At a time like this when virtually everyone in Nigeria is scrambling for material survival to enable them rise above our numerous problems of existence, if you ever come across those who still lay store by the pursuit of knowledge, please stop by and raise your thumb in their salute.
I raised mine on Thursday last week at the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP) book reading engagement. The event had attracted the crème de la crème of the intellectual society. Brainchild of highly cerebral former Federal Permanent Secretary, Dr. Tunji Olaopa, ISGPP has been doing the intellectual world a whole lot of good, igniting afresh the dimmed glow of Ibadan as an intellectual capital of the old Western region.
ISGPP, it will seem, is recreating the Mbari Club. Founded in Ibadan in 1961, Mbari was a hub of cultural activity for African writers, artists and musicians. The German cultural exponent, Ulli Beier, who established Mbari, had earlier made out of it a literary magazine called Black Orpheus in 1957 and engaged a group of young writers which included Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe. Said to have been suggested by Achebe, Mbari in Igbo means “creation” and the club created intellectual nuggets like Christopher Okigbo, J. P. Clark, South African writer, Ezekiel Mphahlele, Mabel Segun, Uche Okeke and Bruce Onobrakpeya. This mental glory dimmed progressively with Ibadan becoming headquarters of amala politics and is today a poster of political leadership in regress.
Anyway, ISGPP continued its mental intervention on Thursday. Segun Adeniyi, engaging Thisday newspaper columnist, author and former Special Adviser to late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s book, Against the run of play: How an incumbent president was defeated in Nigeria was its attraction. So far, ISGPP has done seven of such. Flagging off with Odia Ofeimun’s Taking Nigeria seriously in 2015, quite a number of authors have had their works interrogated by an assemblage of intellectuals who gather periodically in the school for a mental excursion. This particular summit had in attendance Professors Akin Mabogunje, Olabode Lucas, Femi Osofisan, matriarch of the Nigerian historical school, Prof Bolanle Awe and many other scholars, with foremost political communication scholar and former Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof Adigun Agbaje chairing the occasion. The book was reviewed by Prof Ayo Olukotun, Punch newspaper columnist and had Prof Lai Olurode, Dr. Irene Pogoson, Mrs. Yemi Alabi and this writer as discussants. Adeniyi himself honoured the gathering with his presence.
The core of Agbaje’s submission at the forum was the blight of recession that has afflicted Nigeria. He was quick to state that he wasn’t talking strictly about the economic recession which financial experts claim is in recess. He meant Nigeria’s infamous lot of leadership, electoral, democratic, institutional and moral/ethical recession, her regressing reward system and the choice-less-ness in her electoral contests. Olukotun explored the hidden narratives in Adeniyi’s book; Olurode gave his on-the-field experiences as Prof Attahiru Jega’s INEC commissioner in the 2015 electoral exercise, while Pogoson examined the book’s drawbacks in the treatment of the female gender and Alabi, the contradictions of 2015 electoral exercise.
Adeniyi’s book examined the factors, as well as the centrifugal forces which made former President Goodluck Jonathan go down history lane as one of the few breeds of incumbent African presidents to suffer debilitating electoral losses to their challengers and who conceded defeat and congratulated them. He founded Jonathan’s loss on four major prongs and they are: the revolt of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors, the general perception of corruption hung on him, which he himself carelessly sustained, the Boko Haram and Chibok girls narrative and the revolt against the government by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo. Sub-text themes of the collapse of that government, according to Adeniyi, are Jonathan’s obsessive clannishness towards Igbo and his Ijaw nativity, as well as social and traditional media onslaughts against him.
My brief submission at the event, which was my take-away from the book, was history’s unfair mockery of Nigeria. Adeniyi had himself, in the Postscript of the book on page 200, stated inter alia: “Interestingly, the failings of the past seem to be repeating themselves in bigger proportions today.” Taking my cue from George Santayana’s evergreen quote that those who fail to learn from history are often doomed to repeat it, I submitted that we may have on our hands in Nigeria either of two scenarios: history of Jonathan’s unbridled cluelessness repeating itself in President Muhammadu Buhari who will eventually suffer electoral loss like Jonathan or history failing to repeat itself and allowing Buhari to get away with his own brand of cluelessness in government; and that both are sorry scenarios from which we may suffer incalculable damage.
Using all the variables of the collapse of the Jonathan government, a la Adeniyi, as my point of examination, I submitted to the august audience that the indices, all without exception, are again rearing their ugly heads in the Buhari government, perhaps at a more ferocious proportion.
I began with the corruption index. Adeniyi submitted that unbeknown to Jonathan, a huge profile of a rapacious and corruption-friendly government was gradually being woven round him since the very beginning. Unfortunately for him, he was either too laid back to comprehend and apprehend this consuming web or he was too naive to change the narrative. His wife, Dame Patience Jonathan, was equally profiled and mocked as the matriarch of heists and an example of what a First Lady should not be. Jonathan worsened it by his famous “I don’t give a damn” quip to an enquiry on the mounting perception of corruption against his government.
I submitted at the ISGPP forum that even though he came on board under a deluge of positive perceptions as a man who loathed corruption, Buhari has sustained a profile of someone who does not mind to share the sewage with corruption, so far as the sewer doesn’t spill on his babanriga. I buttressed my position with his various dalliances with corruption like in the case of his ex-Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal whom he even wrote to the Senate to clear of corruption in the grass-cutting contract scandal and how a groundswell of public opinion eventually stampeded him out of government. I also cited the case of Abdulrasheed Maina, a corruption roulette which began from the days of Jonathan whom the Ijaw-born President, as corruption-friendly as he was perceived, eventually sacked but who was reinstated and promoted by Buhari, Mr. Integrity.
Today, Maina’s N100billion sleaze has been shoveled under the pillow by the Buhari government. No one should be shocked if we are told that Maina lives inside the Aso Rock Villa today. It is instructive that while the “corrupt” Jonathan sacked his Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah on account of alleged corruption, Buhari has canonized his, even when there is palpable national angst against their pristine acquisitive tendencies. The third example I gave was the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Executive Secretary who was suspended by his supervising minister on corruption charges. As the gentleman was leaving a supposed grilling session with the EFCC, he went straight to his duty post; he had been recalled by Buhari. No explanation; no remorse and we live happily ever after.
On the score of the revolt of PDP governors who eventually decamped into the APC, I volunteered that same scenario is repeating itself today as the New PDP governors are taking their leave of the APC into the ADC. Quite instructively, Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Baraje, of the PDP announced the movement of the governors into the APC and also announced their exit from the PDP into the ADC. It is being speculated that Senate President Bukola Saraki and more than 60% national assembly members and even governors, are moving into the ADC.
The inanity of Jonathan’s Boko Haram fight, perceived generally as military top-brass’ own oil bloc and the Chibok girls narrative are still dominant, with Chibok now replaced with Dapchi in the kidnap narrative. What unites both are governments that care seldom for their people and a military bigwig business racket of milking Nigeria of billions of dollars, all in the name of sustaining a war against insurgency which is in their interest not to end. The last major index Adeniyi provided is the Obasanjo revolt which has become a terrible revulsion to the Nigerian people, especially Obasanjo’s perceived love to mollify self by criminalizing others.
Of course, the social media space where Jonathan was crucified and Buhari beatified as the expected Archangel to rescue Nigeria in 2015 is where the Daura-born General is daily being harangued today as the worst calamity to befall any country. Lastly is the clannishness of Jonathan towards his Igbo/Ijaw people which has been substituted by a worse form of clannishness and I dare say, abetment of murder from Buhari towards his Hausa/Fulani people and the murderous herders among them. This has even resulted in a further slant of that clannishness into the Daura/Funtua brand of nepotism.
This was why I said history may eventually present as an unfair umpire in the Nigerian situation. Jonathan didn’t care a damn; for all Buhari cares about the Nigerian situation, we can all go jump inside River Zambesi. They are both united by a gross incompetence, lack of depth and, as Adeniyi said, are a strand of a bunch of unprepared leaders history has always foisted on Nigeria, right from the time of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Why is history so happy with singing to us a ceaseless lullaby? Why must longsuffering, hardworking Nigerian people be banished to pushing the Sisyphus boulder of presidents they will have to manage? Yes, history is repeating itself as we have a regurgitation of Jonathan in Buhari in all regards but if history does not repeat itself with Buhari getting Jonathan’s kind of recompense in 2019, history must be arrested, manacled and sent to jail for his criminal unfairness and complicity in the calamity that may come thereafter.
Saraki’s murder rap
Senate President Bukola Saraki has been in the news in the last few days. Aside his legislative spat with Police Inspector General, Ibrahim Idris, the world was alerted to an impending scandal when, a few days ago, Saraki raised the alarm that the police boss was about to frame him up for murder. Lo and behold, as the cliché says, Idris paraded some urchins arrested from Ilorin, Kwara who implicated Saraki and his sidekick home state governor, Abdulfatai Ahmed, for same offence. Now, as far as history goes, the Sarakis have always held the politics of Kwara State by the jugular since the late 1970s using Kwara people’s renowned weakness and a weapon of subjugation by handouts. Never has it been known that they used violence and coercion. However, if you take into consideration that none of Nigeria’s political actors can be said to be a man of peace as they allocate millions of naira to train hemp-smoking thugs to be deployed at the polls, you cannot completely stand behind Saraki. The heart of a Nigerian politician is inhabited by snakes, scorpions, locusts and the like.
Mug of fura for Buhari
A couple of weeks ago, the International Publishers Association (IPA) held its maiden seminar in Nigeria at the Eko Hotels & Suites with the theme, “Publishing for sustainable development: The role of publishers in Africa.” I was one of the panelists which also had Kristenn Einarsson, Managing Director of the Norwegian Publishers Association; Trevor Ncube, Chairman of Zimbabwe-based Alpha Media Holdings, with Folu Agoi, literary activist and teacher, as moderator and we addressed the sub-theme, “Addressing freedom to publish challenges in Africa.”
At the forum, I maintained that current realities have upstaged the era of Idi Amin Dada of Uganda breathing down on freedom to publish or General Muhammadu Buhari clamping Nduka Irabor and Tunde Thompson into the gallows. Today, a combination of the revolution of the online media and offline media (print, broadcast and co) has taken that power from African dictators. I must however give kudos to the Buhari government in this regard. Many people have expressed fear about the perceived acid in the ink of this column, especially in reviews of the current government. Let me state that, not for once has anyone harassed me on account of my views. If Buhari will spare a moment, I offer to buy him a mugful of fura and nunu for this feat.
Who jazzed Idris?
The video that had the image of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris waffling and stuttering so badly while reading from a prepared script at an event in Kano is one of the most viral today in Nigeria. You would pity the Number One cop as he labored over a script which even barely literate persons will read without a trifle. And so, there has been so much noise over it. Granted that encountering a crowd could make some persons develop cold feet, it is public knowledge that Idris is not an illiterate and had made speeches and interventions in the public before now. Some have submitted, either on a lighter note or as an acknowledgment of the metaphysical component of our African day-to-day life, that he must have been jazzed by his traducers, ranging from Bukola Saraki, Dino Melaye and co. Methinks however that this shouldn’t be an issue to detain us if Idris had been acquitting himself very well in his policing duties. The problem is that he is seen more as a political cop who plays politics of policing well than actually securing the lives of Nigerians. After all, Idris wasn’t appointed to rival NTA’s Cyril Stober, or was he?