By Oyinkan Medubi
When a country has a population such as Nigeria’s, it is supposed to constitute a formidable workforce that should make and keep the machinery of state at world-top level. Perhaps, the future we saw yesterday will return tomorrow.
You know, when one ponders the matter, it becomes obvious that the reason why we have not quite understood the point in this country is that we have all been talking at cross-purposes. You know what that is, don’t you? It is when two people have their wires crossed in their subject matters, sometimes deliberately, sometimes by a quirky calculation of pure chance. For instance, take the classical case of when a man wants to take a second wife. He begins by noting how hard it is for his wife to cope with the house-work and all, and even suggests getting someone to help her. Naturally, the wife eagerly throws herself into the conversation, nodding her agreement while believing the husband to be talking about the same kind of helper she is thinking of. Can a conversation be more crossed and entangled than when realisation dawns? I always love the point when reality dawns and the fireworks begin to fly.
In Nigeria, national discourse is often so entangled you can’t make out what anybody is saying. For instance, I read the other day that some assembly members, senators, and state governors somewhere in this vast expanse of a country had got their brains jammed and decided to fix a retirement sum for themselves that runs into hundreds of millions of Naira. It is enough to make anyone who is not a governor go and drown. Now, that is coming right after the furor generated by the unfair heftiness of these people’s allowances and emoluments; unfair to the rest of us of course, not to them. Naturally, many of us are so enraged we want to puncture their swelled cheeks with our nails in the hope of reducing them. Sadly, some others don’t see things this right way. You can easily spot them: they have eyes behind their backs. They are the ones wondering why we can’t spare more for them.
So many promising national discourses have nosedived into the ground and have not yielded any fruit because of these crossed wires. For instance, some among us insist on defending what cannot possibly be of any good for the health of the nation, such as someone charged with helping him/herself to billions of Naira using any argument on earth and in heaven? Yet, many of them regularly manage to be freed by the law courts and the people’s court, particularly when the people share the same ethnic background. The other day, I heard someone say that a bank chief accused of pocketing tens of billions of his bank’s money was only a victim of someone in the apex bank; in actual fact, he was innocent. I said, WOW! Now, I have heard everything. Next, they will tell us that the certain someone accused of pocketing funds from a pensions fund was actually the target of a functionary’s anger. What now, are we living in tents across the land where everyone runs to when they are accused of indecent behaviour?
The thing about discourses is that they have ways of bringing out the best, worst or dregs in the innermost recesses of our brains. The pity is that we all appear to be clothed in human skin, yet we are hosting so many incapacitating germs in our brains. This proves, according to a fable, what one animal said to another: there are many walking on two legs who should be using four. Many among us are really animals in animal skin, and many more are in human skin. When you consider that the world just celebrated the world population day this July, you want to pause a bit and reflect on these two important questions: what really makes up the Nigerian population; and what is the good in building up a population if you can’t use it to build the nation?
Honestly, I cannot begin to think of telling you the answer to the first question, lest I be hanged in effigy by many a reader. The unfortunate thing is that nearly all, if not all of us, have brought some degree of impropriety into the sanctity of Nigeria’s population. We all really deserve to hang our heads downwards like brooding chickens, pluck at our chests like penitents and intone after me: we are sinners and are not very proud of it. We are not worthy to be counted as members of the population of this country.
If you think you are not affected just because you have never ‘swallowed’ millions or billions raise your hand and I’ll show you an untruth-sayer. Please note, I have not called you a liar, just an untruth-sayer. Have you or have you never stopped in the middle of the road to greet your friend while traffic builds up behind you? Well, have you not? Can you say, in any given day, that you do not regularly break any traffic, building, contracting, policing, soldering, doctoring, nursing, teaching, civil-servicing, studenting, or anything-you-do rule? And the most important question of all, can you say that you regularly or even averagely work for the pay you get?
Nigeria has a population of people dwelling within her walls and occupying her space. Sadly, though, she has no builders, only sackers of treasuries, spoilers of lands and plunders of the nation. Everyone is so busy trying to get his/her itching hand on the ‘national cake’ it’s a wonder that there is still any left. Nigeria’s population right now is engrossed in ravaging the land like locusts, taking, taking, taking and giving little or nothing back. For them, there’s no such thing as ‘ask not what your country can do for you …’ and all that. For this population, it is what we can get from the country that counts. Yet normally, when a country has a population such as Nigeria’s, it is supposed to constitute a formidable workforce that should make and keep the machinery of state at world-top level. Perhaps, the future we saw yesterday will return tomorrow.
However, here we are today, the about one hundred and sixty-million of us, a population bred as a nation that cannot even keep its own laws. How then can we build a nation? Oh yes, failure to keep the law is failure to build the nation. Someone once said she was afraid to train her child to be obedient, law abiding, humble and all that because she was certain that many parents are allowing their children to grow up as wild, lawless beings, thus making her good children greatly disadvantaged. For answer, I did not answer.
I guess World Population Day is the day we are supposed to gather round a table as a nation and talk about how to control it downwards or upwards, considering that the food resources are at the moment presently not at par with the users. So, we are supposed to discuss how best to match population with resources for the maximum development potential of every individual. However, I chose the road not normally trodden today for a good reason: that many of us do not sufficiently appreciate the connection between respecting the country and gaining access to the just and equitable utilization of her resources. It is this connection which prevents humanity from being a useless population to a useful one. For what indeed, does it profit a country to gain so much population figures and lose its very essence? Let us make Nigeria’s population count in a way that matters.
This article was first published on 13/7/2014.
Opinion: Do not kill Kanu and Igboho, by Tunde Odesola
Reflections on the man Nnamdi Kanu, by Chimamamda Adichie
Yesterday I announced that I would unveil my thoughts regarding the IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu. Several people reached out, advising me to be neutral and steer clear of political discourse. They meant well for a young female writer with a reputation to protect, an image to project, and the care not to cause offense. I almost yielded but changed my mind this morning.
The Igbos are the same people about whom I wrote my current published work, In Blood and War, a book set in the then troubled Biafra.
On principle, I consider it unethical to make money off retelling the struggle of this tribe, and in the same breath be silent about their same struggle.
It is beneath morality for a writer to choose to speak only when it favours him or her. To retreat to silence in order not to ‘taint’ reputation.
To speak on this particular issue, of the man called Nnamdi Kanu, does not tribalize me or my works of literature. Especially as this remains an age-long fear of most writers; the fear of offending, a fear of stepping on toes, of banishment by a displeased societal sect, and even possible ostracism.
I speak because the making of a villain or hero often depends on who tells the story. Representation matters, when perspective becomes the thin line between an activist or a terrorist.
WHO IS NNAMDI KANU?
Nnamdi Okwu Kanu is a Nigerian Biafra political activist, and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra IPOB.
In a move to create an independent state for the people of old Eastern Region of Nigeria through an independent referendum, Kanu founded IPOB in 2014.
He began his activism for the freedom of Biafra as director of Radio Biafra in 2009, and anchor of Biafra awareness under Ralph Uwazuruike, leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).
NNAMDI on Referendum, and SECESSION
According to Article 2 of the nation’s constitution, Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the ‘Federal Republic of Nigeria’.
Our law does not recognise the right of a state to break away from the union. The only way to legally grant such an option is through an amendment to the law.
Hence, Nnamdi Kanu’s call for a referendum.
Same constitution only addresses two scenarios where a referendum is recognised – state boundary adjustment and the recall of a member of the National Assembly.
Headstrong on this path, Nnamdi Kanu ran into trouble with the Nigerian government and was first arraigned over allegations of terrorism, money laundering, treason, others, on October 14, 2015.
Later granted bail in 2017, he fled Nigeria in September after the military invaded his home in Afara-Ukwu, near Umuahia, Abia State, in the southeast of Nigeria. A move that prompted the Nigerian government to secure a court order proscribing IPOB as a terrorist group.
Nnamdi Kanu’s whereabouts remained unknown until his recent arrest a few days ago. He and his co-defendant are currently facing treasonable felony charges at the Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. He also faces charges on unlawful possession of firearms and management of an unlawful society. The presiding judge adjourned the case to July 26, 2021.
Last week, while parceling one of my books to a buyer, a young boy of about 20 years old was making a call beside me.
At the end of his call, I understood four things:
1. He was negotiating to pay 200k to obtain a form that will identify him as a Niger Delta militant
2. This young man was not a militant
3. Incriminating himself and mortgaging his future through filling out such form would enable him get his share of the amnesty dished out by the Federal government monthly.
4. Our government negotiates with terrorists.
Since the arrest of the IPOB leader, my feed has been agog with posts casting aspersions on his person. Of which majority are made by Igbos, falling over themselves in a frenzy to denounce Nnamdi Kanu.
Meanwhile, a regular Hausa man is yet to put aside his Suya trade, cast on ashes and put on sackcloth, and then come on social media to endlessly bemoan the menance of Boko Haram in the country.
My ear still itches, awaiting the day a regular Yoruba man would take a chill off a peppery dish to criticize Obj. for not being the messiah we had hoped for. No, he is their brother. They must not speak bad of him.
Neither are the Ijaws pausing the oil bunkering trade in the rivers long enough to come online and rant about distancing themselves from militancy in the Niger Delta region.
I am yet to see any of these tribes measure the size of their phallus by how hard they throw their kinsman under the bus.
But not your average Igbo man.
No. Not the average Igbo man with itchy fingers, who masturbates off lambasting Nnamdi. The Igbo man must belong. He must trend. It is fashionable.
The Igbos are a bit too extra on this table.
GUILTY OR NOT GUILTY?
Still on the call for secession, on the 2nd of June 2021, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria made the below ‘heartwarming endearment’ to the Igbos on Twitter :
“Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
The above threat from the house of the presidency stinks of beating a child and asking him not to cry.
No one in their right mind departs a good home, one that is working.
Shouldn’t the real question then be . . . why do these people so badly want to stay apart from the rest of the nation?
First demonize a people, call their outcry terrorism, then their injustice becomes acceptable, their oppression becomes deserving.
Guilty or not guilty?
Nnamdi’s methodology may be rad, but his intentions are understandable. And for that, I will not throw him under the bus. Unbridled passion, passion without diplomacy, is all I see.
In the words of Peter Tosh, everyone is crying out for peace and none for justice.
I ponder in idle musings:
Whether Nnamdi is a terrorist, depends on what you mean by a terrorist. Yesterday it was Sowore. Then the youths at the Lekki tollgate. Today Nnamdi. Or could it be that this country only understands you better when you act mad?
On nitty-gritty, we might have become a nation that picks and chooses the brand of terrorists deserving of amnesty. Perhaps the class with guns and doing the most harm are more deserving on the VIP list. That is the only way the massacre of the armless IPOB youths can make sense.
One day, in a saner clime abounding in freedom of speech, I will laud the beautiful corruption of a beloved country called Nigeria
Till then, we will watch the brave made into examples, and shiver at the spectacle, until fear seals our lips and sends us tumbling back into the tunnel of silence.
OPINION: The electric car Buhari-Osinbajo built Tunde Odesola
(Published in The PUNCH, on Monday, June 21, 2021)
Chanting a million and one ‘gbosas’ to acknowledge the magic performed last week in Abuja by Nigeria’s President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), would be an exercise in ingratitude.
For executing the 8th Wonder of the World, President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo deserve to be worshipped by Nigerians forever.
Surely, it can only be magic, not a miracle; to strike the ground with a wand, ‘gbaa!’, and a car’s rooftop cracks open the earth, slowly erupting into full view, like a mild volcano, amid dust and thunderous chants of ‘CHANGE!’, birthing the first Made-in-Nigeria electric car, Kona.
It can only be Eh-Fi-Si abracadabra. You may call it ‘efisi’, if you like swagger.
Without a workforce, steel rolling mill, power supply, technological know-how, mechanical and electrical components, the Buhari-Osinbajo government must have secretly gathered invisible hands that worked round the clock to produce Nigeria’s first electric car. This government doesn’t lie, I swear.
Permit me to quickly buttress my deep conviction that the Buhari-Osinbajo rulership doesn’t lie.
Exasperated about being called a liar, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a viral video, said, “‘My seven-year-old grandson called me and said, ‘Grandpa, tell me the truth; why do they call you Liar Mohammed?’”
Alhaji Lai added, “I looked at him. What do you say to a seven-year-old (grand)son? How do you explain politics to him? So, I said, no; don’t mind them.”
The Buhari-Osinbajo government doesn’t lie, it only doesn’t fulfil promises. Soon, the FG will replace the gloom on Nigerian roads with the gleam of the green electric car. This may not be by 2023, however; remember, Yobe State Governor, Mai Buni, prophesied the APC would rule for more than the next 32 years.
Fathered and christened by Hyundai, a South-Korean automaker, Kona electric car isn’t an abiku that comes and goes in countless seasons. But baby Kona had actually come in November 2020 when Lagos Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, publicly unveiled and presented it in Lagos, where the car was ostensibly manufactured.
Therefore, Osinbajo wasn’t the godfather of Kona, it was Sanwo-Olu, who presented the car at baptism. I repeat, this government doesn’t lie.
Don’t get me wrong, please. It’s not a crime to present and re-present the same car to the public 30 times, it only shows government’s seriousness and commitment to technology transfer.
But do you know the real reasons why the cerebral Osinbajo re-presented Kona to Nigerians seven long months after Sanwo-Olu had unveiled it? I know, and I’ll tell you.
After six months in power with neither direction nor a cabinet, signs that the aircraft of the Buhari-Osinbajo regime would need to be pushed and jump-started – like a ‘kabukabu’ – began to manifest.
The Buhari-Osinbajo regime badly needed the Kona PR because in the last six years, the Federal Government hasn’t fulfilled one-hundredth of its electoral promises.
But unpromised dividends of democracy such as killings by Fulani herdsmen, kidnapping, corruption, ethnic agitations, banditry, nepotism, despondency, fear and hopelessness have been delivered as sizzling hot takeaways to Nigerians benumbed by a tragic, fractured nation.
On their campaign trails in 2015 and 2019, Buhari-Osinbajo brandished hope to the electorate, churning out promises like the rapid-fire guns used by killer herdsmen.
As their ecstatic supporters roared during campaigns in 2015, Buhari and Osinbajo promised to crush Boko Haram within three months in power and lower the exchange rate of dollar to naira which then stood below N200.
The magical duo promised more, vowing to ban government officials from going abroad for medical treatment, dismantle the Office of the First Lady, publicly declare assets, distribute 20,000 megawatts of electricity within their first four years, revive Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill, construct superhighways across the country, among others.
I can bet my neck that the Buhari-Osinbajo regime of integrity will fulfil its electoral promises before the expiration of its two terms, although the blood of innocent southern and Middle Belt farmers have been used to irrigate the pasture fed to Fulani cattle.
Today, the naira has thankfully appreciated at almost N500 to a dollar while light doesn’t blink in my Iyana Ipaja-Agege neck of the woods just as intensive work is ongoing to complete the 100-kilometre Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, six years after promising the construction of phantom 3,000-kilometre superhighways across the country.
Thank goodness the Buhari-Osinbajo government is winning the terror war though everyday negotiations and payments of ransoms on kidnapped citizens across Nigeria are rampant and reminiscent of the slave trade era when dog life was of higher value than human life.
It’s true that confessed Boko Haram terrorists are now regular guests at government houses where they are hosted to sumptuous negotiation dinners with their AK-47 strapped across their necks as they smile at the camera, while the President has commanded his troops not to ‘give breathing space to terrorists’.
For a government being bashed at home by its citizens for innumerable reasons, and buffeted abroad by world leaders over the ban on Twitter, a re-presentation of Made-in-Nigeria Kona by Osinbajo was highly needed.
Despite its rarity, however, I had the good fortune of seeing an electric car yesterday. My shylock landlord, after increasing rent on his houses and shops for the third year running, bought one and decided to unveil it on Father’s Day.
I didn’t go out to felicitate with my landlord. I remained in my one-room apartment and peeped through the window because I’ve yet to pay security levy. The bill is despite the fact that robbers have visited the house twice in the last one month.
I could see and hear everyone clearly because the car was parked near my window. This is what I heard:
Caretaker: Oga landlord, dis tear rubber na confam o!
Landlord: (Smiles) It’s the Lord’s doing, it’s beautiful in our sight.
Corper: (Snapping selfies with the car) This car is tush, sir. How much does it cost, sir?
Landlord: N24m only.
AbereIfa: Ha! Dis small car?
Caretaker: Don’t you know it doesn’t use fuel? It uses electricity.
AbereIfa: Electricity? How?
Landlord: The car runs on electricity. When fully charged for 9 hrs 35 mins, the vehicle can cover a distance of 482km which is equivalent to the distance between Lagos and Warri.
AbereIfa: If the electricity wey follow am come finish, where you go see light recharge am?
Caretaker: Oga Landlord will go Ghana or put 50 litre-gallon fuel for boot. If electricity finish, oga go pour fuel.
Landlord: No, it doesn’t use fuel. I’ll charge it here at home.
AbereIfa: With tenants’ prepaid credits? That one no go dey possible o, oga.
Caretaker: No be electric car you suppose buy, Landlord. See, armed robbers dey disturb us every night, the toilet is not good, there’s no water, tenants are unhappy.
Landlord: How does your welfare concern me? Are you members of my family or tribe?
Corper: Landlord, get into the car and drive it nah. I want to see you drive your electric car like the one I saw on TV yesterday.
Landlord: You saw one on the TV yesterday?
Corper: Yes, sir.
Landlord: How did the one you saw on TV look like?
Corper: It was green in colour.
Corper: Yes, green and gleamy. I saw Vice President Yemi Osinbajo behind the wheel, in company with two big men. There were many security men around the car, putting their hands on the car as if preventing it from disappearing.
AbereIfa: Chai, dis girl.
Corper: Yes, nah. They didn’t allow the car to move freely, unlike President Joe Biden’s test-run of an electric Ford truck in the US. Biden fastened his seat belt. You can’t say that about every big man in the Nigerian electric car. And Vice President Osinbajo used one hand to drive, Biden used both hands.”
AbereIfa: VP used one hand? Chai, diarisgod o.
Facebook: @tunde odesola
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