[Governor Daniel had put a call through, speaker phone on, to his wife to enquire about a complaint he purportedly had that morning. “Yeye, …” and the wife blurted out how the governor had complained about the bed in the governor’s lodge not being as comfortable as the one in their house – or words to that effect! Incredible, readers may say, and I add – a shameful display that fools none. Governor, another election is around the corner and you do have a choice NOT to avail Ogun indigenes of your services by not running so that you won’t have to bear all the hardships that Government House forces on you!]
I wanted to use a variation of Johnny, we hardly knew ye – the title of one of those books on late President Kennedy – for this essay, varying it to read “Governor Mbakwe, we hardly knew ye” but I changed it. While very apt, it would not have captured the essence of the essay. Back during Alhaji Shagari’s presidency, Governor Mbakwe was so distressed at the turn of events in Nigeria that he called for the British to come back as our colonial masters! He was one of the very few who refused to play the proverbial ostrich on the then Nigerian political situation. To apply someone’s words to me recently, I can say that Mbakwe could be said to have talked “in a context in which silence would NOT [have] be[en] golden.”
Itiju Afrika po[From Iwa Rere l’oso Enia] is a line in one of the poems of late Oba Adenle who’s been dead for over thirty years but if the last Ataoja of Osogbo thought Africa had too many things to be ashamed of in those long ago period, what would he have penned today? Ink from the inkwell of His Highness would have run dry if he were alive to pen the many shames of Africa, nay, Nigeria.
I’ve wondered a lot what shames Africa wallowed in when the poem was written in 1938 but I’ve never been able to fathom it. On re-reading an interview that one of Chief Anthony Enahoro’s younger brother gave a newspaper recently, I concluded that the bar for morality was set so high for Nigerians of an earlier era that they were easily shamed by actions that would pass for normal these days. Enahoro had once worked as wolewole (public Health Inspector), men who used to go round houses to ensure that people kept their houses hygienic. [ I remember that a wolewole gave me vaccine for chicken pox while I kept screaming on a market day over 50 years ago.] The landlord of a house that Enahoro had gone to inspect at Ebute-Metta or so had been so distraught that his home failed inspection that he begged not to be sent to court because nobody in his family had ever gone to court for a summon. These days, many “society men and women” have rap sheets that would have put the 80’s armed robber, late Anini, to shame; their returns from jails are marked at “society parties”.
Contrast that landlord with what obtains in Nigeria today. (S)elected officials who took bribes are still sitting pretty among other “honorables” in the legislative arm of government. How about Officer Balogun, the IG who left office purportedly “disgraced”. To most Nigerians, he got away with barely a slap on the wrist: return some loot and you can go!
Or some young Edo Boys who clubbered their friend to death after they had all engaged in a very normal guy thing – watching a World Cup game together but they needed his body parts for rituals.
A recent trip of the Attorney-General to the USA had The Sun headlined in screaming mega font, “DISGRACED!” While the purpose of a futile trip by the A-G was not that clear, the story on page 4 of the August 12 edition was quite specific on the disgrace meted to him: “Justice minister … rubbished in US, stopped from seeing American counterpart.” Why, exactly, would the be-wigged A-G want “to, among other things deliver two letters to the US government on Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former military head of state, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar” as reported by The Sun?
If the news report is to be believed, the A-G “was said to have left Nigeria without properly firming up his appointments…” The guy supposedly had to see a “Deputy Assistant Minister” which I think is Deputy Assistant Under-Secretary or something like that since the U.S. does not use the term ‘Minister’, an appointment supposedly hastily put together by “a West African lady who works in the Justice Ministry and who was said to have done everything possible to ensure that Ojo did not leave the department without seeing some senior officer …”
This Attorney-General, an S.A.N. which is supposedly the highest award for a practising attorney in Nigeria, surely “rubbishes” – to borrow a Nigerian word – Nigeria’s image more than any A-G in the history of this country. This is the same guy who flew to England to appear at a magistrate’s court over former Governor Alamiesigha’s troubles, praying that bail be denied the governor. I know I have written about this particular embarrassing appearance of the country’s A-G before a foreign magistrate but must ask again if it is not beneath his position, and also if a junior officer could not have appeared before the magistrate rather than him? How did His Excellency feel in his “silk” standing before a guy much below his rank? How did Officer Ojo feel when Governor Alamisiegha – albeit in drag – surfaced? Worse, how did he feel when it was disclosed that the British – older and much wiser in the duplicitous game of diplomacy than an African country riddled with corruption – aided the governor’s “escape”? I am sure the idea of stepping down never occurred to him, and would have been considered mad in Nigeria’s interpretation of ‘honor’ and ‘integrity’.
Last week, I wrote about Retd. General Babangida’s purported “gift” to travelers, and need not recall the embarrassing details here. That incident ranks as one of those that would have made Mbakwe cry out for our former masters to come back and save us from ourselves, and the type must probably have made Late Ataoja wax lyrical about “Itiju Afrika”. I still wonder, though, if IBB was the real architect considering posters for governorship in Ekiti included those purportedly by Chief Afe Babalola. Remember, all gloves are now off in the fight for those to control what is left of Nigeria’s resources – not to save it.
Before I move from the “shames” of these shores, I must touch briefly the way many of Nigeria’s (s)elected officials have continued to drag their high offices into the mud and two particular situations are what there is space for here. I read an interview by Fasure of this paper with Ogun Governor in which the latter, perhaps to show the “sacrifices” he’s making by being governor, had the following display for Fasure – for us all.
Governor Daniel had put a call through, speaker phone on, to his wife to enquire about a complaint he purportedly had that morning. “Yeye, …” and the wife blurted out how the governor had complained about the bed in the governor’s lodge not being as comfortable as the one in their house – or words to that effect! Incredible, readers may say, and I add – a shameful display that fools none. Governor, another election is around the corner and you do have a choice NOT to avail Ogun indigenes of your services by not running so that you won’t have to bear all the hardships that Government House forces on you!
The second incident – still in the Southwest – concerns Who Else, but Governor Fayose of Ekiti. Now, I am not about to criticize his huge billboards all over the Southwest since this seems to be the method of choice for advertising achievements of officials; presumably citizens cannot assess such. One GROUP of this guy’s various billboards – including one that proclaims him as “architect of modern Ekiti” – advertises his “award for best governor”. Holding the plaque given him by a tabloid whose criteria for these awards are unfathomable, he looks belligerent as if in dare to skeptics. The caption, “you are truly the best” joins a Hall of (In)Famy on one of the zillions of plaques to show the zillions of Itiju Afrika.
Well, shames of Africa outside these shores are myriad, perhaps not least among which is the sit-tight disease of African leaders. Then, there are South African males who hold the shameful belief that having sex with young females, especially babies will “cure” AIDS.
What of the case of a Ugandan couple arrested recently for exhuming corpses which they use for rituals to get “power.” This should not be strange to Nigerians who kill supposedly to make money; to win elections, etcetera. How about the shame African leaders should feel at the sight of the young men driven by desperation to embark on those suicidal boat trips to Spain, and the indignities meted to those who survive in the hands of Spanish law-enforcement officers?
Finally, how do African leaders feel when they watch those constant parades of displaced Africans from the deadly wars occasioning despair, devastation and destruction, situations that are the direct results of the leaders’ greed? Do these men have hearts, or are their hearts only capable of beating at the thought and sight of stolen wealth?
One must still exhort, like the poet, that Africans must effect changes that would end her shame among all nations: Omo ti Afrika ye/K’o s’ise itunse/…/…Egan at’itiju Afrik/Y’o kuro n’nu aiye.
The Nation on Sunday, September 03, 2006