When a man dies or leaves a particular position or office, we describe him according to his deeds. When the Yoruba say of a man that “o se gudugudu meje ati yaa yaa mefa,” they are simply saying that while here on earth or in office, the person was very impactful and left indelible footprints on the sands of time. When, on the other hand, the remarks is “aku tun ku e lona ogun: aku tun ku e lona ogbon”-may he die twenty times over and may he die thirty times over again- what the people are saying is that may this locust never visit us again. Every man writes his own epitaph by his deeds, actions and inactions. The same thing is applicable to governments and administrations.
The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has, in the last six years, treated Nigerians very badly for just one reason. This is the only plausible reason Buhari and his men keep on dishing out policies that stand logic on its head. It takes a leader with a deep-seated disdain for the people to treat them the very way the current administration is doing. Nigerians have had governments in the past that were deaf and dumb. But never have they had a government that is deaf, dumb, pathologically wicked and incurably insensitive. From the kick-off of his campaign promises in 2015, to the daily defilement of the social contract he signed with the people when he was sworn in as President and Commander-in-Chief, Buhari has shown that he has no single atom of respect for the people he rules.
The bitter truth, which many supporters of the government would not want to admit, is that the country is on auto-pilot. Nobody is in charge and nobody has ever been in charge since 2015. The only semblance of control of the levers of governance is what is obtainable in a cartel-run administration. Those who appear to be in charge are mere carpetbaggers, a racketeering gang of voracious locusts; eating fat on our patrimony to the de-humanisation of the generality of the people. This accounts for why attitudes amounting to bestiality are becoming commonplace among the people.
Everywhere you go, you see Nigerians with palpable frustration, hopelessness and indignity written all over them. The government has succeeded in bringing out the “beast in us” due to failure of a leadership that came into power, using the instrumentality of falsehood and which holds on to power, deploying same strategy of lies, cant and official deceit to make the people resign to a state of hopelessness.
An administration that “shares money to the poor”, without a single record of how much was shared, and who benefited from the sharing, is definitely a Capone in sleaze; a rey del engano of the worst kind. A government that gives out “soft loans” in the name of “tradermoni” without putting in place any strategy to make the invisible beneficiaries pay back is engaging in racketeering and nothing more. What about the so-called bailouts to state governments? How much has the Buhari Federal Government given out? How much of the bailouts has it collected back? If the state governments are not paying back, why did the Federal Government advance them an additional “bailout”?
Virtually everything in the economy has collapsed. Little wonder that inflation in the country has moved from the galloping state to the flying stage. A sachet of common “pure water” now goes for thirty naira (N30) in Buhari’s promised Eldorado, a 12.5kg of domestic gas is knocking at N10,000 and the government still carries on in a nothing spoil mien. Why? Simply put: the Buhari government regards Nigerians as nincompoops and simpletons who could be easily swayed with empty rhetoric and insipid pretensions.
How on earth will the government consider removing oil subsidy to replace it with N5,000 monthly transport allowance to 40 million unknown and undocumented Nigerians? Like the popular Yoruba social re-orientation hype of the 90s on the old Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) , “e ri oju ole e o mu”- you see a thief and you fail to apprehend him. How much is the subsidy that the government intends to remove? N1.8 trillion per year. How much is the proposed transport payment to 40 million Nigerians? Arithmetically, that comes to N2.4 trillion. Do we need to resuscitate the late Chike Obi to tell us that this is like losing a pound to save a farthing? Which government does that?
Here is an administration that has not deemed it fit to publish the names and account numbers of those poor Nigerians, who were “credited” during the COVID-19 pandemic. The same government that has not shown us the “school children” that were fed with billions of naira in their parents’ homes in the heat of Covid-19, is the one talking about giving 40 million Nigerians N5,000 monthly as transport allowance? How come the government is not thinking of using the proposed spend to resuscitate just one of our moribund refineries in order to put paid to the endless regime of importation of refined petroleum? How else does a government insult the sensibility of the people?
When asked for the modality for the selection of the would-be beneficiaries, Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning responded that the selection process would be built on the existing conditional cash transfer register used by the office of the vice president in administering payments to poor and vulnerable Nigerians in the past. Only a government which considers the people stupid thinks this way.
But are Nigerians as stupid as the government thinks? I answer by relating this joke, which I tag, “do you know that we know”, as frequently told by a former colleague. A lousy village randy was once involved in an illicit affair with a barber’s wife. While the affair was a common talk in the village, the barber pretended that he knew nothing. Appalled by the seeming ignorance of the barber, the villagers took him to be a stupid fellow and he became the butt of the village jokes and abusive banter. But the barber knew he was never stupid. He equally knew that a day of reckoning would come. As a barber, he knew that not too long, the randy man’s hair would become too bushy and he would require the services of himself, the village’s only barber. The vulture is a patient bird, a la James Hadley Chase. True to his programming, a day came that the randy man needed a nice haircut. Off he went to the barber’s shop. Acting as if nothing was amiss, the barber set to work. And when he got round to shaving the randy man’s beards, the barber put the shaving knife on the randy man’s jugular and asked: “do you know that I know that you are having an affair with my wife”? What did he do? Sorry, the super cop, Abba Kyari is still in the cooler: only he has the expertise to unravel what happened after that little exchange.
For Nigerians, just like the barber, 2023 is around the corner. That is the year they would show these present crops of locusts that Nigerians are not stupid. With their voters’ cards, it would be nice if Nigerians could ask these traders on the political terrain: “do you know that we know that you have been handing us the short end of the stick?” Nigerians must ensure a paradigm shift in the nation’s political equilibrium. To do otherwise and allow the present racketeers to continue beyond 2023 is to sign our future and that of generations unborn, to perpetual slavery.
7O garlands for Oga Olamiti
“Folu you are my friend, we have come a long way. Your boy here, Suyi, writes against us every day”. That was Governor Lucky Igbinedion of Edo State speaking to Oga Folu Olamiti. Oga Olamiti was in Edo State Government House, Benin, on the invitation of the governor. As the state correspondent of the Tribune titles, I accompanied Oga Olamiti, who was then the Executive Director, Operation. We had just finished an interview session with the governor and we were about to go when Governor Igbinedion made those remarks. That was around August, 2000. I was terrified. Oga Olamiti simply responded by saying, “Suyi is a good boy and he is also your boy, Your Excellency”.
Back to our office on Sokonba Road, I was expecting a reprimand from the DOP for “writing against” his “friend”. But none came. Rather, Oga Olamiti took a copy of the day’s Tribune and pointed at one of my published stories, saying: “’Suyi, you write well. But writing well does not make you a good reporter. You must write constantly. If you want to be known in this profession, you must write features. Features bring out your language and ability. All these six-paragraph stories are good but the only way you can show your ability is by writing features. You have the language, so develop it by writing”.
Today, I do not only write features, Tuesday Flat Out is a fruit of that wise counsel by the legend and talent- hunter himself, Oga Folu Olamiti. He only mentioned the governor’s remarks in passing when he was about to depart Benin. “Don’t worry about what the governor said. He only complained because you are doing your job well. Just make sure you always get their own side of the story,” he told me while patting my back lightly. The charge ensconced in that short speech was all I needed to develop my knack for deep investigative stories as a journalist and writer. His kind are rare to find, and are forever treasured when they are found.