Fatalists haven’t yet returned from the market square. They had rushed there to parrot what they called the eerie signification of the news of pigeons that won’t fly at the National arcade on January 14. It was at the Nigerian fallen soldier heroes’ anniversary. According to them, there was a weird symbolism in President Muhammadu Buhari’s futile move to prod memorial pigeons to fly. Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma, also encountered same futility in his quest to get the pigeons to fly.
Over the years, this ceremonial action had traditionally got the pigeons flying into the sky. However, at the Armed Forces Remembrance event last week, Buhari and Uzodinma’s pigeons merely diffidently looked at them, I dare say, with bemused disdain.
In reality, what have stubborn or hesitant pigeons got to do with Buhari/Uzodinma or the current Nigerian situation? Shamanism and spiritism explain pigeons’ mannerism better. Shamanism is a religious practice which involves practitioners interacting with a spirit world through an altered state of consciousness, the most being through trance. According to it, pigeons, which are one of the first birds that man tamed and creatures that have lived as man’s companions for centuries, symbolize home and security. They equally symbolize love, peace and are thought to be messengers that deliver gifts of physical, emotional and mental healing to man. As spirit messengers, they are a channel of communication between the living and dead worlds. When they are released to fly into the sky on fallen soldiers’ anniversaries, they are a totem expected to be instruments of communication with the land of the dead, a national invocation of the spirits of the dead, if you like. This is in the mould of My Song Burst, a traditional poem of the Ghanaian Ewe tribe that has been around for a while.
In the above poem, the invocator of the spirits of the dead had chanted: My song bursts in the name of Toti with vòsa //Taking a regal step//Dare the hyena howl, let him howl//Let the watchdog thunder endlessly.//The God of song has descended on Ahòsuglo.//War has begun, says So-kple-So,//We shall ourselves adorn.//Master Singers, Choric Leaders//To you we kneel in homage, Announcing neither death nor sickness.
Not minding their unhygienic and slovenly nature, pigeons are complex as a phenomenon and have an intelligence that people seldom connect with. Their messenger assignment fascinates me. One of such was in a song entitled Ajiko’gba ede (Singer of two hundred songs) originally sung by late Yoruba Apala music legend, Ayinla Omowura, which was later redone by another legendary Fuji musician, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. Therein, Ayinla claimed that the secret of his singing prodigy was from an encounter with a certain mystery Man With Two Hundred Songs who resides in a mystery land. He had sent the pigeon to the mystery man for a clone of his mystical singing gift. The pigeon flew away to deliver the musician’s message and emerged therefrom bearing a pod of songs on its beak. Like the benevolent hunter in another ancient Yoruba creation folktale who swallowed a snake which later became the worms in man’s belly till today, upon the pigeon’s arrival, the musician said he chanted some incantations that turned the pigeon and pod from the mystery Man With Two Hundred Songs into a phial. He then swallowed the phial and that became the origin of his prolific singing ability.
Sorry, I digressed. Now, so why did the pigeons flatly refuse to bear Buhari and Uzodinma’s peace messages to the land of the dead, the dead soldiers, our forebears who pre-deceased us and thereby became our ancestors? Is it that they are angry with us, with Buhari and Uzodinma, their administrations or the rivers of blood that maroon the land? Being messengers of peace, were the pigeons saying that the duo’s hands were antithetical to peace? Could the pigeons be affirming the fear across Nigeria, especially with emerging narratives which go that, 51 years after the Nigerian civil war, Nigeria is literally in a state of war, never been this divided and close to explosion?
Fire spitting Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Mathew Hassan Kukah, had provoked the most recent saber-rattling discourse in Nigeria, in the magnitude of the fire on American Capitol Hill. The latter fire was presumed to have been ignited by President Donald Trump, an action recompensed with his impeachment last Wednesday.
Kukah had begun his 2020 Christmas homily, which he entitled “A Nation in search of a vindication”, with his usual harmless demeanour and gradually brought out the desirable nukes. According to the firebrand Bishop, not minding the void of hopelessness that the Buhari government cramped Nigerians into, the people should be happy that Buhari was not a non-Northern Muslim.
“Every honest Nigerian knows that there is no way any non-Northern Muslim President could have done a fraction of what President Buhari has done by his nepotism and gotten away with it. There would have been a military coup a long time ago or we would have been at war,” he said.
Kukah was not done. He continued: “This government owes the nation an explanation as to where it is headed as we seem to journey into darkness. The spilling of this blood must be related to a more sinister plot that is beyond our comprehension. Are we going to remain hogtied by these evil men or are they gradually becoming part of a larger plot to seal the fate of our country? President Buhari deliberately sacrificed the dreams of those who voted for him to what seemed like a programme to stratify and institutionalize northern hegemony. He has pursued this self-defeating and alienating policy at the expense of greater national cohesion,” said Kukah.
Kukah’s nukes have since exploded, provoking a repeat of Salman Rushdie-like threats and fatwa. On January 6, a statement issued by Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, Secretary General of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, a Muslim group, tagged Kukah’s message “irresponsible and seditious.”
Aliyu claimed that though the message was shawled as a “political hogwash,” with intent to deceive the innocent, “there is no doubt that it was a poisoned arrow fired at the heart of Islam and Muslims in Nigeria, hence the need for this intervention.” I pray thee, why would Aliyu slander Islam as representing the regression of the Buhari government? This aggressive interloper then went further to say that “the Bishop’s statement was a prepared address considering the occasion and the audience, one cannot but agree that it was a calculated attempt to insult Islam which is typical of him. His veiled insinuation that Muslims have a pool of violence to draw from is disgusting, disheartening, as well as condemnable.” Another group, the Ummah Movement, headquartered at the National Islamic Centre (NIC), Zaria, expressed same umbrage at Kukah’s homily, demanding that the Nigerian security apparatus should “question Bishop Kukah on his incitement to a coup, persistent and deliberate stirring of communal conflict and slanderous targeting of the majority Muslim population of Nigeria along with their faith.” They asked Kukah to leave his domain, Sokoto State. I reckon that the fate of Akaluka would have been instigated on the Bishop if he were an ordinary folk.
In his own reply, Special Assistant to the President on Media, Garba Shehu, sought group empathy for the president. “Father Kukah has greatly offended many with his controversial remarks against the government and the person of the President,” he said.
Who are the many who feel offended by Kukah’s statement? Perhaps, Aso Rock contractors, their minions and Islamic zealots like the groups above? I challenge the presidency to give the secret service agents go-ahead to conduct a sampling of Nigerians’ views on Buhari, both Moslems and Christians. They may be shocked to hear that Kukah’s statement has a huge resonance with the views of the common people on the street of Nigeria.
Wholesale and without let, virtually all the Islamic and Northern groups that came out to attack Kukah’s homily have admitted the content of his allegation that Islam and North have been convenient shields for Buhari’s mis- or zero governance. If anyone is looking for why Nigeria has retarded in decades and how characters like Buhari managed to come into leadership office and festered along the line, it is because spineless groups like the above encourage them. There is nothing that Kukah said about Buhari that is not the subsisting narrative in the public domain. Indeed, worse submissions of his directionless government are bandied about in market places. He and his administration have become such a cruel joke, so much that the rumour that a mere effigy is what is placed in Aso Rock as decorative ornament persists in public and private discourses.
The truth is that Buhari’s rudderless government has no reference in modern history. It is neither borne of his religious affiliation nor his ethnic base. It is native to him. The pains sustained from his brand of governance are religious and ethnic-blind as virtually all Nigerians, irrespective of their ethnicity or creed, feel the wrack. Buhari is just unexampled in his ill-governance and any attempt to situate him in an ethnic or religious portfolio will boomerang. Were Buhari’s visionless government to bear any ethnic or religious colouration, he would have been bothered enough to stop the volcanic destruction of his own Katsina and northern home by insecurity and banditry. He is apparently too lost in a world only he occupies.
At that critical juncture, Buhari’s lapdogs in the hue of Jama’atu Nasril Islam and the Ummah Movement suddenly found an accomplice and alibi, something in the mould of what Yoruba will call the slovenly widow who, rebuked for not taking her bath since her rites of widowhood began, blamed her filth on her husband’s death. A band of hooligans, abetted by President Donald Trump’s divisive and violence-baiting howls against the November presidential election, stormed the Capitol in what has been described as the most audacious in recent history, fouling that hallowed ground with their hubris. Trump got an impeachment for that audacity. Now, the All Progressives Congress, (APC) in a rather more-disgusting-than-amusing statement, asked that Trump should have learnt from the Buhari example. What example? Even supporters of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, whose equally lame duck government brought upon us this Buhari calamity, because Nigerians, at the polls, wanted anything other than his cluelessness, said Trump should have copied the creek-born ex-president’s pander to the whims of the ballot box. They forgot that we know that Jonathan caved in to his own effeminacy, rather than any democratic conviction.
Some Nigerian and African commentators thought Africa had found a lawless ally in the unruly Capitol Hill irritants which to them equates an American example. For instance, Zimbabwean President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, while condemning the violent protests on the US Capitol by pro-Trump rioters, said that, with such lawlessness, the US “has no moral right to punish other nations under the guise of democracy.” Mnangagwa was apparently griping from last year’s economic sanction imposed on Zimbabwe by Trump. The American President had cited concerns about Zimbabwe’s democracy. Do they know that Africa is a geriatric continental leadership where a member, Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled Uganda for 35 years now, bullied self into another contest recently and his brawn won the election. A few weeks ago, ageing Museveni – he is 76 years old – had literally placed fetish optics by the feet of Ugandans. If lying face down, in the glare of television cameras, to do a planking press-up, which to him was an affirmation that he was fit to continue ad infinitum in office, age notwithstanding, isn’t fetish, I wonder what is. What about the geriatric slumber of his governmental ideas?
Buhari, Mnangagwa and other African leaders who felt they had found comforting place of refuge to rationalize and legitimize the slide in Africa by pointing at the foiled coup at the Capitol, missed the point real good. The Capitol misadventure was a novel aberration, an American pus-oozing sore that its institutions immediately rallied round to cure. One of the ways America treated this gaping and embarrassing sore was by a legislative bi-partisan agreement to expel the putrid Donald Trump pus. In Africa, we leave such pus and wound to fester unhindered, allowing them gather gangrenous greenery. African leaders have done worse than Trump and the system turns a blind eye.
In May 2011, after losing the presidential election, Buhari, then an ex-Head of State, swore in Hausa at a press conference held in Kaduna that, “If what happens in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon will all be soaked in blood.” Indeed, not long after, the baboons and dogs began to be drenched in blood as the picture got clearer. Protesters loyal to him went berserk, spilling blood and Boko Haram insurgency subsequently hit the roof. Nigeria then became ungovernable for Jonathan. Yet, that same Nigerian system, with the support of its leadership, elected the self-same man as president in 2015. Since he became president, Buhari has abetted economic violence, insecurity and hopelessness by a combination of his actions and inactions in office, far tripling that of Trump, yet the system allows him to luster. And we all gather here to attack America which has since confronted its heuristic manifestations and has surely taken necessary actions to ensure that the country never walks that alley ever again?
Whenever talks about the evil and inept combine that births a leadership as Buhari’s come up for discussion, as well as the fawners who exculpate it like the Jama’atu Nasril Islam and Ummah Movement, I always liken their hatred for Nigeria and Nigerians to what I call the Philemon wound. Philemon was a character in South African writer, Can Themba’s famous and award-winning short story entitled The Suit. The story tells of 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 is fond of turning his home into a tryst immediately he leaves for his office. On this particular day, Philemon is told of the escapade of his wife again. Rather than his wont of leaving for home late in the evening, Philemon sneaks home in the middle of the day. As the lawyers say, he caught his wife in flagrante with the lover. In the melee that ensued, the lover scampers out of the window but forgets his suit jacket.
To effectively deal with Matilda, Philemon then concocts a strange and bizarre punishment for her. It became a routine he spells out to Matilda. She has to behave to the suit which he hangs on the shelf as a honored guest. This involves 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 reckons that this treatment would serve as a bitter and constant reminder to Matilda about her adultery. Remorseful, psychologically beaten and humiliated, Matilda eventually dies of shame.
Whatever Nigerians did to Buhari, he should be persuaded to please forgive us and halt this Philemon wound that his administration is inflicting on us. We apologize for our adultery of going to bed with him in 2015.
Ebizi Eradiri As Face of the Bayelsa Girl Child
The calls on society to honour those who excel in exhibition of mental capacity stuck on the Bayelsa State government last week. State Governor, Douye Diri, had announced an automatic scholarship for Ebizi Blessing Eradiri up to doctorate degree level in any university in Nigeria or abroad. He also named her the New Face of the Bayelsa Girl Child. Eradiri had made history by becoming first female First Class graduate from the Faculty of Law, Niger Delta University (NDU). If anyone thought this was a fluke, Miss Eradiri went a step higher by repeating this feat at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos campus where she also bagged a First Class. In a short ceremony which had Eradiri’s father, Boloupaye Eradiri, at the Government House, Yenagoa, the governor also announced an automatic employment for her if she chose to lecture at the state university’s Faculty of Law.
Before Eradiri, Bayelsa had named Miss Nengi Hampson of the last edition of Big Brother Naija, as Bayelsa’s Girl Child’s New Face. Diri explained Eradiri’s choice as the need to make her a role model for young girls in Bayelsa and the entire Ijaw nation for their emulation.
Last week, I thumbed up the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who similarly identified the best students of the Lagos State University and awarded them scholarship, as against the Ogun State governor who splashed millions of naira on Olamilekan Moshood Agbeleshe, a.k.a. Laycon, the Big Brother Naija impresario’s choice. It is in placing Eradiri and Hampson side by side that we may be able to understand the level of our regress as a people. While one is Nigeria’s hope of tomorrow if she wants to compete with the rest of the world in human capital development, the other is the hope of the passion of today which, like the biblical vapour, whooshes admirably for a minute and dies prematurely the second minute. It is the same blight of a country like Nigeria celebrating footballers and leaving people of intellect and ideas wallowing in abject poverty. No country wows the world developmentally with “It is a goal!” In my simplistic reading of Eradiri and Hampson, it is a choice between brain of the classroom and nudity of the dancehall.
Even if this constitutes mere tokenism in the battle to redraw the graph of Nigeria’s correct placement of intellect or, as some critics say, that the Governor Diri example is a mere attempt to politicize the place of mental achievement, the creek governor deserves some kudos. This is because the retard in thinking of the Nigerian society has gone almost haywire that society doesn’t seem to reckon with mental excellence any longer. As I wrote last week, many who go to school seeking mental excellence have every reason to drop out unceremoniously. The virus of unemployment has afflicted virtually every household, making those who struggled to go to school, graduate but are now unemployed, now forced to engage in menial jobs, looking very stupid in the presence of dropouts who take after crime. Downcast by this trend, parents are now abetting their children to take after cyber fraud and allied malfeasances at very early stages.
I knew Eradiri at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos campus. She was my classmate. We both belonged to Group 8 of the 2019 set. In the about one year of our schooling to become lawyers, Ebizi was an outstanding student who not only demonstrated brilliance but that she was well brought up and cultured. Humble, affable and shy, she was one of the favourites of our beloved Corporate Law teacher, Mrs. James, as well as other hard-working Lagos campus teachers as she brilliantly answered questions posed to her at random.
Let leaders, governors, ministers, commissioners and everyone of means celebrate the Eradiris in our midst and make them feel they haven’t made a mistake by seeking the golden fleece. We will be encouraging millions of other children inside of whom society is sowing the dangerous seeds that education is worthless.
*Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.
*Read original in Prenium Times