By Tunde Odesola
Where on earth is good, old Bongos Ikwue? Yes, Bongos Ikwue, the Idoma crooner, who was both profound and simple in his soulful, folksy and instructive songs such as ‘Amen’, ‘Mariama’, ‘Still Searching’, ‘What’s gonna be, gonna be’, ‘Something Good’, among others. I love his five-minute monster hit, ‘Cock Crow at Dawn’, which shook the airwaves, heralding the United Bank for Africa-sponsored soap of the 1980s, Cock Crow at Dawn, on the Nigerian Television Authority network. Almost like Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, Bongos, with the use of the acoustic guitar takes the listener on a journey to a sane Jos Plateau, the setting of the docudrama in these words:
‘You can hear the bird sing in the morning,
You can hear the water splashing down the hill,
Kind of roaring,
You can see the sun going down
And the people as they go by
Without a frown…’
Drama mirrors life. Cock Crow at Dawn was a Nigerian drama offering. But another drama played out in faraway South Africa a few days ago when a Nigerian living in the Jacob Zuma country gifted the husband of a woman he impregnated a Mercedes G-Wagon for the atonement of his sin. I had thought that a recent online wisecrack, “Politicians are like sperm…one in a million turns out to be human,” was typical of Nigerian political leaders alone. The axiom, ‘like leaders, like followers’, cannot be truer. Unarguably, Nigerian politics is melodramatic; absurd, exaggerated, sensational and overemotional.
As a student of literature, I know that drama and folklore are intertwined. A Yoruba folklore that parodies Nigeria’s political leadership is the myth of the cock and the fox. A very long, long time ago when morality had not become a vice, the cock ruled the animal kingdom. All animals feared the cock because of its red comb, which they took for fire. Then, the fox did not only respect the cock, indeed, it feared the feathery one with the blazing fire on its head. Yes, the fox was in funereal fear of the cock.
Like every mortal with their tragic flaws, the cock eventually dug its own grave by befriending the fox, telling the canine that the fire on its head was just a fleshy piece of red meat, and not fire. Mr Cock broke the Fourth Law of Power as defined by Robert Greene, who warns, ‘Always say less than necessary’.
When he rode into power on May 29, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari had a ball of fire on his head. Everybody feared him, even beautiful Aisha, his wife, never had the guts to criticise his government in public. In the first few months of his reign, many Peoples Democratic Party foxes fled the Nigerian political jungle while those who stayed back were too terror-stricken to whimper. With great expectations, Nigerians looked forward to Aso Rock to open the floodgates and let the cascading river of justice flush the Goodluck Jonathan Augean stable clean. “Ha, Buhari don come! Mr Integrity go catch and jail all those who don thief our money,” was the common expectation of millions of Nigerians whose lives had been ruptured by the misgovernance of the preceding administration.
Politics and drama have the same hue. “Ha, the level of corruption by the ousted Goodluck Jonathan government is sinful! Thank God Nigerians elected Mr Integrity this time round, if not, Nigeria cannot survive the next six months,” said the all-powerful media machinery of the All Progressives Congress when Buhari assumed power with pomp and circumstance. Then came a futile list of the PDP leaders accused of corruption. The list was endless as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission pointed the forefinger at the former First Lady, Patience Jonathan; Senate President Bukola Saraki, and former governors Ali Modu Sheriff (Borno), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Saminu Turaki (Jigawa), Ahmed Yerima (Zamfara), Gabriel Suswam (Benue), James Ibori (Delta), Martin Elechi (Ebonyi), Danjuma Goje (Gombe), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Ikedi Ohakim (Imo), Peter Odili (Rivers), among others.
The anti-corruption agency also levelled corruption charges against a former Petroleum Resources Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke; a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki; former PDP spokesperson, Olisa Metuh, a former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode; and some ministers and aides of former President Goodluck Jonathan, whose most popular quote, “stealing is not corruption”, stuck out like the sinister horn on a rhinoceros.
Upon the cock’s ascension to power, the foxes watched the red comb from afar and cringed deeper into what Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, once described as a “nest of killers”. What else could foxes look for in a nest, if not something to devour? Days turned into weeks, weeks turned to months, months turned into a year, yet, the fire on the cock did not burn, despite its crowing daily at dawn. Pitiably, the cock also surrounded itself with ostriches, a species of birds reputable for hypocrisy – for the day-to-day running of the kingdom. Because they are coy, ostriches are, naturally, believable. But the cock’s ostriches appear worse than the foxes as revealed in the corruption morass emerging in the kingdom.
Then, audacity fuelled impunity. Foxes are wise animals, you know. Some soon devised a means to move closer to the white cock, mouthing fake allegiance and repentance. Crushing climax! At a close range, they discovered that the cock could not burn! They found out, to their shock and ultimate relief, that the cock’s beak was broken and its legs, without talons. To their delight, they discovered that the cock’s primary concern was the protection of its feathery ilk and would care less if calamity befell any other member of the animal kingdom. The cock and the ostriches and the foxes now live ever happily after.
And the members of the animal kingdom watch in utter disbelief. What can they do? Forgive or revenge. Forgiveness is a complex factor. A psychological explanation of an absurd type of forgiveness is called the Stockholm Syndrome. In faraway Minneapolis city of Minnesota, USA, a 59-year-old black woman, Mary Johnson, displayed a rare degree of forgiveness when she invited her only child’s killer, Oshea Israel, to not only move into her neighbourhood, but encouraged him to live next door.
Israel, who is now 34, was just 16 when he killed Mary’s son, Laramium Byrd (20), in February 1993, following an argument that occurred at a party. Oshea was tried and convicted as an adult even though he was still a minor as of the time he committed the crime. He received a 25-year jail sentence, but served 17 years before he was released. “Unforgiveness is like cancer, it would eat you from the inside out,” Mary said. “I haven’t totally forgiven myself, I’m learning to forgive myself,” a remorseful Oshea said.
Every four years is the year of accountability in the animal kingdom. It is the year when each animal leader would give an account of how it used its potential. 2019 is another four years. Would the animal kingdom allow the cock another four-year term of inertia? It is unlikely the foxes and ostriches would develop a fresh fear and respect for the cock, anyway. Who is the messiah to salvage the animal kingdom from imminent atrophy? Have the members of the kingdom learnt the lesson not to mistake appearance for reality again? Would the animals, like the South African husband, whose wife was impregnated, forgive and vote the cock again? And what would the members of the animal kingdom collect in atonement for sin, a Mercedes G-Wagon or a measly plate of ‘tuwo’?
The kingdom does not know the reason why this cock, unlike his predecessors, does not have a middle name.
It sure knows, however, that the wind has blown, and the rump of the cock is exposed.
Odesola, a former PUNCH journalist, is now based in the United States.