I discuss Nigeria and the world at large because I strongly believe MyOpinionCounts!

Month: June, 2015

MidWeekSpecial by Isiaq ‘Deji Hammed: In Quest for True Change

Isiaq 'Deji Hammed. An elephant does not pass by and you describe his presence with a wave of hand. He is a giant social media cum political commentator on matters of the Middle East and Africa, of particular interest is Nigeria. He shares his time between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. ahjotnaija is proud to have him guestblog for us.

Isiaq ‘Deji Hammed.
An elephant does not pass by and you describe his presence with a wave of hand. He is a giant social media cum political commentator on matters of the Middle East and Africa, of particular interest is Nigeria. He shares his time between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. ahjotnaija is proud to have him guestblog for us.

Just when you think it is time to take a deep breath and hibernate, albeit temporarily, from political debates and engagements, the Nigerian breed of politicians have their ways of reminding you that your plantains and yams can just not be safe in their hands. Tie those hands. Muzzle the snouts. For where? Theirs is a special specie of rapacious goat, never satiated. Always inclined to pillage and amass tons of yams and plantains which they never need; and never will. They are poised to go to any length in the pursuit of inordinate ambitions, surpassing all imaginable benchmarks of corruption.

There is fire on the mountain. The change project we invested so much in, indeed unquantifiable resources…all for the love of the fatherland…must not be gutted! For months. For more than a year. Increasing in intensity as the historic 2015 general elections drew near. Finally, vindication came. Rightly, the Nigerian hoi polloi saw in the Buhari’s victory the triumph of the enslaved majority over the enslaving minority. The advent of Buhari considered as one of theirs was for them the breaking of a new dawn, of liberation and of life more abundant.

Perhaps still basking in the euphoria and ecstasy of hard-won victory, little did they know that in the journey to freedom, the rain that fell has caused the pigeons and fowls to intermingle. The drama oozing out, for some times now, from the two hallowed chambers and which later culminated in this free-for-all show of shame lay to bare this stark reality. The need to separate the wheat from the chaff becomes an urgent imperative.

There is no mincing words. Having Dr Bukola Saraki as Senate President in this era is a monumental disaster. Senator Ali Ndume as Senate Majority Leader is another national mishap. These folks have heavy moral and ethical burdens which in saner climes require quarantining from public positions until names are cleared. Among other lawbreakers who will make laws, perform oversight functions, approve federal budgets and Presidential appointments aside other critical national duties for the rest of us are Stella Oduah, Buruji Kashamu, David Mark etc. Too much a burden for a people so desirous of change.

One begins to wonder if the President will have enough breathing space in this kind of scenario. Too often than not the masses get carried away with presidential and gubernatorial polls that they forget about the parliamentary leg of the tripod upon which rest the affairs of governance of the state. In short, Buharism has caused strange bedfellows to share a cage. Reason things began to fall apart and everything is no longer at ease. The consequences of that mob-instinct non-discriminatory block-votes are as legion and as catastrophic. The anything-but-this-party mentality born out of the twin brothers of blind love/detest for a person/group explains partly the appalling situation the Osun State economy has plunged into.

In the 2011 general elections, the people of Osun, like most electorates in the recent elections, voted for anyone with the portrait of Ogbeni Aregbesola on his or her campaign poster (and recently for anyone with APC logo). The end result being an Assembly of yes-yes men who (fore-)see not, criticise not, scrutinise not, pre-empt not… thus the ambitious Governor became carried away with the worries of where Osun ought to be, the state began to bite more than it could chew. Among these yes-yes men was no single voice of wisdom to caution the overzealous Ogbeni; particularly on the need to create rooms for days like these! There were hardly debates on the necessity of saving up for rainy days. The consequence stares us in the face: Today Osun cannot meet its statutory financial obligations to its teeming worker. For months. The state economy remains grounded. Such is the price of mob-instinct, blind followership and polity devoid of  constructive opposition.

Back to NASS. With the emergence of these crops of lawbreakers, who are poised to hijack this victory from us, is a clear reminder to the change agents that the battle is not won yet. We have realised our electoral faux pas already. Once bitten,  twice shy.  Saraki and his accomplices must understand that it is no longer business as usual. It will be in their best interest to fall in line, become truly born-again and swim with the tide of change. Buhari’s call for an alliance between the grandparents and the children against their prodigal parents resonated very well amongst the youth demographic. It may need re-echoing here:

In recent times Nigerian leaders appear to have misread our mission. Our founding fathers, Mr Herbert Macauley, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Malam Aminu Kano, Chief J.S. Tarka, Mr Eyo Ita, Chief Denis Osadeby, Chief Ladoke Akintola and their colleagues worked to establish certain standards of governance. They might have differed in their methods or tactics or details, but they were united in establishing a viable and progressive country. Some of their successors behaved like spoilt children breaking everything and bringing disorder to the house. (President Buhari’s Inaugural Speech, May 2015)

These children of anger have vowed to support anybody that embodies that hope for a changed nation where they will have access to the basic necessities for a decent living and where their future will be secured. They expressed that vow through their protest votes that humiliated the men of yesterdays out of power. And they will not rest on their oars but resist any person or group of persons that try to thwart their dreams. That resistance is palpable in their eternal vigilance and clamour for open NASS, paycuts, reduced numbers of political appointees and other waste in governance.

One step at a time. Ordinarily, it should not be hard to whip the likes of Saraki back to line. Since they have cases to answer with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The presidential declaration “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody” definitely excludes those that do not want to belong. Those will be the reactionary and conservative forces who excluded themselves from the fatherly open arms of Mr President and his extended hands of fellowship. The President should not hesitate in wielding the proverbial big stick against the recalcitrant who may want to rubbish his good name and frustrate the actualisation of the social contracts he entered into with the Nigerian masses.

The critical role of continued pressure and monitoring of elected representatives by the masses immediately the elections are over cannot be overemphasised. Eternal vigilance is indeed the price of freedom. The processes of impeachment and recall are not just mere clauses of embellishment in our constitution. They are potent weapons of checks and balances of the led on the excesses and arrogance of power-intoxicated leaders. They should therefore be guarded jealously and used when necessary. Needless to tolerate politicians’ rascality for another 4 years waiting for the routine election rituals. A single day in the life of a nation is too important to be wasted, not to talk of years.

Nigerian youth demographic will do well to infiltrate the ranks and files of the two main parties, namely APC and PDP, and redirect the course of things to their advantage. Since they bear the brunt of corrupt governance the most. If democracy is a game of numbers, then they have the numerical advantage in their kitty. They should decide and and not be decided for. Only youth-oriented and  ideologically-inclined parties can provide the needed third force to swing the balance in favour of the masses, especially when the politicopreneurs and gerontocrats are lost in self-serving power tussles and stalemates.

We Shall Have to Sit-Out This NASS!

9 billion Naira to change your wardrobe et al is not change. It is a reminder of what we once experienced in the past assemblies. This first act by the National Assembly (NASS) is a good move to aligning itself with its predecessors- the three-term PDP-controlled Houses. Now, when we want change, we are best advised to look anywhere for one but not in this NASS. The APC-fied PDP’ers have shown the direction a la the old saying of morning showing the day. They shall loot us dead!

Some call on President Buhari to deliver or face wrath. I bless this demand. Well, we might as well expect nothing from him, at least not for now (or in the longrun 🙂 ) It’s too early to judge his perfornance but his body language of no-meddling/working-with-whatnot is one of I-dont-care what happens elsewhere as if an hijacked NASS is not powerful enough to ruin his presidency. I hope he u-turns from this faulty mindset. A Nigerian President is powerful enough to weigh in on issues (and influence positively) almost all of the time, if wisely done, of course that only if he wants.

This largesse in the name of allowance is another pointer to the fact that the president might need to put “leadership” aside to “play-politic” these shameless legislooters to caution their appetite, telling them it is too early in the day to die of money-constipation. If not, this show of open thiefery will continue to beshadow any success President Buhari will boast in the years to come. Come to think of it: These men have not even worked yet for us apart from electing an agbeyibeboje senate president.

This is my take: When I realize that we have the likes of Ben-Bruce, who twitter-lied about casting a vote he did not cast, then a “persecuted” Buruji Kashamu et al under Bank- plus State-Treasury Armedrobber Bukola Saraki, it dawned we don enter one-chance with this current NASS!

Was the chant of change a delusion when we voted APC!? It is, and it is not. We wanted change and we expressed it via the ballot. Like Professor Adesanmi once said, President Buhari is an idea, a facial and moral representation of that true change the people earnestly wish for. The emergence of this government is thus not a complete delusion, it is a realization of a true desire, we saw it as inching closer to that redemptive elixir we seek to heal our national sickness.

Now, wanting change is one damn good wish, the delusion therein is to have gone for an alternative that was too PDP-like in its core. By the way, no denying there is a handful of less-bad/corrupt individuals among these countrylooters, but think it, of what good is blindness if the darkness it can offer is not total. The submission of a corrupt core is not a blame of the masses’ choice for change but a simple confirmation of why current NASS and its first two acts are reminders of what we hated so much in the past and still hate in the now. There could be no better way to capture the past so perfectly than in the appropriation of so much money to a group of men who own so much already but deem it fit to amass more wealth without working for it!

Of course, we shall have to sit-out this NASS, we are clear about this, but we shall remind them tirelessly why we voted them in, being fully aware that they are men-of-old anyway. We give them this chance to change indeed or damn the consequence. One of the changes we so much desire is a complete review of the current two chambers-assembly. It is not sustainable if we are intent on moving an inch forward positively. Think of how much we shall have saved of the 9 billion Naira if we had only a chamber of these countrythieves to feed!

Merchants-of-Memories(MoM): A New Way To Die

Let me start. Anyhow. A day like that, Agbako and I wandered two streets away. No destination in mind. Sun was hot. Open gutter. No sidewalk. We walked barefoot. No. We were not barefooted, we wore slippers. I can’t remember what we talked about, but we laughed and laughed until our voices touched the sun. I knew this because she hot hotter. It was a good day. Or maybe not. Because of what followed. Till today I still wonder which kain spirit possessed me, I almost got my friend killed, if not that the Okada rider braked fast enough. It was a Yamaha, the machine full ground with confidence, the man must have been a damn good rider.

Hear what I did: I looked back, saw the Yamaha bike, and fiam! I pushed Agbako. Right in front! It must have been Ogun, the Iron-God, who braked one of his children on wheel! We were all in shock. At least for a while. When what happened finally dawned, I picked race! I ran as fast as my legs carried me. Behind, trailing me was the bikeman. I began to shout! Egbami o! Egbami o!! Egbami o!!!

When I saw shouting and running was as good as attempting to run and scratch my yansh at the same time, plus there was nobody to hear, I rested shouting. Instead, I added the shout-energy to my fleeing legs. The bikeman did not stop. I was in trouble. I saw a bend. I took it. The flight continued. The bend was my salvation. A Baptist Church was in sight. Good enough two Jesusmen were at the door. I branched in their direction, hugged them tight as if my life depended on their pity. With my pursuer in sight, I changed story. Won fe jimi gbe ni o! Won fe jimi gbe ni o!! Won fe jimi gbe ni o! If they believed my story I never could tell in that moment. They calmed me down, and we awaited the arrival of my potential kidnapper. The bikeman told them I was a terrible child. They begged him. I was scolded. I apologized. Then, he rode off. That problem being solved, I realized I have only solved one problem when my victim-friend Agbako appeared from the bend I had negotiated into the church. I turned to the Jesusmen and pointed to Agbako. ‘Sirs, you must help me beg him. If not, I’m dead!’

I wished I had listened when mother told me not to cause trouble when she was not around! These were mother’s words: ‘I am going to the village. Please cause no trouble for me. Iya Tope will give you food. Don’t trouble her. If she send you message, go and do whatever she instructs!’ Hardly had mother left when I broke all injunction one after the other. Iya Tope wanted me to sit still for a while, I wanted to go out, she thought it was time to read, exactly in that same moment did I think it right to smack her daughter. When it was twelve pm and she felt I could hold on a little longer, that was when my hunger skyrocketed. The last straw that exploded her anger was when I pushed Saburi when we played football. The whole house gathered, first to revive Saburi, then to remove woodsplitters from his forehead. My push had landed him on a kaputt shopdoor! My eyes cleared, cry-water was gushing out of my eyes. I was scared like shit. If anything, I never wanted my stubborness to kill him! When Saburi was revived and his head bandaged, he was taken to Chemist, who injected him with whatnot. Iya Tope only wanted my mother back for good! ‘Kini ma ti se oro e si bayi ki iya e tode!?’

Thinking of Community High School in Agege Area, especially during interschool riots, I remember what pure anarchy is! When I was school pupil in Araromi Primary School, many secondary school students that time also doubled as butcher-apprentices. Their nicknames were tell-it-all; names like Shalake or Ake UTC, Student, Community, Riot, Ijongbon, Experience, Rambo etc etc. Of particular interest were stories of thug-heroes which we fed our fantasies after these interschool cum communal unrests. Overtime I realized we peppered our own version to outshine the goriness of the other. This is not to say it was untrue that people were butchered alive, I wont put this evil beyond those fierce thugs who troubled our schools and neighbourhoods. All one need to do to get the exact picture is, If you hear that Shalake killed twenty people, deduct ten to arrive at the correct number of death victims. When possible we stayed indoor. If caught on the street in a riot, we cut tree branches and visibly place in hand or in front of cars to show neutrality. Community was another student rioter whose name was a household name at any point in time. If there was trouble and his name was not mentioned in our peppered after-narrations, then the stories were incomplete.

Like the rioters and hooligans, it wasn’t all good memories growing up. There was a man left to rotten on a road. Each time we passed that road, I wished he was not lying there. He laid dead for days unend. I can’t say how many days or weeks, but I’m sure it was a pretty long time for my child-eyes. I didn’t like it. I asked and asked when he would be removed, but not even mother could tell me when this corpse will go! There was a day like that a waste-truck stopped beside him. I thought, finally he will be removed for good. How wrong was I! The truck left only with the communal rubbish but not the corpse. Was I traumatized? I don’t know if it was a trauma, but I could hardly eat meat each time my mind flashed back to this deadbody in the weeks that followed. I saw the corpse everywhere. I once dreamed he was being carried away in an ambulance and that we were happy he was gone. When he finally was removed, I did not know. We had gotten far used to our troubles to not forget a man was rotting away before our very eyes.

Talking about hotdeath is not my favourite but when it is part of my life there is little I can do to not talk about it. Memories are who and what we were and are. Good or bad.

Igashi. Goodnews first: Life in Igashi was paradise. For me. I enjoyed every bit of my stay in that part of the world. In fact, I will visit again when I am Nigeria in July.

Only the memory of the young woman who later died a hotdeath was one I did not like. Her stomach was permanently bloated, like she was pregnant. Her countenance was infinite sadness. She lived in a room with her father in my grandfather’s house. She followed us to the farm. I am not sure now, but I overheard Iya Idowu ask her how she was doing. Many times. Then later Iya Idowu talked with mother about this sad woman. She wished there was more she could do to cure her bloated stomach. Years later when I heard how she died, I was terrified! In her honour and many in Nigeria who died a death that clearly was avoidable, I will tell how she died.

So, her father knocked Baba’s door to inform of his daughter’s death. ‘She’s no more breathing’, he said in a voice ladden with sadness. Burial arrangement began immediately. Baba informed the gravedigger-agegroup. News of the death reached all households almost at once. The whole village gathered to mourn a passing away. The corpse was wrapped in a clothpiece and placed in a casket. The gravedigger were about finished when the presumed dead began to breathe again! It was Baba who noticed there was a sign of life in the casket. He called attention of the woman’s father to this development. His response was at best indifferent. As if the young woman knew her father had long given up on her, she started to cry. It was at first a fainted voice, it then gained momentum. She must have wished she could cry down the whole village so they know she was not dead! Indeed, the village heard her cry because she was not thrown into her death with life in her. The whole village waited for her to die again. This sadness lasted the whole day. When she finally seized to cry, it was concluded by a large concensus that she was dead again. If she really was dead, was of course questionable. Apparently, her death was a new way to die- you are dead when the community agrees you are dead! She was buried in my granfather’s backyard.

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