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!