Nigeria has been “Acting” since a young British journalist, Flora Louise Shaw (1852-1929), the beautiful daughter of an English Major General, George Shaw, coined the name “Nigeria”, after the “River Niger”, in an epic article she wrote in 1897, in the Times of London, where she was column editor.
Flora later married Lord Frederick Lugard (1858-1945), Governor General of the British Crown’s West Africa Real Estate/Trading Company. Lugard, who was Commissioner/Governor of Northern Protectorate, between 1900 and 1906, later amalgamated the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria on January 1, 1914, to form the fraud and contraption called present-day Nigeria. The country till date, is still inchoate, implosive, yearning for true nationhood. According to Onigu Otite (sociologist), with Nigeria having over 392 ethnic groups that speak over 521 languages, nine of which are now extinct (Wikipedia), Nigeria is certainly a Dolly Parton’s “Coat of many colours”.
In their desperate venture to partition and colonise disparate autonomous groups that already enjoyed their independent empires, kingdoms, emirates, chiefdoms, et al, a high level conspiracy was hatched, nurtured, crusaded and consummated by the likes of William Macgregor, Ralph Moore, Walter Eggerton, Lord Lugard and Lewis Harcourt (after whom Port Harcourt was named). Ever since then, neither Nigeria nor Nigerians have known peace. They have been acting. They wobble, fumble and dwaddle. Spearheading this internal schism is the grand deception that once you talk about the Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani and Igbo, Nigeria is complete. Lie. What happens to the other 388 ethnic groups? The oppressive and repressive big ethnic groups desire that these other minority nationalities should be mere spectators of national affairs; fit only to be drawers of water and fetchers of wood. No wonder Nigeria is not balanced, because she sits on a tripod, which is never a balanced object.
That is why Nigeria has always been a country of actors: Acting President, Acting CJN, Acting Chairman, EFCC, Acting Christians, Acting Moslems, Acting security agents, Acting patriots, Acting politicians, Acting youth, Acting businessmen, Acting professionals, Acting families, Acting standards, Acting students, Acting nation. You will be right to call Nigeria “Federal Republic of Actors”, or “Acting Republic of Nigeria”. “Acting” is the noun derived from “act”. Its synonyms or sisters are substitute, stand-in, caretaker, reserve, deputy, fill-in, protem, stop-gap, pro-tempore, transitional, improvise, interim, intervening, surrogate.
To act in any position is to perpetually have your heart in your mouth, butterflies in your stomach; not quite sure of when not to underact, or overstep boundaries. “Acting” is the frightened shadow of confident “substantive”. One is original; the other imitation. One is genuine, the other fake. Acting capacity does not bring out the best in you. You are worried stiff whether the many gossips (“tatafos”) around, whose stock-in-trade is to eavesdrop, bug and wiretap discussions, conversations, messages, phone calls, and even body languages, will strike. After all, even walls have ears. My late dear friend, Dora Akunyili (God, grant her eternal repose), famously referred to them as the “cabal”. Cabal means a group involved in secret or criminal activities; a secret political clique or faction. Synonyms are mafia, gang, caucus, junta, coven, bunch, conclave, ring, band, cell, coterie, set, league, clan, circle, oligarchy, network, pack, conspiracy, crew, mob, posse, sorority, camarilla, camp, society, bloc, alliance, etc. I don’t envy my good friend, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, the cerebral and fecund Professor of Law and SAN, who is currently the Acting President of Nigeria. How far can Osibanjo go without enlisting the envy, anger, jealousy, suspicion or hatred of the president’s lurking cabal that mounts human apparatchik and reconnaissance road blocks within and around the entire Aso enclave? Does Osibanjo possess any counter-espionage or intelligence? Does he have his separate security armada, to guarantee his personal safety? Does he rely on the same PMB’s Police, Army, DSS? Can he give orders to critical presidential aides like the COS, PMB’s Principal Secretary, Adesina, Garba, et al, to drive governance? Just what is the power equation and organogram in Aso Villa today? Nigerians are intrigued, inquisitive, nay, worried. Is Osibanjo’s office wired? Are his phones bugged? Can he talk freely? Can he act his real self, explode his full blossoming potentials, without looking behind his shoulders? Without being accused or suspected of inordinate ambition? Can he, for example, call Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, his acclaimed godfather, by phone and freely discuss Yoruba agenda, political matters, 2019, governance, or challenges? What language will he use? Yoruba? English? Will he whisper? Will he smile, or grimace, to pretend to onlookers? Can he go, incommunicado, nichodemusly, to visit Asiwaju in Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, or allow him visit the Acting President in Aguda House, Abuja, away from prying stares, gazes, gapes and scrutiny? I am only just wondering.
Now, Acting CJN, Walter Onnoghen: Does he act confidently, tentatively, gingerly, groggily, sure-footedly? Just how? Can he maintain his current tempo, zeal, nerve, verve, speed, momentum, revolutionary fervor of reforms? Is he afraid of an unknown tomorrow, that indeterminable, inchoate and frightening future, that is forever shrouded in mystery, puzzle and conundrum?
Ruben Abati once wrote an article titled, ‘Rituals, blood and death: The spiritual side of Aso Villa’, where he said recent happenings in the Presidency should give the citizens headache, adding that the place needed redemption urgently. He was detained shortly after, by the EFCC. The witch cried last night and the child died this morning. In African Cosmology and Cosmogony, who killed the child? Your guess here! Some people lampooned him for his heart-rending experiential rendition. I did not. Because, I have my own peculiar experience. Don’t get me wrong. I have never been in power, never held any government or political appointment. Never, as a Board, MDAs chairman or member. Not even as a lucky sweeper or cleaner of Aso Villa, or its vast precincts. But, my personal experience is trailer-load, as regards the sudden metamorphosis and transfiguration of occupants of positions in government.
Before their appointment, you are the best of friends, chummy confidants. Then appointment comes, and something snaps. I don’t know what it is. But, your erstwhile buddy transforms into a total stranger, a distant echo. He erects a wall higher than Kirikiri Prisons. He becomes inaccessible. He avoids you like a plaque. He wears a hideous visage. He does not pick your calls any longer. He is suddenly in a new class of Aristocrats – those who decide Nigeria’s future. You are suddenly the Roman plebian, the commoner, the hoi polloi, the Frants Fanon’s “wretched of the Earth”. You should be grateful that he even talks to you, or shakes your hand at all. You are a persona non granta at his big society parties where choice wines are consumed and the best foods devoured. Don’t be taken in by the present so-called recession. It is actually only a recession for some people, but ascension for others. After all, all fingers are not equal.
But, here, the good news: As soon as they leave power, a very transient, ephemeral but intoxicating liquor of incomprehensible phenomenon, that evaporates like dew in the sky, the scales suddenly fall from their eyes. They begin to see clearly. Their numbed senses resume their effervescent vacated seats. They have a scapegoat, the usual fall guy: Ubiquitous Mr. Devil. They heap the blame of their actions and inactions on imaginary “stress of the job”, “crowded schedule”, “demands of office”, and, of course, Satan. They will not give Lucifer peace, not even in his tormenting hell fire. I always laugh. For about 35 years, I have laughed at them. “Soldiers go, soldiers come, but barracks remain,” says the cliché. I always happily welcome them back “home”, the real world, not the Acting World, like the prodigal sons and daughters they truly are. They are products of the “Acting Republic of Nigeria”, or “Federal Republic of Actors”. Like Ghanian Author, Ayi Kwei Armah, in his classic, “The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born”, noted, they behave like the “Chichidodo” bird that loathes human faeces, but waits patiently to feed on maggots that wriggle out of decaying faeces. They hate beans, but enjoy the delicacy of its by-products, akara and moin-moin. Nigeria, we hail thee!
Padded budget, voodoo economics (1)
When I was in the secondary school and university in the 70s and 80s, we had five-year development plans published in voluminous Federal Government gazettes. The story has since changed. We now have padded budgets, voodoo economics.
Nigeria was projected by CNN Money, as the world’s third fastest growing economy when GEJ handed over to PMB in May, 2015. Nigeria’s GDP growth rate was 6.1% (for the last full year before the handover). Slightly over $5 billion was left for the Buhari administration by way of dividend payment from NLNG. GEJ administration left $2.07 billion in Excess Crude Account when it handed over to the Buhari government. Where are we today? Prosperity to recession, plenty to poverty, joy to melancholy, hope to hopelessness.
From Africa’s biggest economy to one of the most impoverished economies in the world, with massive capital flight, disinvestment, heartless dismissals, relocation of industries, free fall of the naira and oozing corruption, especially from the innermost corridors of power. Whom are we deceiving? This government excels in wrong economics, micro and macro indices, and even in simple arithmetic. I cannot understand this at all.
There are 16 agencies under the State House, and they are: State House Headquarters, The Office of the President, The Office of the Vice President, Office of the Chief of Staff to the President, Office of the Chief Security Officer to the President, State House Medical Centre, State House Lagos Liaison Office, Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Bureau of Public Enterprises, National Emergency Management Agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Bureau of Public Procurement, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission and its centres, and Office of the Chief Economic Adviser to the President.
Aso Villa: Analysis of budgets for three years
The government’s last two budgets are the most laughable, wasteful, unsympathetic and economically vile than I have ever seen for years. I am not an economist or financial expert. But, I sure have common sense, native intelligence.
To be continued
Thought for the week
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”