Home Opinion Rehoboam, presidential jet and Nigerians’ Aparo eggs

Rehoboam, presidential jet and Nigerians’ Aparo eggs

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Nigerians have indeed suffered tremendously in the last one year. Not strictly the hunger tugging at our bellies. That pestilence of hunger was brilliantly conveyed by the whammy soundbite, “Ebi npa wa o” as Lagos Island people’s response to the president’s fleet of gleaming SUVs last year. As an aside, permit the pun, I think that national soundbite deserves a Grammy. Lacerating words from those who rule us even rub salt on our hunger injury. They make Christians race for their bibles to read the famous and incredulous story of King Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and successor. Some young men had helped Rehoboam design a Manifesto themed on how to effectively govern Israel. Perhaps, it was 80-paged, too? Or probably christened “Renewed Hope” as well? Whereas his father-predecessor inflicted heavy yoke on the people, counseled the young men in the Manifesto, Rehoboam’s administration should add to the yoke. So, Rehoboam’s Manifesto had the catchphrase, “whereas my father scoured you with whips, I will scourge you with scorpions.” In a language devoid of political sentiment, it looks like the transition from Muhammadu Buhari to where we are now has a Rehoboamic flavour.

I was not old enough to cognize what happened during the Nigerian civil war so, pardon my comparative shortcoming. Were Nigerian lives this miserable during the war? Many have, in the last one year, died of Rehoboam scorpion stings. Many are in the sanatorium. Many depressed compatriots are looking vacantly into the sky and muttering lullabies to God-knows-who. Many husbands have lost their economic manhood. The sick who could not afford spiking drug costs are now at conference table with their Creator. The president and his kitchen crew have become Eddy Iroh’s Toads of (our) War. They grow “big fat stomachs,” apologies to Fela Kuti. N21 billion just renovated the Vice president’s palace. Our First Lady got billions of Naira voted for her kitchen so that tomatoes and pepper can be plenty on the shelf.

Last Tuesday, our president cavalierly dismissed our sufferings. What the hell are we howling about? “You are not the only ones suffering!” he admonished the Ebi npa wa orchestra. Though it was from a statement issued by spokesperson Ajuri Ngelale, I imagine our president fluffing the arms of his agbada proudly and majestically like Mother Eagle. If you dissemble the president’s words properly, they are almost akin to Queen of France, Marie-Antoinette’s famous statement during the French revolution. French people were starving. “Let them eat cake,” the Queen had said, totally removed from the pangs of the people’s hunger. With hunger decking the bellies of the French, the Queen was literally asking the people the impossibility of making a gangan drum with the hide of an elephant. The president was comfortable comparing malaises and not wellness. Seyitan Atigarin of Arise television yesterday provided a perfect anecdotal explanation of the president’s infelicity. Aso Rock’s gaffe can be compared to the words of a gym instructor. To an obese person looking up to him for conquest of fat, the instructor asked the obese to look at the sea of the obese like him in the gym for inspiration. Shouldn’t he exemplify hope by citing those who had conquered their fat?

Our Rehoboam experience bonds very well with the submission of a content creator who I recently stumbled on, on the YouTube. He is Tomiwa Adio of Agogo Ede Multimedia concept. While trying to correct what he called mis-usages of Yoruba aphorism, Adio unknowingly told us about our Rehoboam world. The wise-saying which he claimed we mis-use is in the form of a fable. For ages, Yoruba had always said, “Af’agò k’éyin àparò, ohun ojú wá l’ojúú rí” – the one who packs the eggs of the bird called pheasant (aparo) inside a local cage deserves no pity. They only got their due recompense. The pheasant is a very alert bird. It moves about with fear of running into a human trap. To avoid human irritancy, pheasants build their nests safely from any human environment. Any slight suspicion of adversary’s presence, the pheasant flies away. In Adio’s clarification, the Af’agò k’éyin àparò, ohun ojú wá l’ojúú rí” aphorism was a misuse of language. The right usage, he said, was “the one who lurks in wait to catch a pheasant, in order to pick its eggs” (agè’gùn k’éyin àparò) “deserves the aftermath”. In the process of lurking in wait for the pheasant to leave its nest where the eggs are laid, a number of inconveniences come their way. So, the one who lurks to kill the àparò and harvest its eggs not only needs patience, they must know that they could suffer the bite of the giant ant, (Tanpépé) the wasp, (agbón) or bee (oyin’s) sting. They must suffer the recompense in silence. So, did Nigerians lurk this long to pick the eggs of a pheasant?

You do not need to slide the panes of your window to see tears, pain and anguish all over Nigeria. Sufferings are our ever-present guests. They sit at table with us, in company of their compatriot of tomfoolery in high and low places. But, don’t our elders say if the deity, the Orisa, cannot remedy a situation, it should not worsen it? When system henchmen ask why we make these issues daily refrain, we tell them that our case is synonymous with that of a poor man whose fowl was stolen by a rich man (èdá t’ó gb’ádìye òtòsì) and who, by that very fact, has courted to himself, not only the ire of the poor but a global amplification of the poor man’s fate (ó gbelé t’aláròyé). The whole world must hear of the inequity.

An example is the rude and unnecessary debate on whether our president should purchase a jet to add to his harem, pardon me, fleet of ten jets. This is coming at a time when “ebi ńpa wá” has become a national ringtone and Nigerians can’t see tomatoes and pepper on their dining table. We can however see a presidential “bùgá” and “bragging right”. Then, presidential spokesman, Bayo Onanuga, came up with a widely-adjudged common error of reasoning. In a reaction to criticisms against the purchase of presidential jet by this government, Onanuga demanded if critics wanted the president to die in flight like Malawian Vice President, Saulos Chilima and Ebrahim Risi, president of Iran. Let us not dwell on the flavor of indecorum and gloating at the dead noticeable in the statement. Known as “emotive bullying” or “emotional gangsterism,” that presidential statement was an argumentative reasoning that sought to appeal to consequence. In Symbolic Logic, Onanuga’s argument is identified by a Latin word called argumentum ad consequentiam. In such argument to consequence, the one arguing creates an atmosphere of pity. They base the truth or falsity of their argument on whether the premise leads to pleasant or unpleasant consequences, waylaying their opponent by appealing to the consequences of the action of accepting or rejecting their line of argument.

Nigeria’s case is like that of the proverbial rolling stone that gathers no moss, something I have elsewhere referred to as a multidimensional malaise. This was what late Babatunde Olatunji couched to arrive at the title of his 1978 Yoruba novel, Egbìrìn Òtè. Are you following the tomfoolery going on in Rivers and Kano States? In both, you can see the hands of the Leviathan. It is obvious that year 2027 is high on the calculations of decisions being taken on the two states. If human casualties litter the streets of Port-Harcourt and Kano, so be it. A president who desires peace in Rivers knows what to do. A major irreverent piece in a faggot, which the Yoruba call “Igi wórókó,” which is upturning the peace of the earthen space, (ààrò) is right inside the president’s trousers (sòkòtò) in Abuja. So, why pretending to be going to Sokoto to find it? If Nigeria’s No 1 Citizen desires peace in Rivers and Kano this moment, it will happen in a twinkle of an eye. All he needs do is agree that 2027 belongs to God and not to any human, no matter their buga. In Rivers, he only needs to pour cold water on this Rivers hot faggot that took residency with him right there in Abuja and remove it from the fire. Kano has a Siamese portent with Kaduna. The president only needs to allow that impish irritant he is afraid would snatch the race baton from him in 2027, who he is hounding in Kaduna through a remote control, stew in his own broth. The belief that the Kano emirate, friendly to the imp, will help him in 2027 may not necessarily follow.

One of the multidimensional malaises happened in Zamfara state last week. Governor Dauda Lawal flagged off the construction of an airport. This is in a state where the number of out-of-school children rivals a migrating colony of bats. N62 billion of state funds was the sacrificial lamb, oil and cowries propitiated to this god of elite appetite. On the list of the malaises of last week, too, was the appointment of 85-year old Chief Bisi Akande as Chairman, Governing Council of our own UI. Akande, we are told, does not even have a university degree. Don’t our elders say gold should be given only to he who knows its worth? Four persons on the Council membership list are said to be immediate family members/political fawners who hail from Akande’s homestead in Ila-Orangun.

I am sorry for digressing this considerably. Today is clearly no day for all those malaises, the peculiar messes in high and low places. It is certainly not an epistle on the sting or bite of Tanpépé, agbón and oyin which we have stoically endured in the last one year. As I write this, I am listening to Odolaye Aremu’s elegy to S. L. Akintola and Adegoke Adelabu. Both had died in the First Republic. While Akintola was killed in the military coup of January, 1966, Adelabu died in a fatal automobile accident on March 25, 1958. He was aged 43. The unfortunate death happened in a place called Mile 51 on Lagos–Ibadan Expressway, near Shagamu, today’s Ogun State. In the company of a Syrian businessman, Adelabu’s car had hit an oncoming vehicle.

“Soldiers are killing people (àwon sójà ńpàà’yàn); the number of the dead is innumerable (èmí t’ó bó ò l’óñka),” the arguably one of the greatest musicians to have come from Ilorin, Kwara State, sings. It was a musical reminiscence on the aftermath of Adelabu’s car accident. This petrel of Ibadan politics’ supporters had claimed his death was spiritual assassination, leading to a deadly protest. Over 500 people were arrested by the police and 102 others charged to court. Odolaye’s most profound quip in that track and my takeaway in the midst of this Nigerian peculiar mess is, a tear-provoking happening that stupefies deserves to be confronted with laughter. It is same I canvass today. Odolaye sang it as “Òrò t’ó bá j’ekún lo, èrín làá fií rín”.

Each time I try to make sense of the various existential challenges Nigeria battles, I have, countless times, had recourse to Can Themba. Born in Marabastad, near Pretoria, South Africa, Themba was one of the most poignant South African writers whose works were done in Sophiatown, Johannesburg. An investigative journalist as well, Themba worked with the defunct Drum magazine. His famous award-winning short story entitled The Suit supplies answers to my worry on Nigeria’s uncountable malaises. It tames my wandering wonder. The story is about Philemon, a middle-class lawyer. He had an adulterous wife called Matilda and both of them lived in Sophiatown. Devoted as Philemon was to Matilda, the latter was always fond of turning his home into a tryst immediately he leaves for his office. On this particular day, Philemon was told of the escapade of his wife again. Rather than his wont of leaving for home late in the evening, Philemon went home midday. As the lawyers say, he caught his wife in flagrante with the lover. In the melee that ensued, the lover scampered out of the window but forgot his suit.

To effectively deal with Matilda, Philemon then concocted a strange and bizarre punishment for her. This was a routine he spelt out where Matilda had to behave to the suit which he hung on the shelf as a honored guest. This involved treating it with utmost respect, feeding it, providing ample entertainment for the suit and taking a walk with it, while discussing with it as an animate object. In conceptualizing the punishment, Philemon reckoned that this treatment would serve as a bitter and constant reminder to Matilda about her adultery. Remorseful, psychologically beaten and humiliated, Matilda eventually died of shame of her adulterous escapades. The treatment our Aso Rock tormentors and their predecessors inflict upon us is similar to Philemon’s. Were we at any time adulterous as a people? Is this their way of dealing with us?

First published by Sunday Tribune, 23 June 2024

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