man’s farm, and there has been no explanation. Everyday, someone must die – and he dies violently – while we play ludo. Or we go on voyages of political discoveries; or we busy ourselves inaugurating wooden carts (omolanke) as dividend of democracy for children of the poor. People die daily at the hands of mystery gunmen, and we are yet to move all our leaders, like Dino Melaye, to the field of recall. All that matters to us are 2019 election matters.

A Catholic morning mass became a scene of mass murder in Benue. We gave it a glance and continued with our 2019 inanities. Big, small, rich, poor persons may be falling to avoidable deaths daily. We do not care because we are not the victims. We say we reject it; we won’t be among the dead. We have a destiny to contest elections next year. We will even contest in the year 2023. We won’t answer dark questions on how many of us will be around to be part of the 2019 elections. Killing is the new sport of northern Nigeria. The solution won’t come until the leech kills the dog, or the dog owner takes out the leech.

The bird of shrillness calls repeatedly and blood drips from its beak. It insists that even if its mouth tears to the occiput, it won’t stop calling for justice. What was the offence of those murdered Benue priests and church members? One of the priests cried out on January 3 this year. He said he was “living in fear” of murderous herdsmen.

“The Fulanis are still around us here,” he wrote. “They refuse to go…They still go grazing around. No weapon to defend ourselves.” That Reverend Father, Gor Joseph, lost faith in the Nigerian state long before he was murdered. He lost his life last week to the very thing he feared in January. “No weapon to defend ourselves” was a clear vote of no confidence in the Nigerian state. He did not know he was writing the foreword of his own obituary.

Father Gor Joseph is lying cold in one overwhelmed morgue, somewhere in Benue. For him, the beat has stopped; he no longer has fears for herdsmen and the powers behind them. His lamentations over the lack of weapons to defend his people have expired. Lamentations and fears are for the living. President Muhammadu Buhari has paid billions for 12 Tuscano helicopters to fight the murderers.

The helicopters will arrive in 2020. When these weapons arrive, they tell us old things shall pass away. There will be no more murders in the cathedral. No more hiding place for killers of men, women and children. But that will be in the year 2020 – seven hundred and thirty days from today.

People are dying because cows are dying. What, really, is not dying in Nigeria? Our president said so in Bauchi last week. Muhammadu Buhari, in an unusual depth, told his crowd of peasant farmers and cattle men: “Now there is desertification everywhere; there are no longer bushes around. We have gone to the bushes and cut down the trees. In doing so, we have destroyed the farmlands. Even then, the rains are no longer promising.”

In those few words, he captured the tragedy of the North and, even, of the South. For the cow Fulani, the grass has disappeared; the grazing field is no more. He now turns on his neighbours, killing, maiming, displacing. I wish he knew that killing farmers and priests won’t give him grass to feed his cow. He should sit and think; things have changed. He must learn quickly and change his ways and business model too.

Buhari said so in Bauchi. But for luck that gave him education, the president said he would have been a herdsman also fighting for grazing field on other people’s land. Hear him: “Now, look at the farmers/herdsmen’s clashes in the northern part of this country. I have been telling people that if I had not gone to school, I would not have gone into the military. Where I come from, I would have been involved in this fight since my cows must be fed and the grazing grounds are finished now.”

Everything is finished and we think the way out is for fish to eat fish. Soon, very soon, the biggest fish will eat the last fish and the ocean will expire.

What is the way out? Buhari proffered education as the solution. “It is only sound education that will benefit you and the society,” he told his people. I wish they listened. I wish he took this campaign round his people in all the far northern states. I wish they knew too that education for its own sake is not the messiah. It won’t be enough to save them in this age of dearth and death of everything. The South has education in excess, but everything that we grew up to cherish has disappeared or is disappearing.

The jobs are dying: the civil service is dead; the private sector is gasping for breath. Banks in the 1970s and 1980s and 1990 – even up till the turn of the century – never engaged casual workers. Now, jobs there are outsourced. Graduates from Ivy League universities are now casualised in banks. They get paid the salary of OND holders. That outsourced worker is an outsider. He is not an insider with rights. His rights died the moment he stepped into that job. If armed robbers kill him on the job, his family has no claim on the bank. His widow or widower can only weep at the door of the outsourcing company, not at the bank’s. The bank didn’t know him.

Everything that is not dead is dying. Because today’s teachers have jobs without pay, they now work without teaching. Medical doctors beg to work so that they can at least feed themselves. Even the media that weeps everyday more than the bereaved, where is its life? Every year, universities and polytechnics produce media men and women.

They say they are well trained and therefore must work. But how many new newspapers have been established anywhere in the world in the last 10 years? How many existing ones are not getting choked by the economy and that encroacher called the internet? Just like Northern Nigeria, the space is shrinking and the population is exploding.

What is not dying here? I can think of one: the phenomenon we call ‘social party’. It is reinventing itself. ‘Good’ education is rebranding it. The lawyer who can’t get briefs is now a wedding planner. Media people whose jobs have left them now bake cakes; they call it designer cakes. Aso Ofi which Lagosians renamed Aso Oke is no longer from Oke. It is dead at Ilu Oke where it was born. We are now importing Aso Oke from China. Fashion houses owned by graduates and ex-workers who have brains are living on all sorts of Aso.

The formal sector of the economy may be dying; the social sector is thriving. The Owanbe has become a vital sector of our economy with everyone subscribing to it. Before, the amala you ate at burials came wrapped in leaves or cellophane bags; now it comes hot, straight from the hearth. That is Southern Nigeria. Let the North think too and reinvent its life. It cannot continue to make others suffer for its leadership failure.
So much digression from the killing and dying in Benue.

But was it really a digression? The dead and the missing will meet one day – soon. The affliction called desertification may have eaten the fertility of the land of Northern Nigeria. It has had no effect on the virility of men and women there. They are ever fertile and producing. As their rich politicians think of the next elections, the poor there think of the next erection without thinking condom.

The Middle Belt and the South now feel the heat. The push and the pull factors get pronounced: drought, crop failure and ‘unemployment’ up North; enough rains and great yields in the south; insecurity at home, security down south. Sometimes the pull factors are mere myths – like the ones dragging the youths of the south to Europe. It is the same pushing the ‘arid’ north to the ‘fertile’ South.

Our ancestors warned us: When you see your neighbour eat all sorts of poisonous insects, cry out. If you keep quiet, you won’t have any sleep at night. Ask Benue, Plateau, Taraba people. The movement of blood is now looking south. Or is there any southern town that is not experiencing increased northern immigration?

And the numbers move up every day with all the unpleasant potential. To restore the beauty of the land, the lump and the boil must be put to shame. You don’t do that with inadequate prescription. The Christian Association of Nigerian (CAN) may protest forever; it won’t stop the killings coming from the far North. Let us restructure Nigeria. Let the leaders of the North accept first that Nigeria is sick. Let them know too that no medicine works from its gourdlet. Let them know that a medicine works when it is administered in the right dosage.

Right education for the young of the north is the solution. Fortunately, Buhari, the leader they trust, appears to have abandoned his love for grazing routes and cattle colonies. He has finally seen education as the way out. Let us hope they listen to him.

Let the south assist them to listen to their idol on this education thing. That is the route to a future of peace between the north and the south. Except we help the north sort itself out, the situation will soon boil over. And Benue will be remembered as a mere prelude to Armageddon.

Nigeria’s Lazy Conversation By Lasisi Olagunju

In 2014, Richard Dunne made a dubious history by becoming the highest own goal scorer in Premier League history. He scored ten of such backward goals – six at Manchester City, three at Aston Villa and the tenth at QPR. President Muhammadu Buhari is in the same class. He loves exhibiting a raw talent for slamming the ball into his own net. He scored a loud one at the Commonwealth last week. Our president mortally hurt his army of youthful worshippers. Buhari announced to the whole world that a lot of Nigerian youths under his care “do nothing,” “have not been to school” and yet want everything, including education and health, free of charge.

That London gaffe was a blow that has left his fans of “illiterate” youths dazed. But the one who burnt down the village barn would have at least one ardent lover. And you know, when in love, the other person comes first in care and happiness. Wounded and alarmed, lovers of Buhari quickly recovered and reached for clean water to bathe their idol, hence the sly attempt to drag Chief Obafemi Awolowo into the Buhari ‘lazy’ talk. They claim that what Buhari said in 2018, Awo had also said 44 years ago. They claim that Chief Awolowo in 1974 said the trouble with Nigerian youths was that they slept too much. And they quoted him copiously.

It was easy for Buharists and Buharideens to cut and paste Awo’s sentence. They won’t cut and paste the context of the statement. Chief Awolowo spoke in the context of having access to free education as an inalienable right of every citizen. Where that access was provided and some persons still preferred sleep over learning was what he condemned. General Buhari is the opposite of Awo. He did not speak as a philosopher on the same wave length with Awo. Unlike Chief Awolowo, President Buhari made “doing something” a condition for accessing free education and free health. That is Buharism, not Awoism – and it is quite revealing. If you don’t like my drift, go and read our president again.

The president for the first time spoke about free education. And what did he say? His verdict is that the Nigerian youth must work before qualifying for free education. That is the opposite of what Awo stood for. If Awo’s welfarist position was the thesis, Buhari’s blot was the very antithesis. And this too: I thought a man cannot lose an in-law unless he has a wife; but with General Buhari, a bachelor can validly claim that his in-law is dead. Is it logical for someone who does not want to be educated to be demanding free education? Our president did not ask himself that question before he spoke in London on Wednesday. He claimed that “a lot of” the youths of his country “do not do anything” and “have not been to school”…yet they want “…education free of charge.” I do not understand our president. Can someone who has never gone to school and who does not want to be educated be, at the same time, said to be demanding free education? My English teacher taught me something about coherence and cohesion. I cannot see either in that presidential statement.

But why have we all stopped working since last week because President Buhari suggested that “a lot of the youths” of Nigeria are lazy bones? Everyone has not stopped whining since. Why are we angry? Is it not the truth that anyone who keeps his chains is a lazy fool? So, you do not know that a soul in fetters is an idle doll? If the youth is not lazy, he would do something and break the shackles.

“I was born a slave, but nature gave me the soul of a free man.” That was Toussaint Louverture’s engagement of his life of slavery. Louverture was the leader of the slaves who brought down France’s Saint-Dominique and created Haiti – their own country. Today, the Haitian revolution is proudly listed as “one of the most successful slave revolutions in world history.” The revolution did not just bring an end to slavery like other slave revolts, it moved a huge step forward by creating the world’s first country of ex-slaves. When is the Nigerian youth stepping out to create his own country of freedom?

To the rich and powerful, there is only one explanation for being poor, and that is indolence. The weak poor is powerless and poor because he is lazy. The slaves of Saint-Dominique revolted when they thought they had had enough of the oppression of their overlords. The cup of Nigeria too should be full one day. Until it is full, the kids of the poor will remain lazy and illiterate. My greatest fear is that when the bubble bursts in here, the ‘lazy’ will go for the wrong victims. The slaves will go for their defenceless defenders. There is the Irore bird in Yorubaland. Weak and threatened, it builds its nest close to bees and wasps. When it does that, it escapes the killing fingers of wanton boys. The slave owners of Nigeria are weak but they have moats around them. They are big men with incredible foresight. They do not live near their victims. They live in fortresses built of distance and weapons. They are wisely ensconced in cocoons of pleasure and calm and peace. They are far from the inanities of the madding crowd. They are safe and can proudly pronounce the youths of their country idle and uneducated.

Our president is bold, blunt and consistent. What he says in “the other room,” unreported, he goes to London to magnify. And you are in Nigeria, whining, stomping your feet on the canvas of power. What can the angry goat do to its confident owner? The mind of power is a marvel: If you are not lazy, you would be working in the Central Bank like their children. You would be in the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation like their in-laws.

I can imagine what remains in that mind that belched last week’s London declaration. And he didn’t see the horror on the white faces that heard him. That country he chose for that ‘lazy’ talk takes care of all its youths. It cares for young people in work; for young people looking for work; for young people in school; for young people out of school and for those looking for education. Our own leaders here look at the youth and his sweat and wonder what the problem is with him. They say even when the youth is allowed some privileges to have good jobs, he still insists on going to scavenge abroad. Because he is lazy, all he thinks about is traveling out to create problems for the white man in his own country. The president said so the last time he was out of Nigeria. The children of the lazy are the poor causing logjams hawking on the streets and at foreign embassies. No matter how much help you give them, they insist they must go to the dunghill to scavenge. A lion’s cub will never be seen walking the dense forest without the royal swag. Carrion is meat for vultures; leopards don’t eat rotten flesh.

Nigeria is hostile to the young. It is true. But the solution is not in short-cuts. President Buhari’s lovers would insist he was right. Maybe it is true that the Nigerian youth is laid back and lacks a vision of himself in freedom. They want gold without digging for it. Our president spoke what the white man said 300 years ago. A 1798 entry of the Encyclopedia Britannica accused the black man of: idleness, treachery, revenge, cruelty, impudence, stealing, lying, profanity, debauchery, nastiness and intemperance.”

Very extremely unfair, racist assessment! But whose fault? You won’t find that characterization in any encyclopedia today, but it does not mean that much has changed. What changed is the level of diplomacy of the white man. Today, some persons here, even if it would cost them election or reelection, won’t mind using these very words for their countrymen. The specimens used for that 18th century assessment were slaves sold abroad by their kith and kin. Today’s victims are those being forced by the system to sell themselves to slavery. But can you have your country by running away from it? “A friend just left a N1million-per-month job to relocate to Canada. That is like the 4th person around me relocating in the last six months. What is happening in Canada? It is getting scary.” That is from a very brilliant young man lamenting on Facebook two weekends ago. One of his friends reacted adding his own worries: “Many of my friends are relocating en masse. I mean, well established guys with well-paying jobs in Nigeria. It is really disturbing.” Running away from Nigeria won’t make life better for anyone; definitely not for the refugee.

Toussaint Louverture “was born a slave” but he was clear that nature gave him “the soul of a free man.” He did not sit down lamenting his life in slavery. He did not run away either. He stayed, fought and broke down the walls of servitude and a free Haiti was born. Buhari won’t change his “lazy” opinion because we are abusing him. Nothing and no one will make him recant. What will convince the resolute is the resolve of the “lazy” to do something positive about his station in life. In 1798, the black man was lazy. One hundred and thirteen years later in 1911, the world saw no reason to modify its opinion of the black man. It was even worse. The Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911) notes that black children who were “sharp, intelligent and full of vivacity” in childhood soon got degraded on approaching adulthood. “The intellect,” it says “seemed to become clouded, animation giving place to a sort of lethargy, briskness yielding to indolence…”

That was it. Indolence again! The authors felt the black man had remained where he had always been- a burden unto the world; an enemy of no one else but of himself. Were they wrong? Even today, 2018, what is our own opinion of ourselves? Our president spoke in London and the world heard him clearly

Between President Buhari And Professor Akindele By Lasisi Olagunju

GOVERNANCE is like romance. It is not how long but how well. Sometimes it can be short and pleasant; it can also be long and awful. Whatever it is, there is a golden rule: Never assess actors based on the first experience. Some hit the ground running; some learn and improve on the job; some march, putting their gear in reverse mode. That is why unimpressed lovers ask for more and epileptic politicians seek to come back in repeated fits.

They tell us to give them another chance; they say that the patient dog eats the fattest bone. They stop only at the bony part of the conversation. Whatever has happened to the meat is for their lordships’ mouths only. I am thinking of the recent demands for new terms and for multiple sessions of involuntary love-making.

President Muhammadu Buhari wants two terms. He has one already, which he says is not enough to birth the desired baby. He is demanding a second session of painful copulation. A professor in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, competed for space with Buhari last week. As Buhari was playing Oliver Twist, asking for more than one term, the professor was negotiating for more than one session of sex with a female student.

He broke the internet for demanding sex five times from a failure who needed his crutches. The professor said he would do one today; two tomorrow; one the day after, and another the day after the last act. And the exasperated lady asked: ‘is it food?!’

The nation heard the convo and crackled in sardonic laughter. One wrong session of sex is not enough for the don who would become Tortoise. A term is also not enough for the politician who has no idea of anything. Tortoise was asked when he would stop his aimless, tasteless journeys; he replied that he would stop only when he is disgraced.

Asking for more has consequences. When Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist asked, “Please, sir, I want some more,” what was the response he got? What he received wasn’t the food he begged for; he got knocks and thrashings. Buhari declared some days ago that he wants a second term so that he could upgrade our failing country. A term is too short to make Nigeria great again, he claimed.

Once, just once and no more, cannot be a heroic act. Not in politics. Not in the other room. The professor in the viral audio demanded the five sex terms as proof of his seriousness to help the failed girl be at par with her successful mates. It is the same reason the politician tells us to vote him in again. He may have promised and failed to hit gold the first term, the messiah still insists we need his help.

The female undergraduate turned down the tonnes of sex her professor demanded and followed it up with an ocean of viral shame for the professor. The president asking for another term also flaunts the credentials of a messiah. Those are what his lovers see and fall for; only his wicked enemies see the failings of his years in the Villa.

Writing about a failed government in a failed nation repeatedly is bad enough. It is the journalese version of the scriptural verses of lamentation. It is a chant of woes and its stale tales. What does it mean to tell tales of woe every week? The Tale of Woe is a 17th century Russian story of disobedience, destruction and redemption. It is a story “nourished by folk songs about woe and verse of repentance.” It says that misfortune and afflictions are not necessarily terminal where the sinner is penitent.

Shouldn’t admittance of moral default followed by penitence precede a demand for a renewal of tenancy? Where a president promised three million jobs but delivered eight million dismissals how should the story be broken? Should the songs be of tears, rebuke, rejection and ejection or of praise and thanks to the midwife of stillborns?

Shouldn’t a man really be bitter about all these warts around here? Should tales just be of woes and misfortune with no redemptive window? I write about Nigeria and its fall in the vineyard. Like the Russian The Tale of Woe-Misfortune, the Nigerian story is the story of Adam and Eve. Fallen and debased, the country may be in the jailhouse of its rapist leaders, but the good news is that it is not a condemned criminal.

A change of moral direction will buy it its freedom from certain death. That is what the bard sings here as a regular brew of woes. And as a Yorubaman, I know that no one is so powerful as to mute the shrill of the gong of redemption; nor does crass noise kill the king’s market in its fullness. Should one stop thinking of why there are bad news everywhere here?

Teachers demand of students not diligence at their studies but sex from age mates of their daughters; they demand not brilliance but tyres from boys for the cars of the big bosses. Should one not ask why we don’t think the suffering of the hungry must stop; why life always goes on here no matter the degree of injuries inflicted by the state; why our politicians always think of the next election even when the sky is crashing on the head of the poor?

Should one stop asking whether it is the black man’s luck to remain as he has always been: retrogressive and, at best, stagnant?

The impotent man is an efulefu; he must not eat spicy foods. That is what an African proverb says. He should not even be seen near the dining table. But he is demanding it publicly here because around him are celebrators of impotence. I asked a friend if he also saw the tragedies all over. Yesterday, it was robbers in Kwara; last year, this year, today, it is herdsmen killing scores again in Benue, Taraba and Zamfara.

OAU Professor Richard Akindele
President Muhammadu Buhari

In the midst of all these, the elected leaders don’t give a damn. The only damn they give is the one that opens the second leg of power for them. And our conduct suggests to them that we don’t have other options apart from them.

Even the Ife girl that scored 33 per cent had options. She rejected the thrusts of her professor and fought back with the sense of a woman. Failed politicians can ask for more, but the Nigerian voter can also explore the options he has. He can sensibly use what he has to enthrone what he needs. But does the black man choose his leaders so that he could be free from want and disease?

American statesman, Thomas Jefferson, in his ‘Notes on the State of Virginia’ (1787) says that the black man’s inferior mind is “a powerful obstacle to (his) emancipation.” The Nigerian person can endure and excuse any pain. The black man’s raw courage, Jefferson says, “may perhaps proceed from a want of forethought” which prevents him from “seeing a danger till it be present.”

How could we fail to see this plain danger of today’s Nigeria yesterday? As the curtain falls on one horrific scene, another scene of horror opens. And some of us are still not seeing anything. We still offer men without balls food which only the potent should eat. The developed world of the white man which we love to visit and celebrate, was it built on foundations of impotence?

And you ask: why is the black man blind to what is right? Is the black man doomed to self-destruct? Even on the very rare occasions he manages to escape from the lion’s den, he still goes back to pick his hat. The lion is begging him to do same again in 2019. Here, the stars major in the negative minors.

The best things when corrupted goes down below the worst. Could that be the reason a man who parades a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a Master’s in Psychology, an MBA, an MPhil and a Ph.D in Management Sciences would fall so pitiably at the feet of Viagra in Ile Ife?

We may all be publicly condemning that professor and angry in self-righteous indignation, but how many who condemn him are better in conduct? Failed politicians who seek undeserved second terms are like that Ife girl. Voters who demand money to elect underserving politicians are doing exactly what that professor offered that girl. What about the governor who sleeps with favour-seeking female politicians?

The female contractor who hawks sex from ministry to ministry? All others who daily do inappropriate things and play saint?

Our politicians are that failed student seeking a bailout. They fail and insist they must pass and some of us agree that they must pass. They won’t stop insulting our sensibility quoting Oliver Twist asking for “some more.” They look down on us because the teacher who marks their scripts sleeps in their bed.

And can we see that almost all of us are like that professor in self-destructive conducts? Almost all are. We are, especially when we leave the right thing undone and insist we have done well and should be rewarded; when we demand the wrong thing from the right person; when the right thing goes from us to the wrong person; when we abandon our own marking scheme and impose non-answers as the requisite for a pass mark.

When we refuse to accept ‘enough’ as a punctuation to our inappropriate conducts. When we rush to offer condom as cure for erectile dysfunction. When we do all these, we sow fruitlessness into the soul of tomorrow.

(Culled from the Nigerian Tribune on Monday, 16 April, 2018)

Presidents, Robberies And Prisons By Lasisi Olagunju

“Every morning, as I come out of Agodi Government House, I look down and I see Agodi Prisons,” Col. Ahmed Usman, a former Military Administrator of Oyo State, once told an audience. A hush descended on the gathering as he said this. He looked around, paused for effects – and continued: “and I always pray that: ‘God when I leave here (Government House), don’t let me end up there (Prisons)’.”

The British had an awful sense of humour. In many places where they built prisons while here, the jail houses were sited not far from the government houses. They did just that in Ibadan, in Abeokuta and in Ado-Ekiti. And you ask why? Even if there were no answers from the colonial minds on why they erected those two structures face to face, has Colonel Usman not unwittingly provided one? Every person in power must remember that we live in a world of opposites. Power is one pole of a pair of opposites. The low side is carefully etched in the site of the prisons. They sit so menacingly, waiting and looking at arrogant power.

Life has up and downsides; there will always be life after power. But why is it that the powerful here feign ignorance of the other side of power? Could it be the reason very few who start well end it well?

Usman was fortunate; he left in peace and has been enjoying his retirement quietly in peace. But has that been the case with several others who held public posts?

Presidents have awesome powers, but are those powers a carte blanche – a franchise to do just anything, including wrecking the destinies of millions put in their care without consequences? The answer you get here cannot be the same you get abroad. Here, there are no consequences for anything; but elsewhere, leaders always know there is a tomorrow.

Indeed, the last one week demystified presidents, ex-presidents and all who thought themselves above the law. The world looked at the iron feet of the gods of power and discovered that they are indeed made of clay. South Korean former president, Park Geun-hye, was sentenced to 24 years in jail for abuse of power and corruption. Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, got 12 years also for corruption. Former President Jacob Zuma of South Africa had his own day in court on Friday.

He is facing a rash of graft charges. All these happened in just one week and Nigerians went into a frenzy. Do you really think this can happen in Nigeria? You probably would get a shrug as answer from me. And you ask why? Our own leaders aren’t like those ones in South Korea, Brazil and South Africa. Ours are tanks of tact and wisdom. Here, presidents and governors sign and approve anything for anyone, including themselves, because they are the law. They not only know how to eat the isin fruit, they have also perfected the art of removing the ‘death’ in its eyes. Leaders here do not over-drink and miss their way back home to safety. They do not prepare their meals without having extra bowls for unexpected guests. They take enough to feed all dangers, including the law.

Above all, leaders here live in castles moated with their victims. They are blessed with an impregnable fort of the disinherited. The people here celebrate and protect their oppressors. They sign blank cheques for their leaders to cash. Leaders exist to spend the people’s money. If Tapa owns Igunnu and Igunnu owns Tapa, what then is the problem of intrusive law in what the two do to each other?

Those foreign countries could humiliate their leaders; it is their problem. The leader here owns the farm, the yam and the knife. He owns the law and all its fangs. So, there is no point thinking about doing good with public power. Whatever you do here ends here: there is no hell. There is no law; there is no justice; there is no prison if you stay in the power family. Whatever the leader does, there are enough followers to give him defensive walls, moats to beat back haters of his success.

The game of survival is rigged against the poor but he cares only for his oppressors. He tears himself away from himself turning the nozzle homeward. You don’t think the murdered and the murderers in Benue, Taraba, Kogi and Kwara are of the same class of the poor? It is the character of Nigeria’s character.

Our country lacks character. That is why leaders fail and are immune from karma. Character is what the Yoruba call iwa; the Igbo say it is agwa or emume. The nearest to it in Arabic is akhlaq. It is what Zig Ziglar describes as the foundation stone of “balanced success.” It is what a woman lacks which she misinterprets as ill luck. It is that thing that is absent in a household that makes it unleash ill-bred children on the society.

A nation without character toasts daylight robbery with criminal silence; sees Boko Haram as halal; excuses murderous herdsmen and celebrates rogues as role models. When a nation lacks character, it is normal to succumb to what Richard Sennet describes as “rule by misrule.” A culture of accommodation of evil; an acceptance of cheats by the cheated; a system in which the insulted “interprets” and “explains” away insults – and then “excuses” their beloved tormentor. Where you have this, you end up having a nation of deregulated calamities – a free fall of values; a patterned harvest of victims.

There is an army of victims everywhere defending the rot here. How many of the fallen in Offa last week condemned Danjuma’s call for self-defence? What could be the opinion of the wounded and their relations now after the horrendous experience? In the name of loyalty to political parties and leaders, those who should demand good governance daily look away; or they even attack those who dare to ask that government, for once, governs responsibly. But where leaders are not asked to account, what would life look like? It would be brutish; it would be nasty, short. That is why the House of Nigeria fell a long time ago. Boko Haram has closed down schools in the North East; killer herdsmen have chased farmers out of their farms in the North Central. Armed robbers are closing down banks in diverse places.

Where banks have refused to close down, they open shop 9 am and close by noon daily to escape robbery attacks. Going to banking halls or queueing at the ATM has become a journey to Sambisa. You write your will and say the last prayers. That has been a lot of the people in several rural communities. You find them in rural Kwara, in Osun and in Ijebu part of Ogun State. Life in the cities across the country is not radically different. Armoured tanks are the braces holding the shaky banking business in the cities. It is a war situation.

There was that mass murder called bank robbery in Offa. Its gravity shocked many who asked why? That is one huge alert informing us that the odious fixed account Nigeria has been operating has matured. Nigeria has sacrificed itself to the gods of unwell. The devil cannot be asked to excuse any settlement ruled by the ill-bred. A village whose head chief cultivates Indian hemp and the wife sells ogogoro (local gin) is willed to the devil already. Nigeria is that village. It has continued to give the wrong offerings to its chi. Nigeria sowed wind; whirlwind is here!

It is not true that all the murderous young men spraying bullets everywhere never wanted to do well in life. Something must have snapped in their lives turning them over to the devil. A friend said the country has become the Somalia of West Africa. Boko Haram calls the shots in the North East with its human bombs; kidnappers are the Ogbuefi of the South East. In the South West states and Kwara, armed robbers have left no one in doubt that they are the Baba alaye – the lords of the streets. Cultists and militants are in control of the South South-land and creeks. Herdsmen continue revving up their campaign of death in the North Central; villainous cattle rustlers superintend over the North West as the Amir of theft and murder.

These are the real forces ruling what we call our nation. We lost our country to them because what we call government is impotent; the leaders we have are not sentient. They perceive nothing apart from cool cash, s3x and the next elections. The law as pure fiction only fills the void whenever authority fails the powerful.

If you doubt these, ask why several communities are on forever security lock-down. Ask why more than 22 sinless persons had to die suddenly, hot death in Offa. Ask why those ones lost their lives and their assailants escaped to safety. Ask why the cries of death and bereavement were heard only in the mud houses of the dead. Ask why those voted to care refused to care. Ask why the unfortunate deaths are classified as just a line in Nigeria’s litany of woes. Ask why politicians in Nigeria have no fear of tomorrow.

Monkeys, Snakes, Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin By Lasisi Olagunju

“Their men, young and old, I took as prisoners. Of them I cut off the feet and hands; of others I cut off the noses, ears and lips; of the young men’s ears I made a heap; of the old men’s heads I made a minaret.”

That quote is one horrible monument to the memory of an Assyrian empire called Nineveh and its rulers. Nineveh, at the height of its glory, was the greatest empire on earth. It built a huge reputation for savage acts because it was powerful. To the Jews, it was “the bloody city, full of lies and robbery.”

Nineveh was destroyed in 612 BC by a coalition of victim-nations. A commentator (on how the empire blossomed and fell) notes that when you rule with wickedness and savagery, “your enemies are not likely to forget how they were treated.” When the enemies came in 612 BC, they destroyed everything, including the empire’s ‘everlasting god’, Ashur.

I was at a Christian burial service last Friday where the priest invoked what he called ‘the writing on the wall’ against leaders ruining Nigeria and its future. Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin, he chanted repeatedly in revulsion at the mess the country had become. That is a biblical statement interpreted to mean: “God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it.”

It points at why an empire called Babylon had to be destroyed and parceled out. A key member of the coalition that destroyed Nineveh in 612 BC was Babylon. Babylon also had to be destroyed in 539 BC by Medes and Persia, two of its allies in the war against Nineveh. Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin is a Biblical sign of the end of Babylon. What does it mean to say the days of Babylon are numbered? It means no empire lasts forever. What remains after the fall of every potentate is history of his behaviour in power. If Babylon is destroyed and shared by the allied forces of Medes and Persia, what does that tell us about contemporary powers and power relations? The APC is in power today. Before this ruling party, there was the PDP which prided itself as the biggest and largest party in Africa. A coalition of friends and foes in 2015 put a halt to the pillaging moves of the PDP. Are we not likely to see Medes and Persia in 2019?

History can be very mocking of powers and principalities. Nineveh fell. Babylon fell. Before the fall of Babylon, there was Medes which ruled over the Persians; then they flipped roles: “Under a brilliant young general named Cyrus, the Persians quickly supplanted the Medes and would go on to accomplish things never seen previously in history. After bringing the Medes to heel, they looked outward to foreign lands.” With Medes as a junior coalition partner, Persia was to add the powerful Babylon to the list of its victims.

Babylon became great and forgot its beginning. It became a habitation of evil and a cage for hateful birds. The priest at the burial believed our leaders had done what Babylon did to warrant the fate that befell it. His invocation of history as prayer pointed at the need to end Nigeria’s dynasty of corruption and ineffectual power and create an oasis of peace and prosperity.

The priest’s invocation was not as shocking as the scary chorus of ‘Amen!’ that followed it. Have things gone this bad? Obviously, they have; but the naked king thinks he is still clothed in the velvet of his coronation. But there is a problem. How will ending dynasties and calving powers be applicable as solution to the problems here? I found it very difficult to understand why the congregation chorusing ‘Aamen!’ did not go further to ask the priest what would follow the end of Babylon? If you take power from the current lords of nepotism, who is that saint that will collect it and won’t replace corruptive cronyism with kidnapping and robbery?

History has not been kind in its account of what follows every dynastic change. Nineveh was destroyed by Babylon and its allies because it was an empire of wickedness. Babylon too was destroyed by Persia and its ally because of the horrid iniquities it institutionalized. The PDP was degraded in the last elections to cure the nation of corruptive afflictions. Now, APC/Buhari’s Nigeria last week scored a miserable 27 per cent for its efforts at killing corruption. That was the verdict of Transparency International which was a darling of the APC and Buhari in the years of their enemies. What was the average score before Buhari? Less than 28 per cent! Corruption is the family house of all infractions. It includes nepotism which you commit when you use your powers to give undue favours to your family members. It includes cronyism – which means what? When you tilt advantages unfairly in favour of your associates and friends, you are guilty of cronyism.

Of course, there is bribery; there is embezzlement; there is graft and there is influence peddling. Use of public power for private gain is the official definition of corruption. Does that not smell like nepotism, cronyism, clannishness and favouritism which are the rainbow colours of the Buhari government? Even when Olusegun Obasanjo, the navigator of the process that birthed the Buhari government, spoke about these infractions, what defence did the government put forward? None. Instead, it gave a long list of ‘achievements’, including generating 7,000 megawatts of electricity which has not translated to a sack of darkness at night.

Corruption has gone worse under the APC government, according to Transparency International. Buhari and his government say that cannot be true: What else are we supposed to do that we haven’t done? We have used the past two years and nine months naming and shaming thieves. We have touched the untouchables and shamed the saintly crooks. We have recovered billions in local and foreign currencies and kept the loots for public good. We have stormed privileged homes at midnight and put fearful judges in handcuffs. We have seized powerful generals, air marshals and naval admirals and put them on trial for stealing billions to fund their greed. We have done more than has ever been done in this land flowing with loose Naira and careless dollars. Now this Transparency report has awarded a miserable 27 per cent to Nigeria for 2017. What marking scheme did they use? Who used them? What has gone wrong or what went wrong?

Really, what marking scheme did the examiners use? Does Buhari know that his government has been very transparent in its misbehaviour? How did we know that we have a multibillion naira State House clinic without paracetamol? Rodents chasing out big men out of Villa offices despite billions in maintenance contracts; snakes of the devil swallowing millions; monkeys invading farmhouses to mine senatorial millions; secret recruitments of nephews, nieces and children of mistresses and concubines to fill elite spaces; NNPC contracts without due process; reinstatement and promotion of associates caught pants down. The government did all these and exhibited them for all to see. Transparency International saw them too and was not amused.

Nineveh was destroyed because it was evil. Babylon which destroyed Nineveh was sacked because it became a city of foul spirits and of wicked use of power. Persia which sacked Babylon became history because it refused to learn and change from the evil acts of the past. When you remove dynasties and retain a nation’s character of evil, you have changed nothing. That is what I took from Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai. He talks anticorruption but demolished his enemy’s building last week and took over the land. That site will soon become a park to fulfill the vow of the powers of today. El-Rufai has also reportedly forwarded a N30 million bill to the same enemy-Senator as ground rent on another property. If the enemy does not pay N30 million in 30 days time, the building will also go down. That governor may be short in stature, but he has a very robust sense of (in)justice. There is methodology in whatever the petite governor does, including in his demolition ways.

Now, how much support does this governor’s (mis) behaviour enjoy from Abuja? We may not know because that power locus does not speak and does not act against wicked allies. What, therefore, is the difference between what the kings of Nineveh and Babylon did and what happened last week in Kaduna? The government there demolished a building because its enemies turned it to their office. The mind that did that obviously had no sense of history. That history-less mind has a script such as: If you dream of contesting against me in the next elections, I will demolish your house. If you don’t have a house, I will go after your father’s house. If your father has/had been too careless not to own a house, I will gun for your grandfather’s grave.

The kings of Babylon did similar things. Today, history remembers them and what remains of their empire: “A large tell of broken mud-brick buildings and debris” 85 kilometers south of present day Iraq. No power (and empire) lasts forever.