Special to USAfrica magazine (Houston) and USAfricaonline.com, the first African-owned, US-based newspaper published on the Internet.
Suyi Ayodele, a columnist for the Nigerian Tribune, is a contributor to USAfricaonline.com
I travelled to Edo North over the weekend. On our way, the cab I boarded had a flat tyre shortly after Ikpeshi in the Akoko Edo area. I was shocked to see that the first two occupants who jumped out of the vehicle and started hurrying back towards Auchi were the two female passengers at the back seat. They just hurriedly alighted and without a word to anybody, headed back to Auchi. I found that behaviour strange; no empathy for the driver who lost a tyre due to the bad road. Suddenly, it dawned on me that that was the area where some felons killed about three policemen about a month ago. Of course, I quickly borrowed myself senses and joined in the trek back to Auchi, leaving the driver to his fate. We are all security conscious now, irrespective of age, sex, and state of health. That is the Nigeria of Buhari.
By this time next week, General Muhammadu Buhari would no longer be in the Aso Rock Villa as the president and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. Six days away from today, the General would have retired to either his Daura country home or anywhere in his second country, Niger Republic. Whichever option he chooses, Nigeria and Nigerians would have heaved a sigh of relief to see the end of an inglorious era in the history of the nation. History is a beast. There is a saying that comes to mind each time I consider this season of the locusts. No matter how old a farmer is, the hut on his farm will always outlive him (ahere ni kehin oloko). It is gratifying to note that Nigeria has outlived the Buhari presidency!
By May 29, which is next week’s Monday, Buhari would have completed his two terms of eight years as the president. Eight years is just like yesterday. Wonderful! What will now remain of the Daura-born retired General is what history says about him. I will restrain myself from being magisterial here. I know, if I were to write the history of Buhari’s era, what would be my introduction and what I would put in the concluding paragraph. I equally know that many people too, especially members of the Hallelujah orchestra, would also write different paragraphs about the man they consider their Mai Gaskiya (the honest one). That is life.
However, one common denominator of our plight, fate, and life under the Buhari leadership is the fact that the poverty in the land, the hyperinflation; the insecurity; the killing and maiming; the disenchantment and frustration in the country do not make any distinction.
Both the poor and the rich are at the mercy of the numerous ailments scourging the land.
After Aso Rock, what is next for Buhari and his aides – those ones, who in the last eight years have been acting as if they are the true children of Lord Lugard, while the rest of us are adopted children? Will they also, after May 29, queue for fuel the way we do? Will they go to the banks’ ATM machines, where, after the machines have dispensed the first N20,000 withdrawal, they will be told: “you have exceeded your daily withdrawal limit?” While on the roads, will they still use fierce-looking policemen to chase us out of the way, or will they have to learn how to meander their ways through the potholes and graters that have been part of our transportation system? “Everything passes”, is a common cliché of an older friend and mentor, Professor Tony Afejuku of the Department of English Language and Literature, University of Benin. No matter how terrible a situation is, the Itsekiri poet and columnist would end up with “Everything passes”! nothing illustrates this timeless saying than the fable of Omo Alagbaa.
Alagbaa is the spiritual head of the Egungun cult. The cult venerates the ancestors and those who belong to the ages. It is another deity in the Yoruba legion of Orisa. Egungun, otherwise known as masquerade in the English Language, is regarded as the representative of the ancestors. They are heavenly beings. Please don’t pay attention to the masquerade that was captured, accredited by BVAS, and voted in the February 25 presidential election of Professor Mahmood Yakubu and his INEC. That is not the “ara orun kinkinkin” we are talking about here. I also read somewhere last week that a masquerade “escaped death in an accident” in Anambra State. That one too is not the “aji gbana oro” (he who sweeps the path of the deity early in the morning). During the Egungun festival, the children of Alagbaa, known as Omo Alagbaa, misbehave a lot. They suddenly become arrogant and run roughshod with the commoners. The privileged position of being the children of the Egungun chief priest goes into their heads. Why?
Egungun festival is celebrated for seven days. During that period, every participant, especially the Ojes -Egungun devotees – fry akara (bean cake). As custom demands, every devotee, while the festival lasts, must take akara to the house of Alagbaa. Akara, in case you don’t understand, is a delicacy in Yoruba gastronomy that is considered sacred and rare. No woman is allowed to go into commercial frying of akara without passing through some rituals to ascertain that she would not use human blood instead of palm oil. So, akara, which is not easy to come by, becomes almost a useless commodity in the house of Alagbaa during the festival, such that Omo Alagbaa shows little or no respect to the commodity. And for those commercial akara sellers, the business is usually very low during Egungun festival. They experience little or no patronage, but they have their consolation. They know that there is a terminal date for the festival. After seven days, Ifa would be consulted to ask if the ancestors had accepted the sacrifices of the living. If Ifa gives a negative answer, the festival is repeated for another seven days. That too is very uncommon. While the festival lasted, akara sellers console themselves with a proverb thus: “ohun to ntan ni odun Eegun, omo Alagbaa nbo wa ra akara je” (the masquerade festival has a terminal date, and the son of the chief priest will come out to buy akara to eat). This is because no matter the quantity of akara in Alagbaa’s compound, they become useless once the festival is over as akara cannot even on its own last for more than a day. It becomes rancid after 24 hours. By the eight-day of the Egungun festival, if Omo Alagbaa wants to eat eko, he must go and buy akara. And while on the queue, nobody knows who the child of the chief priest is or not. The eighth day ends their arrogance.
That is how transient power is. I first made a passing reference to this allegory on this page on October 19, 2021, in the piece titled: “Awolowo and the Bondsman in the Villa.” That was when Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, made a comparison of the Avatar, Chief Obafemi Awolowo with Buhari, by saying: “I am old enough to have seen our colorful and even swashbuckling politicians in action. I have seen the great Obafemi Awolowo; the charismatic Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik of Africa); Shehu Shagari, Amino Kano, M.K.O Abiola, Bashir Tofa and many others in action, but I have not seen anyone with the kind of attraction, magnetic pull that Muhammadu Buhari has. And that is round the country, north and south. People swarm around him as bees do to honey’”. I concluded in that piece that a day would come when Adesina would leave the Villa and would become a commoner that he used to be before his ‘elevation’ to Aso Rock. By May 30, Adesina would have joined the camp of the “wailing wailers”. That same day has come. And it has not come for Adesina alone. You have Chris Ngige. Will the Anambra politician be able to go back to his colleagues in the medical profession and beat his chest that he has represented them well? Will Adamu Adamu, after May 29, be able to sit down with ASUU members again? What about Festus Keyamo? Will the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) be justified in calling him a “Comrade” after May 29? Think about Raji Fashola. How many states in the entire Southern Nigeria will the former governor of Lagos State be able to drive to without losing his car tyres to potholes or being harassed by kidnappers, and killer herdsmen who use the graters on our roads as ‘poultry spots’ to kidnap commuters? After May 29, would Professor Yemi Osinbajo be able to visit Ketu vegetable market to access the performances of the beneficiaries of the “Trada Moni”. How about Sadiya Umar Farouq of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management and Social Development? Hope she keeps records of the beneficiaries of her COVID-19 Palliative? Can someone also help to take Madam Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, to the schools where she spent about N1billion daily to feed school children, after May 29, for her to see how buxom those children are now. I am sure those children who were ‘fed’ in their schools even during the COVID-19 lockdown would be delighted to see their ‘Mama Christmas’. Phew! The list is endless.
The masquerade festival is over for Buhari and his team. Every masquerade must dance back to the grove after each outing (poor or excellent). Buhari cannot be an exception. What is remaining is the memento of the ruinous era he led. Nigerians will now make a comparison of the strength of the Naira in 2015 and how weak the currency is now. The nation can now sit back and compare how fragmented we are as a people in relation to the pre-2015 unity. We can now look at the corruption scale to determine if we fared better than the era before the Mai Gaskiya. What about our security architecture? Are our Armed Forces in any way better than the old Boys Scout of yore with the level of insecurity in the land? We now can ask Fashola, and his elder brother, Buhari, what has happened to our power system. Buhari can now tell us if we should stone him or hail him as the late Tony Momoh projected in 2014.
It is time now for Nigerians to do a personality identikit of Buhari and situate him either as a heroic president (who made our lives better) or to consign him to the dustbin of history as a complete anti-heroic personality (who worsened the situation). For those who made it real ‘big’ during the era, I hope they know that stealing the king’s trumpet (kakaki) is not the problem but where to blow it. Now the import of the warning the inimitable Chief Obafemi Awolowo gave when he said: “The rich, and the highly placed in business, public life, and government, are running a dreadful risk in their callous neglect of the poor and the down-trodden”, will be clear to them. The near apocalyptic commendation of the sage, to wit: “The children of the poor you failed to train will never let your children have peace”, is coming home to roost. We would all witness it.
While doing that, Nigerians should not lose focus of the man that would have taken over, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. A lot of readers of this column, and some other old friends, have asked me several times why I recourse to African tradition and customs to drive my points on many of the issues I have raised here. My simple answer to them is that each time I consider the present situation in Nigeria, I always become dewy-eyed. I grew up at a time Nigeria was about to take its slide to the present ditch. From the countryside setting of a child who sat beside other children to listen to folktales and to draw moral lessons from the experiences of those who have seen the world, the temptation is always there for me to make a comparison of what is obtainable now and what it used to be back then. I grew up to learn the cliché: “When a civil servant builds a house, congratulate him. When he builds the second one, suspect him. If he builds a third one, call him a thief.” But what do we have nowadays? And I must confess here; I do not belong to the generation of those who saw Nigeria when it was good. No. Nigeria was already packing its decent loads in preparation for the arrival of the current locusts when I was raised. The only privilege I had was that for the first two decades or more of my life, I was not exposed to modern-day civilisation. Our tradition has given us what we need to make a projection into the future. However, ‘civilisation’ has robbed us of that opportunity. Ifa is called “Eleri ipin” (One who witnesses destiny). The one who witnessed one’s destiny can never be wrong in his prediction of what the future holds. With Pentecostalism and spirit-filled Born Againism, nobody dares consult the Oracle! Yet, it is pertinent for us to know what the future holds for us.
So, what does the future hold for the Tinubu presidency? Olu-Osayomi Olusegun of the Department of Languages and Literary Studies, Babcock University, Ilishan- Remo, Ogun State, in a paper titled: “Dramatic Aspect of Ese Ifa in Yorubaland”, says: “Before a betrothal, before a marriage, before a child is born, at the birth of a child, and at successive stages in man‟s life, before a king is appointed or a chief is made or in time of crisis, in terms of sickness and at any and all times, Ifa is assurance. Like the saying „onil‟ari a o r‟ola on nibaba‟lawo se nd‟ifal‟ororun‟ (it is today we see, we do not see tomorrow, hence the Babalawo consults the oracle every fifth day). One must therefore consult Ifa who knows how to explain issues about present and the future”, (International Journal on Studies in English Language and Literature (IJSELL), vol 5, no. 10, 2017, pp. 12-18). I am not sure anyone took that step to ask what is in it for us in this new government. But that notwithstanding, like the saying goes, “oju ni alakan fi nso ori” (the crab watches its head with its eyes). Vigilance is the watchword. Nigerians must not allow the Tinubu presidency to degenerate like that of Buhari before they cry out. Unlike Olu-Osayomi’s fifth day divination projection above, I have explained here in another piece titled “Ojudu, Sunday Igboho and the Sangba Allegory” (Nigerian Tribune, Tuesday, February 2, 2021), “Ever since diviners consulted Ifa every day, hence the saying: “Bi eni ti ri, ola ki ri be lo mu babalawo d’ifa ojojumo”- what is obtainable today may not suffice tomorrow, the reason diviners consult Ifa every day.” An average Nigerian politician, from all indications, has no sense of history, or pretends not to have any sense of history. It is therefore left for the citizenry to keep the government on its toes. To allow the sore of Tinubu presidency to fester like that of Buhari is to call in the pallbearers. Nigerians would only keep quiet at their own peril. As for us from this side of the divide, we would follow the Yoruba dictum of old to wit: “a o ni sepe, a o ni sure; sugbon enu wa o ni gbofo” (we would neither curse nor bless; but our mouth shall also not be empty – shut). May the new day break well for us all.