At times like this, two works of literature are my abiding refuge. One, written over a century ago, speaks to the melee, both in the APC and Nigeria as a whole. It is a poem entitled ‘The Second Coming’ by William Butler Yeats. It was written at a time similar to that of present Nigeria. It was a time when it looked like the world was coming to an end. The casualties of the First World War were benumbing and overwhelmingly high. The deaths of millions from the pangs of the flu pandemic that also occurred at this time were suffocating. The flu also infected Yeats›s pregnant wife, Georgie Hyde-Lees. In reply to this vexing time, Yeats wrote the poem in November 1920. Its lines are still very relevant to our situation in Nigeria today. He had written: Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.
The second work is from that tactful thespian, Alagba Adebayo Faleti; more precisely, his warning in the epic film, Saworoide. Saworoide is a 1999 satirised movie from the stable of Mainframe Productions. In the movie, Faleti was Baba Opalanba, an elderly palace staff, who combined the taciturnity and attentiveness of a community sage to periscope the state of things. Baba Opalanba had a futuristic warning of an impending calamity for misuse of power by the King in Jogbo land. This, he succinctly put in a song he rendered as Ko iye won,/Y’o ye won l’ola, meaning, it is obvious that they haven’t come to full realization of the situation but by the time they do, it will be too late. He also sang, Y’o ma leyin,/oro yii y’o ma l’eyin, ajantiele. The latter too is a warning of an impending doom.
Now, we are at that troubling spot which Bob Marley, in his Want More track, called “the valley of decision.” The Yoruba paint the canvass of that valley far more scaringly. Scholar and playwright, Ola Rotimi, deployed language to fittingly situate a confluence of three pathways and the dilemma that comes with where to go of the three. In his The gods are not to blame, borrowing from the Yoruba pantheon of discourse, he called that troubling spot a juncture where three footpaths meet. Yoruba call it the intersection where three footpaths meet that troubles a stranger in an alien neighbourhood. Where does the stranger turn: to the left, right or simply continue walking down the centre?
By this time next week, if the presidential election holds, the results must have started pouring in. No one needs to tell Nigerians that they are truly at the valley of decision. No one needs to remind us that this Saturday is a make-or-mar day for us. If we get it wrong – which I think we will – our situation will become more sardonic. By then, our rats that have ceased to squeak as they used to do and the birds of our jungles whose usual chirps have receded, will now go into far more scaring somnolence.
Right now, Nigeria is rudderless. As the billowing smoke and booming angers of All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftains exploded in the air like gunpowder last week, people like us sought refuge in a corner, enjoying the macabre exchanges; something like late Chief Bola Ige’s Sidon Look. Nigeria today is a theatre of the absurd. You have to possess a heart of steel to enjoy the blood-dripping theatrics. Fathers no longer hear the voices of their children; the symphony has lost its harmony and discord is here to stay.
It is interesting to hear the disjointed voices of Kano and Kaduna state governors as they pelted their Khalifa with stones last week. As the stones landed on the rooftop of Aso Rock, I drew my chair closer and drenched my guts with multiple cups of coffee. I needed the caffeine to deaden the tissues of my empathy.
In our very before, as one of my friends used to say, Muhammadu Buhari has effectively transited from an epic hero into an anti-hero; if you like, a tragic hero. The walls that shielded his Byronic heroism have collapsed. In transition politics, a sitting executive becomes lame duck post the election that ushers in their successor. In Buhari’s equation, he lost the shine and bite of office long before the election. And it gets worse by the day.
For almost eight years now, virtually all those manifestations for which the APC’s newfound warlords are demonizing Buhari today – name them: nepotism, cronyism, wickedness, selfishness, aloofness etc – were consistently and unrelentingly highlighted on this page. We were harangued as bigoted, spiteful, hateful, and disdainful of other ethnicities. When we repeatedly warned Bola Tinubu that Buhari’s acute sense of self and his un-leader-like obsession with his ethnic group, coupled with his narrow moral compass, will never allow him hand over power willingly to anyone other than from his ethnicity, our profiling as inundated with bile went a notch higher. But listen to Governors Ganduje and El-Rufai last week and you will wonder if we were sired by Nostradamus.
For Abdullahi Ganduje, Buhari is selfish, stiff-necked and luxuriates in his own self misunderstanding. While meeting with a group of former National Assembly members from the Northwest last Wednesday, the Kano governor said that Buhari, by sticking to implementing the Naira redesign policy this close to the general elections, in spite of various opinions to the contrary, the president will destroy the same party under which he became president for two consecutive terms. How else do you describe aloofness, selfishness and wickedness in a leader?
“When you look at what’s happening, it can make you weep. Look at this person (that is Buhari!) who had contested several times without winning. No sooner than a merger took place, he won an election. After four years, he got re-elected. Now he is going after his tenure but there is nothing he is doing than to destroy the same party that helped him to power. How could anybody be like that? For God, just imagine these things. You’re a leader and you’re seeing a bank goes(sic) in flames,” said Ganduje. You would imagine that this was excerpted from the weekly column of that “ethnic irredentist”!
What Ganduje couldn’t verbalize was that, selfsame people Buhari says are corrupt and wouldn’t want to hand over power to, mobilized proceeds of corruption to make him president in 2015. He laughed in appreciation. One of them who, since he left the university, was never known to engage even in simple trading outside of government, gave him his private jet to cruise the length and breadth of Nigeria on campaign hustle. I have it on good authority that the then ACN governors were mandated to contribute money for Buhari’s 2015 election. This same Tinubu contributed immensely, financially and strategically, to that election. What kind of sense of self will make you demonize your benefactors, no matter how ill-gotten their wealth is? What moral avatars do is reject such money. To ram home this kind of moral somersault, the song that comes to my mind is Yoruba Waka music queen, Salawa Abeni’s. She situated this in her epic track, Mo je ninu owo re, mi o je ba won bu e – I partook of the proceeds of your money, and I am thus morally bound not to join inveighers against you.
El-Rufai’s has dosages of treason and flavor of rebellion saucing it. In a broadcast to his Kaduna State people, audacious and self-righteous as ever, he urged the people to rebel. In the broadcast, he alleged that because Godwin Emefiele lost out in the presidential election primary of June 2022, he is using the Naira redesign policy to get back at those who caused his electoral failure. He also alleged that the twin crises of naira and fuel shortages were targeted at Tinubu, with the aim of ensuring “that the 2023 Elections do not hold at all, leading to an Interim National Government to be led by a retired Army General and sustain the climate of shortage of fuel, food and other necessities, leading to mass protests, violence and breakdown of law and order that would provide a fertile foundation for a military take-over.”
Typical of insurrectionists, he urged the people not to allow “artificial and illegal deadline frighten you” and they should “not feel stampeded to deposit your old notes in the banks” but “hold on to them; continue to use them as legal tender… No deadline can render them worthless, ever” and “all the old and new notes shall remain in use as legal tender in Kaduna State.”
In the same week, Femi Fani-Kayode, former Minister of Aviation and currently a spokesman of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, was invited by the Department of State Services (DSS). The DSS claimed that Fani-Kayode’s coup statement was inimical to national security. At his voluble best, Fani-Kayode claimed that some presidential candidates, in cahoots with some military generals, were plotting a coup against the government. By the way, how come the same DSS is not inviting El-Rufai? They both made same allegation of military generals conspiring with politicians to plan a coup.
The DSS’ invitation to Fani-Kayode is the typical institutional hypocrisy that Nigerian security organizations are known with. The DSS especially, from its days as NSO and SSS, has had this nebulous and minimalist conception of what national security is. Today, Nigeria has erupted in a ball of fire, set alight by the duo of Buhari and Gpdwin Emefiele. As I often say, if the DSS does its job properly, it should constantly give Buhari updates of coup speeches that are read daily at petrol station queues and long-winding queues for scarce Naira by ordinary Nigerians. Let the Buhari who magisterially flaunted his fame with the Talakawa walk today on Nigerian streets. I will not say what will happen. Suffice it to say that he has become anti-hero, a Byronic one at that, in the hearts of Nigerians today.
The truth is, not only are coups unfashionable all over the world, they are retrogressive and an effeminate, back-door walk into government and prominence by soldiers who are not better than the politicians they oust. Our experience in Nigeria since 1966 has shown this. Military men with plenty epaulettes on their shoulders but scant garlands upstairs exploited the people’s misbelief that in military takeover lies redemption as opportunity to amass sickening wealth and undeserved Messianism. It was this same coup-plotting which inflicted Buhari on Nigeria, with his obvious leadership limitations.
Back to El-Rufai and Ganduje, something tells me that their howling is a grim pointer to the calamity ahead of the APC this weekend, a veiled reference to how Buhari has already descended into the arena to help his kin win the election. The APC and its newfound parrots have nobody but themselves to blame. As the Yoruba say, the APC, Tinubu and others now lamenting the sadism of Buhari against them knew that the farmland they ploughed and planted groundnut seeds on in 2015 was squirrel-infested, ab initio; so why howl now when squirrels have made mincemeat of their groundnuts? There is none of Buhari’s traits now coming to national reckoning that they didn’t know when they chose to inflict him on Nigeria in 2015. Their blind ambition for power won’t deter them from taking such potentially disastrous step. The Yoruba compare the situation of this group to that of the proverbial big rat – Okete – which refused to raise alarm within the system from the beginning. Caught pants down, de-bowelled, its flesh dried and openly advertised for sale as venison, the Okete now raises its hands up, howling.
Buhari’s reply to El-Rufai and Ganduje also says a lot about the centre that cannot hold and things that have fallen apart. Garba Shehu, his spokesman, upbraided both governors for what he called another dangerous dimension “by people who are afraid that they might lose their elections” and that this weekend, Nigerians will vote the APC “and any others if they so wish, on the basis of their choice” and that “our people want progress, good governance, law and order and will not be swayed by the negative energy that is being expended against a well-meaning currency change.” Pray, who are the people afraid that they might lose election? And, is what is happening today on the streets of Nigeria Buhari’s idea of “progress, good governance”? The palpable state of anomie in Nigeria is apparently Buhari’s definition of good governance and the anarchy in the land that will surely worsen by the weekend at the polls is his “free and fair” election.
Today, a few days to the presidential election, let me conveniently sit in a corner like Baba Opalanba and watch as the falcon is unable to hear the falconer. An eerie feeling has wrapped itself round the stratosphere. I have a clear feeling of foreboding, of de ja vu; something that tells me we have been here before.