By Lasisi Olagunju PHD
Wailers are miserable people. The president blamed middlemen for the nation’s economic woes last week. Jobless wailers quickly ran to 1984 and came back with a newspaper cutting to shame their leader. The headline showed that Muhammadu Buhari, 36 years ago, blamed the same middlemen for his 1984 failures and frustrations.
There is an obvious problem here. Stagnation? No. I call it decay. The decay we sleep with is already addressed by T.S. Eliot in his ‘The Hollow Men,’ – a poem about empty men stuffed with straw. The poet speaks to “this valley of dying stars,” the “stone images” and the cadaver supplication we receive under “the twinkle of a fading star.” He says the world of hollowness ends, “not with a bang, but with a whimper.” That is why decay rules Nigeria and the usual young and old cries are “quiet and meaningless as wind in dry grass.”
Some failed pupils blamed goats for their failure in primary school; they are blaming the same goats for their failure in secondary school. Children of hatred and wailings watch the failure patterns and say the president is Sisyphus, king of Ephyra, who was punished with unremitting failure “for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness.” His sentence is to “roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down every time it nears the top.” The king does this for eternity. The peak is forbidden for him. It is his painful punishment. For the health of our own president, wailers are telling him that his enemies are within his stony self, not some mythical middlemen in his abortive dreams.
Because fuel price was increased and electricity tariffs went up, surly children of anger are threatening the peace of the country. They say Buhari reduced interest on savings for the poor, slammed charges here and there, moved VAT from five per cent to seven and a half per cent and dragged prices of everything along the expensive road. He did (and still does) more of these but offers no cushion for the free fall of the poor and their currency. One thoroughly frustrated ex-hailer then wrote on a WhatsApp group Wednesday last week that President Muhammadu Buhari had just 1,066 days to leave Nigeria alone. Another brand new wailer said he was looking forward to the last 666 days for Buhari to leave. And I asked: Leave for where? So that who would take over? I asked both of them what they would do if we decide to keep Buhari in the Villa forever. In Yoruba, when we are pleased with the ways of a warlord, we tell him ‘máa bá’sé re lo’; it is ‘continuity’ in English. If Buhari is not permanently on the ballot, who else would convince the North’s out-of-school children to come out and vote? Vote for whom? And so that what could happen? If he is not the president again, who will understand the bandits of the North, fight and defeat them as Buhari has done comprehensively? Who else has the magical body spell to prevent them from ravaging the country, north to south?
General Buhari got the support of his mafia backers outside his base in 2015 because of his solid 12 million almajiri votes from the North. He will soon be asked to repay good with good by the pawnbrokers of Nigeria. But why should anyone think the General should spend only eight years tendering our gardens? You are grumbling today because you lost your job to the pandemic and, last week, Buhari compensated you with fuel price hike. Your anger and curses will change nothing in the way we revere this president. As long as his ways are pleasing to the 12 million kids without homes, he will continue to be our president. The kids who matter have no use for electricity. They neither drive cars nor board buses. They trek. And he has been very faithful with them and their interest. He has not fought these beings by stopping them from begging, neither has he taken their plastic bowls and aluminum cups from them. He is doing what he was elected to do which is to preserve the holy rot. So, he has to remain in the Villa forever. ‘Sai Buhari Forever’ should really be our battle cry henceforth and the next project of the patriots.
There are very many unfinished businesses requiring General Buhari’s permanent attention. Conspiratorial tardiness won’t let very many projects flit to the finish line. The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is one sore thumb. Billions of naira paid; cost variations, project adjustments made; cost fluctuations and upward adjustments – all infused into the road by the General’s government. But the stubborn road won’t just agree to be completed. The job is conspiring with the contractors to frustrate the president. The more money is pumped into that sinkhole, the slower the job, the louder the curse oozing out of traffic snarls. The construction giant there is particularly guilty of working like an elephantiasis patient. I was told all other road projects across the country are as guilty as this one. So, what will the president write in the handover note as completed if we say he should go in 2023? The helipad in Daura? No. Apart from the interminable jobs here and there, there are several other contracts waiting to be awarded. Who else is qualified to sign the contracts of the future if General Buhari leaves in 2023?
I join General Buhari’s 12 million street voters to shout “Buhari Forever!” Wailers won’t agree that it is to the credit of General Buhari that the nation appears to be defeating that accursed plaintiff called P&ID. All that wailers, old and new, are talking about is that the man found to have buried Nigeria in that case belongs to the president’s party. But I say a multi-billion dollar deal couldn’t have been so easily pulled through singlehandedly by a gentleman from a party that was in opposition that time. How did an APC lawyer and politician get a $2 million brief from a PDP government? I say the proceeds of that scam might have been democratized across parties, cults and camps. In case you are lost, P&ID is a ‘foreign’ company that wants to eat up the little that remains of what is flesh around the bone called Nigeria. It won an arbitral award of $6.6 billion against Nigeria in January 2017. If you think the award load was heavy, take a look at the interest. The $6.6 billion damages, plus pre-and post-judgement interest at seven per cent is now $10 billion. What percentage of Nigeria’s external reserves of about $35 billion is that award? And how much will the award become next month and next year? Do your calculations. But to God be the glory, a UK court Friday last week found a ring of fraud in the award – and in Nigeria’s crocodile tears. The Villa danced in victory. Wailers are still not impressed. They wonder why the big guns in the scam are still in the president’s party, roaming freely and planning the next scam. They say the scammers even want to be president.
When an ancestor works well for you, you keep him well refrigerated – or mummified securely and safely. An empire does not throw away the magic wand with which its founders conquered the world. General Buhari is a cure-all medicine for politics and ambitions. He can look the hungry in the eye and tell him off. That won’t stop the hungry from offering him his back to ride home. There is this Islamic country called Turkey. Because COVID-19 has brought everyone down around the world, Turkish citizens who lost their jobs get equivalent of $170 monthly from their government. Our own president tried in his own way too. His palliative included feeding of millions of empty schools with billions of crisp naira notes. Last week, petrol price hike and electricity tariff increase were added to the palliatives to make them more comprehensive. The wailers still complained. One of them was even heard fighting a lover of General Buhari who said the price increments were meant to put more money in the General’s care – to complete his projects. Wailers won’t agree that the president is making efforts to push Nigeria’s rock up the hill, but too much water from yesterday’s rains is aborting his stride. Fortunately, nothing bad the General does takes away from his votes – and popularity. He is like Donald Trump, even if he shoots some people’s mothers and fathers, the bereaved will hail and thank him for making them orphans. That is the man, Nigeria’s president yesterday, today and tomorrow.
It is not only wailers who are counting down for the president. Even his friends are watching the clock on the rocks of Aso Villa. What kind of relation seeks to inherit the wife of the living? Dreamers scheming to succeed the president are scrambling for endorsements by the uneducable street kids of the North. One of them who was famously caught on camera receiving stolen dollars is now promising to sign a sharia death sentence so that he would become popular and inherit the faithful almajirai of Buhari. But wailers are saying if sharia was applied to the dollar taker when he was caught, where would he get the right hand today to sign the death warrant? Remember, the punishment for stealing under sharia is right arm amputation. It happened in year 2000 to Bello Jangedi in Zamfara State because he stole a cow; it happened also to Lawali Isa who stole a bicycle in Gumi, Zamfara State in May 2001. So, before anyone who stole and ate entire states gets set to contest for Maigaskia’s seat (or a part of the seat), let the person go submit his wrist for execution first. That is what sharia says – or should say.
As wailers flail their heads over job losses and price increases; as state-eaters consummate their plot to overwhelm us and be president, and as Buhari’s worshippers erect his “stone images” at crossroads of our politics and economy, I go to Eliot’s sombre lines in ‘The Waste Land’:
“…What branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock…”