Stop Demonizing Fulani Herdsmen In Shitholes

By Tunde Odesola

(Published in The PUNCH, Friday, January 19, 2018)

“This is Reality Radio Corporation, 66.6FM, Abuja. My name is Moore Paine. Here are the news highlights: Herdsmen killed 756 in two years under Jonathan – Presidency; Taraba death toll rises to 60; FG has not done enough for herdsmen – Audu Ogbe; Soyinka blasts Buhari over Benue killings; I’ll protect Ekiti from herdsmen – Fayose; Prevail on Buhari to stop herdsmen attacks, Benue women tell Aisha; Council of States meets today in Abuja; Buhari replaces sacked NIA DG with northerner. Now, the news in full…”

“Switch off that stupid news, hadjia, I want to concentrate.”

“Why, Your Excellency? You need to listen to news. By so doing, you would know the yearnings of the people and the mind of the opposition.”

“Menini! What do I need to know the mind of the opposition for, hadjia? Was the opposition not there when I convincingly won the general election? Will people ever stop yearning? Let me tell you what you don’t know, the more you keep out of politics and concentrate on taking care of me and running the affairs of the other room, the better for you. You know I’m yet to forgive you for the interview you granted on the state of the villa’s hospital and the one in which you said I have been hijacked by some party people. If you were not dabbling into politics, you would have discovered the buying and riding of motorbikes under your nose. Eh, don’t tempt me to marry another wife, kajiko; I’m may be an old general, but I’m still strong, you know.”

“I don’t mean to disobey your Excellency. It is just that I hear a lot of disturbing news daily.”

“You hear disturbing news daily, kwo? And you go hysterical, ba? I have been hearing disturbing news in this country since 1960. Hadjia, please, I don’t want to hear any disturbing news this morning. I want to read some documents ahead of the Council of State meeting coming up today. I learnt the Ekiti roughneck and the Rivers ruffian will lead their fellow troublemakers to the meeting; I don’t want to be caught unawares on any issue, please. Professor has broken down all the issues in this document I’m reading – foreign reserve, anti-corruption war, fuel scarcity, and the two-fighting in Benue. I’m just lucky to have the Prof, you know. I think he is a real gentleman; no political ambition, only boko and turenchi.

“I think he’s a godly man, too. Your Excellency, check your time, it’s time for the meeting. I learnt the man from Ekiti has arrived and that he’s dressed in full hunter’s regalia replete with charms, cowries and horns.”

“That boy must be on drugs. I’ve prepared a place for him in Gashua, where he will go and continue his hooliganism, after his tenure. Let me go and attend the meeting.”

(National anthem and pledge rendition)

“So help us God, says the last line of our national pledge. I pray that the Lord will help our great country, Nigeria. Your Excellency and the Commander-in-Chief, fellow labourers in the vineyard called Nigeria, permit me, in my capacity as the deputy to the C-i-C, to declare this meeting open while the secretary to the government gives us what is on the agenda.”

“No, no, no, no! With due respect to you Prof, sir, there shouldn’t be any other thing on the agenda than the Benue pogrom. We shouldn’t sit down here as if all is well with this country, the nation is on fire and we are here seated in opulence, speaking grammar. The blood of the people killed in Benue and in other states is on our hands. Nitemi o, I want to make heaven when I die, because all of us will eventually die and go and meet our creator. I am from Ekiti, where we don’t fear to say our mind. Herdsmen have taken over the country, and there’s a deafening silence from the Ass-o-Rock because Fulani are involved, abi? Did IPOB kill anybody before it was declared a terrorist organization? The government must declare herdsmen terrorists, shikena.”

“Uhm, uhmm! Let me address the issues raised by the young man from Ekiti. I can see that you’ve turned criticizing my administration into a pastime. Well, that’s your own cup of tea. You said I should declare herdsmen terrorists, ba? May I ask you, what for?

“For turning Nigeria into suya fields, sir.”

(Interruption) “Eh! Look here, Mr Ekiti or what do they call you; you can’t be talking to His Excellency like that! Where do you think you are? Ado garage? Where were you when His Excellency was a military Head of State? Can you say this before His Excellency in 1983? Nna, I am from the state where we honor people with statues. Please, respect yourself o…”

(Cuts in) “So, thou shall not make for yourself a graven image is not in your bible, Governor Aaron? Where’re you when I was in power between 2003 and 2006?

“Rivers want to talk o; I’ve been pressing the buzzer and raising my hand since, nobody called me o. I want to talk o. Don’t wicked me o.”

“I was still talking, Mr Rivers, before the rude interruption from Ekiti. I may not know my age, but I know I’m old enough to be his father. Ekiti said I should declare herdsmen terrorists, ba? Me, who is not even a Christian, know what Jesus Christ said about the lost sheep. He said you should leave your 99 sheep and go in search of the one that is missing. Isn’t that so? If people steal herdsmen’s cows and herdsmen are looking for them, what’s terrorism in that? I think you should go back and take more bible lessons from your wife. Mr Rivers, you can now talk.”

“Your Excellency, I only wish to know why you sent soldiers on python dance in the South-East where nobody was killed, and you sent police to Benue despite the killings. Two, why haven’t you visited Benue? And what’s the response of Nigeria to the shithole labeling by President Trump?

“Thank you, the man from Rivers. You’re unusually calm today; it appears it is the Transporter that you hate, not me. I shall kill a whole cow and celebrate when the two of you decide to bury the hatchet, otherwise, I will label the two of you terrorists (laughs). Ehm, I cannot allow an inch of the territory the British bequeathed to us to secede. The General from the rocky community was wrong to allow Bakassi to go. If any part of the country talks about secession, herdsmen will go there or the military will go and dance disco there. You know disco? That dance that you will be whistling and shaking you head and jumping up and down like you’re dancing to Dan Maraya Jos. Don’t you know secession is a criminal offence? When people die, more people can be born. But when a territory is taken, it cannot be retrieved. Calabar people know better. Your second question; are you not an African? Does African tradition permit parents to see the corpses of their children? I’m the father of the nation. You want me to go and see the corpses of my children? I wish Bourdillon was at this meeting. He would have told you that South-West traditional rulers don’t see corpses.

“About President Trump describing African countries as shitholes; that means that President Trump has a plan for African shit. Maybe America wants to manufacture something with our shit ni. You see, this is one of the democratic dividends of our government. Did any American president talk about Nigerian shit before? I shall direct the Ministry of Information to tell Nigerians to increase their shitting because it will soon turn our economy around. You’re raising your hand, the man from the Confluence State, what do you have to say?”

“Your Excellency, I crave your indulgence to know when you’re graciously going to release the next bailout, sir.”

“Immediately after this meeting.”

“Ah!! After this very meeting!? Your Excellency, let’s declare this meeting closed with immediate effect, sir!

Chorus: Yeeeessssooooo!!!

“Everybody is laughing now o. Even our man from Ekiti is laughing, too. He’ll say in the papers tomorrow, ‘Bailout is my right’. Thank your star this is not a military regime.”

“God bless Nigeria.”

“Sai da safe.”

•Odesola wrote in from the US via [email protected]

Okada Accidents And A Wailing President, By Tunde Odesola

Lightning shone into the black night, forewarning about the fast-approaching downpour. Then thunder bellowed from behind the ominous clouds, forearming mortals to scamper to safety for the gods of the sky were about to embrace their earthly counterparts in a seasonal relationship that multiplies the toil of the farmer.

To be caught outside your home in this type of an unkind weather is ‘baba nla’ bad luck. Atmospheric commotion; dust replaced air, swishing and filling all mortal crevices; eyes, ears, noses, mouths, all. With my index finger, I rubbed dust out of my eyes and also blew my nose. Ah! Thank God, I didn’t have my laptop with me. Oh, wait! I have my phone! My phone of inestimable contacts! I grabbed a piece of black cellophane the angry wind blew my way. What kind of ‘lylon’ is this, I muttered. It was even wet. Could the wetness be urine? I was past caring. I switched off my phone and wrapped it with the ‘lylon’, tucked it into my black suit.

‘Agbotikuyo!’ ‘Agbotikuyo!’ I shouted to the oncoming rickety, noisy and dangerous looking okada, which braked temporarily to hear the destination I was calling out. ‘Agbotikuyo!’ I raced up to the commercial motorcyclist, who had sped a few meters past me. The lanky rider, who did not cut the engine, winced on hearing my destination, engaged the gear, and revved off, saying ‘Agbotikuyo ko, mortuary ni’.

Luckily, another rickety okada soon pulled up, bearing a passenger. ‘Agbotikuyo!’ I shouted. “Na N200 o, I no get change o,” the okada rider said. “I have change,” I said, struggling to sit in the little space left by the passenger on the okada, who cared less if I sat on needles. The passenger, on whose T-shirt, ‘Call me Emeka’, was boldly written, just wouldn’t budge despite entreaties for him to ‘shift’ for me. I clambered up the iron rack adjoining the seat, and off we zoomed. The okada tore into the night like an accursed arrow shot from hell. Despite the dust and dirt, I opened my eyes to the squinting wind while the teary journey lasted. To take your eyes off the road is to walk into your grave. The wind got colder, bearing with it a drizzle. The okada man asked if he could park somewhere while we wait for the gentle shower to subside. As we all were discussing this, a lightless tricycle, as if being pursued by the anti-Christ, whizzed through the dark and came headlong at us from the opposite direction. There are times when fate cages freewill; this was one of such times. There was nothing I could do; I only braced myself up, opened my eyes in horror and was waiting to hear gbooaaa!!! I didn’t hear gbooaa!!! I heard tyres screeching. I heard curses. I saw the marwa tricycle suddenly switch on its light, giving our okada rider a nail-biting nanosecond to swerve. Vrooooooowwmmm gbaaa!!!! We, the two passengers and the rider, all ended in a gutter – with the okada. Luckily, none of us sustained any life-threatening injury except the other passenger who had some bruises on his legs.

“Sorry o, sorry o, shey una no injure o,” sympathizers rushed to the scene, cursing the marwa and offering thanks to God for our miraculous escape.

“Make una wait make rain stop before una go continue una journey nah, no be house una dey go?” a sympathizer said. Our okada man, referred to as Adamu by his fellow okada riders, who came to our rescue, advised we go to an aboki’s ‘mai tea’ shop by the side of the road – to wait for the rain to subside.

“Person wey dey smoke among una should just buy cigarette smoke o, maybe una for don dey knock for heaven gate by now. Person wey sabi shack ‘mai tea’, make e drink o,’ another customer of the aboki said. “The way wey okada accidents dey happen nowadays sef, e be like say God dey vex for Nigeria. You no hear say Buhari son too get okada accident?”

“Why you dey call a motorbike an okada, idiot? The cost of that Buhari son motorbike fit buy five Tokunbo o,” one of the aboki’s customers remarked.

Emeka, who had been listening to the conversation, quipped, “Buhari dey blame im pikin for riding motorbike, abi; where the boy get money to buy the costly okada? If you buy toy for your pikin, no be for him to ride am?”

I expressed concern over Yusuf Buhari’s friend, who was also involved in the accident. Adamu said, “Oga, nobody mind if anything happen to that one o. You see any of our big men wey dey greet Buhari since this accident happen, greet the family of the other boy? Dis country na Eye Service PLC o. Half of those greeting Buhari go dey talk for back say na God catch am. You think say dem like am? Sai Baba too stubborn.”

A bald man sipping hot tea from a big jug cleared his throat and blamed Buhari for openly condemning the Aso Rock security operatives for letting Yusuf out by that time of the night, saying as President, Buhari cannot claim not to know that his son owns ‘several motorbikes’. “The President should have just kept quiet. What if Yusuf locked his bike in a vehicle and drove the vehicle to his friend’s place? Buhari should just accept that children can beat any form of scrutiny. He shouldn’t try to shift the blame. If the kidnapped Boko Haram girls got a fraction of attention this accident is getting, the girls would have been rescued by now. When the whole country didn’t have fuel, your son filled up a motorbike with fuel and went racing.”

“The lesson wey me I see for this whole matter be say the rich also cry. As we lay our bed, na so we go sleep on top of am. If to say we develop our country well, if we get accident emergency units for our expressways, dem for rush to the scene of the accident and give Yusuf and im friend first aid treatment. Na God save the boy nah, if to say e lose too much blood, na another thing we for dey talk now o, God forbid. Can you count how many of our big men and their families die for abroad this year alone? Why dem no build good hospitals here, shebi we get good doctors?” Wale, a customer who wore an Arsenal team jersey, said.

“Nigeria no go ever get better if our leaders no dey feel wetin we poor people dey feel. Make dem make law banning our leaders from travelling abroad for treatment, make dem ban dem from sending their children to school abroad; ban dem from spending holiday abroad, buying houses abroad or going abroad to born. Make dem ban dem from having more than two cars, and building more than one house. If dem do so, Nigeria go better,” another customer said amid a mouthful of bread, egg and tea.

The song of Fela Anikulapo Kuti – ‘Shuffering and Shmiling’ – blared from the transistor radio of Adamu, further fueling the conversation on Nigeria.

“Wetin Fela no sing? He sing ITT, Zombie, Original Sufferhead, Teacher, Sorrow, Tears and Blood, Mr Follow Follow, Palaver, Coffin for Head of State, dem listen? Gani Fawehinmi no talk? Ken Saro-Wiwa no talk? Tai Solarin no talk? Awolowo no talk? Ojukwu no talk? Bamidele Aturu nko? Una listen to Aminu Kano? No be kill una dey kill people wey dey talk true? God never vex for us o, God still dey sandpaper the cane wey he go take wipe our yansh,” Wale said.

The man with the big jug said he did not understand why ‘bad things’ were happening around the Presidency, recalling the President throwing a blanket of doubt over his age, fuel scarcity, the ill-timed presidential human side PR and the resurrection of the dead in federal board appointments – all in one month!

“When I tell una say Buhari too stubborn, una listen? Why you go draw up list of federal board members since 2015 and you no announce am? Why we come vote for you nah? To dey do smeh, smeh? Adamu hissed.

As the rain stopped, we left the mai tea’s shop for our okada, bending our heads against the moist wind. I have had enough for the night. All I need now is a bottle of beer, a prayer and sleep.

Agbotikuyo dey o!

Odesola was a former editor, politics, Punch Newspaper

Bullet Caskets For Thieving Leaders, By Tunde Odesola

Let the dead bury the dead, so said the omniscient being that walked the face of the earth about 2,000 years ago. Here, Jesus Christ was teaching his disciples to focus on the things of the kingdom over earthly worries. But the way humanity frets over earthly possessions, power, burial ceremonies and other various vanities shows that scant regard is given to the teachings of Christ, the son of Mary.

For weird and, or altruistic reasons, man has continued to worry over the preservation and burial of the dead. Science, religion and tradition have had their fair shares in bothering to give a hoot about treating the dead right.

Plastination is a technique developed in 1977 by German anatomist, Gunther von Hagens. The groundbreaking technique is used to preserve dead bodies by replacing water and fats with certain plastics.

In the land of our nearest English-speaking neighbour on the West African coast, Ghana, burying the dead has been upgraded to a shocking level of creative absurdity. Ghana not only boasts of the world’s largest artificial lake, Lake Volta, the Ga people living in the southern part of the Kwame Nkrumah country also bury their dead stylishly like no other people. The Ga in Ghana have a deep belief in the afterlife. For them, death is no finality, life continues hereafter. They believe the dead are much more powerful than the living and that the dead could influence the living. This is why families do everything they can to ensure that they curry the sympathy of the dead. This is why they build fantasy coffins for their dead. A fantasy coffin could be shaped in the symbol of the deceased’s profession, vocation, family totem or favorite object. It is thus a common sight to see a driver being buried in a coffin shaped like a car, or a footballer buried in a coffin shaped like a soccer ball or a boot.

Back home to Nigeria. Going by the primitive acquisition of wealth and hypertensive worry over material possessions by the political class, it won’t be out of place to know in what type of caskets Nigerians would love their political leaders buried when they die. I’m very sure that a cross-section of Nigerians would wish a vast majority of Nigerian politicians was buried in bullet, condom, spear, maggot and padlock-shaped coffins – to show the disdain in which they hold the political elite.

But there is a panacea for the odium against the political class. Everyone in the land knows the cure for the bitterness, poverty, want, scourge, suspicion and hate in the land, though no one is willing to force the pill down the throat of the 57-year-old toddler nation. And Nigeria will continue to grapple with darkness, thirstiness, hunger, diseases, ignorance and high mortality, all because she fails to take the potion called restructuring. The restructuring pill, depending on the manufacturing pharmaceutical company, also goes by the names – true federalism, devolution, resource control, regionalism, self-determinism, equity, etc. But it is one sure cure for our ailment.

Why is it difficult for the political class to restructure the country? The experience of the Editor, The PUNCH, Mr Martin Ayankola, at the Obafemi Awolowo University zoo about three decades ago offers an explanation. The young Ayankola had visited the zoo during his undergraduate days in the 1980s. The striking resemblance between gorillas and man held a fancy for the young undergraduate. So, off to the enclave of the hirsute creatures he went. There, he threw sweets into the steel cage. As the sweets zoomed high up through the air, the eyes of all the gorillas followed them even as they descended right down into the midst of a band of young gorillas having fun on the sunny afternoon. Poh! Poh!! Poh!!! The three ‘Trebors’ thudded on the grass. As if a mischievous gorilla among the band had released a sickening, noisome fart, all the young, able-bodied gorillas, who had been jumping and falling over themselves, suddenly broke up and slunk away, leaving the ‘Trebors’ conspicuous on the grass. Sshwah! Sshwah! Sshwah! Heavy footsteps rustled dry grass somewhere at the rear of the cage. Unabashedly, the living head of the autonomous primate community, a massive 230kg gorilla, sauntered forward, swaying like a content despot. Majestically, he ambled to the ‘Trebors’, picked them up, tried to unwrap one of them, but his stumpy fingers won’t allow such a desire. Brooking no patience, he put the ‘Trebors’ in the hollow of his left palm and snapped them. He opened his palm and still tried to unwrap some of the peppermints, but the wrap won’t reveal its content. Nonsense! One after the other, he tossed the wrapped ‘Trebors’ into his buccal cavity. Only God knows what the taste did to his sense of self-worth, he rose to his mighty feet, let out a frightening guttural cry and rained blows on his chest. Case closed. This is the way of the jungle. Might is right. Though the ‘Trebors’ could go round all the apes if shared equitably, fairness is an alien word in jungle lexicon.

Sadly, this is the way of our political class and the reason why restructuring sounds like a dirge. In the lair, the lion’s share is not the majority of the share, it is the whole share. After having his fill, the king lion leaves the carcass for the rest of the pride.

The other day, I asked my little daughter if she could recite the American pledge, and off she goes: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice, for all.” Ummhh!? Can you recite the Nigerian national pledge, I asked curiously. “Yes, I can,” she replied eagerly. “I pledge to Nigeria my country, to be faithful, loyal and honest, to serve Nigeria with all my strength, to defend her unity and uphold her honour and glory, so help me God.”

If the words of a pledge were a measure to determine nationalism, the Nigerian national pledge dwarfs the American pledge. Unfortunately, however, the Nigerian pledge offers no promise of liberty, equity and justice, which are fundamental bricks of nationhood, and which the American pledge did not fail to address. May be this is the reason why Nigerian leaders have abysmally failed in restructuring the country and bluntly refused to fulfil their part of the social contract. I learnt at the election petitions tribunals that you don’t get what you don’t ask for.

The ‘point-and-kill’ Oshodi-garage mentality of winner-takes-all among our geopolitical regions over revenue allocation would cease if the nation frees its boundless energies in the regions by devolving power from the centre and sharing it equitably among the federating units. Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, identified some of the problem afflicting Nigeria when he delivered a speech on restructuring in September 2017 at Chatham House, London, lamenting the 53 per cent of national revenue being controlled by the Federal Government while the biggest but maltreated cash cow, Lagos State, and the 35 states of the federation and Abuja share a miserable 47 per cent.

Recalling that some of the most enduring institutions in Nigeria were built by regional governments, El-Rufai said it was impossible for a centralized police force to produce security for nearly 200m people just as he spoke against the exclusive control of over-crowded prisons and ‘unmanageable number of federal trunk roads and railways’.

The governor, who recalled an article he penned in 2012, “A Federation without Federalism,” said that the broad consensus among Nigerians was that ‘our federation had been dysfunctional, more unitary than federal, and not delivering public goods to the generality of our people’.

In a telephone chat with me during the week, Professor of Sociology, University of Lagos, Lai Olurode, said restructuring remained the way out of the country’s myriad challenges, adding that Nigeria’s population was a game-changing asset.

He said, “Every part of the country needs a fair deal. We must emphasize governance, not politics. We must reassure the North, no part should feel threatened. We need to void the administrative waste and greed at the centre, and this would ensure fairness, equity, competition and more effectiveness. Each region would develop and cater for the needs of its people. Abuja is too far away from the people.”

The bleeding scars of Nigeria’s unitary federalism can be seen in the guillotining Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the ratty Apapa Road, the trillions of naira spent to procure darkness, the illusory 2nd Niger Bridge and 3rd Mainland Bridge, intractable erosion scourge in the South-East; the sinful environmental pollution in the Niger Delta, spine-chilling Boko Haram evil in the North, and the general milieu of backwardness across the country.

The time to heal our land is now.

Mr Tunde Odesola was a former Political Editor of Punch Newspaper, now lives in US

Demystifying The Cock President

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.

Re: Kakanfo My Foot! By Taiwo Adisa

I have come to recognise the awe, power and relevance of the Aare Ona Kakanfo title very early in life and it was not just about the exploits of the title holders as we read in the books. As a primary three pupil, my class teacher, a woman, decided to conduct a test and promised whoever came first would be named Aare Ona Kakanfo of the class. I came tops and was named the Aare Ona Kakanfo.

And what were the duties of the Aare? I was given a seat directly opposite the class teacher, presided over affairs of the class and dished out punishments. That included dishing out strokes of the cane to some offenders and in some instances appointing the big boys in the class to stretch out key offenders whose names entered the black book. I enjoyed the reign but little did I know it was a ploy by the woman (a nursing mother) to save herself the stress of having to give recalcitrant pupils strokes of the cane.

In those days, it was fun and responsibility co-joined. I saw classmates fell over themselves to curry the favour of the Aare. On our way home, some classmates would offer to carry the Aare’s bag, in anticipation of lesser punishment in case their names enter the black book.

As years went by, I got to read the historical essence of the Aare Ona Kakanfo title. More than the childlike innocence with which we held that title in primary three, it became clearer to me that the title was reserved for warriors, the Generalissimo of Yoruba land. The Aare was the man who led the wars of the Oyo Empire, he never returned from a battle defeated. It was a powerful title for powerful men.

And history has told us of the myths and mystiques around that title. One of the names of the previous holders that struck me is Ojo Aburukamu. The name portends danger and easily strikes fear- One who is so fierce and would not die.

Notwithstanding the changing times and the rise and fall of Empires, historical relics still give today’s generation a sense of connection to the past. A sense of belief that their forebears actually had sense of organisation and operated strong and complex political institutions long before the advent of the scramble for and partition of Africa. That is my point of departure from some social media commentators and those a friend called English-speaking graduates of today, who have tended to question the essence of the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland where there is no one single Oba of Yoruba land. Or even some of those who question Gani Adam’s credentials as the right candidate.

One of the critics who put pen to paper in the traditional media is a former News Editor of The Punch, Tunde Odesola, who wrote from the US. His grouse was that he did not see any visible impact of the Adams-led Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) in the fight to actualise the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential mandate of the late Chief MKO Abiola. He linked the organisation more to thuggery and violence than noble objectives.

Even while I believe that the OPC is big enough to defend itself, I make bold to state that the organisation did some noble exploits in those days of the jackal. Maybe Odesola lacks the requisite information. But suffice it to state that the OPC had directly affected Odesola’s daily bread when its enthusiasts turned themselves to emergency vendors to help save Punch from the ban imposed by the vendors’ association at the start of the unsold policy. With the presence of OPC, the newspaper kept afloat and was able to break the vendors’ resistance in weeks.

I am one of those who have remained impressed by the rise of the ‘Carpenter’ Adams. Years back, I recall how a committee of five Oodua sons, Wale Adedayo, Gani Adams, Wale Adeoye, Kayode Ogundamisi and this writer met at Adeoye’s Maryland home to fashion out some good causes for the emerging OPC under Adams. The amiable Adams internalised the outcomes of those brainstorming sessions, expanded on them and it is not a surprise that honour for him is coming from home and abroad..

What to add? Only to congratulate Adams for doing Yoruba youths proud and urge him to keep his head up in this position of high responsibility. And just like my own tenure as Aare Ona Kakanfo of primary three class ended in backstabbing and revelry, may Gani’s tenure defy the tragic myth already weaved around that title.

This Maina Saga…

The story of Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman of Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms, which broke last week promises to remain in public eye for long. It has already won for itself an unwinding lifespan, following the trajectory from 2010 to date.

Some commentators hailed the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari in ordering Maina’s sack as salutary and presidential. I beg to disagree. The president cannot direct the sack of a civil servant by fiat. In the same vein, he cannot distance himself from everything that is bad in his administration. The buck stops at his table and like he promised during the campaigns, Buhari must lead from the front. In what looks like trying to turn pap (agidi and in Yoruba it’s called eko) to a match stick, some persons are trying to paint a victim image for the president in all this. It’s what the dramatists would call attempting to pack someone’s stew with bread in his presence. Whether Buhari admits knowledge of the Maina saga or not, I take it as his fault; if he feigns ignorance, I stick to my gun. I will not be party to those who paint a saintly image of a father whose children are turning out as armed robbers. As head of the family, he takes the blame and the praise.

And to his order that Maina be sacked? What does that amount to? Nothing; just nothing. Presidential verbal directives can do nothing to deny a civil servant his job. The appropriate agencies that can do Maina harm are the Office of the Head of Service and the Federal Civil Service Commission. As far as those have not commenced disciplinary measures against the man, the presidential directive is of no effect. And if that is the situation, Maina would continue to earn his money (he was said to have earned N22million already) while the EFCC continues to waste its paint on buildings the Maina family claimed are inherited.

Kakanfo My Foot! Part 2

By Tunde Odesola

I heard their babble, those who bayed for my blood and canvassed support for the Aare Ona Kakanfo-designate, Gani Adams, on the basis of his relative young age and perceived accomplishments.

Spanish-American philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist, George Santayana, in a moment of elucidation on the primacy of history, reasoned, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” According to Samuel Johnson’s book, ‘The History of the Yoruba’, “In war, they (Kakanfo) carry no weapon but a baton known as the ‘king’s invincible staff.’” Unmmhh?

So, the Kakanfo carried no weapon? Why then the prattle about the need for a young, aggressive person to occupy the post? In the not-too-distant past, after the colonial era, to be precise, the Yoruba have fought and won political battles in the Nigerian political space using their intellectual range of vision and not through bloodletting.

Historically, the Yoruba have never run away from a war. For them, it is not the acme of excellence or the celebration of the ‘Omoluabi’ ethos to uphold the ridiculous and the vile. Employing their international connections and links across the nation, the Yoruba, during the June 12 crisis, spearheaded the war against the smiling ‘agbako’ (gnome) and rogue general, chasing him to a faraway hilltop cove.

They also stopped the dark-goggled dimwit, who wore the uniform of a general but had no balls to visit the South-West, from leaving the Ass-o-Rock, where he was holed in his dying days. “Talo sope ao ni baba, kai, a ni baba!” goes a popular Yoruba chant.

It means, “Who says we don’t have a leader; hold it!, we have a leader!” Yes, the Yoruba have qualified leaders who can be Aare Ona Kakanfo. They don’t necessarily need to be young, says the history book as they do not have to bear arms but must be steeped in ‘oogun abenugongo’ (juju).

If you’re looking for authentic babalawos, the Awise Agbaye, Prof Wande Abimbola; and the Araba of Osogbo, Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon, are time-tested. If you are looking for a war general, the Yoruba have a former Chief of Defence Staff, Lt.-Gen. Alani Akinrinade (retd.). The Yoruba also have the National Leader, All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Afe Babalola; a former Ogun State governor, Aremo Olusegun Osoba; human rights activist, Chief Femi Falana (SAN), just to mention a few – who, by their antecedents, are much more qualified than the factional leader of the Oodua Peoples Congress, Adams – to be the next Kakanfo.

Because he is mischievous, I never know what to expect whenever my friend, Adeolu Adeyemo, calls. Last week, I picked his call and held my breath, “Deolu, bawo ni, (how are you)?” I greeted.

By the way, Adeyemo is the chief correspondent, New Telegraph newspaper in Osun State. He cleared his throat, “Jo, (please) Tunde, I need your reaction on the Aare Ona Kakanfo issue.” “Why my reaction, I asked,” suspecting he had something up his sleeve. “I used your WhatsApp reaction yesterday, and I was directed by my head office to get a more comprehensive reaction on the issue,” he said. “Oh, I see. You have to give me some time to put something down,” I said.

Thus, the article, “Kakanfo my foot!” was birthed. When I finished writing the piece, the man who has the most profound influence on my career as a journalist, Mr Adeyeye Joseph, a former Editor, The PUNCH, read it on Whatsapp, and said, “You must be ready for trouble after this is published.” The article caught fire on the social media as soon as it was published in The PUNCH of October 18, 2017, instantly setting the tone for discourse on the impropriety of Gani becoming the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land.

So, when I saw Kayode Ogundamisi, whose name I mentioned in the article, shooting from the hips – in reaction to the article a few hours after its publication, I smiled and remembered the warning of my mentor.

As soon as the day broke, a neighbour in my Agege suburb of Lagos State, Rosemary Ayenero, who now resides in the UK, woke me up with a call. “Boda Tunde, kilo se eyin ati Kayode Ogundamisi (what’s the matter between you and Kayode Ogundamisi)?” she asked agitated. “Kayode Ogundamisi,” I yawned, trying to shake off sleep. “Yes, Kayode said you lied against him; that he was never in Ondo State in 2000,” Rosemary stressed. “An almost lifeless man came to my office and said he was the secretary general of the OPC. He said he was the second-in-command to Gani Adams. At the time, the only secretary general of the OPC I knew was Kayode Ogundamisi; that was why I took him for Ogundamisi,” I said. “Ah, omo adugbo leyin mejeji o. (The two of you are from the same neighbourhood, you shouldn’t fight),” Rosemary advised. “You know me, would I cook up a lie against him,” I asked my neighbour. “But Kayode too doesn’t lie,” she said.

The die was cast. Who was in the wrong? It was me. But did I deliberately bring Ogundamisi into the story to malign him or make my story credible? No, because the story, without his name, remains very, very credible. But, would it be honourable to keep quiet in the face of Ogundamisi’s denial? No! Ogundamisi has the right to be angry, I apologize. I went through the online reactions praising and condemning the article.

Notably, most of the reactions condemning the write-up did not answer the eternal truths I raised. Gani must just be the next Kakanfo, whether or not Orunmila approves of it. Mainly, those who condemned the article latched onto the denial by Ogundamisi, throwing out the baby, the bathwater and the mother. But the Kakanfo-in-waiting has not come out to deny that he fled when his convoy was attacked in 2000, in Ondo State. He has not denied that several members of the OPC on his entourage were killed in the attack.

Among the truths I raised in the article was the murderous and violent nature of the OPC led by Adams. I also pointed at the uncountable number of exploitation, rape, extortion cases by OPC members in various police stations and courts across the South-West. The article went on to underscore the fact that the OPC was not ‘securing’ our land for free. It was collecting money for the services rendered and thus, should not be seen in the light of Rotary or Lion clubs. I recalled that the OPC got a multi-billion naira contract from the Goodluck Jonathan administration to secure oil pipelines when Nigeria has a standing army, navy, air force, police, Department of State Services, Customs, Immigrations, etc. I noted that in order to show gratitude for the juicy contract, Adams led his OPC members on the rampage along the Ikorodu Road in Lagos, a few days to the 2015 presidential election.

In a telephone discussion on Monday, Professor of History and Fellow, Historical Society of Nigeria, Siyan Oyeweso, said the Kakanfo must be stubborn and courageous, traits he said Gani possesses to a hilt. He said Gani had grown from being a carpenter to acquiring higher education, stressing that the Yoruba need Gani to ward off the Hausa/Fulani herdsmen attacks and other such threats.

In response, I told the scholar that the post is too big for Gani, who lacks the elocution and erudition to speak on behalf of an educated race such as the Yoruba. We should allow King Ajagbo, whom Samuel Johnson said introduced the Kakanfo title, to rest on peacefully in his grave by installing a befitting candidate, please. ‘E je ka se bi won se nse, koba le ri bi o se nri’. If the Yoruba need a chief ‘maiguard’, we know where to look.

Odesola wrote from the United States.