Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Think, Niagara, Think

‘I want to swear by Ogun, the god of Iron, that I will check out when the umpire says “last card, Andrew!” I am a man of honour. I have done it before. I will do it again. Last night, I told my wife: “let’s do it again” and she agreed’

Fellow countrymen and women.
Once again, I am addressing you over the national talk shop which will soon wind up its sittings and deliberations after much ado about oil and gas. As you ought to have observed, the delegates have also been at each other’s throat for the past three months over who should rule us, where the person should come from and for how long. That’s okay by my administration provided they are not thinking of kicking us out of power. In fact, that’s the essence of our coming together. We have elected to jaw-jaw rather than to war-war. That’s the essence of democracy.
However, something is disturbing my mind about the direction the talk shop is heading. It appears some delegates are more interested in sharing the national goats instead of rearing them. They want to eat where they did not cook. While our neighbours in Porto Novo, Lome and Niamey are breeding goats and rabbits for sale, we are busy planning how to slaughter ours and roast them for dinner. I think time has come for us as a people to pause and think. Think, Niagarans, think.

So far, I have not been impressed by the happenings in the talk shop. The delegates appear to be more interested in laying emphasis on those things that tend to divide us rather than focusing on those that unite us. My own conclusion as of today, judging by the utterances and actions of delegates, is that we are more divided than ever before. Civilians do not want to do business with military leaders (I hope that does not include me). At the same time, Christians and Muslims are almost on the ready to draw daggers and pistols to slaughter each other as usual. The older generation does not see eye to eye with the indomie, spaghetti generation, just as the political equation in the country has been reduced to a mere north-south dichotomy.

When delegates are talking about north and south all the time, I am more curious than amused because it shows the level of ignorance and tolerance of the protagonists. Every day what we hear is rotational presidency between north and south. I am surprised that nobody has ever stood up to propose an alternative east-west rotation formula. If the north and south cannot agree on how to go about this allocation formula while not try it between east and west? Or are east and west no longer parts of the cardinal points?

But if I may ask, why is the issue of presidency a do-or-die affair? Why does everybody want to become president? Somebody jokingly told me the other day why this is so. He said the president of this country holds both the knife and the yam. And I asked the fellow, is the president’s job that of peeling the yam for dinner alone? If this is funny to you, it is not funny to me. Why can’t the president hold both the shovel and the digger? The country deserves a president who wants to serve selflessly with hard labour like a condemned prisoner. A person who will always be thinking, breathing and acting Niagara. The country is tired of an opportunist who wants executive power to loot, to allocate, to relocate, to execute, to kill extrajudicially, to cheat, to defraud, to immunise, to transfuse, to siphon, to bunker, to launder and to rob banks in broad daylight in the name of security. From what I have seen so far, there is not much of altruistic intentions in those clamouring for the wheel of fortune to spin in their direction. Every Dokubo and Haruna wants to be president not because the buck stops on his table. In Niagara, it’s only the beef that stops on the president’s desk; fall guys take care of the rest. Niagara is too big for any riff-raff to want to lead. Security reports have indicated to us that most of those aspiring to lead this country two years from now cannot come to equity with their soiled hands. 419 crooks, treasury looters, money launderers, certificate forgers and certified assassins are said to be on the prowl.

Fellow Niagarans, nobody should misconstrue what I have just said as an indication of intent not to vacate Asshole. Let me be categorical about the fact that Asshole is vacant at the expiration of my tenancy but it is surely not for sale for all these pretenders. It is true that some do-gooders are tempting me to overstay my welcome but as a gentleman and (ex)officer of one of the most disciplined armed forces in the world (disregard Abasha’s dent), I want to swear by Ogun, the god of Iron, that I will check out when the umpire says “last card, Andrew!” I am a man of honour. I have done it before. I will do it again. Last night, I told my wife: “let’s do it again” and she agreed. What else do I want?

Unfortunately, however, there are too many rats in the system waiting for the cat to retire so that they can lick the pot of soup dry. Left to such opportunists, the debt relief is a non-event since they seem to have nothing to gain personally. To them, Betham’s philosophy is an anomaly. The greatest good for the greatest number can only do damage to their entrenched class system. Egalitarianism has no place in such people’s dictionary. And this is why I pity the suffering people of the riverine areas. All the agitations for equitable cake sharing and enhanced derivation formula may come to nought because of the greed of the leaders and elders to whom a common voice is an anathema. Everybody wants to wear turbans like the Talibans, put on bowler hats like the old colonial masters and wear abetiaja caps like Sango worshippers. With oil money in their pockets, they want to party all night long, dancing boneless dance, digging owambe and doing the Fulani maiden dance in five-star nite-clubs while the fishermen and farmers continue to languish in abject poverty.

Fellow countrymen and women, it is time for us to put our acts together. Time is running out. Adaka Boro did his own but he was overpowered in the middle of his revolution. Saro Wiwa did his own and he was judicially murdered. Yet, the struggle has not abated. Today, the Atekes, the Dokubos and their angry comrades are roaming the creeks ready to pull the trigger to avenge the deaths of their revolutionary icons if justice is not done.

So, please, let’s keep talking. It’s better than fighting. Let’s jaw-jaw, it’s better than to war-war. May God bless you all.

First published July 25, 2005.

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