By Suyi Ayodele
I had a personal experience that is similar to that of Saidu Faskari. Faskari is the Katsina farmer, whose video went viral over the weekend. In the video, the old and wretched looking farmer is seen removing the roof of his house. The purpose? His son was kidnapped and the abductors demanded for a N100,000 ransom. Faskari, who himself spent 13 days in captivity of his abductors in December 2021, before his family could raise the N50,000 ransom he paid to regain his freedom, could not afford the latest N100,000 demand. The situation was such that Faskari’s son was kidnapped when he went to drop the N50,000 ransom for his father. Such an arrangement is called “pashi paaro” – exchange of goods – in my native Yoruba tongue. Katsina is the home of President Muhammadu Buhari, the current Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the nation called Nigeria. Buhari is so tired that kidnappers now collect as low as N50,000 from victims in his backyard. We cannot blame him; he has told us that he is incapacitated by age. But we all know that more than age, many things have combined to render the president inactive. Chief among them are his frail health and acute pusillanimity.
While in the university, my mother had to sell some of her personal effects to pay my fees. She would not have had cause to do that if not that my father’s cocoa farm got burnt the very year I got my admission. That particular year, my mother had brought out her old ceramic wares called “awo tanganra”. Very expensive and iconic ceramics. A relative had elected to buy them. I mean a very close relation, who had the means. Problem, however, started when the woman insisted on buying one particularly big ceramic, the most beautiful of them all. That one was not part of what my mother offered to sell because it was too dear to her. She served my father’s food in it during festive periods (Easter and Christmas). But the buyer would not buy others if that one was not included. I watched the bargaining in pain and agony. She left and I was left without the fee.
Later in the evening, a tenant in our family compound came and “bought” off the “tanganrans” and I went to school. During the semester break, I discovered that those ceramics my mother sold off were still neatly arranged on her local shelf, “pepe” after that transaction. “Why”? I asked her. She explained. The tenant who “bought” the ceramics had no intention of buying them. She again did not want my mother to sell off the materials – too beautiful and old -so, the good-natured tenant raised the exact amount of money our relation had offered to pay and gave the money to my mother. She waited for my mother to harvest, process and sell off her rice from her plantation, then, she approached my mother and asked her to come and take her ceramics at the exact amount of money she paid for them. She also begged my mother not to sell off those ceramics for whatever reason. I came to tears writing this particular episode. Those ceramics were part of my mother’s personal effects the children shared after her demise in 2006. I inherited the much coveted “tanganran”. After my father passed on in 1999, my mother used the ceramic to serve me whenever I visited home. It was known as “awo Suyi”- Suyi’s ceramic. It unfortunately got broken in one of the home accidents after I inherited it.
Today, I remember Iya Fausa, the tenant, who never allowed our relation or anyone else to buy off the plates which were so dear that my mother used it to serve my father’s food. May the good Lord bless her abundantly, wherever she is now (haven’t seen her in ages). And for our close relation, who insisted on buying that particular ceramic, even when it was not for sale, I had long forgiven her. God too has also shown me enough grace to be able to stand for her in her times of desperate needs, without qualms. Humanity cannot be lost owing to the frailties of a few individuals.
Watching Faskari as he was removing the roof of his house and seeing the neighbours hovering around like vultures to buy off the only shield upon the poor farmer’s head, and that of his entire family, my heart recalled the incident narrated above. The fate of Faskari is the ultimate shame of the North, a region that brags of having Dangote, the richest African, as a son. Yeah, Dangote cannot possibly reach out to every family in the North, but using him as a symbol of the elites and the aristocrats in the North, the case of the poor Katsina farmer should make the leaders of the North bury their heads in shame. How would it have been if they did not have the Dangotes of this world? What would have been their state of hopelessness, if they did not have a Buhari as their son?
On this page on December 15, 2020, I wrote on “The Fire in Buhari’s Osanyin Shrine”. In that piece, the very third in line since this column debuted on December 1, 2020, I said inter alia: “Osanyin in Yoruba mythology is the deity which helps in quenching fire. Whenever there is a fire outbreak in the Yoruba traditional setting, you call on Osanyin to quench the fire… Now when the fire starts from Osanyin’s shrine, who do you call upon to extinguish the inferno? Our elders say that it is very difficult to quench an inferno which starts from Osanyin’s shrine.” The piece was provoked by the Friday, December 11, 2020 abduction of some schoolchildren of Government Science School, Kankara, Katsina State. I submitted that the incident was akin to an inferno in an Osanyin shrine. “Now that fire has started from Buhari’s Osanyin’s shrine, who shall we beg to help us? Quenching the fire is a task impossible because the god of fire itself is already badly scalded.” All these I said to show how hopeless our case could be if bandits could storm Buhari’s backyard, the very day the retired Daura General visited home and nothing was done. I went ahead to submit thus: “As the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) is our practical Osanyin. As the number one security officer of Nigeria, the Daura-born General is the first person we all look up to. He is expected to play the role of the chief combustion officer, whenever any part of the country is on fire. His response(s) to our Macedonian call for help will go a long way in reassuring us that we have a glitter of hope, somewhere. But alas, the man we all look up to is himself in dire need of help. Our Osanyin does not need ordinary help, but help in every material particular. Our case is becoming completely hopeless because our deity in charge of fire is himself getting burnt”.
Over a year after the piece, the situation has gone from bad to worse. Katsina, the home state of Buhari is in complete conflagration. It has gotten to a level that bandits and other felons collect taxes and other levies in the state and many parts of the North. Governor Aminu Masari had to call for a mass arm acquisition in response to the inability of Buhari to exhibit the necessary kinesthetic and stem the flow of the needless anarchy and endless bloodletting. If crocodiles eat their own flesh, what will they not do to the flesh of frogs, asked the playwright, Ola Rotimi, in the epic drama, “The Gods Are Not To Blame”. If Buhari is so languid, so immobile and so weak and tired, that his distant cousin had to remove the roof of his house to pay a ransom of N100,000 to free his son; pray, what is the fate of the farmers in Sekona at Ile-Ife or the hapless trader at Igbere in Abia State?
We have pretended for too long. Now the realities of the follies of 2015, when Nigerians chose to ask a golem to lead a dynamic nation like Nigeria is hitting us left, right and centre. Who do we run to? Where do we run to? The same Buhari that finds an alibi in his age and relief in COVID-19, which has reduced the number of state affairs he has to attend to? Just a few days ago, over 200 Nigerians were killed in Zamfara State and all we got from the fortress called Aso Rock is the usual platitude, “the president is greatly pained!” Yet Buhari has 17 months left in his decrepit presidency. Who knows how many Nigerians will become diasporic within the remaining 17 months due to the unchecked activities of bandits, killer herdsmen, Boko Haram and other sanguinary elements that walk the streets unencumbered? In all these, some fellows still expect us to organise paean for Buhari for his humdrum outings in power! The perilous times starring us all notwithstanding, some fellows still cantillate “Sai Baba”. This is even when the same Baba said he would not expect Nigerians to appreciate him.
As I draw the curtain on this piece, let me leave the North, its elites and its enslaving aristocrats with the inquietude of a father, Faskari, who, like a typical babusha, is desperate to do anything to free his son from the captivity of bandits: “They kidnapped my son day before yesterday (Thursday). He had gone to pay the ransom money for my release. I spent 13 days in their den. When my children gathered the N50,000 one of my sons was asked to take the ransom but the bandits released me and apprehended him. I don’t even have what to eat not to talk of the money to go and pay ransom.”
Faskari spoke in Hausa, so Buhari and other northern leaders need no interpreter to tell them that the North has not only wintled but is bleeding heavily from every hole in its ragged body.