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Ajantala Democracy By Lasisi Olagunju

‘Na the same people’ is the title of a WhatsApp message I got last week from a friend. As usual, it was an anonymous message, author unknown. It is the story of a palm wine tapper with a Christian wife and a Babalawo as brother. The wine tapper wouldn’t go to church; he wouldn’t also…”
August 13, 2018 11:48 am

‘Na the same people’ is the title of a WhatsApp message I got last week from a friend. As usual, it was an anonymous message, author unknown. It is the story of a palm wine tapper with a Christian wife and a Babalawo as brother. The wine tapper wouldn’t go to church; he wouldn’t also join his brother to eat the delicious pounded yam of the shrine.

He was a spiritual loafer; an undeclared freethinker. To the insistence of his wife for church services, he had a one-line response: ‘Na the same people o!’ To his brother’s sermons for conversion to idol worshipping, his response is the refrain: ‘Na the same people o!’ Which people? The hardworking wine tapper wouldn’t talk, he wouldn’t explain anything.

What the thoughtful palmwine tapper wouldn’t say was what he saw daily from the height of his palm tree: The same people who patronised the Babalawo in his shrine sang their hearts out in churches on Sundays. Na the same people!

The joke is on you if you are a Nigerian. You trusted democracy and its redeeming promises. This one is a scam. The same persons you chased out of power are the same persons in the new power house. Your Peoples Democratic Party is their All Progressives Congress; the two are the ADC, the ADP and the Social Democratic Party! The lead singers of light are the new band leaders of darkness. The chorus singers are the same victims who danced for the past — Na the same people!

A political party in the second republic called them mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are habitual blood suckers. Undisturbed mosquitoes won’t stop feeding on your blood. It is their life and future. They won’t fly away unless you scare them or you clear them.

“Why does the same person always appear at the top of my Facebook story views?” One user asks. And he gets from Facebook an explanation. Okay, he says and asks again:
“So, what should I do if I don’t want that person around me?”
“If you want to get rid of this, simply unfollow that person,” Facebook counselled.

It is the same with governance. You get what you cultivate. You can’t be a follower of idiots and get excellent leadership. The way to conquer a wrong road taken is to abandon it, unfollow it. Nigeria fetched the wrong firewood with this democracy; with post-military civil rule it got it all wrong. The one who brings ant-infested firewood home invites lizards to his compound. The home of Nigeria is taken over now by all sorts of reptiles. The creepy creatures change form and face and remain in control of all vital parts of the home. No matter what fumigation the house owner does, they remain. It is an almost hopeless situation.

Where do we go from here? I am sure I am not the only one asking this question. Millions do, every day, every hour. You didn’t like soldiers in government houses. Military rule was an aberration.

You formed NADECO home and abroad. You fought gallantly, shoulder to shoulder with freedom fighters, pro-democracy activists. Some died. Some went to jail. Some ruined forever, becoming living-dead – the homo mortuus. You, with many others, suffered, you lost almost all but in the end you won. Or you thought you won. Democracy at last on May 29,1999; the military handed over power; they went back to their barracks.

Never shall these soldiers rule us again, you vowed. You were not alone; your comrades joined in the vow. You went asleep. Then one day, you woke up and looked through the window. You couldn’t believe what you saw. They are the same! Could it be that these chaps are still in charge? The PDP – but it was the G34 that found it, a body of patriots. Other parties too – same persons! Why are they smelling the past – smelling barracks and bullets? You realized too late; what you pressed was the wrong button: 1999 was an ambush! They are the same persons! You are back to the past.

You regrouped, went back to the trenches and the battle was long and bloody. You met new faces, you made new friends, heard fresh voices with a different message — message of Change. May 29, 2015 came, you had Change. There was celebration across the land. One year, two years, three years- you can’t believe what you are seeing. The APC is the PDP! Those who chanted PDP! Power! are the ones holding the Change microphone today. The very ones who once carried power umbrellas are the ones holding micro brooms.

The hated, sinful fellows of three years ago are the revered saints of this glorious day. They ambush and conquer. Those ruling the world of darkness are the same ones ruling the world of light. They are amphibious principalities! They ambush, conquer and use their captives for rituals. Military strategists will always hail the prime place of ambushes in outcomes of war. They rarely fail. Hannibal and his small Carthaginian army ambushed impregnable Rome at the battle of Lake Trasimene. Not a single Roman soldier escaped the slaughter.

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You ask how politicians -less than one per cent of the population – have managed to conquer and capture Nigeria for themselves and their generation. It happened (and still happens) because the 99 per cent carelessly believe there is power in the huge number they parade. Savage, wild barbarians ambushed an elite Roman Legion three times their size in Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD. They destroyed the entire Roman force. One of the greatest Generals in history is Saladin. A devastating ambush of his 26,000 men by less than 5000 European knights and infantry men at the Battle of Montgisard blighted his reputation. The Israel- Arab war of 1967 is called the Six-Day war. But military historians will argue that “in reality (tiny) Israel won it in six hours.” The powerful enemies suffered ambushes in three aerial attacks which destroyed 452 Arab aircrafts.

The Nigerian ruling class are classical ambush specialists. The more you run away from the past with its ugliness, the faster they pour its scented faeces on you. The past is a good soldier; well trained in the strategy of ambush. It is like an indulged disease, it mutates to invincibility. You run from it only to meet its trouble at your every port of rest.

Our democracy is the story of Ajantala, the Problem Child. At birth, Ajantala hit the ground running. He gave himself the first bath; named himself to the consternation of elders. What could they do when a spirit was talking? Ajantala grew rapidly to be the terror of the village, tormented all who did not quickly get the sense of avoiding his path and his father’s house. Soon, there was no visitor again to beat; no elder to assault. He turned his evil attention to his parents and routinely beat up his father and mother and dared them complain. The one who gives birth to problem-child has no choice; he must carry him.

Ajantala’s parents endured the evil until it became choking and the mother thought out a scheme. The poor woman went deep into the forest one bright morning to fetch firewood. She went so deep that even she doubted she would be able to find her way back home. Then carefully petting Ajantala, she gave him choice food and drinks and asked him to wait under a tree while she foraged the forest for wood and other necessaries.

She escaped out of the forest and back home. The child’s father too, with cautious optimism, celebrated the homestead’s new found freedom. Ajantala waited and waited and soon realised what the woman he called Mother had done to him.

Wandering in the forest, the evil one met three jolly good fellows: Lion, Ram and Goat. He begged to be servant of these friends promising them peace and life more abundant. They took him in and trusted him with their lives and their all. They soon saw what those who birthed Ajantala saw. They suffered, silently, individually at first. Then the assaults became uniform and shared.

Then they thought of what to do. They would abandon their home for the problem guest. They packed all they had into a basket and went to sleep. The escape journey is tomorrow before daybreak, they agreed. But Ajantala heard them. He carefully packed himself into the basket and would torment his victims once again (and forever) just when they thought they had escaped the scourge of the visitor. Ajantala is the reason Lion is in the forest today and the other two defected out of the forest. He is also the reason the king of the jungle makes meat of his former friends.

Every rescue effort leaves the poor poorer and the weak weaker. One APC candidate in Bauchi told his victims he wouldn’t work for them if he was elected into the Senate. He was audacious enough to declare that his interest was not the poor electors but his lord and saviour – Muhammadu Buhari – who must remain president till the end of time. Did the poor, hungry, ill and insulted Bauchi voters not vote for him last Saturday? They did! That is how captured people behave.

Does this tell you something about last week’s invasion of the National Assembly? About the unusual things that have been following that usual action? About cries of plots and counter-plots? About old dogs calving old dogs for meat in power abattoirs? About hunters swapping fates with the hunted? About the greedy evil of the past now dining with the saintly glutton of today? About sufferers of the misfortune of bad governance taking sides in the ongoing friendly match between darkness and darkness? About salvage efforts wasted? About national misfortune that won’t just go away?

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