Adeleke Adesanya

Adeleke Adesanya

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Monday, May 23, 2016

The Legend of Andrew Zubair

In all my teaching experience, in Suruleria University and elsewhere, I have never heard of the chronicles of an academic career to rival that of Andrew Zubair in its ability to inspire. It is the story of a young man who found out that doing what was just enough was never going to be sufficient but going for the extra notch leads to astounding scores.

I remember when he first came on campus, with all his worldly belongings in a nylon bag. He was dressed in what might have been military extras, a khaki trouser that was once black but was now light grey, leather hand me down shoes that might have had battlefield experience and a black t-shirt. Over the next four years, this costume he wore always till you began to wonder whether they were really clothes or body paint tattooed on him in that peculiar design. The son of a soldier father and itinerant trader mother, he had an important goal in mind. Even before he completed his admission process, he was at my office to extract the fulfilment of a promise.

In those days, the government of the city of Suruleria instituted a scholar scheme for outstanding students in the university entrance exam. The first five best students get to receive tuition free education and a yearly honorarium, sufficiently generous to cover other essentials, for the entire period of their degree course. That year, A.Z as I came to know him, had come fifth in the entrance exams and came calling to claim his entitlements. There four others like him but they were so unlike him, in poverty, in single mindedness, in tenacity.
It was my first year as Student’s Affairs Officer and those were trying times for the funding of education in Suruleria. How was I to tell this indigent scholar, that he had been sold on a myth? For then, there was a new government who did not care much about honouring promises. In the blink of an eye, all in the name of economic reconstruction, a hunk of funding was cut off from the education sector. Over the next few years, the austerity measures were tightened till soon it became tough call getting sufficient funding to pay salaries; at the end, the academic staff had to be right sized. Endowment of scholarships was a luxury we could not always afford.

Somehow, I was able, with accustomed tactfulness, to convey to this skinny young man with small head and big bulging eyes, that the scholarship he won had been scrapped. I remember he told me that he had postponed his further education twice when he got previous admission offers without a scholarship, so this disappointment was a pathetic. But I found the verve to advise him that if he could somehow come across a way finish the sophomore year, he could compete on merit basis for a yearly scholarship for the best three students in each class in the coming year. His eyes lit up like huge megawatts fluorescent bulbs when he heard these. Yes, he would go for that challenge. He had a little cash saved over the past few years; he would be able to pay for the first semester. If only he could get a job on campus. I promised to help. Two weeks later, Andrew Zubair accepted appointment as a janitor.

I dispatched the other four also but they were not so indigent, had parents who could sponsor them. I never saw them again. For some time, I forgot about AZ also. It was all part of my job to tell them (students) the fact as it is. If in the process, I am able to inspire a few and solve some problems, I am just doing my job. But during the preparation for the next annual budget, I had the presence of mind to ensure that three annual scholarships were provided for in each class set as was the custom in previous years. Well, we get to propose but top management dispose. Five scholarship slots were eventually approved but they would be competed for at each level by all the departments. The news of this slight change in the modus operandi of the scholarship scheme was not disclosed to the student populace until the beginning of the next year.

Our good friend, A.Z, by the way, by then had topped his class but was sixth when graded across departments. The disappointing news (for A.Z, that is) about the change in the structure of the scholarships was announced via the Student Affairs Department notice board. The also-rans were advised to strive harder as henceforth, only five scholarship positions will be available across all departments each year.

So we started another new year with new conflicts, new challenges, and new problems. Only we strive to cure them with the same old solutions. AZ was now in his second year, and as I learnt, was doing well at his janitor job. He even got promoted to Janitor grade II. Being a janitor is not exactly sexy but it kept him in the school. I was amazed that he could juggle his fulltime job with janitorial responsibilities but a guy had to do what he had to do. At some point, I would sometimes wonder how AZ might have felt about all the disappointments meted to him. Whatever were his misgivings, he did not allow them to affect him as he once again led his class, this time coming fifth across departments.

Unfortunately, the trustees of the endowment fund set up to finance the scholarship did not live up to their promises. They claimed that the funds were invested in stocks which had performed badly in the capital market. As a result, it was prudent to limit the scholarships to the best three students, instead of five. The University management accepted these recommendations in full and implemented it. Thus, no scholarship was offered to AZ in his third academic year.

I was at the staff club, nursing chilled beer and hot spicy pepper soup with my colleagues when I heard of his third year results. His head of department, who was elated, ordered a round of drinks for everyone. AZ had scored all A+, a perfect 5.0 GPA for that year, in some cases scoring 100% in some courses. It was a first time in the history of Suruleria University. I told myself that was no stopping AZ; he will finally get the scholarship he deserved in his final year.
I heard that when the news first reached the students, there was a “spontaneous procession” through the centre of the Campus, with AZ being carried shoulder high. He had become an unlikely hero of some sort, an icon of resilience. The Campus Press Corps interviewed him and AZ was guileless enough to declare that he was motivated to achieve the feat by the desire to earn the annual scholarship so that he could quit his janitor job. That month’s edition of The Campus News carried a banner headline, “He Got All It From A To Z!”

You can imagine my peculiar discomfort when it became my lot to announce that there was a suspicion of fraud in the management of the university treasury department and moneys endowed to fund the annual scholarship, amongst other such funds, might have been looted. A panel of enquiry was set up to determine the circumstances involved in the purported disappearance of the funds, whether due process had been followed in the management of the funds, to identify persons culpable in the matter and to make recommendations for better management of such funds as well as to suggest action to be taken against officers of the University that were found to be fraudulent or negligent. In short, there would be no scholarship for Andrew Zubair in his fourth and, as it was, his year.

The Student Union took up his case and threatened to boycott lectures if the scholarship was not granted. In response, I was directed to inform the student body that the full weight of the University’s byelaws as well as Suruleria’s criminal legislations will be brought to bear on any one who foments trouble. AZ was smart enough to disassociate himself from all planned protests. There is a lot of wisdom in the sayings that an orphan should not get wounded at his behind, where his arms can not reach to nurse it and that one does not ask for who killed his father until he has learnt how to wield a cutlass deftly. Personally, I suggested that the Student Union put its money was its mouth is by sponsoring AZ for a year but they appeared unmotivated so to do. So AZ kept his janitor job.

If a man could embody temperance, it was AZ. As if the emotional effect of his failure was not enough, he became the butt of disparaging comments from all sides. It was his bad luck, ill fated ness, negative karma that was his undoing. Why would someone named Andrew not come to church? Imagine; if he was a prayer warrior, all the hosts of heaven would have come down to fight his cause. The Muslims washed their hands off him; after all, it must have been his secret sins that he was now making penance for. Even the Kegites Society, Ilya Suru added a new prayer to the coterie of their customary rites: “May your case not be like that an uninitiated student, who passed his exams A to Z but never got the prize on prize giving day. Mayan!”

AZ was not distracted by all this. Indeed, it somehow seemed to strengthen him. He finished his final year on top of his class, and as the overall best graduating student. He continued to report at his janitor job until he went for youth service. I did not see him often after that and we did not converse person to person till the graduation ceremony.

On the graduation day, the crowd was agog. The legend of Andrew Zubair, of a young man who did what he should do but whom life dealt unfairly with in return, had spread abroad by word of mouth. A few days before, a soft sell magazine had carried his story with a front page rider. The report was made up of half truths and bare faced lies because the editor relied mainly on hearsay and popular rumours but the naked facts were still evident. So all of Suruleria came to see this myth-i-fied man they had read about.

As the class valedictorian, he expressed the usual courtesies to the dignitaries present. If he felt awkward about the crowd gazing at him like he was daemon, the paparazzi snapping away ala rock star, his comportment did not show it. In his speech, he thanked the school, perhaps tongue in cheek, for educating him, not only in academics but also in life, and expressed a desire to be part of the future history of the school, as well as he was part of its past. Done with his speech, he walked towards his Excellency, Prime Minister of Suruleria to collect his scroll, graduating with Bachelors Degree in Mathematics, First Class. I did not pay much attention to that part of the ceremony; it was a boring rite. I expected that the usual handshakes and a short photo session. So I turned on the radio on my cell phone and listened to the latest premier league result via my Bluetooth earpiece.

But I noticed the clapping did not subside. Indeed, the crowd had risen in excitement to give a standing ovation. Many were snapping away with the camera on their cell phones. I could not see the dais through the standing crowd so I asked my partner, who was also standing, what had happened. Excitedly, she replied with a smile from here to there,
“The Prime Minister has just announced the appointment of AZ as a junior minister for youth development…

Monday, May 16, 2016

Road Trip to Juju Rock



backview

Jebba is a little town in Kwara State, on the border with Niger State. It was briefly the first capital of the British protectorate of Northern Nigeria. Juju Rock, my destination, is a island-hill formation in the River Niger, off Jebba. Like many such rocky hills in the middle belt, it is quite massive.  If you have ever paid to see Olumo Rock, you should ask for your money back as it is many times larger and the climb, higher. Plus you have to cross the River Niger on a frail wooden canoe to get there.

My first sight of Juju Rock , was as a teen. I had spent some time holidaying with relatives at Life Camp, Jebba . Life Camp is the residential estate of NEPA. During our time there, we went on an excursion to see the usual sites: the burial site of Mongo Park, the monolith erected to honour him and an extensive tour of the hydro electric power station. It was impressive to my teenage eyes. But just before we left the power station, I sighted from afar, a rocky formation, right in the middle of the river. I said to Dad, “Can we go there?,” pointing at the hill. He did not respond.

Fast forward to couple of years ago. I was on eBay, minding my business when I came across a familiar image. It was a postcard of the same hill. Some white dude travelled to Jebba, took pictures of iconic sites in the town like the market place, the railway station and of course Juju Rock, and made postcards out of them. I googled for more information and realised that tourists have been visiting and picnicking on the hill for years. At that point, I made up my mind to go back for a revisit, intending this time, to land on the hill.

Doing the maths was easy. Ilorin was about six hours journey, driving from Lagos. Jebba was a bit more. I have driven to Ilorin twice before. There was a decent Guest House at Life Camp, Jebba, that I remember and I could lodge in. Three days was enough, two days driving to and fro and resting, and one whole day in Jebba. It could not be too hard. The only essentials were good music and a travelling companion, to make the journeys easier to bear. However, I almost gave up , having been turned down by practically every male relative or close friend I had. Unexpectedly, a complete stranger agreed, during a social media chat, to join me on my odyssey. I could never have expected that.

Early on 17th September, I met my co-traveller, for the very first time. We got in the Hyundai Accent and set out on our journey at about 9 am. As we drove on, we got to know each other better. Save for some bad patches on the road and some ongoing maintenance work, the forward journey went smoothly. Though we stopped for breakfast and bought bathroom essentials at Ibadan, we made it to Ilorin before 5 p.m. It seemed we would be in Jebba before six. But we were wrong.

To get to Jebba, we had the option of using either the old single lane road or the new dual lane one. I am aware that the New Road has been under construction for over five years with little progress. I was advised at Ilorin not to attempt the New Road as it is not motor-able. So we took the Old Road.  It turned out to be a long stretch of mostly earth road, with broken down lorries obstructing the way. I often had to drive on an off-road bush part, just to move ahead. Finally, we arrived at Jebba at around 9 pm. The town was asleep.

I drove across the Jebba Bridge, heavily guarded by the Nigerian Army to Life Camp, where I intended to lodge at the Guest House. It was easy to locate, with the detailed directions of some locals we met along the way. However, on reaching the Guest House, we were informed by the armed security there that it had been closed. The new owners of the privatised Jebba Dam (and Kainji Dam) had decided to stop offering the Guest House to outsiders commercially. Luckily, the same security folks were helpful in giving directions to the other safe place Colony Guest House, that was in the paper mill residential estate. I drove through the night, back to town and to the other camp where we checked into Colony Guest House. It was past 10 pm and we were fatigued but grateful that we had arrived safely.

The next morning, I had the leisure to do a little reconnaissance of the town, in day light. The notable industries in the town were the railway, the power station and the paper mill. With the downturn of the latter two, Jebba was now mainly a transit town for transporters going up north. Bad roads and according to local reports, strife between Niger and Kwara state local government officials was impacting access to its iconic tourism sites. The guest house in which I stayed was a shadow of its past glory. Some light sockets and taps did not work but the staff were hospitable and engaging. I got talking to the housekeeper, who

happened to be a former NEPA staff. He agreed to be our adhoc tour guide.
We had breakfast at Jebba Dam Power Station staff canteen and met a friendly top personnel at the dam, who enabled our tour of the facility.  Unfortunately, I did not have a memory card in my camera, so no pictures. Plus, my primary interest was Juju Hill. So we left the power station and went back to town, I got new memory cards, then engaged another tour guide, who was a local.
With the local guide, we then visited Mongo Park’s cenopath and park. The park had a wonderful view and I took lots of pictures. I wished to stay longer but it was past eleven and I had yet to reach Juju Hill. So we left and took a wooden canoe ride across the river, to our island destination. At about noon, we finally arrived.

The island was uninhabited and much of the rock was un-trespassed. My guide said there was a path carved through the rock that leads from a side to the other. I wanted to climb the hill but that was not to be. Much of it was overgrown with shrubs and thorny weeds and you needed a machete to cut a way through. I sighted numerous birds, some monkeys and a few bush rodents. I settled on discovering as much as I could on foot without climbing instruments and taking pictures.

As I wandered around, I noticed that parts of the island was being used for maize and rice farming (under the Fadama project).  There was a solitary bull roaming about and my guide explained that the island was occasionally used as an abattoir. On a section of the rocks , there was a graffiti written by some guy, B. Paree in 1968. After about four hours on the island, we got back to into our canoe, and sailed clockwise round the hill taking more pictures, and then back to the Jebba mainland to prepare for our homeward journey.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Ten Peaceful Protests Commandments (Nigeria)

Dear Friend,
A season of discontent is upon us again. You have heard of government’s recent decision and you want to join in the protests. We have argued about it all before. You are aware that you and I at least agree on one thing and that is your right to freely protest. These are uncertain times however. And I see in your fervour a certain hope for this country. I want to see you come back in peace, healthy enough to argue with me again. That is why I write this precise manual on best practise procedures to ensure a peaceful protest and your safe return.

Do not bother querying my credentials. I will be frank and admit that I have never taken part in any public protest in Nigeria or elsewhere. I can write protest letters, sign petitions, and even place a phone call or two. But I don’t do Sit-Ins, Million Men March or Occupy Wherever. I value my physical security and have always been cynical of all leadership including that of every opposition body.

As a student, I noticed that Student Union President’s do the talking while their followers receive the hard side of police baton during protests. I know that those who died during violent protests of 1993 never got to receive political appointments. I know that many who were apparently ready to die for that cause turned coat and made it into a source of livelihood. I know that many people do not want peaceful protests. Some nouveau leaders want to climb the corpse of martyrs to renown. Thieves want a little rowdiness so they can steal. And then, there are fifth columnists, SSS officers and paid agent provocateurs. You will learn to identify them while reading this piece.

One, you must plan for the protest properly. Revolutions do not happen by accident. Know when it will start and when you will leave. There is nothing called indefinite protests, everything must have a beginning and an end. Know what you will do and what you will not have a part in. There are many ways to make your voice heard. The people who write articles, who protest on twitter, who telephone radio stations do not have two heads. You don’t have to be the foot soldier in the march, that confronts the mobile policeman.

Two, if you must go out, err on the path of caution. Consider writing you local police DPO for approval first. I know you have a right to protest but it is his duty to maintain law and order. If you do not have permission, it is common sense that he will not guarantee your safety. He might refuse but if you receive approval, it is guaranteed that you will have police officers to secure your procession. They will not tear gas you if you received approval. They will even protect you from touts who may want to hijack your protest. You may belittle this point but asking for permission earns you respect. You are advertising that you are really a leader.

Three, in case of public protests, choose the locations carefully. Choose play areas and parks in suburban areas. Do not protest along main roads. Never ever burn tyres. Do not hold sticks, tree branches or anything that may be misconstrued as a weapon. Do not burn explosives aka banger. Do not harass motorists.  You must be unarmed and appear to be harmless. You are a well bred gentleman afterall.

Four, dress like a responsible person. You may be tempted to wear jeans and a tee shirt but I will suggest a suit or blazer. If you wear native attire, don a cap. Dress as you will like to appear before a judge for bail and in all likelihood you will not need to. With your smart dressing, the police will assume you are a lawyer or a representative of some foreign NGO.  You want them to make that kind of mistake. Never ever show your naked chest or wear a bandanna no matter the heat.

Five, before going for a protest, take care to telephone each media organisation in your vicinity and inform them of your protest. Or better still, request to visit them and make your visit to their office your protest. If you can get foreign press too, then fate has favoured you. If you cannot get the media to cover your protest, postpone it. In this day and age, a revolution that is not televised did not happen.

Six, part of your planning is the preparation of handbills and banners. Use your wits to come up with catchy, even funny choice of words. Design your handbills like you are selling a church retreat. Smile when you go out to evangelise. You may not agree with me your attempt to mould public opinion has made you a politician and you must learn to act the role appropriately.

Seven, do not march to the Governor’s office, the Senate or Representatives building unless you have previously secured an appointment. The security men that guard these places are bored and have been looking for action, any action. Your attempts to break protocol may be repelled with the direst deterrents.  If on the other hand, you are able to secure an appointment, try not to smile too happily when you get the customary photo opportunity.

Eight, there will be many who are not of similar persuasion as yourself. They are not necessarily against you, sometimes they just don’t care. If in a democracy you have a right of dissent, accept that they too have the right to be aloof. As for those who do not agree with you, do not get into any argument. Flee from them the way Born Again Christians are told to flee from Jehovah Witnesses. Public arguments too easily turn violent and are not subject to our customarily civil rules of debating.

Nine, it is one thing to have a plan; it is another to actualise it. If you plan to walk a mile and common sense tells you to stop at half, it is not cowardice. He who protests and runs away will live to protest another day. But be wary of those that push you to go a mile and a half. I am speaking metaphorically. Anyone who tells you he is ready to die or throws a missile at a policeman is the enemy. Ditto those who carry concealed weapons or argue with a man with a gun.   Ditto arsonists. Ditto the bearer of fantastic tales about grave casualties in other scenes of protest.  Anyone who calls a civil demonstration a call to revolution. Watch these ones. They are either fools or fifth columnists.

Ten, you must remember the practical issues on the D-day. Take some water with you. Eat a good breakfast; you don’t know for sure where or when the next one will be. Avoid any form of intoxication. Do not rub your eyes with kerosene; rather leave if the police start shooting tear gas. After tear gas, things generally go from bad to worse, I am not even sure the Nigerian Police have any stock of plastic bullets. Carry a small camera and a cell phone and make a call at the first sign of trouble. Have a lawyer on speed dial. Take your doctor’s prescription along if any, as well as your hospital card showing your blood type. Carry a valid national I D card. Be alert and prepared to flee to safety, when necessary.

I have written this because of my awareness of the attendant risks in the society we live in and the fragility of human life. Don’t be a dead hero, martyrdom is generally overrated. Someday, you will read this again and laugh at me for being so worried about you. When that day comes, I will be happy to buy us both a drink, relieved that this epistle has served its purpose.

(The Ten Peaceful Protests Commandments (Nigeria) was published on January 6th, 2012)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Coffee with the Quakers

Anyone looking in through the glass from outside would think we were just having a coffee break, while working on a Sunday. We talked about politics, heard a first person account of the civil demonstrations against planned cuts in child services. Someone brought up the issue of expected redundancies at the museums and I wondered whether it would have been preferable to charge entrance fees for adults instead. The majority did not seem to agree with me. I was having my first meeting with the Quakers of Birmingham, otherwise known as the Society of Friends. They are a religious organisation, founded in the 1630s and infamous for being non-conformists. But I am getting ahead of myself.
In the middle of the healthy debates, an elderly lady asked me if I had attended a Friend’s meeting before. I said, “No”. Truth is, I had attempted to find their meeting place the previous week but had a difficult time locating them and arrived just in time for coffee. I decided not to partake then.  Their meeting rooms are tucked discretely into the middle of Bull Street, at Birmingham’s commercial centre. The premises, without any signage, are better known for hosting seminars and business meetings. Inside, the decor was stylish in a minimalist, business like fashion.

The elderly lady asked how I heard of them. I told her of a handbill I had received in my post graduate student induction pack. But once again, the truth is a bit more complicated. Many years prior, I read Charles Colson’s Born Again. The lasting impression that book made on me was that President Nixon was a Quaker. Later, I found out, President Hoover was also a Quaker. They were arguable the two most unpopular US presidents before George.W.Bush.  Both of them demonstrated placid sedateness in the midst of the worst public storms and they credited their faith for the fortitude to stay calm. I was intrigued; what made these guys tick?

I got a clue when I joined them for worship last Sunday. It was devoid of any ceremony; we sat for an hour in easy silence. Quakers believe God is an inner light that should speak to us as we wait on it. Sitting in meditative silence, they waited to hear. I was informed that sometimes, someone who was inspired will speak up but that did not happen on my watch. It was a refreshing silence, so humbling to listen in prayer for a change. The challenge was, of course, not in abstaining from speaking but in quieting the mind. Anyone who has taking part in meditation would know that thoughts seem to wait for one to be calm before intruding. But I can imagine a habit of silent meditations being useful in dealing with worries.  After the silent service, there were some brief announcements, and then we had coffee together.

A first time visitor would like to ask Quakers when their service starts. They like to say it is immediately after worship stops. Quakers have been conscientious objectors throughout their existence and made history as a result. They founded Pennsylvania to escape persecution.  They were pioneers in the anti-slavery and women’s rights movements.They still campaign against the death sentence. Perhaps, in the UK, much is made of their past because today they have shrunk in size, numbering 25000. The meeting I attended had only eleven members in attendance, excluding myself. The other thing I was made to realize is that English Quakers have an inclusive, flexible and unwritten theology that now includes atheist Quakers. What struck me most about them was what was absent; loud prayers, direct exhortations.I left feeling I had spent a Sunday morning rather well and thinking, I could do this again. And that was one more item off my “Things to Do before I Die List”.

Monday, April 25, 2016

IBB and the Nigerian Story

Nigerians hate to love IBB. For those who don’t know who IBB is, it is the nickname for former military ruler, Babangida. When you have learnt to love to hate someone for almost three decades, it kind of gets confusing. You hate to love him. You love to hate him. And in that confusion, you get a classically defined, part sadomasochist, part Stockholm syndrome relationship. But what is this hold that Babangida has on Nigerians? Or perhaps, what is the Nigerian fixation with this former dictator? Permit me to take you on a journey in history.

Nigeria in early 1993 was a very complicated society, not as simple and straight forward as the Press like to think it is, nowadays. On one hand, there was a dictator who had promised several times to hand over power. On the other were pliant and corruptible politicians, willing to do anything for power. If the truth be told, many Nigerians agreed with Babangida’s policy of screening his successors. The political class was such a rotten lot that in exasperation, he (Babangida) declared, ‘I don’t know who will succeed me but I know who will not’.  The political waters were so mucky, having been sullied by the latter day politicians, mostly opportunists who had made a fortune fornicating with the military, that those who know better, like the late Bola Ige , decided to ‘siddon look’ and abstain from partisan politics.

People forget that the military once decreed political parties into existence and these opportunists still jostled to contest, confident that once they entered office, the financial outlay incurred in fixing the elections would be readily recouped. They forget that Babangida commissioned the manifesto for both PDP and NRC, under which elections were held. Those were the heady days of sandwich politics when loafs of bread were stuffed with twenty naira notes at party conventions. After one election, it was said that the rigging was free and fair.  If after their trysts together, the politicians had lost the respect of even their benefactor, Babangida, the ordinary Nigerian didn’t really care.

At a stage, a close associate of IBB and populist philanthropist entered the political equation. After apparently seeking Babangida’s blessing, he deployed the best political campaign money could buy, the kind we had not seen before and ever since. But there were doubts along the way that the military establishment will not change their mind. I recall that some days before the election, Beko Ransome-Kuti was, in a radio interview, expressed his conviction that the military was not ready to handover, that the elections would be cancelled. It then it dawned on me that it was all a nullity. There was no logical reason why the elections should hold. If IBB was a logical person, why should he change his mind then? What was the fundamental difference between Abiola and the others except that he had more money and loved reciting proverbs?

On the Election Day, I did not vote.  I sat in my room and read Campaign for Democracy (CD) literature. I had a bet with a friend that the election would be cancelled. He never paid but I enjoy to this day, the satisfaction that I did not vote that day. It was much later that I learnt that the June 12 elections were also boycotted by MOSOP, triggering events that would lead to the death of the Ogoni 13 and later the Ogoni 9, including Ken Saro Wiwa. In between the many waves of crises that engulfed Nigeria, Babangida was able to engineer a political transition that ensured that for the next seventeen years, he and the military power block has chosen their successors, with little opposition from any section of the Nigerian society. These are the facts. Whatever opposition to the military power group has effectively crumbled over the years and Babangida is right to say there is no viable alternative it.

The sad fact is that, in the experience of ordinary Nigerians, the era of Babangida has become the good old days. Infrastructure has become worse, the standard of living has fallen, and little progress has been made in giving marginalized communities a sense of belonging. The energy sector is nearly comatose. To many, Nigeria today is clearly worse off than in Babangida times. Now, we could do the easy thing and blame it on him but frankly, should there not be a statute of limitations on the blame game? It has been 17 years! In that time, several civilian governors have proven that when it comes to embezzling, they could easily outdo the military.

And just like Nigerians were convinced to recycle Obasanjo, the refrain is now out for Babangida, again. I will be the first to argue that political jobbers are behind this campaign. Babangida is assumed to be mythically rich, in stupendous proportions. Nigerian elections are expensive affairs and a candidate of the caliber of IBB will be able to raise resources and favors that will assure his close disciples of a highly rewarding stewardship.

Then I read that President Jonathan’s posters are now all over Abuja, in spite of loud protestations from his (Jonathan’s) camp. We have heard that before, haven’t we, many times, the reluctant leader syndrome? Babangida taught them this shit, and 17 years later, they still can’t be any more creative. Little incidents like that bring us face to face with our fear that, should Babangida decide to effectively contest, he will meet no opposition. Babangida’s comment is just to send a signal to his constituency within the reigning power block that all is well. If all else fails, he will step back in.

(Initially published on April 29th, 2010)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Lost in Birmingham

I have often found that when I put pen to paper, it is easier to express my feelings and thoughts than the sight and sounds around me. Perhaps, this is because I am often so lost in thought, and I don’t look around so much, and this is why, I find, I keep my losing my way. Perhaps this also allows me to say a lot about the environment in a way a visual description would not allow. Nothing expresses better the warm welcome I received on arrival in Birmingham than how my mind related to its cold weather.

Getting lost in Lagos was no big deal. I confess my propensity to get lost, in the marketplace of my mind, is an old habit. Many a times I had driven straight ahead to Ojota, on the way to Victoria Island, because at that split second when I should have turned right towards the Third Mainland Bridge, I was lost in thought, pondering perhaps the similarities between Buddhism’s belief in reincarnation and that of Yoruba native beliefs. I would find this ironic and maybe funny, considering I had, un-Buddha-like, been unable to drive “in the moment”.

But getting lost in Lagos is a piece of cake. You might have to drive against traffic, “one way” in local parlance, to get back in track. Or you could hail an Okada, the commercial motorcyclist, to take you through back roads, back to your destination. And then, as a Yoruba proverb hints, you aren’t yet really lost in Lagos if you do ask around for directions.Getting lost in Brume is a different pot of stew. I am not so crazy as to attempt driving myself; they drive on the wrong side of the road, you see. My right to travel is entirely dependent on route schedules determined by local transport companies.

As soon as I find a seat on a bus and look through the pane onto those cold, snow covered streets, my mind retreats into its marketplace, ruminating over morbid thoughts like, if one was to die of exposure and is buried in this cold, frozen land, would the cadaver ever know corruption? It is not entirely strange that over and over again, I miss my bus stop and get driven around the outer circle of the town. Once I made a mistake of coming down from the bus. Picture me, unwisely clad in a suit, fending off snowflakes with bare freezing fingers. I tried to cheer myself up by singing lustily the chorus of Don Mclean’s American Pie with extra emphasis on “this would be the day that I die!”

And then I start asking for directions, which is not as simple as it appears. For one, the aborigines (whether white, Indian or Jamaican), I find, do not speak the English Language. Their accents are so thick; it is virtually another dialect, nay, language. It sometimes makes more sense to acknowledge the verbal challenges and try to communicate via sign language. Now they, I mean the natives, would politely go through detailed explanations of buses I should take and changes I must make, while I put on my best Nigerian smile. But in the end, I am in no wit wiser.

A few times, when the bus driver appeared African, I wrongly assume that linguistic challenges would easily be resolved if not eliminated. Alas, this clan is mostly of taciturn types, more eloquent in communicating by nods and grunts. I once wondered whether they had signed a pact not to speak in complete sentences in order not to betray their Nigerian accent. As if that is a bad thing…

In the end, I learnt to cope by using the Internet to research my route and printing detailed maps. I also avoid traveling at night, when visibility may not be as clear. On the bright side, getting lost has its benefits. It is the perfect alibi for lateness. It makes for humorous jokes when with good company. And if you are a stranger and you really want to know the town, you really should get lost sometime. It is wonderful, the things you find and the people you meet, when you get lost, sometimes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Knock, knock

Hiiiyee!

Anybody home?

Am back.

I started "kiibaati~mania" eons ago. Kiibaati roughly translates "impossible to fail". The optimism of the young. I had the future all planned like a summer rave. Those were the good times...

 A part of me still lived here and never left. But many things changed." Even such is Time, that takes in trust. Our youth, our joys, our all we have,..."

The blog is now about the present,as it was in the past. Eclectic. Whatever passes through my mind in the now, whether from the past, present or whatever.

If you are new here,no biggie. Every one is new here. Hit me up, let's have fun.
Here or on twitter @martinsactually .