(Published in The PUNCH on Monday, October 15, 2018)
An invisible thread runs through soccer, comedy and magic. It’s called histrionics. Self-conceitedness, however, is the father of histrionics. While the former recklessly speeds on the highway of exaggerated self-importance, the latter gallops down the dusty path of excessive dramatic behavior designed to attract attention. Doubtlessly, football is the biggest sport on earth. It’s also the most passionate. Earthly mounds of countless dead football fans have sprouted in cemeteries worldwide after hearts succumbed to sudden attacks while watching soccer and when stadia collapsed in the molten fury of soccer stampedes.
The passion that comes with soccer makes histrionics inevitable. Lionel Messi, the greatest footballer of all time, though very meek, often rides the tidal wave of football ecstasy. In a fleeting moment, the everlasting scourge of Real Madrid FC, Messi, after scoring a penalty against the Los Blancos at the Santiago Bernabeu, darted to the front of Madrid fans, planted his priceless feet on the ground, took a bow, blew a kiss, and held up his conquering arms like the god he is. Inflicting a 2-3 loss on Bernabeu again last season, Messi, after scoring a last-gasp winner, whipped off his mesmerizing No 10 jersey, raised it to Bernabeu fans as a totem of supremacy, saying to the conquered stadium, “Oga na master!” Messi’s alter ego, Ronaldo, has a characteristic way of celebrating his goals, too.
Ronaldo’s goal celebration is an art in itself, though he exerts much more energy celebrating his goals than in producing them. After scoring a goal, Ronaldo, whose goal-scoring form has dipped since he moved to Juventus this season, would sprint round the pitch, leap into the air and land rooted on a spot like a glued statute, defying the laws of motion with the subtle bending of his knees to absorb the impact of landing. With the way they lie to win penalties, throw-ins, corner kicks and free kicks while on the field, I plan to sit at the foot of the Lord and see through which gate some particular footballers would be led on Judgment Day.
Like footballers, comedians are hugely given to theatrics, too. Though Mr Bean, the British comedian, whose art is both sublime and intriguing, doesn’t talk, the force of his creative skills resides in his superlative ability to communicate, using grotesque gesticulations. His Nigerian counterparts like the late Baba Sala, the late Gbenga Adeboye, Aluwe, Sanyeri, Mr Latin, Osofia, Mr Ibu, Saka, Charles Inojie, Ijebu, etc however, use both speech and gesticulations to convey rib-cracking messages.
I was privileged to watch Nigeria’s greatest magician ever, Professor Peller, whose residence on Bode Thomas Street, Onipanu, Lagos, was a stone’s throw to our Awoyokun Street residence. Suspense, intrigue and dramaturgy are the components of magic, and Peller had them all to the hilt. He could produce an amazing secondary school result from the jackboot of a major-general or conjure 53 dollar-filled suitcases on a tree in Adamawa. Peller could grant the Olumo general a third term without having to bribe legislators or muscle Nigerians. Peller’s death in the hands of hired killers on a Friday belied the seeming invincibility of his magic and highlighted the vulnerability of man’s mortality.
Theology is a branch of human knowledge where some mortals wear the undue cassock of godliness, and most often than not, sit at judgment over the affairs of other mortals. Ex-President Olusegun Okikiola Aremu Matthew Obasanjo bagged a PhD in Theology less than a year ago. Last Thursday, Aremu decided to teach Nigerians a new concept of forgiveness when some prominent Nigerians accompanied his former deputy, Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, on a reconciliatory move to his Abeokuta residence. Always cuddling the limelight, Obasanjo opened his speech at the reconciliation meeting by quoting Atiku, who during his PDP presidential primary victory speech a few days earlier, linked the success of his emergence to Obasanjo, whom he called “my boss”. Reading a prepared speech at the meeting, Obasanjo went on to tell his guests that Atiku was meant to succeed him in 2007, revealing that something went wrong on the side of Atiku.
He said, “We have reviewed what went wrong on the side of Atiku. And in all honesty, my former Vice-President has rediscovered and repositioned himself.” In Obasanjo’s magisterial view, something went wrong on Atiku’s side, but nothing went wrong with his scheme to have a third term, and the mismanagement of nearly one hundred billion dollars made from crude sales between 1999 and 2007 when he was president. Nothing went wrong with the billions of dollars pumped into the energy sector without a watt of electricity to show for it.
“Nothing went wrong with his declaration of elections as a do-or-die affair and ramming his foot down the throat of the Christian Association of Nigeria, shouting: “CAN my foot!” Nothing went wrong with the most vicious impeachment clampdowns on the legislative arm of government and governors in an eight-year reign soaked in impunity. Under Obasanjo’s watch, Odi community was levelled; children were killed, women were raped. He coerced the political and business classes to build a library in his honour, a crime for which Governor Ayodele Fayose has publicly requested a refund, saying the millions he donated belonged to Ekiti.”
Just two months ago, Obasanjo had said that God won’t forgive him if he backed Atiku’s presidential ambition. “If I support Atiku for a political office…, God will not forgive me. If I do not know, yes. But once I know, Atiku can never enjoy my support,” Obasanjo had vowed. Could Obasanjo’s dramatic change of gears be rightly attributed to a suspected penchant for bringing anyone who is in the limelight down?
If he didn’t go into the military at the age of 21, Obasanjo’s talents could have made him a successful magician, comedian or footballer. Obasanjo is a man of drama, whose life is full of dramatic episodes some of which were recalled in the open letter written to him by his daughter, Iyabo. Senator Iyabo Obasanjo’s open letter still ranks as the most odious open letter ever written in the history of Nigeria’s first family. The firstborn of the Ota farmer said Obasanjo sees himself at the epicenter of the Nigerian nation, whose destiny, he literally cages in his pocket and nurtures to feed his whims. There’s no dull moment with Obasanjo. As a man of drama, Obasanjo openly tore his Peoples Democratic Party card and crawled back to the party some weeks ago, claiming that he was passing by when he heard some noise in his Abeokuta backyard; he looked in to see who the people making the noise were, only for him to discover they were PDP members! Una well done o, he told the noisemakers. The trajectory of Obasanjo’s ‘palongo’ within the corridors of power since 1975 explains the stagnancy benumbing Nigeria.
This piece isn’t about the eligibility or ineligibility of Atiku. That would be for another day. This article is about an angel, who hovers in the dark illumination of history with unseen fangs crushing the choicest meat while urging mortals to observe the Lent. The emergence of Atiku in the PDP wilderness has shot blood pressures up within the Presidency and in Ikoyi, foreclosing the prediction of a Buhari-Saraki presidential slugfest.
If there’s anyone in the All Progressives Congress jungle that is capable of defusing Atiku’s parachute hovering atop Aso Rock, it’s Bola Tinubu. In terms of political sagacity, outreach, influence, clout and acceptability, Tinubu ranks highest in today’s Nigeria. If the Jagaban Borgu joins forces with Atiku, Buhari is a goner. If Buhari loses the election, which I doubt, he brought the loss upon himself through inaction and mediocrity. 2019 isn’t a fight between Buhari and Atiku, it’s a war between Atiku and Tinubu.
E-mail: [email protected]