By Lasisi Olagunju
ANCIENT Oyo people found it very convenient to follow the Alaafin to Koso (where kings are made); they balked at following the Alaafin to Bara (the king’s burial place): Kòso ló se é b’óba rè; Barà ò se é b’óba lo. Nigeria’s politicians do not lick expiring presidential palms soaked in blood; they go for promising ones very rich in oil. A masquerade repairing to the grove is never fed with a cheering crowd; he is starved of it. It is worse if the Egúngún had lived his unearthly existence as a torment of the young and the old. At the dusk of his outing, he dances to faint beats of receding feet. That is what the white man calls lame duck. President Muhammadu Buhari is lame duck – even before his successor is elected; his party has made him so. And you can see it in the small gods who now query his Sango and his ways of fire (Àwon Òrìsà kéékèèkéé wá nso wípé Sàngó kò pon omo’re).
Buhari should thank his stars that he has Abdullahi Adamu as his party chairman. If he did not have the foresight to insist on producing the party’s national chairman at the last convention, by now he would be out of the All Progressives Congress (APC); he would be out there in the rains, drenched, orphaned, party-less. Even with the party under his armpit, he is still assailed left, right and centre by his party men. Hitherto fawning ruling party governors now slam suits on their Federal Government; they haul insults at the president and he responds with powerless disinterestedness. He is out, even before he leaves power on May 29, 2023. What is happening? Everyone who has been in and out of power would understand what is happening in the APC and to the president. That is what politicians get in politics where homes are planted right in the middle of enemy forces. To the right is a neighbour who daily casts hostile glances at you; the one by the left is in deep thought on how best to harm you; eviction is the unsaid word of the one facing you. What I intend saying here is better said in Yoruba: Oní’lé owó òtún ò f’ojú ire wo’ni;/ Ìmòràn ìkà ni t’òsì ngbà/ Ká lé ni já’de ni t’òókán ilé nwí.
Every reign is like every Egúngún festival; it has a terminal date and a closing dance. It is because of the nakedness of night that masquerades are counseled to rarely use their long and short whips in daytime. But many do not benefit from the wisdom of that counsel. They take the ephemeral, fleeting powers of their political costume as a never-ending licence to mis-dance and misbehave. They act with feelings that are not human; they become gods of irreverence; they tear the veil of the ancestors with their misrule; they wreck the world for the living. The result is today’s country of pains where birds no longer chirp like birds and corns wither without bearing fruits. Ten years ago, highly regarded statesman, the late Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, told The Guardian in a very lengthy interview that he had always been concerned about leadership “because everything that happens in a country depends on the quality of its leadership. We have a saying: if a congregation prayer goes wrong, it is the Imam leading it that has spoilt it.”
Last week, President Buhari announced a transition committee to prepare the throne for his successor. His masquerade has begun his dance back to where he started eight years ago. He does not have to leave power before seeing the words that will describe his era. On his very watch, the night became darker and longer; the freeborn became slaves in their own country. The last premier of the defunct Western Region, Chief S. L. Akintola, on one momentous occasion said there were two Nigerias. Hear him: “They say ‘One Nigeria; One Country! One Destiny!’ …but Nigeria is not one; there are two: Nigeria of the well-fed and Nigeria of those who look unto God forever.” That division, the crack that was spoken of sixty-something years ago by Akintola, has widened alarmingly in the past eight years under Buhari. He was not bothered; he is still not bothered. The house collapsed on his watch, all he says is that he has done his best. And, worse, those who clapped as Buhari did his thing from 2015 till yesterday are washing their hands of the president’s ways and means. From state capitals to the Supreme Court, everyone is tugging at the departing lion’s balls. They get even more daring as they drag him onto their campaign caravans extracting commitments – even if half-hearted.
It would appear the duck was lame even before he started the journey eight years ago. Professor Niyi Osundare asked two weeks ago in his poem, ‘Incompetence weds Corruption’: “Pepeye, ni’gba t’oo m’owe/ Ki lo be lu’do se?” (Duck, when you couldn’t swim/ Why did you plunge into the river?). Almost all the major presidential candidates of today caused the calamity we contend with. Atiku Abubakar, Bola Tinubu, Rabiu Kwankwaso etc enabled Buhari in 2015. What of Peter Obi? He was neither here nor there – which was also very bad. They formed what Osundare described as a “mongrel coalition”, a gang that rewarded the “frenzy” of the flightless duck eight years ago. They assisted Pepeye to plunge into our stream and soil its potability. But, I must add this: all, except one of the candidates of guilt, refused to reinforce that mortal error four years after. That unrepentant lonely wolf of entitlement and advantage now seeks to outfox all of us – he is, after the act, washing his hands of Buhari’s dross and is asking us to put our trust in him.
We will be electing a new duck in two weeks’ time. Thirteen long days from today, we will choose Buhari’s successor. A friend texted me: “APC attacking APC policies and asking Nigerians to vote APC. No be juju be that?” I told him it is not juju; it is affront. In the heat of the 2015 blitzkrieg which sacked Goodluck Jonathan and enthroned the APC, the present claimants to Nigeria’s heir-hood insisted that Nigerians must ask the then ruling party, the PDP, to apologise for its ruinous misrule. The mob listened and prevailed. It did not matter that the sanctimonious Moses of that period took over the cockpit and flew us into today’s turbulence of misery. So, it is an affront that the APC people do not think they ‘deserve’ to say sorry for their misrule; they want an affectionate pat of votes on their back. They disclaim their shit; they say it is their turn to snatch power from themselves; they insult us.
When Buhari overthrew Shehu Shagari in December 1983, Nigerians with sense refused to celebrate the ouster; and they were not many. They saw through what had happened and knew what would happen. Wole Soyinka described that ‘change’ as the replacement of “one load of Nigerian rubbish with another, and of a far more sinister nature.” He was right then. And, since then, those words have stuck correct with every change of government in Nigeria. Looking back at the eight years of Buhari’s second coming, we should say they are like the long, historical years of uncharitable, cruel, arbitrary Oyo kings indelibly marked with tears and blood. It has been a difficult era of war and displacement and famine. As I write this, nobody gets the naira to spend without buying it from street hawkers. That is the restructuring the Buhari party brought into our economic life. Bringing the present set of ruiners to power deodorised the stench of the past. It would appear that the country was created to forever look at the past with nostalgia. I discussed this some weeks ago with an old professor who lives abroad. He told me today’s horrid experience may well be hailed tomorrow as golden. I snapped my fingers over my head in total rejection of that ‘curse.’ But he told me it wasn’t a curse. He said “Obasanjo is your best president since democracy. And Buhari is the worst for now. But the next one will make Buhari a saint!” He may be right. That is how you know jinxed patients. They don’t get better; they sink deep in illness and decay with every ‘doctor’ encounter.
In 2015, Nigeria ran from the house of disease to the house of death. Angels of that death are today distancing themselves from Death and his ashen ways. And, strangely, they are asking for an endorsement of their own tenancy using the same access card of 2015. Should it be as simple as that? Shouldn’t every planter reap what he sowed? How can you sow Buhari in our lives and seek to reap adulatory promotion to the throne? The damage has been done and it is enormous. Hunger and misery and moneylessness are dividends of the last investment in that business. Sebí ìsirò ni oko dídó (promiscuity demands good accounting sense). The successfully dissolute is the one who knows how to count her coins and regularly check the balance sheet. Nigeria’s investment in the APC and in the Buhari presidency is a big loss. Some people are a loss centre. We’ve seen it in the present management of our market. For eight years, they’ve been harvesting our corn, whistling and with confidence, as if they are no thieves. Asúfèé yà’gbàdo, ò f’ojú j’olè; ó f’ojú jo olóko.
I quoted Yusuf Maitama Sule earlier in this piece. He said more in that interview. He had words for the youths of Nigeria who bear most of the brunt of bad leadership. They must seize the moment and prime the nation for greatness. He said: “For as long as the youths will continue to succumb to the greedy politicians, there will be no change. The youths must realise that they are the future. You are the future leaders, the future is yours. You can make it or mar it. If you decide to mar it by accepting a few things, collecting money from politicians so that they will achieve their selfish aims, you will be marring your future and you will inherit an inglorious future. If you make up your mind to make the future and refuse to succumb to the machinations of these greedy politicians, you will pave the way for a great Nigeria and you will inherit a glorious future. The youths are the vehicles and the answer, the solution to the problems, the vehicles of change and the vanguard of revolution..” (See The Guardian, Sunday, July 28, 2013). Maitama Sule was one of northern Nigeria’s best ever. He was brilliant and knowledgeable. He was set to be NPN’s presidential candidate in 1979 but those very positive attributes disqualified him. His northern compatriots said he would be too independent and wise to use for their scheme. In a last-minute intrigue, they defeated him in their party’s primary and gave us the insular, limited Shehu Shagari who handed over to dour, stern, ultra right-wing Buhari after four years, three months. That is the cyclical orbital way we move from bad to worse. Predatory actors, enabled and cheered on by witless spectators, always make their nation unwell. Less than two weeks from today, Nigerians will elect a new president. I do not share your optimism that the country will get better after the election. Unless the youths carry through their resistance and a miracle happens (and it rarely does), the cycle will roll on.