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


"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? - 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…



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?


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kiss the Queen and Spite the Al-Qaeda


“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.


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

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cry, the Beloved Minister


This country na wah o!

You have come again. What’s na wah about the country that will make you open your mouth like that?

You are asking me? Just siddon there and begin dey look like Luke!

You too, tanda gidigba there and begin dey shake like Shakespeare. Wetiiiin? Abi today na for yabis again? Ahaaa…you just dey yab man any how. Na fight?

No. I just want to let you realise that true, true some good can come out of Israel.

You haven’t said anything. What really are you trying to say?

Do you remember the day I said I was travelling to Oluyole City via the expressway from Lagos? My brother, na wah! I thought I could dash to Oluyole and dash back to the hurly-burly of Lagos within 24 hours, but it was mission impossible.

How do you mean?

I thought the trailer/tanker drivers had finally heeded the voice of reason and left the highway free of their articulated debris. At Ibafo, we didn’t see any of them.

The same for Mowe. We had already heard the news of the frantic cleansing done at the old Ogere toll gate. We then heaved a sigh of relief. We thought God don butter our bread.

You go wash am o!

Wash wetin? We never reached Ogere! At Shagamu, we were forced to detour to Benin-Ore Road…

Why Armed robbers dey operate?

No. They said the tanker drivers were doing aluta and we could not pass through…

Which one be aluta?

Aluta Continua! That one mean say, the struggle continues. They blocked the highway like university students would do when they want to do their own aluta… To cut a short story long, we thus embarked on an Israelite’s journey. We climbed many hills crossed uncountable rivers and nearly crossed the Red Sea as we searched for a short cut. We reached some “funny, funny” Ogun (State) towns…

Are towns funny?

Just waiiiteee, as Baba would say. We went through Ilishan, home of Babcock, got to a town which was apparently not on the political map of Niagara. They call it Ilara-Remo. Me, I never hear of that town before. I know of Ilara-Mokin in Ondo State…

Sebi that’s where Elizade comes from. Abi no be so?

But this our people sef, dem too relate to one another. Ilara-Remo, Ilara-Mokin. You will also hear Ijebu-Ife, Ife-Ijebu, Ijebu-Ijesha, Ijesha-Ijebu, Ijebu-Mushin, Ijesha-Isu, Oke-Imesi, Imesi-Ile, Ode-Ekiti, Ode-Remo, Ijebu-Ode, Ijebu-Igbo…

Exactly, that’s what I’m talking about. After Ilara-Remo, the next place we reached was Ijebu-Remo. Then, wait for this, Ishara-Remo! The sound of the name is akin to that generated when you light a match… ‘sharrrr!’ like that.

Is it the onomatopoeic name that is special about the town?

For where? That’s a town that sparks something like thunder in the memory.


Abi na Remo plug be that?

Remo plug ko, Remo carpet ni. Open your ears and shine your eyes. That’s Kongi’s town!!

You don’t mean it! Abi, no be Wole Soyinka be that? Wetin he come do for Ishara? Is he not an Egba man?

For where? You know what? You can’t just unravel that man. He is a mystery packed in a box of dynamite. He says he is Ijegba, Father is Ijebu (Ishara) while mother is Egba (Abeokuta). Hence the hybrid nomenclature — IJEGBA. He leans more on the mother’s side, though, like the Ghanaians, and it is in that Abeokuta that he built his house.

I leant he built it right inside the bush. Is that so?

Where else do you expect an ogboju ode (brave hunter) to build his house other than inside igbo irunmole (forest of a thousand and one demons)? Soyinka is an embodiment of creativity. The forest is his canvas. He shuttles in the wild quite often to commune with nature and hold seminal dialogues with fellow spirits and gnomes. You know, he is iwin, some inferna, no fraternal spirit!

Did I hear you say “fraternal spirits”? I learnt his favourite deity is Ogun, god of creativity and destruction. By Jove, how can one god be such a bundle of contradiction? It creates. It destroys! What kind of “agbako” (enfant terrible) god is that?

Ask Kongi when next you see him in Ishara.

That will be waiting for Godot or, worse still, for an iwin in broad daylight!

As I was saying, our Israelite’s journey was an eye-opener. The road linking Ilishan-Remo with Ilara-Remo is an undulating mockery of governance. Unfortunately, there was no any Madukeke woman to cry for the forgotten Ilara-Remo people. Maybe the woman’s crying jurisdiction did not extend to a tucked-away village near ‘Kongi Town’.

No, I disagree. The woman was too busy crying about other things. How about lack of electricity? How about lack of potable water? How about kidnapping of people for ransom, the new trend in criminal mercantile opportunism? How about the increasing wave of armed robbery and corruption, its twin brother? How about ethnicity and nepotism? How about religious intolerance? How about the promotion of the corrupt and the demotion of the upright?

Na true you talk o. If the men in government can’t do anything at least the womenfolk can do something. They can cry! Can’t they?

Yes, they can. They can cry for their unbeloved country.