DIALOGUE WITH NIGERIA By Akin Osuntokun
“Every day, we are worried about what is happening in the North-west..What is happening now in the north-west is what has honestly overwhelmed me.. the same people, 9the same culture, killing each other, stealing each other’s property”- President Muhammadu Buhari
The last time I visited home at Okemesi, the news in town was the abomination of a brother who impregnated his sister whereupon both were banished from the town. This was followed by a ritual cleansing of the community. Compared to what has become of contemporary Nigeria, this abomination looks trivial. I borrowed the title of today’s column from a book (the season of anomie) published fifty years ago by Professor Wole Soyinka. The parallel between the narrative of 1966 (and the prelude to the civil war) and contemporary Nigeria is chilling and we can only pray that it is not productive of a similar tragic outcome.
“The season of anomie is Soyinka’s telling of the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice in a Nigerian context, particularly the chaos in 1966 which led to the Biafra War. It is the story of an advertising genius, Ofeyi, who has produced a brilliant marketing campaign to sell a host of products of dubious quality. However, he discovers the village of Aiyéró, where things are done differently. The people there get on with their work in a community spirit, working together, not seeking personal enrichment.
Ofeyi sees this and changes his ways. Unfortunately, the Cartel that controls the country does not like this. The Cartel, with the support of the government and authorities, decides to repress this approach and does so with bloody and brutal violence. Much of the book is taken up with a graphic description of how the Cartel and its gorillas brutally repress the people – burning down churches, savagely slaughtering innocent people, including women and children..”
Fifty years later at the University of Pennsylvania, this was what Soyinka had to say concerning the reproduction of anomie in Nigeria “I have been under a state of shock for a couple of decades. Things have been happening I never thought I would witness.
You wake up, somebody has disappeared, the body is found, the vital organs removed. People kidnapping for ransom every day, which is what Boko Haram, ISWAP and the others have been doing” At the Obafemi Awolowo University, in Ile-Ife, the anomie manifested in the visceral disputation with the appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor by militants of the local Ife local community. They charged “It is an insult on us that after 61 years, they deemed it unfit to appoint or to elect any of our sons. We are not particular about Ife. Ipetumodu, Lorigbo, Modakeke, and anywhere in the land. We are telling you (workers and students) today, don’t come to work tomorrow (Friday). We won’t agree to anything. We will be here with charms, we will be here with masquerades, we will be here with deities. We are appealing to you, don’t come to work tomorrow.
We will allow you to go now but don’t come to work tomorrow.” Since he spent a substantial part of his productive life at the same university, I will once again cede the floor to Soyinka for an appropriate response to this wanton display of regression into primitive delinquency. “An Ife person wrote me and say, look at these people disgracing us. I told him go there and disgrace them. You are an Ife person. You should be in the front line. The Ife people should say those people don’t belong to us, we don’t know where they came from. And they should be dealt with ruthlessly. Why should there be an Ife VC anywhere. I just don’t understand what they put in the water these days. It is crazy.”
In the recent past and indeed since 2015, Nigeria has increasingly played host to the normalisation of unprecedented absurdities and abnormalities. The supreme irony here is that when you think that Nigeria has hit rock bottom, a new perversion will follow surpassing the bar set by the preceding degradation. Here in Lagos, the prevailing reminder these days is the permanent company of the mutually reinforcing vexation of a searing hot humid weather, steep degeneration of the abysmally low supply of power, and the skyrocketing price of diesel oil to power individual mitigation from generator plants. The trend of the encompassing national tragedy which recently culminated in the Abuja-Kaduna railroad disaster is what the Yoruba call ‘eemo ti wo ilu, eiye o ke bi eiye mo, eku o dun bi eku mo, ènìyàn o fohun bi eniyan mo’ (incomprehensible disaster has befallen society.
The voice of the birds, rats, and humans have been eerily denatured). If the preceding presidency of Goodluck Jonathan was bad how then do we characterize the transition to the incumbent presidency of General Mohammadu Buhari? The scriptures afford us a cue “Whereas my father burdened you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. Whereas my father scourged you with whips, I will scourge you with scorpions.”. And it is not as if Nigerians were not duly warned of what the re-election of Buhari portends for the country. Dele Shobowale of the Vanguard newspaper recalled the alarm bell he tolled three years ago.
“Nepotism/regionalism, unrelenting economic insecurity and increased personal insecurity will follow the re-election of Buhari. On the anti-corruption effort, friends receive the hug; perceived opponents get the hammer. Where is the integrity? I had warned you that ‘The Next Level Is Pure Anarchy’. Now, My Fellow Citizens, you are reaping what you sowed by voting for Buhari in 2019. The man announced a few months ago that he has done his best. I believe him. So, don’t expect anything better till 2023. Instead, prepare for something worse”
On Monday and living up to his billing as the pallbearer of an alternate reality, the minister of information, Lai Mohammed typically unloaded “I am proud of our security forces, our men and women in uniform. Despite a myriad of security challenges, they are living up to the billing. As the terrorists and their camps are being decimated, thousands of terrorists and their families are surrendering in droves. The effectiveness of the security forces has been enhanced by the leadership provided by President Muhammadu Buhari and the unwavering commitment of the armed forces and its leadership,’’ In the eventide of the same day, the parallel Nigerian government of Boko Haram, Iswap and sundry outlaws repudiated the lie with a vicious carnage- this time the proxy victims were the innocent travellers on the Kaduna- Abuja railroad.This disaster left us with the “indisputable conclusion that Kaduna, the gateway to the North for those coming through Abuja has had all its entrances virtually closed by bandits. The train was conveying over 350 passengers as the train service remained the “safest’ in recent times as a result of the rampant attacks by terrorists on the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway”
When speculations were rife that Senator Abdullahi Adamu was aspiring to become the Chairman of the APC, the two relevant credentials that best define him came to mind. One is his long-standing public theft corruption case with the EFCC and the other is virulent Northern irredentism. If anyone has gone out of his way to court public attention as a bellicose proponent of a discredited Northern hegemony, few will contest that spot with Abdullahi Adamu. Since the former resume is now worn as a badge of honour by criminally implicated Nigerian public officials I readily discounted it as a disabling factor. Not so the second. My thinking was that the President need not go this far to push his open Northern agenda by sponsoring such a raw polarising figure for the position of the chairman of a party that fancies itself as a national party.
Naivety becomes of me. Shouldn’t I have known that the latter quality is precisely the skill set the President was looking for? And let everybody be damned including, for that matter, the governors and leaders of APC from the South who, similarly believed that Adamu is one bridge too far. “Virtually all the APC governors (from the South) were unanimous that Adamu could not be entrusted with the party’s leadership, owing to his alleged aversion to the southern part of the country. We have nothing personal against Abdullahi Adamu except for the fact that he has demonstrated an undiluted hatred for the South. Recall that this man rubbished the call for zoning and went ahead to use insulting words on our leaders who spearhead zoning”.
In another bridge too far and calling out the impotence of the Niger Delta people to the bargain, it is no longer news that there has been a virtual take over of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, by the Northern ruling caste with Mele Kyari as the class captain. What is news is that Kyari recently called a press conference to inform on the wherewithal of the toxic fuel that recently poisoned the Nigerian atmosphere. At the occasion, Mr Kyari indicted some fuel importers, namely Duke Oil, the trading arm of the NNPC, MRS, Oando, and a consortium comprising Emadeb/Hyde/AY Maikifi/Brittania, for bringing contaminated fuel into the country. But it turned out that such was the egregious nature of his mendacity that “four of the oil companies accused by the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, Mele Kyari, of importing substandard petrol have all in writing denied the allegation. In their separate publications, the four companies – MRS, Emadeb, Brittania-U and Oando – vehemently denied importing the high methanol petrol.
Surprisingly, the NNPC boss has been silent about the renunciations by the companies he earlier accused of importing toxic fuel. It was learnt that NNPC itself (via Duke Oil) is the most likely source of the entire bad fuel and that Kyari was trying to be clever by half, by lumping it on the other suppliers”. It is of course inconceivable that these private Oil companies will have the temerity to publicly controvert the NNPC were they guilty as charged. So here we are with Kyari coming out to deliberately tell a brazing lie to the Nigerian public.The question then remains that If he can get away with this blatant falsehood how many lies are we being fed on the operations of the corporation including what is reported as Nigeria’s oil production per day?
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