Opinion: Thieving beasts of Nigeria – LEKAN SOTE

 

An obviously mischievous regular reader of this column called in the other night to suggest, with dark humour and extremely cynical irony, that it was time to summon all beasts or animals in Nigeria, and warn them to desist from stealing people’s money.

He thinks that the havoc that the snake – which the Bible identified as the devil – wreaked in the biblical Garden of Eden should not cascade into the lives of innocent and hapless modern Nigerians. He thinks that the snakes may start swallowing human beings.

He must have forgotten that Nnamdi Kanu, some of his siblings, his father, and some members of his proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra separatist group got missing after the “snake” in the Nigerian Army’s Operation Python Dance IItook its fancy footwork to Kanu’s Afaraukwu homestead in Umuahia, Abia State.

Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe of Abia State, who has been asked by a court to produce Kanu, for whom he stood surety, thinks that the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, who choreographed the python dance, should have been the one to look for Kanu, and not him.

Nigerians who wonder why people think it is funny that a highly “discriminating” snake swallowed the whole of N36 million from the Makurdi, Benue State, office of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, didn’t consider that the serpent forgave the scratch cards and went for the money. Somehow, the snake knew that scratch cards must go through some processes before they can become money.

These humourless Nigerians do not seem to know the havoc that animals can wreak on human beings. Mere rodents prevented the Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces from gaining entrance into his own office after his return from medical tourism after over 100 days.

If President Muhammadu Buhari, with all the monopoly of state violence vested in him, was chased by rodents, Ms Philomina Chieshe, the JAMB sales clerk who disclosed this money-swallowing “miracle,” should be congratulated for escaping with her life!

Weighing in, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar III of Sokoto, who probably thinks that Ms Chieshe’s tale is a symptom of the corruption in Nigeria, laments that “the issue of N36m swallowed by a snake is a sad reality for our country.” He recommends that corruption must be fought to a terminal end.

By the way, Senator Shehu Sani, who took snake charmers to the Abuja head office of JAMB, missed it: He should have taken the snake charmers to Makurdi, where the deed was done. Also, he should have enlisted Indian snake charmers. Tasiu Abdulrasheed, one of his rent-a-snake-charmers, admitted, “I have never captured a snake that swallowed money.”

Animals appear to be very active in Nigeria’s polity: When Niger Delta militants became too restive, Buratai sent a contingent of the army, with a “Crocodile Smile” to them, and they kept their peace. The army’s “Operation Cat Race” was deployed to disarm herdsmen in Taraba State.

In “Operation Damisa,” Major Kaduna Nzeogwu and a group of soldiers summoned the spirit of a tiger to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in the January 15, 1966 coup d’etat.

Anyone who wonders why military men, in khaki or in mufti, have not vacated Nigeria’s political landscape since that unfortunate incident should remember the aphorism that he who rides a tiger cannot dismount. They are all over the executive and legislative arms of government.

While trying to explain why Senator Abdullahi Adamu of Nasarawa State was removed as Chairman of Northern Senators’ Forum, Senator Sani of Kaduna State said, “There were allegations that some monkeys raided the farm house of some executives of the Northern Senators’ Forum and carted away some of the money!”

But his irrepressible colleague, Senator Dino Melaye, of Kogi State explained that “The allegations investigated and found out to be true is that there was financial mismanagement. Monies were spent without the consent of members or the exco.” He said nothing about the N70 million allegedly traced to some monkeys doing nothing other than monkey business.

Some contend that the Nigerian system that fails to provide for the people caused the corrupt acts of the animals: “When you hide the best from those who deserve it, it will be stolen by those that do not deserve it.”

Senator Adamu who denies any financial impropriety claims that he is being persecuted for leading nine other senators to protest their colleagues’ alteration of the 2019 General Elections timetable. Senator Ovie Omo-Agege of Delta State pre-empted being sanctioned by offering an apology to his colleagues.

The animal metaphor took what advertising professionals might have described as mind share in 2017. Almost everyone, including high stakes political players like First Lady Aisha Buhari, was discussing about one animal or the other.

Nnamdi Kanu described Nigeria as a zoo to “elicit (the) reaction that will facilitate the desired change, (or political restructuring?), which is desired (in Nigeria).” Senator Sani, fast gaining traction as a stand-up comedian with his animals jokes, worried that “Prayers for the absent king (he most likely meant President Buhari), had waned, and the “hyenas and the jackals (probably politicians who wished President Buhari dead) are scheming.”

First Lady Aisha Buhari surprisingly took it in her strides. After returning from a visit to President Buhari, she gleefully announced that “God has answered the prayers of the weaker animals (the Nigerian masses one can presume). The Hyenas and the Jackals will soon be sent out of the Kingdom (or corridors of power). We strongly believe in the prayers and support of the weaker animals.”

The Yoruba took the animal metaphor to another level. They say that “Owe l’esinoro.” Proverbs ride on horses. And when a word is lost, you retrieve it with a proverb. Now, you can see why there will always be references to animals even in very serious discussions in Nigeria.

Even former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who holds the high Yoruba traditional title of Balogun of Owu Kingdom, in Egbaland, is in the spirit too. First, he insists that former President Goodluck Jonathan “has a role to play on the sidelines for the good of Nigeria and humanity… but not as a (horse) rider in Nigeria again.”

Then, he says of President Buhari: “He needs a dignified and honourable dismount from the horse,” the horse being a metaphor for the Presidency of Nigeria. As for the ruling All Progressives Congress and main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, Obasanjo thinks neither is “a worthy horse to ride to lead Nigeria at this crucial and critical time.”

Obasanjo concludes that Nigerians must form a third force, “a coalition of the concerned, and the willing, ready for positive and drastic change, progress, and involvement.” It appears that Obasanjo will not die until he has left his imprints firmly in the sands of time. This is unlike the Yoruba metaphor that you cannot trace the path of a snake on a rock.

In addressing President Buhari, Obasanjo says, “The lice of poor performance… are very much with us today.” In speaking truth to power, Obasanjo borrowed the lice metaphor, saying, “When lice abound in your clothes, your fingers will never be devoid of blood.”

These lice, snakes, monkeys, cats, horses, and tigers that suck, swallow, or steal substances are affiliates of Nigeria’s political class. Punch

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