In Lawuyi Ogunniran’s Yoruba play, Ààrẹ-àgò Aríkúyẹrí, we see how a happy polygamous family is ruined by the indiscretion of the family head. Ògúnrìndé Ajé, the Ààrẹ-àgò Balógun of Ibadan, a man with three wives, throws a party to worship his ‘ori’; he lines up his wives in a singing and dancing bout; the second wife outshines the others; the husband celebrates her, publicly proclaims her as his favourite and shoves aside the other wives. The party is over, three children of the third wife die in quick succession – poisoned; hell is let loose. The first wife secretly tells the mother of the dead children that her Babalawo has revealed the favoured wife as the ‘witch’ who ate her children. The bereaved tells her husband the discovery, and, the man, in anger, shoots dead the ‘accused’ wife; the town steps in. Ààrẹ-àgò Balógun is accused of murder and brought before Baṣọ̀run Ògúnmọ́lá and the council of chiefs. The truth is revealed: the first wife is the culprit; she tells the chiefs that the wives loved one another before their husband picked his favourite in public. She confesses to killing the kids to punish the family head “who knows the slender wife that fits her husband on the day of the feast, and (knows) the fat wife fit only as a labourer on the farm.”
Nigeria is ineluctably rolling towards its destiny; it is approaching its final destination. That was the summary of my thought after watching the Katsina vigilante training video, the trainees’ open display of dexterity in handling AK-47 rifles, and Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s charge at the double standards of the Federal Government. The governor alleged that South-West states applied for and got a no for its Amotekun from the Federal Government while Katsina State got a yes for its security outfit to bear military-grade weapons. The firm became firmer after I read the police’s explanation that what the Katsina vigilante boys got were not AK-47 assault rifles but mere training in the use of AK-47 guns. We live in a ghostly society ruled by funny, deadly ideas.
You saw the devastating effects of bias and favouritism in the Ààrẹ-àgò Balógun story above: Three children die of poison; one wife is shot dead by the husband; a jealous wife is sentenced to death; the family head is sentenced to death – but escapes to the miserable life of a fugitive. Even, members of the jury – the chiefs who sit on the case – become victims; they are busted as bribe takers and lost their privileges, and the bribe deliverers are sold to slavery. The lone survivor is the last wife who escaped with the morbid scar of the loss of three children. This story is Nigeria and its future in their very raw form. Clinical psychologists have a description of a household of bias and iniquity. They say a family of parental favouritism is one of shame, fear, and fight. Wherever you have the blight of bias, you see cohesion in flight; you feel disengagement and conflict in full swing. A home where the favoured child sees the parents as enviable and helpful, and the disfavoured child perceives them as wicked, selfish, and authoritarian is no one’s dream home. It cannot ever achieve its full potential. It is a house of commotion and destruction.
Human existence, Sigmund Freud theorized, is all about two basic urges – he called them drives: One is Eros (the desire to live); the other is Thanatos (the wish to die). Both cohere and contend throughout the journey of life. If Freud saw war as “the prevailing of death over love,” then Nigeria is the ground of that battle. Every step that is taken here, solitary and collective, is a shortcut to death and decay. Nothing is an accident; the virus ravaging our giant came with its bad birth and breath and feeds on the deformity. Imagine what the Nigerian government has made of a decision as basic as what weapons to deploy in fighting a collective enemy. The regime has costumed it in sectional arrogance, governmental infidelity, and unfaithfulness. The result is the outcry from Akeredolu and the shameful silence from Abuja.
Except the state armourer is the forest bandit, he should have no problem arming law enforcement agents and agencies against banditry. If terrorists in the forests of Katsina and Borno use AK-47, and terrorists in the forests of Ondo and Oyo use AK-47, shouldn’t the respective responses be similar in ways and means? We insist that our country’s full name is the Federal Republic of Nigeria, yet, we hate what real federations do. The United States is a federation with more than 17,000 state and local police forces. They are many and, yet, they get the job done in an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual respect. Why is it difficult for us to do what others do so that we get what others get? We cannot insist that Nigeria’s unity and oneness are inviolable and non-negotiable while having one standard for the north and a different standard for the south.
Our founding fathers fought for and got Nigeria as a federation of disparate units. They voted for federalism because they knew it would stop the madness of one part from becoming a national epidemic. It is about balancing of power – and even of terror. America’s founding fathers opted for federalism because they sought “to balance order with liberty…avoid tyranny, allow more participation in politics and use the states as ‘laboratories’ for new ideas and programmes.” The fourth president of the United States and father of the country’s constitution and its Bill of Rights, James Madison, argued (in The Federalist, No. 51) that power must be set against power, and ambition must be made to counteract ambition if his emerging nation of many parts would progress in peace and plenty. Earlier in The Federalist, No. 10, he had explained how the adoption of federalism would engender peace and development: “The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular states, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other states. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the confederacy, but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source.” Drawing from Madison’s argument, an analyst says “federalism prevents a person that takes control of a state from easily taking control of the federal government as well.” What do those sentences tell you about Nigeria and its owners and why the nation’s ailments are incurable? The US experience apparently influenced what legal icon and elder statesman, Chief Afe Babalola, SAN, argued for in April 2022. He called for a total constitutional overhaul of Nigeria instead of limping towards the next elections. We asked him to shut up.
Five months ago, Chief Afe Babalola looked at Nigeria he was living in and cried out that he could not recognize what he was seeing. Then he issued a statement and said he “decided to talk because this country is now different from the one I used to know.” He said he saw a gradually collapsing country, a half-dead nation with a currency that was N199 to $1 in 2015 but which had gone down to N570 to a dollar as of the time he issued the statement. “The external debt, which was $10.7 billion in 2015 is now over $38 billion. The government is borrowing more, and spending more, but earning fewer revenues. The worse thing is that the debt servicing level is also rising. In 2020, Nigeria was ranked as the poorest country in the world with over 50 percent of Nigerians living in extreme poverty while over 70 million Nigerians are in urgent need of life-saving assistance.” Chief Babalola said he was “of the firm conviction that moneybags now control the lever of powers.” He said if we allowed the present constitution beyond 2023, what we would be getting is recycled leadership, who would continue the old ways. “We need a constitution that will throw up young, brilliant, dedicated people to save this country. We can’t get all these under the present constitution. We need a new set of leaders in our nation; leaders who will not see themselves as Mr. Know-All and who will not see themselves as above anyone,” he said.
That was five months ago. How many bags of naira must you carry before you can purchase a dollar in Nigeria today? A thousand dollars may soon trump a million naira. If you are an optimist, you have something to chew on here. It is said that a witch who would stop being a witch would not build an all-female nest. Nigeria is that witch. It breaks the backbone of whatever is good and strong; it does not build or rebuild; it listens not to the voice of knowledge and understanding. How did we take Afe Babalola’s counsel that we rearrange our lives productively instead of going for the poisonous feast of the 2023 elections? We dismissed him and his words. The old man has since been minding his business, eating his pounded yam, mounting his horse during the day and ‘the other one at night. But for Nigeria, denial cures nothing; the country remains “a contagion of disgrace.”
Bloomberg, last week, in a damning report said bankers were bailing out of Nigeria’s stagnating economy. It mentioned ‘japa’ the new fad for brain drain. The drain is with the traumatized – made up of everyone: young, old, read, and unread. It is the result you get from a cracked system that won’t submit itself for reconstruction. Nigeria cannot work unless it has the right leaders. It cannot have the right leaders unless the structure is right. The tormentors of Nigeria run to the United States. But they won’t accept that that country works because it preserves the choices its founding fathers made at the beginning of their journey. Nigeria robs the world of hope and puts the optimist to shame. “The fountains are dusty in the Graveyard of Dreams; The hinges are rusty and swing with tiny screams” (H. Beam Piper in ‘Graveyard of Dreams’). We tempt fate and tamper with destinies; the result is the shrill death of hope. Fuji music’s grand old megastar, Kollington Ayinla, sang in the 1980s that Nigeria is the world and it would never die (Nigeria, ayé ni kò lè kú…). My starry-eyed generation (and the ones before us) sang and danced with Baba Alatika along the rich creeks of that optimism. But, life has taught us lessons on how not to be optimistic. If musicians are true poets, today, I would borrow from Odia Ofeimun and chant ‘The Poet Lied.’ I am not sure the lyricist in Kollington believes any longer in the spirit of his song of an eternal Nigeria. Nothing that is born to sink will swim – even when it is offered lifelines.
Yes, Aisha Buhari eats from poor people’s money! By Festus Adebayo
Though the wife of the Nigerian president, Aisha Buhari, has discontinued her defamation case against Aminu Adamu, the final year student of the Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State, the court of public opinion cannot afford to throw the issue into the dustbin. In what was the Nigerian First Lady’s most recent controversy, having allegedly ordered the arrest and detention of the university student, massive flaks against her and the futility of continuing the matter, it was said, must have necessitated the withdrawal of the apparently dead-on-arrival matter.
Aside from the above, the concept of the First Lady and its implications for the social health of society today deserves to be re-examined. The cliché, “behind every great man is a great woman” has led political scientists, psychologists, sociologists, and philosophers to look intently into the texture of the characters of spouses of rulers of the world. This is because, mere concentration on political actors and their policies have failed to unravel, in many cases, why they behave the way they do. With the arrest, detention, and alleged torture of Adamu on the orders of Mrs. Buhari, the question of who Aisha Buhari really is has been more compelling. Is she a villain dressed in the robe of power or a victim of the icing on the cake of power?
On a Twitter post, Adamu had attributed the bloat in the physique of the First Lady to and symbolizing excessive romance with the Nigerian national pot of soup. Adamu had specifically tweeted: Su mama anchi kudin talkawa ankoshi, which translates to “the mother has gotten fat on masses money.” He accompanied this tweet with a puffed-up picture of the First Lady. Piqued by what she must have considered a plebeian audacity, Aisha was reported to have ordered the young man’s arrest and his rough parceling to the Nigerian presidential villa, where he was allegedly tortured and remanded in prison,
The truth is that the First Lady and the Nigeria Police who charged Adamu for defamation by his tweet, perhaps due to the many decades of military rule, do not understand the proper concept of democracy; nor do they have a whiff of what representative democracy is all about. When purged of all the unnecessary icing of its highfalutin definition, representative democracy, which we practice in Nigeria, is a give-and-take concept. Also known as indirect democracy, it is a type of democracy where elected people act to represent a group of people. It is a system practiced by nearly all western-styled democracies, its typical examples being the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Broken down to its granules, in representative democracy, the people, aware of the disorder it would have meant for everybody to be in parliament and Government Houses at the same time, place the power to govern them in the hands of their representatives who they elect in a periodic election ritual.
Representative democracy has its origin in the Roman Republic, which was the first known state in the Western world to practice it. Romans sold this system to the world in which, though supreme power lay in the hands of the people, they ceded this power to their elected representatives who then wield the power on their behalf. In most instances, these are representatives who are felt to have superior knowledge of administering society or who possess some rare qualities that are not found in the generality of the people. The people however reserve the power and right to withdraw such powers in the form of recall from the parliament and impeachment of this erring representative by their representatives in the parliament.
To focus the attention of these representatives on the business of governance, the people make available to them some measure of comfort which they get from their consolidated national pool, their national patrimony. The house built in the people’s name and with their resources, which is christened Government House, is made available to these representatives to live in, free of charge. The ones who could not live in this house are rewarded in cash called Housing Allowance. It is not because they are more entitled to live therein than the people who they represent. They also eat free food, paid for the patrimony of the people. For their time which is sacrificed, they are paid salaries and other allowances. The health and well-being of these representatives are the bothers of the state. Thus, in many democracies, they are treated free of charge from the pool of the people’s money. In fact, so that they are not distracted, the state also pays for their children’s schooling and their wives’ comfort. The representative needed not to be distracted looking for food, and shelter, and bothering about the wellbeing of his spouse. So the state caters to virtually all the family members of the representative.
In the 2023 budget estimate, the offices of Aisha’s husband, President Buhari, and his Vice-President, will spend the sum of N11.92 billion on local and foreign trips, as well as on the presidential air fleet. It is inclusive of the sum of N1.58bn which was earmarked for aircraft maintenance and another N1.60bn which was allocated for the overhaul of the Gulfstream GV and CL605 aircraft engines of the presidential office. In the same vein, the Office of the President was slated to spend N2.49bn on local and foreign trips, and the Vice-President’s office, N846.61m. Fuelling of these aircraft, according to the budget, will cost the Nigerian taxpayers which comprised the poor and the rich, the sum of N250m, while N650m will be spent to purchase a new mobile helicopter landing pad.
In the same budget, the sum of N40.45m was penciled for the construction and equipping of a new presidential kitchen and a total of N508.71m to be spent on foodstuffs and refreshments, an amount which stands at N331.79m and N176.92m for the offices of the President and Vice-President respectively. I am not aware that the above sums emanated from the private wealth of Mrs. Buhari’s husband or from the proceeds of his cows in Daura. She can only be allowed to claim that she had not eaten the poor people of Nigeria’s money if any of the amounts earmarked for the Villa feeding and comfort does not have her participation in them in the last seven and half years.
It was this same Mrs. Buhari whose daughter, Hanan stirred the hornet’s nest when she was conveyed by the Presidential jet to attend the Durbar in Bauchi. By Nigerian governmental convention, it is only the President, First Lady, Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, former Presidents, and a Presidential delegation, are allowed to use the Presidential jet. It will also be recalled that, in that year’s budget, the amount voted for the Presidential jets was N8.5bn. Hanan, who graduated in Photography from Ravensbourne University, London, was said to have gone to Bauchi on a special invitation as a special guest of honour of the Emir of Bauchi, Rilwanu Adamu.
Photographs of her Hanan disembarking from the presidential plane and being welcomed by Gombe State officials went viral around this time. The Emir was said to have invited her to the Durbar so that she could take photographs of the celebration, Bauchi architecture, as well as some other cultural sites in the state. While Mrs. Buhari’s daughter was engaged in this unconscionable abuse of office and waste of taxpayers’ money by this act, it beggars belief that the same woman would be miffed by the allegation that she was chopping poor Nigerian people’s money. Before getting into office, her husband, then Major General Buhari, was trenchant in his criticism of the Goodluck Jonathan government and the ones before him, for expending public funds on unjustifiable things.
For all our food and the comfort of our collective home called Aso Villa where she lives, all we ask from the First Lady is tolerance. She would only have had a defence in court if she could present verifiable and irrefutable evidence that she spends her personally earned money and not money belonging to the poor and the rich of Nigeria, to feed herself in the last seven and half years plus. If she could not, she would lack every right to litigate against a 24-year-old Nigerian who claimed that the Nigerian people’s money, with which she feeds, must have been responsible for her bloated physique. She might however have had a defence if she could provide evidence to show that she recently acquired sheppopotamus-size image – apologies for the nil discretion in an earlier statement by Prof Wole Soyinka so describing Mrs. Goodluck Jonathan – was as a result of a health challenge and not from proceeds of Nigerian people’s money which she chops legitimately.
With an apparent dearth of Paparazzi journalism in Nigeria, the type that unearthed several hidden details of Princess Diana’s liaison with her Arab consort, Dodi Fayed, scholars must rise to the people’s rescue and begin to piece Aso Villa jigsaws together. Perhaps by so doing, they could arrive at the current frame of mind and fitting psychoanalysis of the office of the First Lady under Buhari. Except for photo-op sessions, there have been allegations of no love lost between Aisha and the Nigerian president. Specific suggestions have even sidled into public discourse that the First Lady does not enjoy spousal attention from her husband.
The first absurd manifestation of this in the public was Mrs. Buhari’s open antagonism and criticisms of her husband’s government in the early years of the administration. This was so notoriously manifest that many people concluded that if indeed the couple lived together as husband and wife and indeed shared affection, she could have offered those pieces of advice in the presidential closet. In 2019, while appearing on a Lagos television show, Aisha was asked why she was always criticizing her husband in the public rather than having “pillow talk” conversations with him that symbolizes spousal affinity and interaction, she replied, “there is no pillow in the villa. No,” She however attributed this to their busy schedule.
Again, the brawl at the Villa between her and the leader of Aso Rock’s cabal, Mamman Daura, revealed an ugly underbelly of the relationship between Aisha and her husband. What came to the limelight was that the two live in different apartments in the Villa. The brawl between Daura’s daughter and the First Lady showed that there was an attempt to de-room Mrs. Buhari in favour of Daura’s daughter. On top of this, a couple of years ago, the First Lady packed her belongings out of her «matrimonial home» and made the UAE her home. These absurd revelations should interest scholars of the social health of Nigeria’s seat of power.
The psycho-analysis would need to be made of these mis-matrimonial manifestations in the First Family, so as to decipher whether Mrs. Buhari’s current fly-off the handle had a direct correlation to her matrimonial frustration. It was the same despotic disposition that Ondo State people saw in Feyi George, wife of their military governor, Naval Officer Olabode George, in the 1990s. The “couple” had left office before it came to the fore that that marriage was for the press and in actual fact, the two actors were miles apart and merely acting marriage. Scholars would thus need to help us unravel whether Nigerians are witnessing another marriage of convenience between Aisha and her husband, the Nigerian president. If this is it, we may then begin to see a connection or corollary between some disjunctive manifestations in power at Aso Rock and this spousal spat.
No woman would live with a fib that intent analysis of Aso Rock matrimony portrays as a presidential family without an occasional urge to bare the fangs of a tiger. It is not unlikely that what the world saw in the Adamu tackling was an attempt to grasp at a straw which the “power wielder” mis-perceived as power through that unnecessary anger at Adamu. This is because Mrs. Buhari looks too charming and matronly to behave in a manner that could only have been advertised by Mrs. Idi Amin Dada.
What Mrs. Buhari did with Adamu was a crude and naked abuse of power. If she wasn’t wrong by her act, then our fathers and mothers who died in the bid to dethrone military rule and embrace democracy died in vain. People died and were maimed for us to be where we are today, the courtyard of free speech. Free speech can only be checkmated by defamation and not the baring of a wolf’s claws. It is the antithesis to use the democratic office to harass anyone like a despot. Why what Aisha Buhari did to Adamu was an oxymoronic tragedy to the Nigerian people that, by that act, she got our people to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
When the lenders come calling, govt will do worse than Nalule by Joachim Buwembo
When the now 40-year-old Gertrude Nalule lost her husband in a car crash a couple of years back, a bleak future stared at her with her seven children, five of them biological. But her good neighbours in the Kampala suburb of Namungona came to her rescue and contributed to having a modest house built for her, though not to perfect completion. An apparently good neighbour offered her a small loan of Ush3 million shillings (less than $1,000) to boost her groceries business.
But soon after contracting the debt, Covid-19 struck and the business collapsed. The neighbour demanded his money and amidst painful toiling, Nalule kept paying bits amounting to what she had borrowed. But she hadn’t reckoned with what is now called a mbaata (duck) agreement in Kampalaspeak, agreement moneylenders now prefer, were like a sitting duck, the borrower is made to sign a document declaring that they have sold their property to the lender at a sum much higher than that disbursed.
Nalule had signed a mbaata agreement to the effect that she had sold her home for Ush10 million (about $3,000) and the neighbour wanted “his” house and plot since she had defaulted on the loan. He tried to make her accept a couple of millions to complete the “sale” and she refused to take it. He went to court, which ruled in his favour, and Nalule was sentenced to prison for six months for defaulting. After serving two months in jail, her story ran on NTV, catching the attention of the indefatigable Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, who stormed the country’s main prison of Luzira.
Rotting in prison
Nabbanja discovered to her horror that besides Nalule, about 650 other women are also rotting in prison after signing mbaata agreements. Nabbanja swiftly paid off some Ush2.5 million, which the money lender said Nalule still owed in interest, and secured her release.
But even as Nalule cried in relief calling Nabbanja “mother” and “saviour” as she was driven in an official car to go a reunite with her children, she and the prime minister were in for a rude shock. The money lender insisted the home was his and demanded that Nalule’s wretched family (the eldest girl of 17 had missed her O’level final exams while the middle one had missed her primary leaving exams as a result of the mother’s imprisonment) quit immediately. Nabbanja caused a session with the magistrate who had the jailed Nabbanja and yes, he insisted that Nalule surrenders the house, that the law is the law. The prime minister with the victim were left with the mbaata sitting on their chest.
The prime minister’s woes were not about to end. Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo was furious with her tampering with the independence of the judiciary. A statement was immediately issued assuring the judicial officers of his support both in private and public. A couple of days later, the chief justice used the occasion of a judiciary conference to put the prime minister in her place. He explicitly told her to use her zeal in more useful endeavours like supervising the Executive’s non-performing projects including a power dam that closed two months after commissioning. And so on the Nabbanja bashing continued.
But as the learned brothers and sisters continue bashing the down-to-earth Nabbanja, they seem not bothered that the country is in the same position as the 650 Ugandan women jailed in their country after signing “duck” agreements and losing their property as well. Yes, the country borrows from foreign money lenders who behave no better than local shylocks who take advantage of widows. We borrow for projects and only a tiny fraction of the loan ever comes to the country. Heaven knows how many billions on our debt account are for granite and road-building materials dug from our soil, most of the rest going to consultancy services paid abroad. The government’s contribution to the project does most of the funding anyway. One lender demanded for the government’s contribution upfront and took it away to earn interest in deposits. A vigilant parliament committee forced them to return the money. Another lender took the country’s contribution to first build a road, and guess where? In wealthy Kuwait. As our judiciary pours scorn on “duck” women victims, someone should tell them the whole country is treated like a duck by foreign lenders.
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