Gani Adams: Eni Ogun In Times Of War

By Lasisi Olagunju

You do not become the Aare and lament that there is no war to fight. If the enemy refuses to charge at you, go out and take the war to his doorstep. Or you provoke a rebellion at home and crush it without mercy. That is the raw meaning of Kakanfo — patriotic (sometimes), rebellious (when threatened), courageous, heady, merciless, merciful, tough, warlike, bloody and unyielding (in war).

Kakanfo is Eni Ogun — the one custom-built to fight wars. And that fits Gani Adams who became the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland two days ago. Slowly and steadily, he paid his dues. From roadside carpentry to soldiering, to field commander, and now supreme commander! It is a testament to the power of fate over man. Destiny is ayanmo; ayanmo is what fatalists say succumbs to no musket of man. And that was what was celebrated in Oyo Alaafin on Saturday. Adams was already an Aare before the installation. He rode on the back of destiny and determination laced with raw courage, humility and patriotism to the top of gallantry.

Before Kakanfo, what we had was Onikoyi — the intrepid head of the eso (royal guards) who never accepted death from the back. He was that lion who beheld war of friends and foes and rejoiced. Then came Kakanfo. He is called eni ogun (man of war). If you like, call him eni oogun (man of magic/medicine). If you like, still, call him eni oogun (man of perspiration). He fights life as war. He breathes the breath of his magical ancestors and sweats through the battles of daily existence.

I wish the new Aare well. But can he look back at the lives lived by his predecessors, the alaseku — the ones who did it and passed the staff down the line? Yoruba history has many tongues. One says the road was prepared by Seereki Apala — the restless first son of the grand old Onikoyi Oladogan who fought without boundary and got the praise of the Alaafin. Was he the first Aare? No. History does not say so but he was the first sign that the king needed a Field Marshal. Kokoro Gangan — the one famously called the Scorpion of Ode Iwoye — was the first Leopard installed in Oyo. There was also Oyatope. After him, there was Oya’bi who put an end to the wickedness of Bashorun Gaa. Oya’bi got rid of Bashorun Gaa but soon died (in peace) on his way to receive his king’s honour. Then the blood-thirsty one took over. He was Adeta, “the well dressed Ogun who makes them spill blood profusely.” There was Oku of Jabata. After him came Afonja who demanded the title and was given and then fought his lord with the same zeal he fought his enemies. Afonja fought and vanquished the Alaafin but he soon fell at the feet of his foreign allies, forever a lesson in how not to recruit outsiders to betray one’s race.

Gani Adams is the 15th Aare. He has behind him a line of other men of war and ambition. From 1797 to 1825, there was Toyeje who fought conspiracies and faced treachery and betrayal and was not subdued by the ugly powers of tragedy. He was a man of war who died peacefully. The Kakanfo chieftaincy is steeped in mysteries, miseries and unpredictability. Was that why Toyeje’s successor, Edun, was shifty in loyalty to the Alaafin and the Yoruba and spiteful of the grand old Onikoyi Adegun who gave him the title? Kakanfo Afonja used the Fulani against his land; he was not the only one who did. Edun did, too. At Kanla war which was to remedy the tragedy of Ilorin, Edun sold his people’s victory to the Fulani of Ilorin. History says this Kakanfo gave way to the enemy in the heat of battle. The Onikoyi, surrounded by the Fulani, “fought and fought bravely and fell like a hero…the Alaafin’s army was routed and the people fled away in confusion.” And Onikoyi was Alaafin’s prime warrior who relished war and its spoils. A warrior’s praise names are his banner: He is the one war corners in the forest, and becomes dweller of forest; He waits for death well stacked and packed; Onikoyi is the one who goes to war to capture the enemy and trudges home with swarms of slaves. He is the one who goes out to raid but returns to meet his homestead raided by thieves. On his way back from war, Onikoyi loses more than the pearls at home. He crosses the path of the grand thief and gets his head chopped off by the thief. His descendants boast that they know whose homesteads their father raided. They add that they know too whose father was the thief who raided their father’s home. And his children say they know who their father beheaded and they know who beheaded their father.

The tragedy of power is the multiplicity of misfortune that clothes it. Onikoyi was betrayed and the Fulani won and kept Ilorin forever. And how did Kakanfo Edun of Gbogun end his reign? He fell too, like Afonja, at the hands of his Fulani allies. His Ilorin friends in the next Gbogun war pursued and caught him at Gbodo. “His head was taken off, raised upon a pole and carried in triumph to the camp, and from thence to Ilorin.” His homestead, Gbogun, in eternal ruins.

The person who betrayed his people died in war and yielded the space to Ojo Amepowuyi who was there before magical Kurunmi came in 1840. Kurunmi was the tragic hero who was with Oluyole in the many wars against the Ijebu and their Egba neighbours. Unfortunately, Kurunmi thought his insistence on tradition was right. He would not recognise the Alaafin who succeeded his father. He insisted that “the king’s son must die with the king” and his people sang the song with him. He was the one who had to die — broken, completely at the hands of his Ibadan friends. The Kakanfo stool then took a false move to Ibadan where Afonja’s son, Oluyedun gave his father’s title to himself. He soon died and his co-claimant “the wicked one who would not die” — Ojo Aburumaku proceeded to get it from Alaafin. This tough one fought friends and foes until the god of thunder stopped him at Igbeti. He was struck by lightning, but he was “the wicked one who would not die.” He did not die but his position was taken by Obadoke Latoosa of Ibadan who fought and won wars against Fulani marauders and their Yoruba allies. Then on August 11, 1885, he too slept in his war camp at Kiriji after suffering a revolt by his war chiefs.

Ladoke Akintola was brilliant, mercurial and eloquent. He became Kakanfo in 1964 and had role models among some of his predecessors. He too made friends abroad and foes at home. He did what some before him did and died as they died. The Aare stool became vacant on January 15, 1966. On January 14, 1988, it was filled once again with a man of means and uncommon generosity. Moshood Abiola had money. He had children. He had people. He had all and enjoyed all. He wanted more and went for power. His northern friends said no and stopped his momentum. But Kakanfo must not come home empty-handed. Abiola was defiant. He was loud and brave. And then, like some others before him, Kakanfo Abiola fought and fell at the feet of his friends from the North.

These were the men who wore the magical leopard dress, cap and sandals of war before Gani Adams came on January 13. They were the wearers of the shoes our friend stepped into on Saturday. The Kakanfo title is not just about war, blood, betrayals and death. It is not just about two hundred and one deep incisions in the head stuffed with 201 mystery preparations. It is about friends and fate. It has also its own peculiar canine fashion. The title has rhythm and rhyme. Think of an Obadoke yielding the Kakanfo space to a Ladoke. Think of Akintola ending it on January 15,1966; and Abiola starting his own on January 14, 1988; and, now, Adams’s epochal entry of January 13, 2018. Could this gradient be a mere coincidence in dates and figure combinations?

Gani Adams is a very good man taking up a tough job. He has lessons to learn from those illustrious strongmen and the interesting times that preceded him. The Aare cannot say there is no war raging now. These are not normal times for the one called to service. He cannot recline in an easy chair when marauders are at home and on the way. Can the warrior sleep when men cannot farm and women cannot fetch water in peace? May the new Aare be a success story. From now on, the Aare will be required to act and speak to Nigeria on its dance of death.

2018 Prophets and Prophecies

By Lasisi Olagunju

“IN the inner recesses of the mind,” says Cicero, “is divine prophecy hidden.” Right from the veranda of today, humanity wants to see what tomorrow holds. Man loves sitting on the shoulder of prophets to gaze at the future. This eagerness to see tomorrow today is what has sustained Nostradamus and the prophets. Sometimes writers get the “divine impulse” to tell the improbable. Sometimes you do time travelling and write. I did in December 2016 preparing you for the shocks of 2017. Can you remember reading this?: “…I see a country in search of health. I see a sick nation begging to breathe. I see the lion in his sickbed. I see other animals doing eye service, ‘working’ for the quick recovery of the king of the jungle. I see all manner of medicines for the infirm sovereign.

I see wolf and I see fox, rivals in a deadly game of power and strategies and stratagem and death. I see as each designs the end of the other standing on the infirmity of the lion. I see deadly animals of greed scheming personal profits on platters of patriotism and loyalty to the sovereign…” Someone said writers are prophets. The above was written here in December 2016 about events that would shape 2017. And what did 2017 say on those words? Was the lion sick? Yet, 2017 prepared the road for 2018, the year of grimmer realities.

The year 2017 started on a note of hope and great expectations. It soon entered the turbulence of uncertainties amid prayers and supplications for the health of the sovereign. Muhammadu Buhari’s friends said his ill health was the sickness of the nation. They were right. The country too was ill. It still critically is. Friends of the president were out, doing their usual permutations. Rats competed for space with princes in the palace. Then the man came back and well and all was quiet.

“I have never been this sick,” Buhari confessed, crossing off the spin that suggested he was merely abroad to rest and run tests. Then there was calm and a sigh of relief. These turned out a mere interlude. Further tests took the sovereign to London. A very long absence and fake news of incapacitation took over. The lion was back, up and well again. The worst was over. Then the year changed gear and drove straight into the station of petrol scarcity and Federal jobs for the dead. 2017 ended in despondency. What a year!

A brand new year starts today and it won’t be a bad idea to look again at the horizon. This is, after all, the season of prophecies and prophetic dances. And we are a very spiritual people in this clime. So, what is there to look forward to in 2018? The country will live its reputation for the scary. It will take the usual suicidal dance steps on the brink. The Kim Jong-Uns of Nigeria will test their political nuclear warheads in the new year. Nigeria’s crust will shift.

The country is a forest of great beasts. It will prove its mettle in the new year. Lions will roar, move and fight. Elephants will dance and shake the forest. Heady Buffaloes will fight regal lions in battles of blood. There will be rumbles in the jungle. You remember the Rumble in the Jungle, the historic October 30, 1974 boxing event in Kinshasa, Mobutu’s Zaire? That bout saw a former heavyweight champion,Muhammad Ali, knock out habitual winner, George Foreman in the eighth round. Reviewers say the fight was “arguably the greatest sporting event of the 20th century”. For Nigeria and its politics, 2018 (not necessarily 2019) is the year to watch for rumbles and epic battles.

There will be governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states in the new year. One on July 14, the other September 22. These two bouts will set the tone for the real battle of 2019. Both will present war models that will define Nigeria going forward. There will be deceptions and desertions. Friends will become mortal foes hacking down reputations. Friends and foes will form new alliances. Ekiti will be a combination of the comical and the tactical. Buying and selling, offers and acceptance wrapped in what Roman jurists called dolus bonus (good trickery) will drive the war. From the noise, smoke and fury of this war in Ekiti, a decisive victory will go to Napoleon. Osun will not keep its 2014 reputation of Napoleon’s Battle of the Three Emperors. This coming war looks set a blitzkrieg – “short, fast powerful attacks” complemented by encircling, overwhelming speed and surprises. The state will be a blitzed field. Napoleons and Hitlers here need prayers.

The iron dice of 2019 will start rolling from these two states and it won’t be funny at all. This fact, in particular, makes the stakes in these two states to be very high for Abuja and Lagos and their disparate allies. Successes in enterprises and wars incite imitations. And, all victories and defeats are costly and full of lessons. Generals know that their business is a life-and-death enterprise that demands very careful planning and deployment of brain and brawn. A composite model for the 2019 battle will be made by Abuja from the 2018 lessons in Ekiti and Osun states. In that model, there will be blitzkrieg; there will be annihilation, exhaustion and, even, incapacitation.

Political parties are organic beings. The APC and the PDP are entering the new year gasping for breath. They are big, they look strong but they are very unreliable. They both suffer brain hemorrhages but their minders live in convenient denial. Only quick, adequate attentions will save them from fatal convulsion in the new year. They may, in fact, end up atrophied soon before the year reaches its noon. And just as the American NASA discovers new planets almost everyday (some of them earth-like and within the habitable zone) so will new political parties come out to challenge the bumbling big two. Wailers wailed because some dead persons were on the list of President Buhari’s December appointees in 2017. They should be ready to wail at the resurrection of one of the parties that died so that the APC could be born. Specialists at waking the dead have almost completed the rituals. The dead will come back to fight for a repossession of its inherited widow.

For Nigeria, the new year will be a year of great betrayals, deception and surprises. The year will distinguish thinking godly thoughts from embracing heavenly virtues. Manipulative gods and heroes will increase the pace of their descent on the popular psyche. Governors and governments will unleash weapons of mass deception on the people on a scale never seen before. Broken hearts, broken heads, broken minds, broken allegiances and broken promises will strew the landscape.

Government and their partners in business will lay siege to the masses as the fight over earned and unearned subsidies will get messy. We should pray against many being stranded on the highways of the new year. And seers who remember the past would insist that breaking vases of hope wouldn’t be news again. They will remind us that kisses of disappointments birthed the nation; that falling and rising have been watering Nigeria’s stunted growth from birth. And that disappointments shouldn’t tickle anyone again.

They will remind us that the overcast skies of 2017 were seen as very normal in the years before. So, there will be very many usuals in the new year. The country will maintain its track on the orbit of hope, disappointments and hope. The new year won’t be just about grim occurrences. There will be interludes of mirth and laughter. The new year calls for vigilance, prayer and proactive actions. May God lift the siege of elite greed and wickedness on the nation in the new year.

Crying With Laughter At Christmas

By Lasisi Olagunju

“GRIDLOCK in Lagos. Seven hours in traffic from Ikoyi to Ogba,” one girl cried out on Facebook on Friday. And so what? Was she the only one in that traffic? What about the one who was stranded in the middle of nowhere on Lagos – Ibadan Expressway? Or the one who (also on Facebook) sobbed Friday night: “I’m just boarding for my 6.30pm Abuja – Lagos flight at 11pm.” And the one who queued from morning till midnight only to go home with “it is finished, we are sorry” when it was his turn at the fuel pump. Or the hungry one whose last ‘card’ could neither buy fuel nor pay for okada, yet had work to go. And the one who said in exasperation that he was “stunned and stupefied” by the odious inaction from the government.

They are all victims but they will soon become like drunkards, forgetful of their penury. We are a country of hope and denial. We solve problems by shouting and smiling at them. A BBC correspondent once described Nigerians as a people with “remarkable patience but for the wrong things.” The same journalist said Nigeria “can make you want to cry with laughter or with tears…” Who is that person that will say the description does not fit us? ‘Playing penalty to throwing’ is very routine in our engagements. We have been long married to disappointments that we no longer feel the agony of opportunities lost.

It did not start today. The cause of fuel crises in Nigeria has the endurance of the curse of Alaafin Aole. It is potent and generational. Aole was that Alaafin whose destiny was to suffer betrayal and bury the glorious empire his ancestors bequeathed to him. Aole’s top general betrayed him and asked him to die, but he wouldn’t go quietly because none of his valiant ancestors had done so. The king who would die left an implacable curse for the betrayer and his generations. Death-bound Alaafin Aole stepped out to his palace forecourt, an earthenware dish, a bow and three arrows in his hands.

He then shot the arrows, one to the north, one to the south and the third to the west. Then he unleashed the spirits against his nemesis: “May curse be on you for your disloyalty and disobedience. May your children disobey you. If you send them on an errand, let them never come back to bring you word again. To all these points I shot my arrows you will be carried as slaves! My curse will carry you to the sea and beyond the seas; slaves will become your master.” Then, for maximum effect and permanence, Aole smashed the dish to the ground, stepped on the pieces with his right foot and yelled: “A broken calabash can be mended but not a broken dish, so let my curse be irrevocable.”

Some political historians would insist that the curse appears truly permanent, irrevocable. The victims are helpless; they only talk of it whenever it strikes like a serpent. That is the parallel I draw with the serial suffering of the Nigerian at the hands of Nigeria and its governments. But what exactly is our sin to suffer rotational ineffectual buffoonery in leadership? We have not betrayed any cursing spirit! We, are, indeed, the betrayed. But we have been carried as victims, north, west, south, east, PDP, APC.

Everywhere we go, it is scarcity of goodness. Don’t just look at your suffering at petrol stations. Look at telltale signs of failure in leadership – without borders, everywhere. Look at the curse called Apapa-Oshodi expressway in Lagos. It does not matter whether the president is Olusegun Obasanjo or Umaru Yar’Adua or Goodluck Jonathan or Muhammadu Buhari. It is of no consequence that a Babatunde Fashola is the current minister in charge of that road. Forget it. He was on that road many times as governor exasperated at the incompetence or the insensitivity of the Abuja people. Now, he has been there for more than two years. Has there been any difference between now and what that road enjoyed under Tony Anenih and Adeseye Ogunlewe? The gods themselves appear stuck in the gridlock of Nigeria.

Governments fail us with glee, and with bliss we romance them. We invest in presidents and governors who wantonly fail and block us and we respond by doing self-help, creating bypasses. Problems run their full courses here and go away on their own and we resume our normal lives – waiting for the next problem. This creepy petrol problem will go as it came. We will shout ‘ope o’ and continue flashing our stupid smiles. Nothing will happen to the creators of this crisis and their salesmen and women. We won’t press any social or political charges against the culprits who promised change but delivered continuity of suffering. We are used to suffering and sheepish smiling. When pipe-borne water became gold, what did we do? We whined and cursed and moved on. Each household then became a local government creating its own family waterworks. And that has not stopped the water boards from writing and spending budgets. It has not stopped them from trying you – their victims – with monthly water bills.

Today is Christmas and you must be one of “them” if you can’t predict that the day’s trending words would be petrol and NEPA. Before you say Merry Christmas, check properly for what ‘merry’ means. This Christmas cannot be merry when whether you are in church, mosque or home, the custodians of electricity join fuel suppliers to complete the circle of wreckers of celebrations. They dance ‘disco’ with power and take light and give darkness and heat. They fail Nigeria and get compensated by their patrons, the big men in government. The big men in government betray us and still insist they are our faithful servants. But Aole was also master to Afonja, the one who betrayed him. The one who betrayed Aole was also master to the Jamma who killed and publicly burnt his (Afonja’s) corpse in Ilorin. Our universe is cyclical in betrayals and consequences. The structure of Nigeria itself is built to betray its poor. That is why every effort to change the tragic course of the country has taken it back to business as usual.

Two years ago, we were tired of excuses and failures. We fought friends and family and queued to topple the old order. We changed the ruling party and the president and then went for thanksgiving. Today, we are back to the past, stranded in filling stations, airports and bus parks and we ask: why again? Can you sincerely blame anyone if the system has failed you today and you are stranded? Governments serve tea without sugar; soup without salt and we drink and eat and clap for the incompetent cook. There is no fuel from Buhari and you are looking for some helpless marketer to hang. The culprit is in the mirror, check him out. You clapped away your comfort and welfare when you applauded derelict Nigeria and idiocy of persons in government. This journey to the past is the punishment for the complicit citizen who sees saints among whores.

The way to redemption is to first stop making excuses for Nigeria and its government. They cannot be helped. The solution is not in replacing Peter with Paul every election cycle. We have seen how futile that is. This old, defective structure is the curse. It throws stones already. It demands a fresh start.

Meanwhile, Nigeria and its fuel and power issues won’t make me forget to shout out to my Christian friends: Merry Christmas!

$1 Billion For The Interminable Boko Haram War

By Lasisi Olagunju

Nigerian governors are wise flies; they don’t follow the corpses of their victims into the grave. They leave the dead to disintegrate on their own, ignoring their natural openings and antemortem wounds. When a president fails and falls, our governors move on like evil spirits to possess the next president.

We have seen it twice with Umaru YarA’dua and Goodluck Jonathan. Those were helpless captives of some rapacious governors who used and left them. It is scary that even those two were not as possessed as the current high priest.
This one gives and gives anything with suspicious devotion to his possessors. There is an incestuous relationship going on between Abuja and the state capitals. Incest is romantic relationship outside socially permitted circles. It is a taboo in many cultures but Abuja, right from the beginning, loves taboos. It enjoys breaking conventions. So, it is just normal that today’s Abuja also does seedy things with the small gods in the state capitals. They play ping pong (give me, I give you) with the common patrimony of the land. And they tell the people it is in their interest to so do.

The president (or the presidency) that we have today romances state governors too much in the dark to arouse suspicions. Governors know now that staying in Abuja 20 out of the 30 days of the month is the new wisdom. They take turns to occupy Abuja giving no space for deep, probing questions from the presidency. And the smart ones among the governors no longer have to think and sweat to get money. They know that Abuja plays ball with minimal fore acts.

Between these two blurred divides, there has been an enrichment of Nigeria’s politico-economic dictionary. Before Buhari, we never heard (or had) cryptic phrases such as “Budget support,” “Paris Club loan refund”, “Commercial loan restructuring.” These are ATM phrases that ensure states (and their unknown consultants) get credit alerts regularly. They are constructs that have made acute the hunger of the unpaid government worker. There are many more phrases designed to confuse the poor on what the powerful do with the commonwealth. Now, the hungry states have upped their game of cash. They met and decided to reciprocate the various gestures of President Muhammadu Buhari. Last week, they dashed the almighty Federal Government $1billion from the Excess Crude Account. “The NGF decided to support the presidency just as it had been supporting states on their own problems…Lack of unity between the presidency and governors in the past led to poor governance.”

That was Abdulaziz Yari, chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF)’s explanation for the uncommon generosity. He didn’t say if there was a presidential demand before the governors decided to supply the dollars. Now, when you have a defective federation as Nigeria and you have a president and governors doing collaborative sharing and spending, you should be alert and alarmed.

The president turned 75 yesterday. Enemies and friends serenaded him. Dogs of power fawned over him; even the Nigerian sheep bleated testimonies of his uniqueness. I congratulate him that none of his enemies has, so far, described this $1billion war chest as a birthday present. Some three, four years ago, it would have been so described if the president of that era was celebrating his date of birth. But 75-year-old Buhari needs prayers. I fear if he is not careful, the governors will soon make a Goodluck Jonathan of him. No one who sits on a pedestal of integrity acts so casually de bonne foi (in good faith) with persons who know not the colour or the facial marks of good faith. It doesn’t take a long time for a lion to turn into a pig. All that is needed for the elegant big cat to be dirty and to stink is to swim in the cesspit of pigs. History is good, especially if the student is ready to learn. And Buhari is the student here. He needs to know the story of that account where multi-billion dollars are always available to fund suspect projects.

The ECA from where our current champions yanked off $1billion is a product of intense Cold War between the presidency and the governors. Olusegun Obasanjo created the account amidst muffled resentment by the governors. It was against the law and tenets of federalism. That was the inaudible argument of the governors and their foot soldiers in the legislature. The noise was countered with dreadful silence by the patriarchal president in the Villa then. He had his way, grew the account, spent from it to fund his power projects and moved out of power. By the time Obasanjo was leaving in May 2007, the account reportedly had a balance of above $9.574 billion. Then a president installed by the governors came in. The clamour to share the money grew among these new gods who now had one of them in the Villa. And the sharing commenced. Umaru YarAdua, who inherited $9.574 billion left $4.93 billion three years later. His successor, Jonathan, reports say, grew the account balance to $8.7 billion but handed over $2.07 billion to Buhari. He claims that the governors forced him to draw down the accounts. It is from that $2 billion he left behind that Buhari’s Change presidency has been blessed with $1 billion by the appreciative state governors.

Nigerian governors are like deserts. They think it is their sole destiny to take; they don’t normally give. Jonathan listened to them and got wrecked and abandoned. Now, the habitual taker is giving out a billion US dollars freely to an ascetic patriarch. When a consummate greedy miser offers you his meal, think more than twice before you take it. Soon (and that soon will be very), Buhari will have to reciprocate this uncommon love from the governors. The time to slap a king is that moment when a fly perches on his cheek. The miserable balance in that account will soon be needed by the governors to fund their fancies. Buhari won’t have a choice; he must rub the back of those rubbing his own now. Every leader writes his own history.

Boko Haram has the colour and scent of dollars. This latest $1 billion is needed to fight the Boko Haram war. That is the claim of the governors. Jonathan also took a loan of $1 billion to fight Boko Haram. His National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, has been in detention for three years because his office took $2.1 billion to fight Boko Haram. Every year, we budget billions to fight Boko Haram. It looks like this is a war that will finish Nigeria. The goal of all wars is to kill the enemy. It, however, appears almost certain this war is primed to sink Nigeria, murder its economy. The Boko Haram war may never end, especially when it looks like it is cool business for some people. A carnivore says: “Where there is blood, there is plenty of food.” This war may end when another is invented by those whose vintage wine is blood. Really, most wars, says Jeb Sharp, “don’t have neat, triumphant endings; they are far messier and more inconclusive than we imagine them to be.” I’m afraid that precisely is what we have with this Boko Haram war. It is a peculiar mess. The more we are told it has ended, the more it kills and consumes billions of dollars that should feed the living.

The United Nations in March this year put the Boko Haram damage since its start in 2009 at about $9 billion – that is about N3.3 trillion. And we are not done yet with the losses- we are still counting. As we count the damages, we also chalk up spendings in billions of dollars. The government said early this year that the country (over the years) had spent $4 billion to defeat the insurgents. Since that statement was made, a lot more has been spent and a lot more will go into that pit. The latest is the $1 billion our governors are dashing Buhari’s presidency to fight the insurgency. Buhari will take it; he won’t look at the law. He won’t ask what the real owners have to say. But then, you and I must not stop asking — what is happening here?

Husbands For Supper

By Lasisi Olagunju 

Woman without character are closing the gender gap in violence. Character is a woman’s front teeth. The one who loses them has lost the mainstay of her beauty. A woman without character cannot make a desirable wife. Ugly wives are the ones who have lost character. When a woman settles scores with daggers and swords, she is no longer a woman. She has crossed the line to the wild red zone of violent men. Some women merely nag; that is the extreme of their violence.

Coughing woman

Russian writer, W.R.S. Ralston wrote about a wife who “lived on the worst of terms with her husband and never paid any attention to what he said. If her husband told her to get up early, she would lie in bed three days at a stretch; if he wanted her to go to sleep, she couldn’t think of sleeping.

When her husband asked her to make pancakes, she would say: ‘You thief, you don’t deserve a pancake!…’” But sometimes the violence goes beyond mere nagging. Some pretty nasty wives butcher their husbands to feed their passion. There was a Mary Elizabeth Wilson in the United Kingdom. Between 1955 and 1957, she “loved and lost four husbands…inheriting money after each death.” And she was audacious enough to leave traces. According to the BBC, “not only were the gaps between the weddings short, the marriages themselves were short.” At one of her many wedding receptions, her friend asked her: “What shall we do with these (excess) sandwiches and cake?” Wilson replied with laughter: “We’ll keep them for the funeral.” That husband soon died. Mary Elizabeth Wilson was exposed and jailed. She died in prison in 1960.

The killer wife can be at once as sly as the tortoise and foolish as the insane. She can also combine those attributes with the lustfulness of the dog. Our elders say it is not wise to buy cloths bound in bundles. It is wisdom to seek and see the nakedness of what you are paying for. You married a playboy deliberately because he played well. So, why lose your mind because he does what you know he does well? Do you kill a dog because it barks? Do you kill a ram for its effective use of its horns? What manner of woman would kill her man because he is seeing another woman? I ask because husbands appear to have, lately, become endangered species. In Filin Jirgi area of Gusau, Zamfara State, housewife Hauwa’u last week stabbed her husband in the chest and back with a broken bottle. His offence: he was planning a second wife. In Abuja a few days earlier, Maryam killed her husband, Bilyamin because he was dating another lady. In Ibadan last year, a female lawyer stabbed her husband to death because another woman was suspected to be in the man’s life. Now, playboy husbands are nervous. They are almost begging their wives to also cheat on them if they are caught pants down.

If he is not content with what you have, why not take a walk? Should you destroy your life because a man can’t stay faithful to his marital vows? Women who cook their playboy husbands for dinner lose all. They lose the meal and even the kitchen and its aroma. It is a total loss. Killing the man is suicide for the woman. If the union has kids, then it is worse. The dead is released while the living battles life and its judgement. It is a complete defeat for the woman. The man becomes the hero, winning the sympathy of an accommodating world. The wise knows murder is no solution to infidelity. It did not stop it a million years ago, it won’t now. A very wise female once told me her husband was free to roam the bushes. The only ‘but’ was that he must not come home with thorns.

Yet there are some who kill without drawing blood. The Yoruba call those ones apanimayo’da. Their swords are forever sheathed yet they kill with the swiftness of the dagger.

They murder their husband with excessive love for what would destroy him. They push their men, back and forth, like a swinging door. They are ota ile – the enemy within. The Grace woman in Zimbabwe is one loud example of such nemesis. From office secretary to the lady of power, she would not stop until destiny stopped her. The history of Nigeria is replete with so many of such Graces lacking the grace of goodness. It is worse if the man is a Robert Mugabe who has surrendered the levers of his manhood to the one without scrotum. The woman demands the difficult, he does it for her yet she pushes him to attempt the impossible. “Even if he dies, his corpse will contest and win next year’s elections,” Grace Mugabe boasted early this year. And her husband breathlessly tried to catch up with her huge appetite for godlessness. You remember the wailing king seeking communal help to pluck the moon for his queen? Fruits of difficult trees are not enough, she must eat the moon. And the man jumps, falls, jumps again, panting. If his overused heart packs up while struggling to satisfy his Jezebel, she moves on. Other victims are on the queue, waiting to be killed by what they love. The man who is blessed with a million stars twinkling in his sky is doomed with a killer wife. She is that woman who forgets the toils of the small beginnings and starts competing with inscrutable fate. She fights the angels around her man and brings down the stars of her glory. She kills him with his destiny…

Back to wives who are quick with swords and daggers and beer bottles. Should a woman kill because her man cheats? The wages of sin is death, yes. If sleeping around is a capital offence, who does the killing, the law or the victim? Is it not said that an eye for an eye will create a city of blind men and women? In some cases, women who fell their husbands are strangers to their growth. Like the Abuja woman who married someone else’s husband. The unfortunate man left his first wife to marry her. She is like that person who picked a gem by the roadside and jealously vowed to die over it. What should the real owner who lost it do? She met a dead buffalo by the river bank and drew cleavers. What was she thinking when she was climbing his bed? The huge meat by the riverside did not drink to death! The one who leaves someone to sleep with you will leave you to sleep with someone. This husband was somebody else’s game and would not stop playing games – and she should know. But no! She became a phone tracker, reading text messages and running mad.

The times have changed.

Men too should feel what their women feel. There was an age when Akesan was the frontier of Oyo. Just answering a man’s name is no longer a woman’s end in marriage. The frontiers of behaviour in marriage have moved with the times.

Jealousy used to be the spice, the taste in the polygamous soup. But the woman sleeping beside you today sees you as her exclusive possession. Sharing and caring are ancient virtues long dead with a permissive past. Fishing in any available pond imperils everyone. But drawing daggers and killing spouses cannot be the way to discipline errant men. Our elders say a husband’s death makes a woman poorer. If to be widowed is the worst of misfortunes, how do we describe the woman who murders her husband? She loses all. And if their union has products, the loss becomes generational. So, woman, if your husband is no longer the man you married, don’t kill yourself by driving a dagger into his heart. The sensible thing to do is to just quit.

News From Northern Nigeria By Lasisi Olagunju

It is gratifying to note that northern Nigeria is not just about mass weddings, mass procreation, mass murder and mass failure. Sometimes you encounter a soothing oasis in the desert. Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, last week commenced what he described as “Nigeria’s largest school enrollment drive.” His target is 1.4 million new intakes in the next one year. Tambuwal chose Riji village, the birthplace of the North’s numero uno political ancestor, Sir Ahmadu Bello, to launch the education offensive. Riji is a village under a bigger village called Rabah. The Sardauna grew up as Ahmadu Rabah before regional and national prominence made him to bear what we know him with.

 

The North is Nigeria’s problem child. It is a region that is, in the 21st century, still being begged, cajoled, even bribed to go to school. Through its loathsome attitude to learning, it has contributed immensely to national misfortune and it is not tired of doing so. There is no ill (or illness) that is not possible for that region to create for circulation to other parts. It introduced street begging to areas that never smiled at mendicancy. It gave Boko Haram to a Nigeria that thought the Maitatsine of the 1980s was the end of religious madness. The North even imported suicide bombing into our country, something very alien to the African who loves life and prays daily to live long and live well. And it is not that the ancestors of the North did not work hard enough to make it an asset to Nigeria. The Sardauna saw it a long time ago. He warned that education held the key to a future of regional and national usefulness. Very few listened. The Arabs say the counsel of elders is honey but if unheeded it becomes as sour as bile.

In a September 16, 1963 speech at the Government College, Zaria, the Sardauna warned that given his people’s disdain for western education, the future wouldn’t be rosy: “…You have wonderful opportunities. If you fail to take full advantage of your education now, you may live to regret it for the rest of your lives…You have wonderful opportunities. You must take them. If you let them pass, you will never have them again,” he warned.

And it just happened that the standards started falling right from the very start. “Last year,” the Sardauna noted, “fifty percent of the boys who took the West African School Certificate examinations (in that school) failed.” A frustrated Sardauna cried out that teachers were failing to get the maximum effort from their pupils who had grown wild to become “lazy and indolent.” He gave a notice that the government would “weed out” the bad ones “who waste the money of the country…Idleness and indolence go hand-in-hand with indiscipline. I have been told of many cases of indiscipline; of bad and disgraceful behaviour in the towns which are visited by students at will regardless of school rules, and of neglect of religious observances. This country cannot tolerate such cases of indiscipline and indolence…”

That was in 1963. Now, when good elders leave the village, afflictions fill their space. Fifty per cent failed in 1962 and the Sardauna cried. What is the failure rate today? Given the huge presence of the North in our political life, would it be too gross to ask how many of those “idle and indolent boys” of the early 1960s have been inflicted on the entire country as leaders, shaping lives and destinies in their own crippled image? That exactly is why I say that as the South confronts its own misfortune in leadership, it must show interest in how the North runs its life. Never hope to have a sound rest if your neighbours make a delicacy of injurious insects. So, when I read that a governor from that far-flung enclave has an ambitious programme to enroll 1.4 million children in school, relief was my immediate reaction. A television presenter who read the news asked cynically: “I hope they have teachers.” And he was right. A needs assessment conducted recently in that state showed that 31 per cent of the teachers there were not useful to the system. They lacked requisite qualifications to teach. But that can be fixed. What may be difficult is convincing an obstinate herd of street children to abandon their wheel barrows and stop seeing western education as evil. That is the task Tambuwal has given himself. I wish him luck.

I have very many friends up north who would always be a pride to anyone. But their shine is in the midst of unspeakable socio-political dirt. And the Hausas say water does not get bitter without a cause. I’m worried by the buffet of strangeness daily served by that enclave. I always wonder how my friends feel at the series of oddities from northern Nigeria: Children (even female) ending up as permanent tenants on the street; governments going odd in projects, policies and programmes conception and execution. And I have some examples. On 15 May 2011, northern Nigeria gave us the first mass wedding when Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso’s regime organised a wedding for 100 couples. It was the first in a total of 1,000 of such weddings planned in 10 batches by the Kwankwaso government. A bride price of N10,000 was paid on each of the women “most of whom were moving into their second marriages.” The government also gave each of them N15,000 to start a life. The package also reportedly included free bed, beddings and other room furniture items. Since then it has become very normal to read about hundreds of couples being wedded and state governments picking up the bills. Governor Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State did a total of 250 weddings in his years as governor. By January this year, reports said the mass weddings had produced about 40 children with 30 of the marriages collapsing. In February this year, 1,520 couples from 44 local government areas were joined in holy matrimony by the Kano State government. The government paid a dowry of N20,000 for each of the 1,520 brides. On January 23 this year, a group accused an official of the Sokoto State government of sabotaging efforts at conducting a mass wedding for 100 couples in the state. That wedding was to cost the state government N32 million. That state government had on January 24, 2014 spent N30 million on the mass wedding of 125 couples. In 2015, the Zamfara State government spent N40 million on a mass wedding organised by the state’s Association of Widows and Divorcees. About 200 members of the association benefitted from the large heartedness of the government in assisting them to find love.

The oddity of the North goes beyond procured mass love. In August 2016, Katsina State governor, Aminu Bello Masari, bought and distributed 4,500 goats to 240 women selected from across the 34 local government areas of the state. In September 2016, Masari bought and distributed 3,000 coffins to mosques in the state. In November 2017, Masari launched Goat Empowerment Programme for students from 20 secondary schools in the state. Last week, Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, bought and distributed N208 million worth of noodles to 5,200 tea sellers (Maisu Shayi).

Actions like these rile the South. They ask whether those who value mass wedding, mass coffin and mass goat procurement and ignore education don’t need ‘help’. Leaving leprosy and treating ringworm is a mark of acute unwellness. Neighbours, beware!

 

Amidst all these, it is calming that at least one state up north is looking at something positive for once. Putting more than a million children in school will reconstruct the social ecology of the streets. Children without education will almost certainly end up as almajiri. Almajiri are angry, hungry street children, many times ready tools in the hands of the devil. Moving them to school is a service to everyone, including the IPOB member who thinks the North is free to wreck itself. But, then, the North is unique in its strange ways. I am waiting for the response of the elite there to the decision to enroll these 1.4 million kids in school. I have also not heard anyone from that zone describing government funded mass weddings as oddity. What about goats as empowerment for schoolgirls? And mass purchased coffins for elders and communities? Am I finding these odious because I come from the South which has its own acute sociopolitical afflictions but hardly sees anything positive in the North? Are certain values not supposed to be universal in their validity? Should a government that is too poor to educate its children move public funds to contract mass marriages? And will mass marriages so procured not produce mass children who won’t go to school and so will multiply the country’s problems? And how would empowerment with goats assist schoolgirls to pass their exams? What about multimillion naira government money on noodles and beverages for tea sellers?

I don’t know what else to say. If you have something to say, please say it to northern Nigeria.

Welcoming Buhari Back To Lugard’s Country, By Lasisi Olagunju

Ruling Nigeria from abroad did not start yesterday. Not with Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and certainly not with Muhammadu Buhari. The nation heaved a sigh of relief on Saturday as the president touched the soil of his nation of birth. Staying and governing from London was the manure with which the farmer who sowed the seed of Nigeria nurtured it. Lord Lugard resigned as governor of Northern Nigeria in December 1905 because he failed to arm-twist his employers to allow him administer his colony from London. And his reason was a mixture of romantic craziness and the need to stay alive. The health of Mrs Lugard could no longer stand the Nigerian weather, so, the ingenious soup of “Continuous Administration” was cooked. Lugard would stay half year in London, taking up a desk right inside the colonial office, the other half of the year in the insufferable environment of northern Nigeria. But the colonial government said no, you cannot be absent and be present at the same time. That would be a slap on the face of governmental sanity. You are either there or you are not. A frustrated, disappointed Lugard got angry. He resigned.

But some people are so good at their desk that the system cannot contemplate a future without them. Even when they are old, tired, ill and weak, their subjects would insist that they rule from their bed of infirmity. Buhari and Olusegun Obasanjo were not the first to be begged to come back and rule Nigeria like Abiku, “calling for the first and the repeated time.” Lugard got appointed as governor of Hong Kong almost immediately after resigning his Nigerian job. He accepted the offer without demanding to be ruling Hong Kong from London. But the indispensable Lugard soon came back to Nigeria in 1912 as Governor General of soon to be amalgamated Nigeria. He was begged to come because only one person could do the job and he was that person. That was what the British government told him. Again, he held out the condition to govern from London for six out of twelve months in a year. Back and forth, the Big Man could not be persuaded to drop the demand. “As the driving and controlling force of the administration,” he was toasted that he shouldn’t be outside Nigeria, “a country where the unexpected is constantly happening.” But Lugard won’t stay and be lost in the heat of Nigeria. Staying in Nigeria could make the strongest General old and ill. Sometimes, governments are like ladies, they cave in to that persistent dude who won’t take no for answer. Col. Lugard got what he wanted in January 1914 after the amalgamation – he would stay six months in Nigeria, four and a half in London, one and a half months in transit. He enjoyed it. His wife liked it and she wrote about it. It is novel, noble and good. Wherever they went, like the snail, they moved with the fortress of power. The absentee governing system remained operative until a new Secretary of State, Walter Long, ended it in April 1917.

The apple does not fall too far from the tree. Those asking President Buhari to return home from London before his doctors released him were simply being lazy. They claimed he had stayed in London cumulatively for over five out of the about eight months we have so far spent this year. They were too idle to know that staying in London did not necessarily mean being out of Nigeria. They were very ignorant of history. They ignored the absentee foundation upon which Nigeria was built. A creation cannot be greater than his chi, we were told. There is a sense in which nations take on the character of humans. The wisdom of the elders tells us that the beginning of any man pre-tells his life. The Ancient Greek and the Romans, in particular, would argue that a person’s life was determined by “the three Fates” which at birth “spun out” a child’s destiny. They believed that whatever happened at birth “spins, measures and ultimately cuts” the person’s thread of life. The idea of absentee governance in Nigeria was planted with the Nigerian tree. It started from the north with Lugard in 1905. Does that not explain why today’s northern governors enjoy ruling their states from Abuja? Does that also not tell why President Buhari laughed at the idle few who were burning valuable energy protesting in Abuja against his London stay?

But the president is back. His enemies would start keeping vigil at the river bank for his crab to blink again. They would want him to keep the Lugard tradition, travel again and stay again so they could mass and protest again. But he won’t travel again, that is what his friends said. His friends have assured us Buhari is fit and well. They say his arrival on Saturday was the coming of the cat with multiple lives.

Buhari is back but his over one hundred days abroad increased the call for a redefinition of the Nigerian nation. His absence, indeed, sharply divided the country and sharpened the axe of those crying for the restructuring of Nigeria. Some felt not seeing the president for 103 days and not knowing what ailed him made mumu of the whole nation. Others felt harassing a sick grandpa in the name of politics was a sin deserving thorough lashing. The protest boundary had colours. The protest vests had sectional and political and even, ethnic lines. But should every conversation be lost under deadly ethnic and political mudslides?

The president watched all the protests and the associated drama and laughed. Laughter heals faster than the magical touch of doctors. But while Buhari was away, Nigerians also laughed at his people. His party and government and governors set up committees on restructuring. His Senate and the House of Representatives rejected a bill for devolution of powers to the federating states. Did the president watch all these too as he watched the idle Abuja protesters? Has he been briefed that his party set up a committee to search for the definition of restructuring? Lugard’s continuous rule over Nigeria isn’t just in the area of absentee governance. His diseased seed was planted to endure for all seasons. He created an abami country that is neither male nor female. A president falling ill would not ordinarily create unnecessary tension in a normal country. But Nigeria is a paranormal entity. It is a country that is not a country. We remind Buhari that before he fell ill, travelled and stayed abroad, critical minds kept asking whether Nigeria was a federal or unitary state.

They still ask that question which was asked over a hundred years ago by critics of Lugard’s policies. A.J. Harding was director of Nigerian affairs at the Colonial Office. He, in those early days, reviewed Lugard’s political arrangements for Nigeria and lamented: “Sir F. Lugard’s proposal contemplates a state which is impossible to classify. It is not a unitary state with local government areas but with one central executive and one legislature. It is not a Federal state with Federal executive, legislature and finances…it is not a confederation of states.” What kind of country then is this? That is the question our fathers asked. It is the question we and our children are asking. Let us pray our grandchildren will get the answer.

Meanwhile, President Buhari, welcome back to your ill-defined country.