Jogbo is unstable. Our leaders are looting. The masses are thirsty. People are starving. Our government should wake up.
– (Saworo-Ide, 1999)
Post-colonial Nigeria has become a complex forceful contraption where a few corners what belongs to the majority and justify their actions with deceit, force and various silencing mechanisms. Though its handlers claim to be practising democracy, it is a democratic experience which pushes agenda through warped logic and subtle dictatorship. While the creation of the world started with light, Nigeria thrives on generator economy with billions budgeted yearly to service government offices. Regardless of the principal stakeholders, its handlers shocked their countrymen and women with the increment of electricity bill and pump price of petroleum product. This is done in a bid to meet the demands of money-lending neo-colonialists’ institution.
Without electricity, companies privately generate electricity while consumers pick up the bills due to increasing cost of production. Informal business men and women cannot thrive due to unease conditions of doing business. The electricity distribution companies cannot provide meter and their workers enrich themselves through estimated billing and private sorting. Communities purchase electricity cables and transformers. Yet, they pay the electricity distribution companies that will make money from it for installation. It has not been this bad when Abolore Adigun (9ce) sang about how poor economic management was making Nigerians ‘mad’. Olamide, also known as ‘Badoo’ followed this up with ‘Poverty die’ song, as Nigeria leads as the global headquarters of the poor. Falz de Bahd guy was worried about the country when he released ‘This is Nigeria’ to unpack the rape attitude of the Nigerian system where corrupt people continue to win elections and are admitted into the hall of fame of ‘Lapite’s party in jogbo kingdom. From ‘change’, people of Jogbo added 4 + 4 = 8 and got next level treatment from ‘Lapite’ and his parasitic advisers.
Directed by Tunde Kelani and released in 1999, “Saworo-Ide (Brass Bells)”, a Mainframe production is an allegory that captures what was and what is affecting Nigeria. It shows how the kingdom of Jogbo was subverted by king Lapite and his parasitic chiefs who were instrumental to his ascendancy to the throne. Just like the bitter policy of hike in fuel price against the promise of fixing local refinery which would have made it needless importing fuel or paying ‘frauducy’ otherwise called subsidy, people of Jogbo were served bitter pills of lack of electricity, water, hospitals and other essential things of life. Just like the civic public are being clamped down or are shrinking in Nigeria, the media, activists and labour leaders are either silenced with death or arrested through the instrumentality of the police.
Lapite and his chiefs opened their economy to foreigners to destroy their kingdom through reckless exploitation of forest resources which is the mainstay of Jogbo economy. Lapite and his chiefs pretended to be interested in developing the kingdom but arranged with foreign investors to send their share of the loot to their foreign accounts. Lapite’s chiefs approach the investor for their share. Lagbayi, the investor, insulted those in power of asking to be paid kickbacks even when king Lapite has agreed to favour them with laws. The Foreign Direct Investor insults Jogbo chiefs who ask for kickbacks saying ‘the dogs want theirs, the goats, the frogs, and even puffy-cheeked cats too with their flowing robes and tall caps, peddling dubious documents but we will not forget you. We shall award you contracts and release funds for you’. The chiefs also negotiated that their kickbacks be paid into foreign accounts. Through this, Jogbo people only see companies with little or no impact felt since monies return to investor’s enclave through transactional leadership structure.
Lapite’s policies strain the hapless with consequences of rising poverty, insecurity, banditry, and infrastructural deficit. This twist of fate unleashed by Lapite against his social contract with people of Jogbo which is to protect local industry, conscripted Jogbo people to mobilise against foreign investors working illegally across the kingdom. Their leaders were arrested and the press who dared to ask questions during king Lapite’s anniversary was arrested. Musicians sing about the restiveness in jogbo occasioned by bad policies of Lapite. An elderly man at the doorstep of the king, Opalaba had warned the chiefs not to allow Lapite swear to an oath or take traditional incision of saworo-ide. He reasoned that those who become king in Jogbo don’t become rich because they serve their people but whomever wishes to be rich must not commit himself to the traditional oath taking. Lapite acted the script and failed to take the oath which would have made him accountable to the people, hence his daring and despotic attitude.
Saworo-ide as a drum of change was emplaced to hold Onijogbo accountable. Not taking oath by Lapite, exposed the people of Jogbo to heartless policy because Lapite was not bound to them. Nigeria’s own Lapite has failed to ensure local refining of jogbo’s mainstay commodity which is against his promised next level. When jogbo people protested against king ‘Jona’, they described his reign as fraudulent and clueless. If elected, Lapite, a former military dictator promised to check graft, improve Jogbo’s economy and ultimately end insecurity. But six-years into the reign of Lapite, people of jogbo are poorer and more miserable than they were under deposed king Jona. Lapite and his family who promised to fix community health and stop people from going to foreign land to seek medical help leads the team of the privileged who seek medical help in foreign land.
Not even the mighty ‘kuruna’ plague which restricted his movement and shut the economy of Jogbo and those of other kingdoms makes him rethink his selfish disposition. Rather, Lapite’s queen was among the first to ride on state horse to the land of foreign investors to see her doctor while millions of Jogbo people die of malaria because Lapite could not provide quality health care for them.
In contemporary jogbo, lyrics of songs by town musicians reflect the confounding state of jogbo kingdom where it is hard for people to plan their lives due to incoherent policies of Lapite. Informal discussions among jogbo people query why King Lapite should spend billions on refineries that is not refining products and no one is made to answer for it? They cannot understand why Lapite creates loopholes for parasitic associates and now asks the masses to face the consequences? To them, is increment in the prices of utilities the new normal for jogbo people to live with? They are also worried why hitherto active pressure groups and Unions are docile allowing Lapite’s reign to make life unbearable for the masses. The hapless think the pressure groups and Unions are co-creators of present day hardship facing jogbo kingdom. This is a kingdom where the minimum wage is $78 dollars per month. While some will conform and adjust to the new normal hardship, those unable to reach their goals will innovate with new dimensions of corruption and criminality.
Is there any difference between king Jona’s reign and king Lapite? Were jogbo people right to have rejected Lapite three times before a ranking chief positioning himself to become king in the future packaged Lapite as the messiah that Jogbo needs? Opalaba in Saworo-Ide warns us to weigh the consequences of our actions before going ahead with it. He sings: Kò ì yé won, yí ò yé won lóla, (They can’t understand now, they will understand tomorrow). As at today, Jogbo is bitter; her people are bitter and more hopeless than ever before. The tunnel is getting longer to see any light. The kingdom still awaits Bosipo (the restorer), who will use agogo eewo (gong of taboo oath) to check parasitic chiefs and make them accountable to the people of Jogbo so that this kingdom can be great again.
Dr Tade, a sociologist, writes via [email protected]