Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pastors, Impostors and Liars



‘My husband] believes that there is no other business that pays more than church business and he is bent on setting up a ministry or church…’



My friend, I guess you must have been wondering where I've been since all these days. Well, you don't have to worry. I dey kampe like the husband of my Egba friend would say. The only problem is Oko mi Adio who has been causing one wahala or the other since they laid him off at his work place.

Can't he look for another job?

Thank you o! The problem with my husband is that he just wants to get rich quick and I have suggested many things he could do to achieve this but he would not listen to me.

Maybe what you are suggesting is not promising or lucrative enough.

Haba! Except he wants to become an armed robber! I suggested to him to set up a police force but he said there's no difference between police job and armed robbery. Can you believe that? When he said this I almost puked on behalf of the police.

If you did that, you would just have wasted your vomit. The police is not worth dying for since they can't even die for anybody, anyway.

Don't you know that he must be out of his mind? I said, okay, if you don't want police job, how about going into politics? He agreed there is plenty of money in politics but he said he could not stand the wahala (trouble). He said he cannot allow anybody to turn him into a punch bag in their wuruwuru assembly because of constituency allowance or get riddled with bullets from the assassin's gun because of a mere political disagreement.

I don't blame him. Why should anybody die like a chicken because of "chicken change"? You mean your husband calls all the "biribiri" (illicit) money in politics "chicken change"?

I could reason with him, too. So I suggested to him to set up an embassy and be issuing visas for those going to Britain or America, Hong Kong or Taiwan? I know he could be making between two and three million naira per day, five times a week. I thought he would gladly accept to do this because consular business is a very lucrative business in Niagara because everybody wants to check out like Andrew. Actually you can't blame the willing immigrants who want to break the yoke of internal slavery and escape into the land of perceived freedom where dollars are being picked on city pavements. But Oko mi Adio also rejected that. He said he would prefer another means of making money without sweating.

And which was that?

Do you know what Oko mi Adio said? Alakori e (the ne'er do well) did not mince words telling me that he wanted to set up a church and be its pastor or bishop.

What?! You mean your husband said that? Does he think there's money in church business?
Oko mi Adio believes there is no other business that pays more than church business and he is bent on setting up a ministry or church or whatever catches his fancy.

This "oko re Adio" (this Adio, your husband)must be a strange specimen of humanity.What the hell does he mean? I bet he cannot be serious.

You still do not know who oko mi Adio is. He is more than serious. For the past few months, he has been going everywhere to gather information on his project of setting up a church. The problem he has encountered is that of choosing an appropriate name for his company. It's a big dilemma for him.

Hasn't he seen some samples in town?

Yes, he has. The problem is this, he doesn't know which name to use or adopt out of the myriad of names he has come across. His feasibility study suggests that the church is a goldmine. He said he would be the pastor in charge while I, his wife, would be the Grand Matron and our son, Jimoh Omi Adio Jnr, would be the chief accountant. I said "no be me and you". I said I would not want to become the grand matron of Kirikiri Prison when the EFCC (detectives) start probing the accounts of churches. He said I should not worry my soul. But how about a name for his ministry or church? The other day, oko mi Adio showed me some names and I was equally overwhelmed not by their sheer number but what he interprets the names to be. At least, you have to give my husband that; he is as witty as they come. When I pointed out what should be the name for his church, he just waved it off immediately. It was the same story for others.
What reasons does he have for rejecting them?



Oko mi Adio is both cynical and skeptical. He looks at every name through the prism of pessimism.

Whao! Can you give examples?

Plenty. When he saw HOUSE OF JEHOVAH's PADAWANS, he did not hesitate to dismiss it as a dogmatic Calabar church where they speak in tongues after eating too much of dog meat. As for GOD'S MENNONITE CHURCH, he said he has nothing to do with a 16th century church where the emphasis is on adult baptism and, perhaps, late circumcision. He said only randy men will like to be pastors of such ministries. As for OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY CHURCH, he gave credit to the owners for being honest enough about their intention and forewarning whoever may think of joining them to think twice before handing over their wallets. Definitely he would not name his own ministry like that. For GOD IN ACTION MINISTRIES, he just concluded that money must flow to oil the wheels of progress. But he has questions for the MOVING MOUNTAIN GOSPEL CHURCH. "Have they moved Mount Kilimanjaro from where it has been all these ages?” As for this funny one, MY BROTHER IS A CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF GOD, he has an option, how about MY SISTER IS A MUSLIM CHURCH OF ALLAH? According to him, what is good for Jesus is also good for Mohammed.

Mrs Adio, don't let us waste time. Just give me the list and let me read to you one by one while you let me have your husband's interpretation or reaction to each of them.

Good idea. Now, have it.

Here we go: DEVIL GO HEAR AM JESUS MINISTRY.

"Sermon topic or name of a church?"

ACCREDITED CHURCH OF GOD.

"Perhaps the only one licensed to clean people’s wallets".

POWER PASS POWER CHURCH OF THE MOUNTAIN MINISTRY INCORPORATED.

"True talk, especially when scriptures collide with incantations".

LABORATORY CHURCH OF GOD

"Where 'miracle babies' are manufactured".

GOD IS REAL MINISTRY. (MOTTO: JESUS NO GET MUSCLE BUT HE GET POWER)

"Sure, who no know say akpu power pass amala power?"

FIRE BURNS MINISTRIES

"Then call the fire department!"

TRIGGER HAPPY MINISTRY

"Exclusive for drunk police and extra-judicial killers".

JESUS OF GOD MISSION

"Precision! No waffling. No dragging. No dilly-dallying. Just straight to the point. Thank God, this is not Jesus of Oyingbo ministry".

GUIDED MISSILES

"For remote control during spiritual bomb attacks"

FACE TO FACE MINISTRY

"Definitely this is what remains of 'Face to Face Pools Agency' of the Kessington Adebutu days. Unfortunately after losing their savings on pools betting, church members may have nothing left for the Lord.”

EL SHADDAI SHALL NOT DIE MINISTRIES

"They say El-sha-ddai (El shall die) shall not die. This is Ministry of Confusion where people may not know whether to donate naira or dollar"

GO AND TELL AHAB THAT ELIJAH IS HERE MINISTRIES

"Why not 'Go Tell It on the Mountain that Liars are Here?"

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Maradona in Me

*Arthur Nzeribe

‘If another civil war breaks out now, I’m more than eager to sell the latest weapons of mass destruction to both the federal side and the new Biafrans’

“I have a President nicknamed ‘Maradona’, who has done everything he said he would not do, and has not done everything he said he would do. My President set out initially trying to be loved by all and to please all but ends up being doubted by all for being unpredictable and contradictory… He dribbles and joggles Nigerians better than Maradona does with football players, but does he score with the ‘hand of God’ as Maradona does? My distant view and assessment of my President is that of a consummate soldier, leader, strategist, ruthless and selfish politician whom we believe to be a humanist, an opportunist in the political arena, a good manipulator of men and circumstances, by his own admission ‘a law breaker,’ having participated in all but one of the illegal acts of coup-making in Nigeria.”

Wait, Arthur. You mean you once wrote all these about the new president-in-waiting?

Sure. But you haven’t seen or heard anything yet. Just let me continue reading out my views about him… “He is a man who does not completely break with his enemies, nor completely embraces his friends, there is an iron fist inside the gloves; thus a winner in the deadly game of power. The only Nigerian leader so far, both from the military and civilian folds, who appreciates what power is all about and uses it effectively for his own ends as do most rulers…”

Wait a minute. I still don’t understand why you have chosen this portion of your book to read to the audience during the literary fiesta for Kongi’s birthday.

How na├»ve can you be? Open your eyes and read between the lines… “Like Maradona, my President is the best in his chosen trade, to wit, soldiering, and by public acclaim, the best juggler and dribbler in the art of governance and politics in the Nigerian scene since independence. I admire certain qualities in my President. In fact, I see a bit of me in him. My President is bold, courageous, fearless and full of enterprise. He is cunning and foxy. I am. He knows what he wants, plans for it and goes for it deliberately, believing that the end justifies the means.”

Wayo, Allah! Chei!! So, this is why you have chosen to read from your last book — Nigeria: Seven Years After Shehu Shagari? You mean you want to launder the image of this man again?

If the price is right, why not? After all, after revealing all the skeletons in Maradona’s cupboard in 1990, I was still readily available to serve the self-interest of the military president and his henchmen in aborting the June 12 election. But, actually, that’s not my motive for reading those excerpts from my book. If you read between the lines, you’d see Maradona’s character sketch, and my own self-portrait as a cunning, foxy businessman. This is not meant as self-advertisement but as an attempt to explain my roles so far in the polity. Since 1999, you’d have seen my finger in every controversial, if not stinking pie in the House. Wherever the beef was you were likely to see me as the butcher. If you want to cut any senator or representative down to size, or pieces, you can always count on my dexterity with the knife. And this, perhaps, explains to you why I am the vulture-in-waiting, ready to perch on the carcasses and corpses left on the battle field after the gun smoke would have cleared from the Panambra crisis.

Ah! You mean you are the hawk in the proverb who feeds fat on sacrifice? That is immoral.

Imo-what?! There is no morality in business and don’t forget that I am first and foremost a businessman. Everything I do is an extension of my business frontiers and, like the Maradona in the script, the end justifies the means. If another civil war breaks out now, I’m more than eager to sell the latest weapons of mass destruction to both the federal side and the new Biafrans. Whatever each party does with the goods bought is not my headache. Mine is to sell and collect my own money.

So, you live on blood money?

Stupid man. In business, there is no blood money. Profit is both the watchword and the password or have you ever heard of anybody who goes into business with the aim of going bankrupt?

No, but, at least, there should be a little bit of morality and rationality.

My friend, you are cunningly dragging me into the realm of ethics and I can assure you that I’m not one to shy away from arguments. If you have read my other books, you’d realise that I depend on the power of logic to canvass my views and opinions. I don’t dance to suit anybody’s drumbeat and rhythm. Neither do I play to the gallery. I am a businessman through and through. By the way, do you know how I secured my ticket to this destination? I had to fight my political opponents right from the NPN days, thug for thug, naira for naira, rice for rice, garri for garri, okporoko for okporoko and ogbono soup for ogbono soup, and my voters, sorry, my people, love me for this. They see me as the Oyibo (white man) of business and Enyimba (elephant) of cash-and-carry politics. So, they combined the two and gave me the title of Oyi-nba of Okuta. My people are as creative as the blacksmiths of Awka.

Which means you truly have a pedigree of creativity. Which other titles are we expecting from you and how soon?

The first one is Obasanjo: Another Hope Betrayed. This is meant to prepare the ground for the next president, the way Buhari and Idiagbon were shoved aside from the political scene. Don’t ask me who commissioned the book because I don’t want to be accused of being a double agent. The second is Maradona: Return of the Political Nymphomaniac while the third is Nigeria: A Nation in Captivity, a major book on which I have been working since the military seized power in 1966.

I hope these are not satanic verses?

How can? Will you call The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli, a satanic write-up? They are just products of my creative imagination. No more, no less.

Arthur, the Prince!

Ummh, yes, but call me the Maradona!

*This Opilogue was first published in TELL on February 23, 2004.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'm a Lesbian! And So What?

*Ms Garner and partner Ms. Johnson (photo by GettyImages)


“…Being gay or lesbian is no crime. They should always tell anybody heckling them over their sexuality to shut up or go to hell”

Eh, you intern, come here! Tomorrow you are going to the City Hall to talk to Ms Darlene Garner, the new director of the Commission for Sexual Minorities, CSM. I hope you know what that means.

What's that, Mr. Wood? I am at a loss.

You don't have to be. Ms Garner is a lesbian and you must talk to her about the activities of her commission and, if you like, for your own personal consumption, you can ask her questions about her sexual preference.

And she would not take offence?

Why should she? This is an open society. Moreover, you are covered under the First Amendment...

You don't mean it! In Niagara, you dare not ask any lady that kind of question. She would slap okro seeds out of your mouth!

Why?

Homosexuality is a taboo!

Well, there are no taboos or Talibans here. This is America. Just go ahead and ask her any question under the sun and we expect a good story from you. Good luck.

*** *** ***

Good morning, Ms Garner.

Hi, are you the guy from the City Metro?

Yes, madame.

Cut that crap. You can call me Darlene.

Darling? Sure! That’s great!!

No, D-A-R-L-E-N-E, like in Helen.

Oh, I see. It's a pleasure meeting you, all the same.

'Xcuse me!

I said I'm happy to be here.

Youuu... welcome.

Can we start this interview by having you tell our readers what the Commission on Sexual Minorities, CSM, stands for.

Thank you. Let me start by giving a brief background of the commission. The CSM came into being by executive order from the mayor shortly after winning the mayoral election in 1984. Actually, the idea of the commission came from other members of the gay/lesbian community who expressed, during the mayor's campaign, that there are a number of issues and needs that were of particular interest to the gay and lesbian community that had been ignored by previous administrations or, at least, that had not been dealt with effectively. So, one of the campaign promises that the mayor made was to, indeed, create a vehicle for the gay/lesbian community to have a voice within the city administration. Going back to your question, our concerns are on behalf of those people who, indeed, are or are perceived as gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

Precisely, how many gays and lesbians are there in this city?

It is impossible to determine the precise number of gays and lesbians but a number of studies have been conducted in various parts of the country that have projected that at least 10 per cent of any population group is gay or lesbian.

If I may ask, are you a lesbian yourself?

Yes, of course. I am a lesbian.

Does it run in the family?

As far as I know, I am the only one of my siblings who is a gay or lesbian.

So, when did you become conscious of your being a lesbian?

Within our community, we call it "coming out". I was... hmmm... I first became conscious of my lesbianism in the early 1970s... Actually, I have pinpointed the year 1972 as the time I acknowledged to myself, my family and the public, whoever the public might be defined as being, that I am a lesbian. I told my family "I want you to meet the rest of me" and they have been very supportive. I was 24 then and single. Since then, I have had two marriages and subsequently two divorces, though not as a result of being a lesbian. I now live with a partner, a fellow lesbian.

This, indeed, must be God's own country. You have a supportive family and a caring government that sets up a commission to take care of the interest of sexual minorities. In Niagara, the issue of homosexuality is a closet affair. Woe betides people suspected of being gay or lesbian. They dare not come into the open and this explains why those labelled gays or lesbians can go to any lengths to deny their sexuality. An ex-beauty queen has denied being a lesbian many times. A popular actress has done the same. A successful lawyer, believed to be a homosexual, has used all the legal jargons in the statute book to deny his sexual orientation. A famous male artist also denied sleeping with fellow men. Not only the ordinary folks have been so labelled. Military officers, ex-military governors and, even, a former military head of state had been fingered as homosexuals but they all denied because of societal repercussion. My question is this: Is there anything you can do to help these people who, afterall, did not create themselves homosexuals?

My greatest ambition in life is to be able to do ministry fulltime because people of faith who are gay or lesbian suffer certain social and political realities by virtue of their sexual orientation... By taking to the pulpit, I can have another avenue to influence their lives.

But don't you foresee the kind of crisis that arose over the consecration of a gay clergyman in the Anglican Church?

No, I do not. This is because I'm in a church that is not opposed to having a gay or lesbian as a clergy. Almost all of our clergy are gays and lesbians. It is called the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. It has over 200 churches in the US as well as in Mexico, Canada, Niagara, Indonesia, Britain... with its headquarters in Los Angeles.

You mean there is a gay church in Niagara?

Oh, sure! In fact, the church there is growing, if it hasn’t had more branches already.

What message, then, do you have for fellow gays and lesbians?

They should believe in themselves and be proud of the way God has made them. Being gay or lesbian is no crime. They should always tell anybody heckling them over their sexuality to shut up or go to hell. Yes! They should say: "God made me me and made you you. I am not you; you are not me. I can never be you and you can never be me. So, why not let me be me because you are not God?".

I'M A LESBIAN! AND SO WHAT? is a surreal presentation of an interview the writer had some years ago with Ms Darlene Garner, co-founder, National Coalition of Black Lesbians and former executive director of the Mayor's Commission on Sexual Minorities in Philadelphia, PA, USA.

*This Opilogue was first published in TELL on February 5, 2007.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why Our Own Baba Must Rule

‘I trust our baba who art in Minna… He spends like there is no tomorrow because his philosophy of life is eat and let’s eat’

On behalf of the Elders Ernestly Ask for Baba Movement, EEABM, a.k.a Project 007, I, Chief Alex Ekimogun, the Ogidi Omo of Ondoland, hereby assert that the only way by which Niagara can move forward is by handing the baton of power back to our father, come 2007. I am singularly happy, pleased and grateful to God that I had the unrivalled honour, pleasure, privilege and luck to have served Baba before, in the capacity of a Public Megaphone. For reasons that I will soon enumerate, you will agree with me that Baba is our best bet under the prevailing political conditions. He is a consummate general, a master strategist and an extremely cunning politician. He is, indeed, a fox extraordinaire. It is such a person we need inside the Rock when Baba Iyaboh vacates the place. Somebody who will say ‘what a rainy day!’ and we shall have to consult the weatherman for confirmation, not somebody who will say ‘good morning’ and we shall all be scrambling for the breakfast table.

Fellow elders and the youths who are old at heart, this is our time. Let’s get rid of those who are pretending to be working. We want a new set of practical and realistic politicians like Baba. Not people who will turn us to football and be kicking us around. We need an Okocha or a Maradona to run rings on the periphery of our consciousness and score hand-of-God goals from all angles. Our baba is the man. He is a goal-getter any day. Do you remember how he used his god-fatherly figure in 1985 to save drug couriers from untimely deaths, after Bartholomew Owoh and co had already been executed by Buhari and Idiagbon? Our father saved other young aspiring drug couriers who would have met the same kind of death. In fact, this is the kind of saviour we elders earnestly ask for. Baba used his messianic touch, also, to stop further dismissal of decently corrupt civil servants and premature retirement of erring army officers. Our father can also be very resolute in fighting for the fundamental rights of his citizens. When Dele Giwa, the founding editor-in-chief of Newswatch, was killed in 1986 by unknown assailants, who used the novel weapon of a parcel bomb to achieve their aim, he stood up firmly in support of every effort to unravel the cold-blooded murder. He even encouraged my town’s man, Gani Fawehinmi, to pursue the case independently by jailing him in order to have free access to his client. Niagarans need such a concerned, considerate man to come back to power, a man who, even out of power, still continued to fight for the interest of murder victims. At the Oputa panel, for instance, he did everything possible to exhume the bones of Giwa for further forensic analysis but, alas, he had no digging implements. If he comes back to power, you can be sure that the case would be finally consigned to where it should belong.

Today, everybody is talking about corruption but nobody seems to know what to do. My father, our father, knows exactly what to do. During his first coming, he abolished corruption by simply erasing the word from all the dictionaries in the country and replaced it with ‘settlement’. It was a master stroke. Everybody was, thereafter, settled fifty-fifty, no cheating. And corruption disappeared from our sub-conscious. When Baba introduced the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, people thought he was being unfair to the masses. No, baba was just being pragmatic. Every government needs SAP to sap the energy of stubborn activists like Beko, Falana, Gani, Sani and their equally stubborn followers. After all, if you don’t have food in your stomach, where will you get the energy with which to shout “Aluta!” on the streets? Not to talk of shouting, “Baba Must Go!” For his native intelligence, we need such a man back in the saddle of power. He is a man who can dance out of trouble any day. When all the armed forces chiefs were appointed from the same geographical zone and from the same religious background, baba explained it away matter-of-factly, and I want to quote him: “In the military, there is no north or south, neither is there Muslim or Christian. Appointment is simply by merit.” Every fool was disarmed. The current Baba cannot be that logical. When there was a stalemate after the June 12, 1993 presidential election, my father, our father, was at his best. “You want a president?” he asked the nation as he looked into his crystal ball. “I’ll give you one.” True, true, he gave us a lame duck, Ernest Showboy. And the one who turned out to be the Commander-in-Thief of the Armed Robbers. Baba achieved what others could not achieve for decades. He conducted the fairest, freest and most peaceful election in modern Niagaran history though the Chief Electoral Officer swallowed the official result ink, line and paper. Fellow Niagarans, give baba another chance to do another June 12 and he will force the erring electoral officer out of hiding to come and vomit the result kia kia. It gives me, therefore, immeasurable pleasure, unparalleled joy and unqualified privilege to recommend our baba in Minna to succeed your Baba in Aso Rock. He is the only person who can sustain the status quo in the villa as it is today. He is more liberal than the Sharia man who will refuse to be sworn in (if elected) as president until the unwanted and unwarranted chapel in Aso Rock had been uprooted.

I trust our baba who art in Minna. He will give everybody his daily bread because he is not tight-fisted like the Egba farmer in the Rock. He spends like there is no tomorrow because his philosophy of life is eat and let’s eat. Many people like me seized the opportunity to make hay while he was in power. This is why he was able to make millionaires of his friends and those who can genuflect and dobale like me. Thus, I am imploring all who aspire to be billionaires to join the league of Baba’s friends clamouring for his second coming. Let me warn you, however, that he is not a magician but he has a creative mind of the Luciferian school of thought. During his first coming, he created new parties, one a little to the right, the other a little to the left. The rhythm of his creative imagination was good enough to win a Grammy Award for Niagara. And for each party, he created new members and officers and also the party secretariats in each local government. I heard that some people are already bellyaching, asking why is it that only generals are supposed to be ruling us even under a democratic dispensation? Why not? We, full-fledged bloody civilians, cannot do it. The soldiers are our husbands and our fathers. We must continue to recycle them. We have already started with General Baba Iyaboh. Now is the turn of our father in Minna, the people’s general. He is a tested officer and gentleman who has learnt never to step aside again. Once beaten, thrice shy. His experience will perfect our future. Check it out.

With him in power, Niagara will be totally free of corruption, assassinations, drug trafficking, 419, premature retirement, incoherent policies, unfocused political activism, ill-advised revolutions of the Gideon Orkar School of Artillery Thought, annulment of elections, wasteful spending and wastage by letter bombs. But mark you, fair is foul; foul is fair. That’s his new old philosophy. Vote for the general to safeguard the future of democracy in Niagara. He did it in 1993. He can do it again. He is a genius! He is a personification of experience. Above all, he is indispensable and infallible.


*This Opilogue was first published in TELL on January 5, 2004.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sermon on the Mountain

“I have a dream that one day, on the sand dunes of the Caliphate, the sons of the dongaris and the sons of former sultans will be able sit down and eat tuwo together…”

I am Martin Dauda Turaki Jnr, and I am happy to be with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration of our collective resolve to fight residual military dictatorship in our democracy. For more than 50 years, our forefathers fought the colonial masters to secure our political freedom. But 46 years later, the Niagaran is still in bondage. Forty-six years later, the Niagaran is still crippled by the manacles of dictatorship and self-righteousness. Forty-six years later, the Niagaran lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a mighty ocean of opulence. Forty-six years later, the Niagaran is still languished in the corners of an intolerant primitive society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we have come here today on this hallowed ground of Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, to dramatise our opposition to a shameful political situation.

In a sense, we have come to the nation's commercial capital to cash a cheque. And lest I forget, when the neo-architects of our republic wrote the captivating words of the 1999 Constitution and the Declaration of Independence from Military Usurpers, they were signing a promisory note of which every Niagaran was to become heir. This note was a promise that all Niagarans, yes, men as well as women, would be guaranteed the "unalienable rights" of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". It is obvious today that Niagara has defaulted on this promisory note, in so far as the talakawa are concerned. Instead of honouring this sacred obligation, Niagara has given the common man a dud cheque which has bounced back, like a rubber ball, marked "re-present, insufficient funds". But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are no sufficient funds in the central bank of opprtunity of this great country. But let me assure you that we are going to cash this cheque, a cheque that will give us, upon demand, the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

Fellow Action-men and Congress-women, we have also come to this hallowed spot that used to be the racecourse for the colonial masters to remind the powers that be of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to waffle or to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to swallow the valium of gradualism. The youths and the generality of our people are becoming restive. Now is is the time to make real the promised dividends of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of civilian dictatorship to the sunlit path of participatory democracy. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children. Let me warn that it would be fatal for the nation to everlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering heat of a growing revolution will not pass until there is an invigorating sunshine of freedom and equality. Take note that 2007 is not an end in itself but just another beginning. And those who hope that the Niagaran needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening when the nation returns to monkey business as usual...

Congress-men and women! I am not unaware of the fact that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you came from the narrow cells of emotional jail because you refused to succumb to one man's inordinate ambition. And some of you have come from where your quest for political freedom and economic independence left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality and the barkings of EFCC. Do not worry. Children of God should fear no foe. Yes, you have been victims of "creative persecution" but you should continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Gombe, go back to Aba, go back to Sapele, go back to Yola, go back to Yenagoa, go back to the slums and ghettos of our cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed, insha Allah!

My people, let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I promise you that with this broom in my hand, we shall sweep away political intolerance, moral deliquency, religious bigotry, social injustice, abuse of power and unbriddled contempt for the rule of law by those who are supposed to be the custodians of the law!

Action-men and women! I stand before you today to give hope where there is none, to give courage where everybody else has turned a coward and to put my life on the line in the absence of true, genuine "heroes". Some of you may call me the reluctant rebel or a rabble rouser with a death wish but these are times that call for self-sacrifice and, if need be, martyrdom. I have a dream today! I have a dream that our tomorrow will be better than our today. Yes, I have a dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of our constitutional provision, to wit, that all men are created equal, and that nobody, no matter how powerful, is above the law. I have a dream that one day, on the sand dunes of the Caliphate, the sons of former dongaris and the sons of former sultans will be able to sit down and eat tuwo together from the same bowl at the table of equality. I have a dream that one day, even the Niger Delta, a region sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. Yes, I have a dream... that my four wives and their little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the character of their husband and father but by the content of their own character.

I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day, down in Anambra, with its vicious anarchists always on the prowl, with its godfather having his lips dripping with the words of "imposition", "rigging", "impeachment" and "nullification"...one day, right there in Anambra, the rampaging Bakassi boys and Bakassi girls will be able to hug and join hands with the true fighters of democracy and jointly say: Free at last! Free at last!!

I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day, every valley shall be exalted, and the Obudu hills in Cross River State as well as the Alantika mountains of Adamawa State and the Jos Plateau in Plateau State shall be made low, the rough roads plain, and the crooked places straight...

This is our hope, and this is the faith I go back to Abuja with.

With this faith, we will be able to chip out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the discordant tunes of our anthems, old and new, into a beautiful symphony of nationhood. With this faith, we wil be able to work together, pray together, struggle together, go to jail together and stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. And that will be the day...the day when all of us will be able to sing with new meaning that... though tribe and tongue may differ/In brotherhood we stand.

Sermon on the Mountain is an adaptation of the famous "I Have a Dream" speech by Martin Luther King Jr, late civil rights leader, in Jim Crow America, August 28, 1963.

*This Opilogue was first published in TELL on January 22, 2007.

Friday, October 1, 2010

50 Hearty Cheers to Our Politicians!


"We got our independence on a platter of gold in 1960 and 50 years after, we are still behaving like the prodigal son who never suffered any want”

Good morning, students. And how're you all?

We are fine, sir.

Good. Today's political science class is going to focus on what present and past world leaders and philosophers have said about politics and we shall examine how these apply to our own experience. First is Thomas Payne, the 18th century American political philosopher. He may be famous for his books, 'The Rights of Man' and 'The Age of Reason' but right in America he is better remembered for the role he played during the American Revolution. His words: "These are times that try men's souls", he declared on the eve of the war of independence from the British. "Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. It's dearness that gives everything its value". Who can decode that to suit our own political environment?

I, sir. The man is perfectly correct. We got our independence on a platter of gold in 1960 and 50 years after, we are still behaving like the prodigal son who never suffered any want. We have squandered our riches on vanity, chasing shadows all over the place and catching none.

Okay, okay...Any other contribution?

Yes, sir. We don't seem to know the value of what we have and that's why we don't show respect for our national flag or anthem. All over the world Niagarans are known as the only nationals that don't give a damn about their national pride. Visit America on July 4 and see the display of the American flag in every home, on every car and at every public place. Here the nation's birthday is nobody's business because we did not sweat blood to become independent. Go to Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, South Africa and even Ethiopia that was never colonised and see genuine smile on everybody's face on their national days. Here, what you see is larcerated smile on shattered faces because the politicians have continued to let down the nation....

Okay! Let me introduce the next speaker and what he has to say. Hear him: "No amount of charters, direct primaries, or short ballots will make a democracy out of an illiterate people", Walter Lippmann in 'Revolution and Culture: A Preface to Politics'. What's your understanding of this?

As for me, I think the man is saying that education is key to the understanding of how democracy works. Democracy is not working in Niagara not only because of the attitude of the politicians but also as a result of the low or lack of education of the electorate...

Let me cut you short by introducing Bertrand Rusell and what he said in 1958 in 'Silhouettes in Satire'. "If one man offers you democracy and another offers you a bag of (rice), at what stage of starvation will you prefer the (rice) to the vote?". Can anybody put this in perspective? Yes, Alex.

This one na kongi, sir!

How do you mean?

I mean this is a tough one. But let me try my best. I believe a poor, hungry man will not even think about democracy at all before opting for the bag of rice. To him democracy of the stomach is superior to any form of government. And the uneducated man? He cannot differentiate his left from his right. Definitely he will also opt for the grain. This is exactly what has been happening since independence. The politicians and the few educated but selfish elite in government underfeed and undereducate the masses in order to keep them perpetually in bondage.

What you are saying, in essence, is that the status quo ante remains because poverty and ignorance remain weapons of repression in the land. Good but how about this as a warning of repercussion? "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich", President J. F. Kennedy said this in his inaugural address on January 20, 1961...Eh! Hold it! Take this also for measure, "Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime", says Aristotle, the great philosopher in 'Poiltic'. Now, you can react.

Sir, I think Aristotle has preempted me. All these political shenanigans will have to come to an end one day whether we like it or not. And, if I may add, sir, the problem is not peculiar to Niagara except that the rest of the world looks up to this once-upon-a-time giant in the sun to lead the way in bringing about a sort of politico-economic renaissance in the continent to prove that we, indeed, can make the difference. Permit me, sir, to also quote a former American ambassador in Kenya who was contributing his views on the political changes then taking place in Africa. He said and I quote, "Africa missed the industrial revolution which formed the basis of modern democracy in the West". That may be true but my worry is why Africa through the African Union cannot initiate an agrarian revolution and become the food basket for the rest of the world. Instead we are better known for our "African tigers and lions". Sheer bunkum! Niagara should be at the forefront of this kind of initiative...

Shh! You want to spoil a good argument. Niagara is in no mood for any revolution whether political or agrarian or ethical. Ours is a system of "anything goes". But lest I forget, let me remind you that what that ambassador was saying is that democracy without a strong economy is a blatant dream. Unfortunately in our own case politicians think the art of governance is not a serious business and thereby don't give a hoot seeing the ship of state drifting in the sea of uncertainty for the greater part of the country's 50 years of independence...

Sir, I think they are all a pack of jokers.

Why do you say so?

It's only a joker who would say the art of governance is not a serious one. Sir, I humbly submit that politics is serious business. Even a circus show is a serious business. Acrobatic displays in mid air can, indeed, be fun but it's serious business all the same.

Well, I have listened to all your contributions and I just want to remind you that the average Niagaran politician is a lotus eater and that's why they keep coming back like locusts. You should not take them serious. The current hooplah and shouts over who becomes the next president will sooner than expected simmer down like hot plate soup because as one philosopher once said, the first rule of politics is never say never. "The ingenious human capacity for manoeuvre and compromise may make acceptable tomorrow what seems outrageous or impossible today". Politicians' actions are often dictated by self or class interest. The common man is the unknown factor, the unidentified grumbling object and the undistinguishable character in their formula of sharing. Unfortunately they seem not to know that in a chemical reaction, which politics has gradually become over a period of 50 years, 'X' is always the unknown factor.

Sir, that's an explosive one! But I tend to agree. Perhaps this is why we are where we are today. Niagara is ripe for change. Real, meaningful change, not just generational shift.

Change indeed!!! Happy anniversary, though, to you all but, please, don't forget to submit your long essay on GREED AND PREJUDICE: THE POLITICS OF ‘LONG THROATS’ IN AFRICA or STEPPING ASIDE AND STEPPING BACKWARD IN AFRICAN POLITICS, THE NIAGARA EXPERIMENT to my secretary before you go on your Independence break. Have fun. Chill in, don't chill out. Kidnappers are many in town. Catch yah!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I, Too, Am the Evil Genius

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of Governor Aladoko of Okitiland I want to apologise for this surprise visit. His Excellency thought that a visit to Lagos would not be complete without saying ‘hello’ to his ‘friends’ at the NewsTeller more especially in view of some events that nearly torpedoed the boat of His Excellency’s administration shortly after coming to power. It is my privilege and honour, therefore, to present ‘live’ my governor and benefactor to the People’s Assembly. Your Excellency, sir.

Thank you, Atokun. Gentlemen of the Press, I salute you and I want to thank you for welcoming me despite the gatecrashing. In fact, what I met on the ground is not what I have been made to understand. If I must be honest with you, I was expecting to see men and women with fire burning in their eyes and smoke oozing from their foreheads but surprisingly you are all as cool as ladugbo water. I’m really impressed by your seemingly accommodating poise. Before I go into my choreography, I want to seize this opportunity also to thank those who stood by me during the ‘arrangee’ assassination attempt on my person while in Lagos the other day. My enemies did not want me to eat pounded yam again but my God said no to them. Now, to my speech proper…

Excuse me, Mr. Governor, your man has just told us that this is an impromptu visit, so how come you want to read a prepared speech?

Don’t mind him. The way of we politicians is quite different from the way of you ordinary people. For instance, when a politician says “what a sunny day!” make sure you contact the CNN meteorologist before you respond. To be honest with you, we operate like 419 people – we deceive, distract and ambush the people to achieve our aims. Indeed, if this is just a surprise private visit, you won’t see this battery of television cameras trained on your management and staff. Surely, it’s all for a purpose. So, Mr. Chairman, editors, managers, reporters, all other protocols observed, it gives me great displeasure and rheumatic pain to stand before you today smiling when, indeed, I should be crying in view of the evils done me by the Alliance for Destruction and the unwary Fourth Estate of the Realm over my gubernatorial success in the last elections. Naturally, I should have declared a state of emergency in the entire Okitiland because of the perfidy of the Alliance and the naivety of the pen pushers but I have resolved to give you people a chance to swim or sink with your sponsors. Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I have not come to praise the Caesar of Acme Road but to lambast him. Please, don’t regard my approach as that of a foolhardy Daniel who dared the lion in its den; rather, take it as that of a young freedom fighter who has come with an olive branch in one hand and a loaded pistol in the other. The choice is yours. If you pick the former, we shall all live to enjoy the dividends of democracy. And if, in your collective wisdom, you opt for the latter, then you will have yourselves to blame for the consequence. The problem with you Niagarans is jealousy. I don’t claim to have a Pull Him Down, Ph.D degree like you. Neither do I have a Toronto certificate. I never even claimed to be an alumnus of the University of Chicago. I am an HND holder and, by God’s grace, the Big Boss of all professors and Ph.D holders in Okitiland. It’s not a matter of arrogance but just the reality of the situation. I make bold to claim that I have been to the top of Mt. Olivet and descended to the grassland of Ilaro where I entered the Poly to do research into the chemical contents of cassava and the dangers posed by cyanide to “sailors” (a.k.a garri drinkers) and other consumers of cassava-based foods. From there, I transferred myself to the Mechanical Engineering Department of the Oluyole Poly where I switched from paki (cassava) research to automobile engineering. My area of specialisation is how raw physical energy can propel a danfo bus into a racing landcraft for ferrying people from obscurity to stardom in government houses. I remember the day my head of department singled me out for praise for my seminar paper on “The Psychotic tantrums and socio-environmental idiosyncrasies of the alupandugbe drivers – a case study of danfo drivers in Oluyole and Oluyole-Less-City.” To have an insight into the inner workings of the minds of the drivers, I had to infiltrate their ranks by also doing shuttle service between Ijokodo and Sango. Unfortunately, this is what my political enemies misconstrued to mean that I, too, was a danfo driver. But come to think of it, if, indeed, I was, there is nothing to be ashamed of. In the United Kingdoms of America, Britain and London and, even, in the United States of Paris and France many Nigerians with masters and original Ph.Ds are… sorry, I don’t know how to put this in English —won nfa gburuu

You mean they do odd jobs to survive?

Yes, you get it. Over there, there’s oddity in labour.

No. Your Excellency, you mean there’s dignity in labour.

Oh, that’s just a slip of the tongue.

I guess it was also a slip of the tongue when you glibly accused NewsTeller of demanding gratification from you. Is that not cheap blackmail?

No, that one was a slip of the mind. Actually, someone picked the intelligence in a danfo bus while travelling between Ilara Mokin and Owena in Ondo State. My friend in Afao-Ekiti told me the intelligence was coded but the security officers decoded it wrongly. So, my good friends, I never intended to cross swords with you and I know you, too, are a peace-loving people who will opt for the olive branch. We are partners in progress and I want to assure you that I’m a man of honour. Mr. Devil, himself, can attest to this. Before the last elections, I used to see him in my dreams as he lit a candle and carried it about in broad daylight, moving from one street to the other as if looking for something. One day, people moved close and asked him why he was in the habit of doing that. He said he was searching for men and women of honour in Niagara. To my greatest surprise, he just pointed in my direction. Ladies and gentlemen, here I am today. I may not have genuine credentials as you claim but, at least, I have the devil’s testimonial. And ever since then, I, too, have become a chartered evil genius. Yes.


*This Opilogue was first published in TELL 27th October, 2003

Monday, September 27, 2010

*Ali Baba in the Eyes of Baba Ali


*theguardianlifemagazine...

"Ali Baba and his tribe are another good example that democracy is working"

This man is well known to me. He is the greatest comedian of our time. But I don’t know why he should ask me to give an after-dinner speech on the occasion of his book launch. Or am I being asked to pay back the cost of the plate of rice I have just eaten?

Well, it is with deepest reservation that I am saying what I am about to say. First is to say that nearly all the things that this naughty boy may say in his book may not be the truth. I have known him for many years in and outside Aso Rock. But who cares? This young man has made so much money from picking on people for a living, for only-God-knows-how-long, that I’m beginning to doubt his true talent. Nobody, no matter how mighty or low, has escaped his deodorised scathing remarks and diabolical sense of humour at social events. So, after inflicting his reign of comic terror, what sane thing should he have done? Apologise to every single person he has maligned? So I thought, too. But what did he do, instead? This son-of-a-bitch went ahead to put the same things in a book form. What the hell does he think he is doing? After yabbing the hoi polloi and maligning the nouveaux riches, he has the guts to put the jokes down for generations yet unborn to peruse. Talk of everlasting rip-off?!

By the way, where is this Ali Baba of a man? Hunnn… Uhunn… I can see him over there. He is even wearing a tie. Who dash monkey banana? Now, let me yab him, too. Ali, how on earth could you be charging people for yabbing them and enjoying it at the same time? We pay you to add pep to normal events that could easily do without your services, yet you come there only to yab us. Ladies and gentlemen, I think there should be a law tucked somewhere in our statute book, that forbids this obnoxious practice of living off people who pay you to enjoy yourself. If there isn’t, this should be a good excuse to have one. I mean, why should you be paid to entertain only for you to come to yab people who paid you and, during the buffet, you join the guests, some of whom you have picked on, to queue for food? You even drink our wine, the choicest of them all! It’s not only this Ali Baba of a man o! They are many in town. Some have long moustaches like those of igangan yam. The bigger their mouths, the louder they yab. And they have funny, if not exotic names that go with their trade. You have names like Basketmouth, Gandoki, AY, Tee A, Teju Babyface and I Go Die. But that one never die since he begin dey yab people. Na so so shakara! Do you know that the women, too, have joined them? Some are what my children call lepa. Some are orobo. You will hear names like Princess Bakassi, Yellow Pawpaw and Lepacious Orobo. Such effrontery!

But Ali Baba and his tribe are another good example that democracy is working. In a dictatorship, like during my first coming. Ali could only have imagined the hardship he would have gone through hawking his humour in the precincts of absolute power. I doubt if he could ever survive the dumb wits of many a brass hat who shot their way to the throne. Why do I say this, you might ask. I will show you why. There is no name that I have not been called by those who do not like me. They called me all sorts of names but they have cleverly avoided open confrontation with me. Only Ali Baba has dared to say it to my face that I, Aremu Olusanjo Obasegun, is stingy. Did he stop there? Of course not. That will not make him the Ali Baba that we all know. Like a brave warrior that he claims to be (even if he is a fake one), he took the fight straight into the inner recesses of the chamber of the Senate Committee (on budget). He told them that once money enters my hand, it sticks and nothing can get it out. Did he stop there? For where? He went on to suggest my appointment as the chairman of Aradite Bank. But I think he goofed there. He should have suggested GlueRanty Bank. For whatever reason, I can still manage the caustic joke. The one I cannot get over, although not true, is when he said that some top members of my former cabinet were planning to erect a statue of me somewhere in the federal capital and that they came to discuss it with me and possibly get my approval. This alawada of a man said I asked how much the project would cost and when they told me it would cost N35 million, I promptly asked to be given the money while I volunteered to take the place of the statue! Iro ni!! It’s a lie!! Just imagine!!! The point of prudence in the story is a trick to hide the jester’s impudence!!! O my God!

Indeed, democracy is working. There is another story that Ali likes sharing. It goes like this, that during a visit to Zimbabwe, the President, Robert Mugabe brought up an issue of diplomatic importance and, when I asked him what it was about, he could not help showing his anger. He said that his High Commissioner in Niagara reported a matter of grave concern about a comedian who joked that he, Mugabe, was asked by the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, what the damage was after a fire outbreak that engulfed Zimbabwe’s own INEC headquarters and that his response was that, apart from structural damage, the only thing that was lost was the result of the following year’s presidential election! Naturally, I knew it was Ali Baba but I diplomatically came to his defence. On hindsight, maybe I should not have. But I did with all my strength and conviction. I told him Ali was my friend and that he meant no harm. I even added that I had asked this same Ali to collect all the jokes that people were circulating about me. Mugabe noted that Ali was very lucky; in his case, he was already collecting all people circulating jokes about him! As I said, our own democracy is working. That’s why anybody can come out in the open and shout, “Umoruuu, are you deaf?”, when the man is neither deaf nor Umoruu.

So, ladies and gentlemen, you will come across several things in his book that will make you think, make you laugh and, let me warn, make you feel like slapping somebody! All these can happen. But I would advise that you take them for what they are: just jokes and issues crafted to provoke laughter.

*Ali Baba in the Eyes of Baba Ali is a parody of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s foreword to Ali Baba’s yet-to-be-published book of jokes.

*First published in TELL, March 10, 2008.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Parlez-vous Esperanto?


awf.org - Mozambique


Obladi, oblada! Or is it obligo, oblago? I’m sure it’s obla — something…

Hey Jeed! What the hell are you saying?

Carlos, I have asked you never to call me Jeed again. I’m not Jeed. My name is Jide…

No way! You either bear John or Joseph. You can’t be bearing Jeeddah here. This is Mozambique, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.

I don’t give a damn whether this is Mozambique or Matabeleland. I don’t even give a damn whether it is Pearl of the Indian Ocean or Coconut of the Limpopo River. Just let me say thank you to the waitress in the language she understands.

Ahaa! Is that why you were trying to obladi-oblada me? What exactly were you trying to say? Maybe I can help you.

I was trying to say thank you. Is it not obladi, oblada?

No, it’s obrigado…

Obri-what?

Obri-ga-do.

I don’t want this obrigado business. It sounds like desperado. How about something in her native tongue? Something African, something very authentic.

That’s asking for the impossible because I don’t know which ethnic group she belongs to. As small as they are, they have about 10 different languages.

How many are they?

I think they are about 18 million divided into about 10 different ethnic groups. There are the Makua from the north, the Tsonga in the south, the Chope, the Shona, the Sena, the Nyanja, the Nyangue, the Chuabo, the Yao, the Ndau, and the Makonde…

That’s even manageable. Do you know that tiny Gabon, with a population of less than two million, is made up of about 40 ethnic groups and each having its own language?

Wao! Then the giant itself, I mean Niagara, must have up to 100 languages…

Hundred what?! You must be joking! With a population of 140 million, we already have over 250 ethnic groups and languages. And that’s tentative. They may soon discover new Niagarans, like the Koma were accidentally discovered by some evangelists in the jungle.

Who are the comma?

Well, the KOMA, not comma, people were discovered sometime ago to be Niagarans. And this is no joke. Through aerial surveys and new imaging techniques, more ethnic groups and more languages are bound to be discovered going by the Wakama census conducted last year.

That’s the problem of Africa.

What’s that?

The continent is a babel of tongues. We do not understand one another. Can’t we, for a moment, leave politics aside and decide which one out of our many languages we should choose as our lingua franca?

Never! It’s not possible.

Why do you say so?

Nobody will want to surrender his mother tongue to another, no matter the need to attain mutual intelligibility for the common good.

Indeed, that’s the bane of African unity. For many decades, there have been calls for Africans to come together to fashion a common means of communication among the more than 2,000 ethnic groups and languages in the continent. In North Africa, Arabic is the lingua franca but it is not original to Africa. In Southern and Eastern Africa, the common lingua franca is Swahili, while in the West African sub-region, Hausa is the most widely spoken. Both Hausa and Swahili are two African languages on both BBC and the Voice of America. In 1977, there was a gathering of eggheads at the Festival of Arts and Culture, called FESTAC ’77, to brainstorm on the possibility of adopting a common language as Africa’s lingua franca to ease understanding among Africans and give us a sense of pride. As usual, the evil combination of unhealthy rivalry and unnecessary politicisation made sure that the colloquium did not matter much to the political leaders and its recommendations, like the often much-touted African unity, were thrown into the pending tray where they have been ever since.

You can’t blame our leaders for that. Even the United Nations, UN, has not been able to adopt one of the five languages of the super powers as the official language as well as lingua franca among all nations. So, that’s what Africa copied and what countries like Niagara copied by having no local lingua franca. Instead they adopt foreign languages, vestiges of colonisation, as both their official language and lingua franca. What a shame!

I think the UN should be more ashamed because I learnt that some linguistic experts once suggested that the UN should adopt a neutral language as the world’s lingua franca some years back, but the idea was shot down in mid-trajectory…

Is there any language that is neutral?

Yes. In 1887, an artificial language called ESPERANTO was invented by one Dr. Ludwik Zamenh aka Dr. Esperanto (a Polish physician) to facilitate global mutual intelligibility but the idea was left to die…

No. I think we need to do something like that for Mother Africa. Swahili is already one language that is an aggregation of many south and east African languages plus, even, Arabic woven together in a sort of creative linguistic tapestry that is easy to learn and is acceptable to all and sundry. Can’t we have something like that for the rest of Africa? Esperanto, where are you? Come and rescue us.

Perhaps, we shall all be saved the embarrassment of communication with one another through alien languages.

Parlez-vous Esperanto?

Yah!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kiss the Queen and Spite the Al-Qaeda


Pix*locatetv.com


“He who believes in a just cause will give no damn about any religious Ku Klux Klan. He will stand up to look truth in the face and speak out in its defence”


My friend, have you heard the news?

Which news?

You mean you have not heard?

Heard what?

Heard that their Prime Minister, PM, has done it again?

Who is their PM and what has he done again?

Who else but the Australian PM!

Johnbull or John Silver?

There you go again. You are never serious. I don’t mean John Howard, the 25th Prime Minister of that far-flung country, the ancestral home of the Aborigines. I mean Kevin Rudd, the current PM.

Yeees, and what has he done?

You are asking me? Don't you know the antecedents of Australian PMs?

Yes, I do. I know they can be whacky at times and they are also in the habit of shooting straight from the hip. I remember what Paul Keating did when Her Royal Majesty, the Queen of England, visited Australia in 1992. You know what the PM did? He literally grabbed the waist of the queen in a show of affection for the head of the Commonwealth. He almost gave her a peck.

Is that not a breach of royal protocol? How did Prince Phillips feel?

The PM would not give a damn and the British press hammered and pilloried him for what they called his lack of etiquette. It was a diplomatic row that shook the world. In 2000, Howard, his successor, also placed his arm around the Queen while walking her down the aisle though he denied touching her. I wonder what the Australians gain by grabbing Her Royal Majesty’s waist! So, if I may ask, what has Rudd done?

My friend, this is worse than grabbing a queen from behind.

Has he kissed an al Qeda woman in public?

If he did that, of course, there won't be too much brouhaha since his action could be interpreted as a show of love for the Gentiles and not as a kiss of death.

What has he done gan (really)?

Na wah o! The man threw a bombshell recently when he called on Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia in Australia to get out fast.

Why did he say that?

Don't mind him. He was just being unduly paranoid over the new upsurge of religious radicalism in the Pacific region more so after the Bali incident in Indonesia.

But I think he went too far. Don't you think so?

Waiteee! You haven't heard anything yet. Let me fetch my diary and read to you what he said in his own words.

Okay, open sesame.

He said and I quote, "Immigrants, not Australians, must adapt. Take it or leave it.

I'm tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individuals or their culture..."

Sorry to cut you short. This man must be a damn crazy Aussie. Is he not the leader of his country? What kind of kangaroo declaration is that? This may boomerang. Don’t you think so?

It seems you don’t know much about this firebrand. Again, hear him: "Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian right-wing, political push but a fact because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. If God offends, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home because God is part of our culture...."

Foul! Which culture is God not part of? He must be a wicked landlord.

Just wait. He seems to mellow down a bit. Listen. "We will accept your beliefs and will not question why, all we ask is that you accept ours and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us. This is our country, our land, and our lifestyle and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining and gripping about our flag, our pledge, our Christian beliefs, or our way of life, I highly encourage you to take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, the right to leave...If you aren't happy here, then leave. We didn't force you to come here. You asked us to be here. So, accept the country you accepted." End of quote.

You mean he said all this? How did the people react to his firestorm?

Of course, the Muslims did not like it but the generality of Aussies hailed him, not actually for the tone of his address but for the fact that they had a leader who could stand up and speak on their behalf in a moment of potential crisis. You may not agree with what he said but you must concede to him his revolutionary zeal in confronting a potentially volatile issue without caring whose ox is gored.

But don't you think that is a dangerous gambit?

Gambi-what? In a society where there is a recurring problem, man can always find solution to such a problem. All it takes is a visionary leadership that is genuinely interested and passionate about the welfare of its people without fear or favour.…

But I beg to disagree with this Ruud of a man. Is he not afraid of the al-Qeda warriors?

He who believes in a just cause will give no damn about any religious Ku Klux Klan. He will stand up to look truth in the face and speak out in its defence.

How I wish our leaders, too, can stand up to be counted when it matters most.

Yes, they should have the courage to confront the banality of evil which has become our unsung anthem. Truth, they say, cannot suffer from being challenged and examined. "Unthinking, uncritical, kowtowing, party-toeing is fatal to a vibrant democracy," says Desmond Tutu, a clergyman, who on many occasions stood up to criticise his friend, Nelson Mandela, when he was President, and the ruling African National Congress, ANC, on matters bordering on personal principles and national ethics. His country, South Africa, is the richer for it.

Let me tell you, this is not South Africa, this is Niagara. Nobody can teach us how to deal with our own problems. We deal with them our own peculiar way.

How?

For instance, when our house is burning, we call the fire brigade to quench it. We never prevent fire incidents because that will throw the firemen out of job. That is the home truth, however diabolical it may be. So, if we should have our own Bali or 9/11, God forbid, our leaders would still shy away from admitting that ours is a nation bound to violence on the altar of religious extremism.

Have you bought a bullet-proof vest?

What for?

Just in case the authorities chase the wild goose to your doorstep.


Note: First published in TELL, March 16, 2009