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Strictly Personal

I stand with Buhari by Lasisi Olagunju



The story you are about to read was published by the Nigerian Tribune 38 years ago. It was the lead story of its June 5, 1984 edition. Written by Joe Aladesohun, it was headlined: ‘Man commits suicide’ with a rider: ‘frustration at the bank’.

The report:

A middle-aged man committed suicide in Ibadan last Wednesday following what sources described as “series of hopeless visits to his bank for cash.”

The partly decomposed body of Mr. K. O. (I withhold the name), a 48-year-old civil servant of the accounts department of the Oyo State Ministry of Information, Youths, Sports and Culture, was found dangling under the ceiling fan in one of his rooms three days after his death.

A suicide note left on a stool in the room showed that he decided to end his life out of frustration.

The deceased was said to have collapsed twice in the premises of a bank and was rushed home on each occasion without cash.

Last Monday, May 28, two days before he committed suicide, somebody had given him N2 (two naira) after narrating his ordeal.

An ulcer patient, the deceased was said to have complained about taking only pap, his regular meal, since he couldn’t withdraw cash from his bank.

His remains were laid to rest on Monday at the public cemetery, Sango, Ibadan.

Contacted on telephone on Monday, the state Police Commissioner, Mr. Archibong Nkana, simply said: “I think there was something like that.”

The suicide note left behind by the deceased reads: “Do not forget that I have insisted that the receipt of the purchased stationery is in the steel cabinet. I’m sorry I have to end up this way but I think that is the only way open to me.

“Find the cheque and the cheque book in the cupboard. I have done all I can to maintain a fairly good standard.

“The keys to the cupboard are in my drawer. The payment vouchers are in the steel cabinet.

“My burial should be simple, no mourning, no wailing, no reason for that.

“Bye, comrades, I have beaten the gun.” (End of story).

I work in a place with a library that houses almost all editions of all newspapers that have ever been published in Nigeria. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter fantasy series, said “when in doubt, go to the library.” I consult the library for the same reason the diviner goes to his crystal ball. “Journalism is history on the run…history written in time to be acted upon,” said Thomas Griffith in the January 1959 issue of Nieman Reports. There is always an answer in history – and in journalism – and in the library. Insights into questions on everything are there, always, if you bore deep enough. I did that after listening to President Muhammadu Buhari’s lamentation in Owerri, Imo State, last week about his not being appreciated for the great work he has done (and is doing) with our lives. “This administration has done extremely well. I have to say it because those who are supposed to say it are not saying it. I don’t know why,” he said. I listened to him and felt he was in too much of a hurry. He was here from December 1983 to August 1985. During his first coming, he did so much with Nigerians, one of which was the currency exchange exercise of April/May 1984 which killed the man in the above story.

Buhari as military head of state did so many things that made children of those days grow old suddenly. It wasn’t enough that you had money in your bank accounts. Access to what you had was at the whim of the potentate in Dodan Barracks, Lagos, the then seat of government. People queued for days to get cash from their banks and went home empty-handed. Some got thoroughly whipped by soldiers on a corrective mission. Today’s young people can’t believe such was possible. But they happened. He made a law that made it a crime for journalists to publish the truth if it embarrassed people in government. He used that law to jail two Guardian journalists for publishing the truth. There was a scarcity of everything, including fundamental freedoms and staple foods. Nigerians cried for justice and rights and queued for sugar and rice. Buhari did many more to groups and individuals from the sea to the desert. Then, he was sacked by his comrades on August 27, 1985. Ibrahim Babangida, the man who replaced him, summed his regime up in the following words: “The last 20 months have not witnessed any significant changes in the national economy. Contrary to expectations, we have so far been subjected to a steady deterioration in the general standard of living; and intolerable suffering by ordinary Nigerians has risen higher; scarcity of commodities has increased…. Unemployment has stretched to critical dimensions.” Buhari was removed and replaced and there were wild jubilations. He must have felt terribly let down by that attitude of ingratitude – exactly as he feels now.

In 1985, Buhari believed he did very well; in 2022, he is convinced of his excellent pass mark in his current tour of duty. He has built roads and rail lines; he is building roads and rail lines. But he has also amassed debts enough to chew for ten centuries. And this is precisely where I am going. For his ‘excellent’ service as military ruler, the appreciation did not come for General Buhari in 1985 but it came thirty years later. Everyone who was his victim during his first life went looking for him to come back in 2015. Even Babangida supported him. Not many humans are that blessed. He is blessed. All his victims formed an armada of excuses to bring him back to power. They scented the septic in his tank and served it to the street as àmàlà and gbègìrì. He became a hurricane, the type that tore through woods and rocks. At least one of the jailed journalists, Tunde Thompson, openly campaigned for his election in 2015. “I have seen that time is a healer of certain wounds because people are still asking: ‘the man who jailed you wants to become president, what do you feel about it?’ They asked if I would vote for such a man. I want to say categorically that Buhari as the head of state at the time didn’t order the detention of Mr. Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor. He never did. Even Idiagbon did not. It was the head of NSO that ordered our arrest. That was the file my colleague saw when he was brought in to see Rafindadi after I had briefed him. And that was an order that they complied with. Buhari was not responsible for our arrest, so I do not see why at this time people are trying to make political capital out of what happened in 1984. Apart from that, it was an issue in the 2011 election. Between 2010 and 2011 people kept saying this over and over again. I think it’s now over 30 years, people should learn to be charitable; they should learn to forgive and let bygones be bygones, especially when we know the truth about who did what. I would like to say that Buhari didn’t order my arrest, so I bear no grudge against him,” the journalist said and added that he would vote for Buhari because he believed “that a person like Buhari at this time can call anybody to order and some people are afraid of that.”

I am sure that the man who killed himself in the above story, if he reincarnated and was around in 2015 as an àkúdàáyà, he would probably be one of the 15 million Nigerians who brought Buhari back. If it was a spell, it worked very well. It can still work again.

So, the president should not be angry in 2022 that we are hostile to the pangs and pains of his loving-kindness towards us. We will praise him tomorrow. He should ignore those who are supposed to sing the song of his excellence in power but are not saying it. The naira may exchange at a million for a US dollar; ASUU may be on strike for a year and universities closed forever; bandits and terrorists may continue to stop and shoot at moving trains; kidnappers may kidnap kings, governments and governors; the road to the farm may be shut to farmers; the path to the brook may be closed to fetchers of water; life may be generally brutish, nasty and short. Buhari should just calm down, eat and pick his teeth. All those won’t matter in the long run –which is not far away. We have a history of doing what abusive snail does to Òrìsà; it always goes back, shell and radula, with a rasping apology. If the world does not come to an end soon, every one of us abusing this president today may still beg him to stay here forever – or come back after his final round.

Do not just read the president; watch him. It is only by watching Buhari that you can read enough of his inscrutably opaque mind. Look for his Imo State video and watch how he looks as he says this: “This administration has done extremely well. I have to say it because those who are supposed to say it are not saying it. I don’t know why.” Who do you think he is referring to as the “they” who are “not saying it”? Lai Mohammed? No. Femi Adesina? No. Garba Shehu? No. Buhari does not have the character of a leader who throws his loyal lieutenants under the bus. Not at all. Those “who are supposed to say it but are not saying it” are the president’s party men; those who scheme to use his fingers to pull their chestnuts out of the fire of electoral politics without being seen with him. They are the ACN/ANPP people in the APC; the èmi l’ó kàn people. Bola Tinubu is ACN; his running mate, Kashim Shettima, is ANPP. Shettima campaigns with his Borno achievements; Tinubu flaunts his Lagos claims as proof of his leadership ingenuity. Neither is touching Buhari and his government with a long pole.

Was that how they started in 2015? No. Not even in 2019 did the current champions erect a Berlin Wall between their ‘ingenuity’ and Buhari’s ‘integrity.’ So, I stand with Buhari. Let the ACN/ANPP people stop running away from promoting his legacies. Ibadan people say those who dined with Salami Agbaje must compulsorily address him as Bàbá l’Áyéyé. “Truth always prevails in the end,” wrote Lord Acton, “but only when it has ceased to be in someone’s interest to prevent it from doing so.” What we have in the ruling party is a divorce without physical separation. It is like the candidates of the APC (top to bottom) want the party without its problem. The government is that problem; it is a floundering ship which no one outside the cockpit is willing to save. They campaign as an opposition with adversarial promises that should anger Buhari and his loyalists.

How is this likely to end? I have tried searching literature and history. I have read the story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The rogues lost everything, Ali Baba survived. I have read Treasure Finders – another tale of a band of thieves who abducted a man of charms and got him to rain for them the Seven Things of Price: gold, silver, pearl, coral, catseye, ruby, and diamond. The thieves here got their price but also lost it; they murdered one another; none survived, not even the innocent abducted man who rained for them the treasure. Those who fished out Buhari and made him their candidate in 2015 did not do it because they loved him or wished Nigeria well. He was retired and tired of losing repeatedly. But because they saw in him a shortcut to their life ambition to rule Nigeria, they went to Kaduna and told him: “come and contest again, we will back you and you will win.” They saw in his hand the magic wand to command 12 million northern votes. He surrendered to them and contested and won and the skies came down and collided with the earth. From top to bottom, the world went bad. Those who brought him now seek to be quiet on everything about his regime. Good or bad, they cannot now run away from drinking from the well of Buhari’s years. They should market themselves in Buhari’s tray. They swam with him in 2015 and 2019; they must swim and/or sink with him in 2023.

Strictly Personal

Independence, Whose Independence? By Festus Adebayo



Yesterday, it was 62 years since Nigeria got her independence from colonial Britain. While some countrymen say the October 1 celebration rituals are worthy of flinging the cymbals, some others say it is a day to drench ourselves in sack clothes and ashes reminiscent of mourning moments for biblical Israelites. For decades, until the October 1 saturnalia began to lose its savour, successive governments made a good job of conflating the frills of the rituals as a representation of our national joy and unity. Children looked forward to the symphony or National Day orchestra, the perfect chemistry of matching feet at stadia across the country, and the arresting drums of police bands.

A musical rendition of this October 1 ritual that succinctly captures its mesmerizing glee is in the 1971 recorded vinyl of Ligali Mukaiba, Yoruba Apala musician. Mukaiba, widely known as Baba L’Epe, having been born in the riverine Epe area of Lagos, was a musical petrel of the 1960s, through 1980s. Mukaiba had a mellifluous and almost effeminate voice that singled him out among his peers. He was a social crusader, commentator and musical prodigy, serenading Nigerian fans and the west coast with his very sublime, penetrating Apala music. I am yet to listen to a more penetrating account of the Midas touch, arresting power, and talismanic power of the female gender as evocatively delivered by Mukaiba in the track he entitled Kurukere. He sang that when a woman enters the head of a man – bo ba nwuni, to ba njaraba eni, he called it, she destabilizes all his organs of reasoning and he begins to act in dissonance to his actual person. Sorry, I digressed.

In his song entitled Eyi Yato (This is different) wherein he had the particular track, Ominira – independence, Mukaiba narrated what transpired on October 1, 1971, at the Race Course. It was where the Union Jack was lowered and was eventually named the Tafawa Balewa Square, after the murder of Nigeria’s mercurial first Prime Minister.

October 1 celebrations, which have become perennial rituals in Nigeria, respect for the Nigerian flag, the national anthem, and many more, are some of the totems that successive governments use as objects of nation-building.

Nigeria’s fragile togetherness has since worsened. Two very instructive fables speak to what led us to the precipice we are in today in Nigeria. In those fables, we are covertly told that when more than one people come together, with recognized differences, there must be mutual respect for one another, equity, and a sense of rightness. The absence of these factors has led Nigeria’s disparate peoples to go their separate ways in spirit. The two fables got promoted in the songs of Ibadan-born Awurebe music singer, Dauda Akanmu Adeeyo, popularly known as Epo Akara.

The first fable, as narrated by Epo Akara, happened in the animal kingdom where both the Partridge, a bird which the Yoruba call Aparo, and the Crab, Alakan or Akan, held occupied territories, with each controlling his own resources. While each was doing well in his own sphere, they both reckoned that there was the need to forge togetherness so that their lots could be better catered for and they could grow stronger in shared resources. The Aparo superintended over a government bountiful in yam resources and the Alakan’s government had abundant water resources. Hitherto, each and their children required what the other had.

Coalescing their thoughts, one day, they held a conference of the two nationalities. Aparo and Alakan sat on the table to discuss theirs and the futures of their offspring unborn. Aparo spoke first. He recognized that each of them had limitations in resources. After consuming the barn of yams located within his borders, Aparo said, he would need water to wash down the meal. Could Alakan open up his borders for him and his children to have access to his aquatic territory while he too would open his barns for his children to have easy access to yams?

They both saw the shared opportunities in this coming together. The deal was sealed and delivered, the next day, Aparo flew into the Alakan territory with his children and they fetched gallons of water. They did this for weeks. However, in the third week, Alakan sent his children to go to Aparo’s farm to harvest yams for the family’s consumption. At the farm, Alakan’s children shouted his name and he replied garrulously, in the words of Epo Akara, “Ta ni np’Aparo?” – who is calling Aparo? And those ones replied, “Omo Akan ni” – we are the children of Alakan. Then Aparo flew into a rage, calling their father unprintable names. Alakan, in the expletives from Aparo, was unevenly shaped by the Creator, with hands and legs shaped like pincers, a boulder for chest, deceptive strides such that he walks awkwardly – “O s’oju hati-hati, o s’ese hati-hati, ab’apata laya, owo meji bi emu…”

Incensed by this sudden flouting of relational terms of agreement by Aparo, Alakan’s children went back to their father and reported their encounter with him. Convinced that they had misrepresented what transpired, Aparo himself left the river bank where he was busy with some aquatic assignments and went into the forest to meet with Aparo. The partridge repeated the same excoriation. In anger, Alakan and his children came back home and that was the end of this attempt to forge a nationality from their disparate territorial leanings.

The other allegory as told by Epo Akara in another song was the consort of four animals who came together in mutual understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. They were Lion, Hyena, Cobra, and Tortoise. At the conference they held, each confessed his weakness to the others. The Lion was the first to speak. “If I am in the forest hunting, no one must dare behold my face,” he charged. Anyone who dared this, said the Lion, would have died as recompense – “enikeni to ba dan wo, Asalailu ni o si mon lo,” said Epo Akara.

For Hyena, no one must spill sand on his sacred body. The Cobra cleared his throat and said, “You could step on my head and I will keep mute; step on my back with no blowback but anyone who steps on my tail will die.” The Tortoise on his own told his fellow conferees that backbiting was his major put-off. Anyone who does this to him provokes the beast in him.

For decades, they lived in amity and hunted games collectively. However, one day, they sent Tortoise on an errand. Assuming he was without hearing the shot, the Hyena cleared his throat and began to speak. He bemoaned the Tortoise’s self-righteousness, stating, in that deep Yoruba aphorism, that everyone could haggle with the launderer but not an Ato’le – one stricken by incontinence of bedwetting.

The next day, as they were hunting in the forest, Tortoise then provoked discord. He looked straight into Lion’s face. Enraged, Lion spurted sand up which hit the Hyena and who in turn stepped on the Cobra’s tail, with the serpent spraying his lethal poison on all of them, leading to their mutual deaths.

The two Epo Akara fables speak to the Nigerian so-called togetherness. While our colonial heritage is the bane of our overall crises, there has been an internal re-colonialism of our own people by our own people. As foremost Political Science scholar, Prof Eghosa Osaghae said, the colonial heritage of states soldered together by force bequeathed on them a contested state. Africa is a good example. Flakes that naturally flow from this forced togetherness are the crises of corruption, violence, terrorism, economic dysfunction, and many more that we face today.

Today, what can bring Nigeria back from the brink of collapse is for her rulers to stop seeing Nigeria as an ethnic commodity, a conquered territory of the feudal North. In place of this, they must start empathizing with the people under their watch because transiting from statehood no nationhood can only be actualized when people start perceiving their president as the president of Nigeria and not the President of Fulani people.  To proceed from here, Nigeria has to re-negotiate her foundation. Proceeding from here is not about throwing saturnalia on October 1 and wriggling like maggots inside the sewer of celebration that Ligali Mukaiba painted in that 1971 vinyl.

We must first acknowledge that the independence we got from Britain in 1960 is pseudo independence, which has failed calamitously. The second is for us to begin to put in place the machinery for a Second Independence, as canvassed by Prof Osaghae. We must begin to decolonize our minds, preparatory to giving ourselves authentic Independence.

If Rwanda, a country riven by ethnic crises, could rise to become what it is today, Nigeria, with good leadership, can rise from the ashes of this hopelessness.  Like the animals in Epo Akara’s fables, the nations that makeup Nigeria have differences. Let’s recognize them. The northern part of Nigeria has over the decade behaved like the Aparo. Moving forward, let us come to a discussion table and agree on how we want to proceed from here.

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Strictly Personal

The likes of Dadis issue orders that people dare not oppose by Jenerali Uliwengu



Captain Moussa Dadis Camara — remember him?—is back in Conakry, Guinea, claiming that he has chosen to come back to “clear my name which has been dragged through the mud.”

Does this kind of action depict a man so full of bravado that he can come back to a place that is literally his crime scene and claim innocence, or does he want to tell us something we have not been told as yet?

Three years ago when Dadis was head of the military junta ruling over Guinea, hundreds of men and women gathered in that stadium in Conakry at a rally protesting military rule that has plagued the country since the founding president of that country, Ahmed Seku Ture, was overthrown after his death in 1989.

Yes, I am saying that on purpose, for Ture had been such a terror to his people that they had to wait until he was taken sick and then flown to Morocco where he died, and his people could now overthrow him! That is how a military coup d’etat was carried out on a dead president!

Relinquish power

Now, this Dadis had come to power courtesy of another military coup and had shown no sign he was planning to relinquish power any time soon, and his people had gathered in the stadium to tell him he had to leave.

Instead, he ordered his soldiers to open fire, and a bloodbath ensued; more than 150 unarmed civilians lost their lives. Apart from the deaths — themselves horrendous enough—the soldiers unleashed a raping spree in which tens of young women and girls were gang-raped, tortured, and maimed — many dying on the spot or shortly thereafter, succumbing to the ordeals they had suffered.

According to many eyewitness accounts by even people who had become inured to the barbarousness of West African military thugs, that day had not been experienced before.

After that horrific incident, Dadis fled to neighbouring Mali, where he has been living in soft-cushioned exile until he decided to come back home “to clear my name”.

It certainly will be interesting to hear what he has to say in his defence, and it will certainly be a riveting story as prosecutors lay down the charges and call to the stand as eyewitnesses those who saw and experienced the massacres and the rapes first-hand.

We all know what a bloodbath looks like, or we think we do. We have recollections of Sharpeville in 1961 and Marikana in 2012, for instance, two incidents in one country, perpetrated by forces supposedly diametrically opposed but unfortunately bound together by a shared callousness where black lives come into collision with the interests of capitalism.

Onto the bloodbath in the Conakry case, add the scenes of mass rape, and a scene emerges that is hard to visualize.

Some of the women who have gone on record have shared stories of untold brutality and suffering which have had repercussions on their reproductive health ever since, heart-rending narratives that would make a brute monster break down and cry bitter tears.

Law and order

I am intrigued and want to know what this Didas will want to say in his defence.

Was it a case of trying to re-establish ‘law and order’ as we hear our rulers say so often, that people were threatening to sow chaos and disrupt normal lives? Had the military junta at that time received intelligence suggesting the protesters were enemy agents sent to bring their (itself illegitimate) government down?

Hardly. Neither of these feeble excuses would hold water, because there is no evidence to suggest there was interference from outside, and clearly indiscriminate shooting of unarmed civilians and rape is no way to establish “law and order”.

But Dadis could benefit from an unstated defence that would be understood in some quarters, even if not spelled out. That he gave orders to shoot because he saw a threat represented by the demonstrators in the stadium as an attempt to reinstate so-called civilian regimes are in fact all military except in name.

Any time

They have given up any attempt to persuade their people to approve their policies, of which they actually have none; they have ruled by issuing orders that their people dare not oppose; all too often when their people showed signs of wanting to rebel, they were kept in check by the same brute military force that the likes of Dadis and others are now using. Morally, there is no justification for castigating Dadis and his boys.

But all that does not explain the overkill in civilian body counts, and the rapes. Dadis will still be up shit-creek without a paddle.

Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail:

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