Hear, my word is my blunt sword,
Laced with vile, bigotry or hyssop,
Cutting the air aiming at politicians,
Here, my voice is all I want heard.
A cacophony of political opinions contested with noises from car tyres screeching, unnecessary honks and early morning haggles among numerous buyers and sellers. “Political analysts”, mostly men, gathered around a table covered with different kinds of national dailies at the Ogba-Aguda road in Lagos state. This is where topical and viral issues from the newspapers are dissected, argued and disseminated. It’s 9am.
Shielded by a yellow extra-large umbrella, the man, whom providence has given the opportunity to own the “opinion country club”, sits at the edge of a stool facing the road and habitually caresses Punch, The Nation and ThisDay newspapers, arranging them properly so the headlines are obvious at a first glance.
Getting there, I was greeted with what won’t be the last argument of the day: “How Babaginda respects the economic acumen of the southerners and how northerners have failed administratively”.
The man giving the homily is dressed in an Ankara top, loose chinos pants and shiny brown shoes.
His scalp finds a way to attract the early morning sun. But all to his ignorance, the man who appears to be well known at the stand, carefully and historically explained his point as he understood it.
“That is what you can see of Buhari. He puts the wrong people in the right place,” the man in Ankara said amidst mixed reactions. He continues to expatiate the grounds that made him arrive at his conclusions.
But suddenly, a man in a white Jonathan-styled dress, quickly interjected with his thick voice: “Tinubu is a crook, he helped Buhari to destroy Nigeria.”
“Yar’Adua came, Yoruba destroyed it. Jonathan came, Yoruba destroyed it, Buhari government, Yoruba destroyed it. Yoruba, Yoruba, Yoruba,” he continued. “Obasanjo killed Bakassi.”
Without allowing him to land, the man in Ankara responded, but not strongly: “Obasanjo came into power in 1999, administratively. All our debts, he paid it and he left a lot of money in foreign accounts.”
“But it’s the APC government that is in power, and they are the ones running things this way,” another man who had been following the discussion quickly interjected.
“I’m supporting Buhari, not people working with Buhari,” the man with the thick voice started again aggressively, “Na Yoruba spoil Buhari government. Yoruba increased fuel, not Buhari. They deceive Nigerians, they are everywhere.”
One of the men, unable to contain himself, asked the last speaker series of questions like: “Is Yoruba the one heading NNPC or the minister of petroleum?”. He refused to answer.
The discussions, better described as heated arguments, switched from topical issues to less serious ones depending on the headline in deliberation. Also, the argument could tilt where the most booming voice in the crowd leads the argument, before another thunderous voice counters.
Though the speakers at the newspaper stand seem to be divided across ethnic lines, it is difficult to conclude that they are reflections of average Nigerians and how they think when it comes to politics. However, they all agreed that the country is in a bad shape and the people in power are not doing enough.
‘THINGS ARE HARD FOR ME TOO’
At another newspaper stand in the Ogba area of the state, interesting men dissected national issues, particularly the three leading candidates in the 2023 election.
A bearded man, strangely wearing a well-ironed T-shirt on carrot jeans, aroused the crowd with his contribution, primarily on “how Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, will use his well-grounded experience to take Nigeria out of the shackles of misgovernance”.
The man, known as Frank, argued that the percentage of voters that will determine Nigeria’s next president will be “reasonable, active and knowledgeable youths”. He added that “the APC government has failed us” and only his candidate knows where the shoe “pinches” the youths.
The bearded man looked around and blushed with a sense of a fulfilled oratory. His happiness was abruptly cut short when a brief raspy-speaking man countered: “Why did you allow Obi and Kwankwaso to leave your party? Your brother, that stubborn man, Wike is still fighting you. It was the same mistake Goodluck Jonathan made – allowing fights in the party. That was the reason he lost the 2015 election. He (Atiku) cannot win. Bring money, let us bet. He cannot win. APC will beat him.”
The bearded man made a quick 180 turn, facing the brief man. It looked like what was going to become a fistfight. Then, he suddenly thundered with a question: “Is it by rigging that Tinubu will win?”
“They have been rigging elections in Nigeria before you were born. 1979, the election was rigged,” the short man laughed mischievously as he continued speaking with a quick pace. “If they rig, it is part of Nigeria’s political games. I can bet my salary that APC will win this election. I don’t know if it’s going to be fair or by rigging, but they will win this election.”
A myriad of eyes lit up with disdain and sized up the short man. Some murmured, some walked away from the spot with their eyeballs rolling ridiculously, while some others were generous enough to hear him conclude his argument.
“Things are hard for me too. The APC government is not doing well. Just yesterday, I bought spaghetti for N500, the thing I used to buy for N150. The government isn’t favourable to me as well, but PDP has not gotten it right,” he finally said with an air of redemption
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