By: Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, these are interesting times in our dear beloved country. High-wired politics is here again and there are many gladiators already queueing up for the biggest prize of all, the Presidency. The latest political figure to throw his hat into the ring is the President of the Nigerian Senate, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who declared his interest in dramatic fashion, two days ago, whilst addressing a gathering of some selected Nigerian youths.
As always, I have continued to follow developments on this latest declaration on social media. While many were jolted by Saraki’s decision, I was not surprised at all. I had written about his decision a few months ago. At that time, I was scorned at, as usual, by those who have no access to news or newsmakers but come online just to attack and disparage everyone. Anyone who understands the game of politics would have realised that the main reason Saraki has been under ceaseless attack and near annihilation is because of his long suspected Presidential ambition. I will explain further, very shortly. But before I do, let me say something for free. I know, many are likely to dismiss Saraki as a smaller fry to President Muhammadu Buhari. Let me plead with anyone who cares to listen that I don’t see Saraki as someone joking, or testing waters, as some people are suggesting. I have studied the man like a book and have come to discover some of the things that make him tick. Saraki’s biggest strength and threat to his adversaries is his calm mien. He is a man of few words. He is deep and calculating. He loves to be underrated. Then he strikes.
I was one of those who used to dismiss his rumoured Presidential ambition as totally impossible. Several times, I had omitted his name when writing about possible Presidential aspirants and he would ask why I thought he was not qualified to govern Nigeria. And my stock answer was usually that the geographical location of Kwara and his own cultural roots naturally and automatically disqualified him. I used to ask, almost rhetorically, where would he pick his running mate from since many Northerners may want to see him as a Yorubaman and thus a Southerner. He finally made his pitch on this vexed issue to me at great length and with strong conviction, when we met, last week in Ilorin. Let me now take you through the mind-set of this enigmatic politician who may yet spring another surprise on you and I, and cause an unexpected revolution in the political landscape and socio-cultural configuration of Nigeria.
I was privileged to sit with Dr Saraki as his guest during the Eid El Kabir festival, in Ilorin. My mission was to penetrate his mind and unravel his mythical essence. I have already met a few other formidable Presidential aspirants such as former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Kano State Governor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, and former Cross River State Governor Mr Donald Duke. I have had brief telephone conversations with the Governor of Sokoto State, Waziri Aminu Tambuwal, the Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Comrade Omoyele Sowore, international motivational speaker Mr Fela Durotoye, BEN Television UK Chairman Mr Alistair Soyode, Finance expert, Mr Tope Fasua but have not had the opportunity of sitting down with them. My encounter with Saraki was extraordinary. He opened up like never before. I have known him a bit since our collaborative work on the Buhari project, but I have never seen him in this form or mood. He was turbocharged and seemed to speak from the heart.
Saraki’s roadmap to victory is simple. Buhari is going to play the usual ethnic card that only a candidate from North West can win a Presidential election in Nigeria. Saraki feels otherwise. He believes that the pro-restructuring crusaders now have an opportunity to make the Presidency available to other Nigerians. He concedes that it may be difficult for any candidate from North West and North East to compete or beat Buhari hands down, despite the fact that PDP parades more experienced politicians and competent aspirants. What is then needed is to keep North Central on lockdown with a popular candidate from that zone. With the support of PDP stalwarts from the other two Northern zones, Buhari’s votes would be whittled down to make up the requisite percentages in terms of spread but no more. He believes that it may be a waste of time and resources trying to compete in the President’s traditional enclave other than to strive to get up to 25%. PDP should instead focus on mobilising the forces from the opposite direction and lockdown four out of the six geo-political zones.
Saraki says he is well-positioned to make this happen. With one leg in the North and another in the South, especially the South West, the people would have a higher stake in the Presidency and this will galvanise more passionate voters. If the PDP presents just anyone, there may be voter apathy and Buhari would coast home to victory. As to where his deputy will come from, it would have to be from the South-East/South-south axis, since he has already covered the South West, technically. Theoretically, this would ignite enthusiasm in that region. He believes the APC has played into his hands somehow by this calculation.
According to Saraki, the only reason Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been fighting him is because he wants to take over from Buhari in 2023. “Where does that then leave the Igbo people who have not been able to produce any Vice President or President since Dr Alex Ekwueme in 1979-1983?” In simple Arithmetic “PDP needs a candidate who can block the South West and the South East simultaneously since Buhari will still run with Osinbajo…” This race is getting mathematically interesting and the Saraki option is looking feasible, I thought. However, Saraki said he was only just starting. He said those days are gone when an individual can instruct people to go out and vote as if they have no minds of their own.
He plans to challenge and tackle Buhari strictly on issues and not pettiness, which he sees to be the current order of the day. He said the world is driven today by knowledge and not by crude force. He said he is better informed on how to resurrect the comatose economy which collapsed because of the over-simplistic and myopic handling of affairs since Buhari took over. “Any student of elementary economics would know that a country can never develop in an atmosphere of obsession for scaremongering, instability, uncertainty, Stone Age policies… Nigeria urgently needs a unifier in deed and not in words… I’m one of the most cosmopolitan leaders around today with every sense of modesty…” Saraki is looking forward to a serious debate between him, Buhari and other candidates on every aspect of daily life in Nigeria. “If Buhari likes, he can stay at home and do the debate by Skype or whatever, but moving forward, we must discuss Nigeria publicly…Anyone wanting to lead a country as important as Nigeria in this century must be someone who can ably represent us in the comity of nations and has a grasp of modern ways of life.”
Saraki says he has matured with time in various offices and his cumulative executive and legislative experiences are almost second to none in the country… “You can see this in the way I have conducted the affairs of the Senate, and we are easily the best, but for the occasional and unfortunate distractions from people who see me as serious threat to their personal ambition. They had to feed the President with lies and destroy our relationship. I did all I could to support the government, but I was constantly harassed and treated like a pariah by those desperate to keep a firm grip on Nigeria…” But he continues to see the positive side of his travails. “Perhaps, I would not have declared interest in this race, but they kept pushing me away, demonising me for no reason, but ,inadvertently, they made me very popular by their action and some of those who never liked me started pitying me as a victim of oppression. They made it possible for me to clear my name and reputation at the highest level of justice, the Supreme Court… That is how God works… Today they’ve pushed me up to the level I never envisaged because the ways of God are very mysterious… Most people, including members of the international community, now see me as the authentic leader of opposition in Nigeria. I’m grateful to all those who have stood by us against dictatorship and tyranny… The more they attacked me, the higher God lifted me up. It was not a crime to aspire. We were co-joiners in the party, but some felt they were overlords, the owners of heaven and earth, and now God has humbled them…”
On how he hopes to tackle the youths many of who feel dead set against him, he replied: “That is my biggest task because they are my catchment group. I know many have been brainwashed and I don’t blame them. You know when you tell some lies repeatedly, it becomes the truth to some people. For example, they say I’m the most corrupt man on earth. I have looted Kwara State dry. All cheap but dangerous lies. What’s the worth of Kwara State that anyone would have billions to steal. I was born into business. I have been investing as a kid. In fact, as Governor, many contractors never saw me once. They said I was arrogant, but I empowered my cabinet and gave them the opportunity to use their initiatives in handling matters of State. There was no way I would have demeaned myself asking contractors for bribe. Insult, insult upon insults… What else did I want God to do for me?”
How come the perception of corruption against him every time? Saraki said: “You should understand their strategy, Buhari and his people have nothing else to market than to label opponents as looters and Buhari as the last saint standing. As petty as they are, they wrote letters to some foreign security agencies to probe me, and the worst of all to invade my home because they are sure they will find millions of raw cash in foreign currency… Just imagine how they’ve been dragging the office of the number three citizen of Nigeria in the mud because of power… Yet they know all their friends who came into power with nothing, those who never managed any business in their lives, but are billionaires today. That is why nobody outside Nigeria treats their so-called wars seriously. The shame of it is they’ve never rejected any of those they called looters before, whenever they decide to cross over to APC…” On the issue of the collapse of a bank, Societe Generale, under his watch, he expressed great regret and remorse but acknowledges no human being is infallible. He said, at the opportune time, he would lay the details bare for Nigerians to see the incredible effort he and others have put into seeking atonement and forgiveness.
He said the war against corruption would improve and succeed only when it is not subject to the whims of one man sitting on the throne in judgment against sinners and we must strengthen the relevant institutions and put in place genuine checks and balances that knows no sacred cows and treats all Nigerians equally in matters of crime and punishment. “The present style of grabbing and prosecuting Nigerians and convicting them on the pages of newspapers and social media is, to say least, cruel and unfortunate, in modern times.”
Saraki said he has a major blueprint for moving Nigeria forward in the 21st century and this would be offered to Nigerians for proper scrutiny. “They are concrete and cardinal steps towards our redemption not the empty rhetorics of APC that has yielded little in almost four years,” he said, with a tinge of regret and lamentation. He has promised to work with like minds at home and abroad. He is grateful to the members of PDP for the way him and his group were welcomed back so warmly. He said he would never take it for granted that the golden ticket of PDP would be easy to get, but he believes that if it is God’s wish, then he will get the it with gratitude. However, he also said that he is willing to cooperate fully with whosoever is chosen, if that is not his destiny. “Nigerians cannot afford another four years of this sluggish, directionless and vindictive government. It is our duty to work hard by the grace of God and rescue our great nation…” Saraki said with great faith and palpable confidence.
Now, to the clincher and grand finale. Why is APC seeking his impeachment by fire by force? Saraki was ready with a response: “APC knows the Constitution of Nigeria even if they pretend otherwise. They know there is no way they can remove me legally. That is why they were driven to the limit of desperation and feverishness by the invasion of the National Assembly, which is the only reason they are a bit sober right now, out of shame that the brazen invasion by DSS at their behest and instruction failed. The threat by their Chairman to remove me was nothing but empty noise. That aside, the main reason they want me out is they are not willing to take the risk whereby the number three citizen will tackle the number one in a Presidential election. When that happens, they know I will have substantial access to State apparatus like the President. They would rather face candidates who are like orphans and not mandatorily protected, or provided for by State power. But as President of the Senate, that is guaranteed…”
At the end of the interaction, I reviewed Saraki’s probabilities and came to the conclusion that although his chances may appear slim, for now, a PDP ticket may all be what he needs to break sound barriers, and underrating this cat with nine lives may well be the biggest mistake that his opponents can make.
Time will tell.
Pendulum: And My Idol Died (By Popular Demand)
By Dele Momodu
(I wrote this article the very night MICHAEL JACKSON died and wept throughout the typing… My wife looked on in wonderment… I rate it as one of my top three articles in 40 years… Now that Michael Jackson is back in the news, more for bad reasons than good, many people have requested me to intervene on behalf of one of my known heroes of all time. I have nothing more to add or subtract from
what I scripted on Thursday, June 25, 2009, which was published on this very page on June 27, 2009… Please, enjoy, or just read, and form your opinion…)
God, please forgive me, for claiming publicly that I worshipped an idol. Truth is I did. I worshipped Michael Jackson. I hated anyone who ever passed snide remarks about this greatest showman on earth. Strangely, I never met my idol. He was a god I accepted in good faith. A god I would have loved to meet. But I kept faith with his music, and was privileged to have met some of his siblings. There was nothing I did not try to meet him. I always knew it was only a matter of time before the relentless vicissitudes of life would take its final toll on this extremely frail but prodigiously talented artiste.
Michael was supposed to be the peak of success but he was the limit of sadness. His fame eclipsed that of all his siblings combined. He was the very epitome of achievement. No artiste in history had generated as much controversy in one lifetime. Like the quintessential dancer that he was, Michael waltzed from one crisis to the other. He was the true example that the world may pretend to love success, but the world actually hates success. Every imaginary story was conjured, or concocted, around this stupendously famous man.
He packed more than the activities of a thousand years into the 50 years he lived on earth. The world is allowed a glimpse of such demigods once in a blue moon. Michael was a deviant in all ways. He defied the laws of gravity and motion. He was a spirit child, and he acted the part perfectly. He was bound to go the way he came, with a bang. It was impossible for him to go with a mere whimper.
In his time, most things he touched turned into gold. He became as popular as the Coca-Cola bottle. He was known everywhere and was more popular than most world presidents. In our school, every music group mimicked Michael Jackson. At the then University of Ife, one young man became famous on campus for his dexterous performance of Michael Jackson in “Beat it”. He is the same Femi Elufowoju who’s currently doing Nigeria proud as an actor in the elite theater of London’s West End. Michael was every child’s ultimate idol. Even for those of us who grew up in rural settings, and had no television sets at home, we knew this boy who danced better than James Brown. His name resonated like Iraqi bombs, exploding beyond boundaries.
This was the main cause of his problems. Success breeds more sorrow than joy. There is the intrusion of privacy. The financial demands of trying to put up an appearance. The envy of peers, and the subject of sibling rivalries. It was impossible to ignore Michael, whether you hated or loved him. To describe him as an icon was an understatement. Everything around him was big news. He was never going to live a normal life, like you and I. He was sentenced to his own prison, and would never be able to break free.
Michael lived in a society where the policy was everyone for himself and God for us all. He was a lonely child. He started life too early. And fame and fortune beyond imagination chased him. He was haunted by both. They became his albatross. He had to wear a mask to go out. He was said to have experimented with all manner of weird disguises. He earned the acronym, Wacko Jacko. He was easy prey for both genuine and counterfeit extortionists. They found all manner of excuses to take his money, and practically took him to the cleaners.
Michael lived and was sustained on maximum hype. He regularly reinvented both his person and his career. From being an innocent Black kid, he transfigured into a white ghost, who became whiter than snow. It was speculated that the record labels that made incredible fortunes off him had encouraged him to engage in bleaching away his blackness, a terrible habit that would later become an incurable obsession. It probably worked initially. But it soon became a tragic flaw in his persona.
Those who wanted any reason to detest him found perfect grounds for merciless assaults. He was insulted and abused. His unusual love for children was another sore point. He was called a child molester. Who knows? Neither you nor I were eye-witnesses. Such stories abound about newsmakers everywhere. As a devotee, we accepted him warts and all. He was human after-all. I learnt a lot from his life. That success would never guarantee happiness. That money would never buy peace. That your friends would rather watch you die when you get into trouble than offer a helping hand.
All those shedding crocodile tears now obviously saw Michael in his various stages of dilapidation – that those who can never match your talents would always attack your efforts. That at the end of it all, all is vanity indeed. Human beings are always quick to judge others. They leave the log in their eyes and chase the speck in that of others. Michael this, Michael that, was all we heard. Now that he’s dead, may be they’ll leave him alone, and allow the dead to bury their dead.
The problems were just too many for Michael. And the burden must have been too heavy to bear. It is difficult to imagine how he even lived for this long. He had marital problems. He had acute financial problems. From being one of the richest men in showbiz history, he became a pauper, as poor as a church rat. His grace to grass story was one of the most frightening examples of the fall of man. It could not have been easy. It was as if he had no family, and no friend.
The man had helped to raise money for the world, but the world failed to raise money for him, in his time of dire need. They watched his life collapse while everyone minded his own business. This is usually the tragedy of great people. They are often seen as the supermen who can solve all problems alone. But my illiterate mum knew better, and used to warn that there is a thin chord holding the heart to the human body. It is just too fragile.
Die-hard fans like me were hoping for a miracle that would teleport Michael back to his original state, when he was that adorable kid, and everyone thought he was older than Michael. Michael had that childlike innocence that made him vulnerable. But he was awesome. The world was not big enough for his stage. Music was his life and we had all foolishly believed that he could live, sing and dance forever. We followed his every move, shared in his triumphs, and suffered in his pains. He was human, very human. He had his foibles, like all mortals do. He tried to keep to himself a lot, and came out of his shrine only when necessary. He was called the weird one. He had to be. His life was too extraordinary and too sensational.
I was always hoping to meet him, one on one. And even dreamt of bringing him to Nigeria to live under our protection, when his troubles became too suffocating to watch. We toyed with asking the Ooni of Ife or the Alaafin of Oyo to make him an African Chief and get our government to turn him into our national treasure. That would have been feasible in a land that understood the power of entertainment and tourism. But one Arab tycoon stole him to Bahrain, where I believe life must have been very miserable for him. He was just too broke, and was facing certain humiliation of unimaginable proportions.
The bailiffs were after him like bullets. Before his very eyes, his prized possessions were auctioned. His Neverland Ranch, which was his recreation of paradise on earth, became a dead place and he had to give up the ownership of this private sanctuary. By the time the relationship between him and his Arab friend broke down, and he had to return Los Angeles, the damage had been done. He was forced to move into a rented apartment. Just imagine, from living in paradise to living in the pit of hell. It is better imagined than experienced.
What I admired most about him was how he kept readjusting to his excruciating conditions. He accepted his fate with uncommon equanimity. He was determined to prove that he wasn’t finished. He travelled to London recently to promote his forthcoming world tour. He needed to disappoint the cynics who thought he was down and flat-out. His plans were going fine. He had sold a record 750,000 tickets for his concerts. For him, the shows were meant to be the grand finale to an incredible career, the sort we are not likely to see again in our generation.
Also, he was working hard to leave a worthy legacy, and a formidable empire for his family, especially his children. He was said to have written hundreds of songs which he never performed, but were meant to be released only after his death. He was a workaholic. He probably died working. He didn’t want his fans to be disappointed in him. They were the reason for his existence. We meant everything to him, just as he meant everything to us.
You don’t have to be a doctor to know he must have died of exhaustion. The London concert was meant to be his final farewell to the world. He had gone as far as getting a personal trainer to beef him up for the tour. His existence depended on proving this ultimate point. It was a dangerous fixation that would prove fatal. He had been off-stage for too long. Unknown to him, age was no longer on his side. Everything that has a beginning must have an end. He did not accept the verdict of God. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh. It was time to go and the time to be set free.
The elephant collapsed two nights ago. I cried like a baby. My wife had always found my love for Michael Jackson very strange. If she did not know me well, she may have suspected me of unprintable inclinations. I had wished Fela truly kept death in his pouch. We would have begged him to keep Michael for us forever. But Fela himself was killed by death. It is one debt we all owe. Sooner or later, the king of all bailiffs must come, and take possession of all. This is the reason we must do our best and leave the world better than we met it.
Spectrum: The Giant of Poverty
By Anikulapo Macmillan
Is it this period when political parties are jostling on whom will become the president of the ninth assembly— that I am talking about poverty? Or maybe they are not bothering about the citizenry that lives below two dollar a day. That means how government has not understood its importance. Shame!
Let me be a little sarcasm here: what is poverty in a nation when senator is buying a Roll Royce, and the populace, are barely hungry? Maybe those exotic cars are for the serfs to understand that Nigeria is a poor country?
Oh! This is somehow a fable that Nigeria is extremely poor. That is why the EFCC has recorded billions from our rotund politicians in the last four years. Still, this is shameful to our system.
Is famished a kind of household name; or an inheritance curse for the poor Nigerians? Or is it deliberates from God that they should be poor? Please, who knows God should tell him that poverty in Nigeria is outrageous. Our hospitals can’t survive anymore because there is no money to buy equipment. Even schools are deteriorating. Thus, it is simply, a kind of system, Fela called ‘’ Roforofo’’
Last week, I encountered the speech of Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi at the Gala Night of First Bank’s 125 years anniversary. I listened to his insightful speech because I admired his intelligence since he was the governor of our apex bank.
The monarch addressed in a kind of modicum that was relevant to what etch us in Nigeria. However, what he said was nothing but the truth. That poverty has beleaguered the citizens.
We have failed to know that it is the responsibility of the government to adequately restructure the society— this, is like, what a novelist, Harper Lee, wrote in her famous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. And this particular novel described rape as an instrument of hunger and racial inequality.
These two things are relevant in our beloved country. It is apparent to what the Monarch said. When I listened to him intensely; I began to feel a cataclysm.
We don’t know what we want than to follow those who don’t have our time. Whose children are not facing kind of conundrum the poor people are facing. Like the Success Adegor’s story whose educational love went viral because her parent could not pay for her school fee.
Meanwhile, what happened to her showed that poverty in Nigeria is not about race. It is about the government failing to do what is right. Oftentimes, I do feel dissipated of our democracy.
Is it not Democracy they are practicing in the US? It is painstaking that at this level, our government can’t provide basic school for our children. It is pathetic. Even majority of those public schools are dilapidated. It is unfortunate that by now we still live in abject poverty.
I have considered the Emir’s speech as part of what is germane in this country at a time when our politicians have failed to know that the priority of the government is to provide wealth across the citizens.
And the nation’s economy is not determined by the economy index alone. Either is it by the out flowing of resources. But, it is in Nigeria that our politicians use millions of dollars for tour.
Please hear the monarch: ‘’ I listened to all elections debate and nobody talked about child’s education and malnutrition. They are being marginalized because those millions are not important. The poor should be the major shareholder and not the multibillion shareholders
And at 2017, 58 percent of children under the age of 5 in the Kano have chronic malnutrition and 48 percent of all women of reproductive age are suffering from Iron deficiency and the high mortality rate and we treat that as a medical problem not as a nutrition problem’’
This scourge of poverty in our society has made us to go into dismay. It has let us to believe that poverty is part of us. We die like prey in what a poet describes to human condition in his poem: ‘’ to sea is fish/to live is human/and to die is the hunger that kills human’’ stoically, this is the narration of poverty in this country when an average Nigerian doesn’t have expectations. No jobs. No facilities in the hospitals and schools anymore. People are now dying because the government is not showing concern to the level of poor Nigerians.
We are now acting like we are all puerile to ourselves. We then begin to act like interlopers to ourselves rather to know how to fight for our system. Subtle, is it that people in the US are better than us in Nigeria? Where we die and we still bereaved with hunger while our elite die with smiles of billions in their account. This is obviously kind of argument Karl Marx talked about when he wrote his book: Communist Manifesto.
To live as a citizen means we need to know our right. We need to benefit in the government policies. And to be citizen that has the equal right and not citizen that suffers from inequality.
Unfortunately this is not the society that we find ourselves. A society that is squirmed with temerity and it is fickle with our societal impetus. However, what the Emir said at the First bank anniversary was remarkably an act for President Buhari because if he fails to eradicate poverty to a limit that means his administration has failed woefully.
So, our expectation in this country is nothing good than an economy where every Nigeria can have access to good health care and good education. Thus, Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while poverty in India continues to fall.
Also, this is peculiar to us in Nigeria that poverty has become callous to us since the government has failed to realize that even the rich also cry. Therefore, we don’t need to undermine ourselves if truly we want to live out of this parvenu.
And lest I forget, permit me to digress a little bit, to what happened during the 2019 election both in Kano and Rivers State. These events showed that our people are hungry as a result of the political imbroglio in our system.
Having said this, those who perpetrated electoral evil that later led to some politicians’ hoopla from those people who were suffering from the menace of poverty scourge. So, poverty has caused drug addiction, kidnapping, armed robbery and other kind of atrocities that have made us to despise our humble beginning as a nation whose wealth is bigger the England. Enough! To become a giant of poverty.
Abiola and the Parable of a Poor Man in the Kitchen
Fellow Nigerians, I’m sure you are probably familiar with the stories of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. Yes, stories, for he was a man of many parts. MKO, as he was fondly called, had three initials that were synonymous with money (Money, Kudi, Owo). Each of the stories around him was the stuff of fiction, fact or “faction.” MKO was a man of sharp intellect, rare sagacity, and uncommon wit. He was a great storyteller, possibly in the mould of the ancient griots of Mali. His knowledge and repository of oral tradition and fables was legendary. He had remarkable tales for every occasion, and the way he stammered made his delivery unique and unforgettable. I was fortunate to have met and known this sensational prodigy who taught me so much, as an adopted son, and my great mentor.
As I prepared to put this column together, my mind flashed back to MKO, as it often does. This epistle is actually not about MKO. No. But there is no better way to illustrate the message than to borrow one of those evergreen witticisms of MKO, a man of superlative memory. My essay today is about the just concluded elections in our dear beloved country Nigeria, which was a complete mess to say the least. I will explain the various reasons and dimensions for my submission and conviction in a jiffy. Please, exercise some patience.
Despite earlier signals, and premonition, that the Buhari government was not likely to play by the books, I, like many others, suffered from unreasonable optimism that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would give us a pleasant surprise, against all odds. I had misplaced, and invested, my hopes and faith in the Chairman and leadership of INEC, a man called Professor Mahmood Yakubu, for crying out loud. I thought he would give us free, fair and credible elections just like Professor Attahiru Muhammadu Jega – a fellow academic whose tenure was well applauded for consolidating our democratic ideals – had done before him in 2015. How did I allow myself to be fooled by the charms, charisma and carriage of this man, who exuded grace, intelligence and confidence? My soft spot for academia and intellectualism could have been responsible. Most people I know would always, naturally, expect university egg heads to handle assignments with total dedication, commitment and integrity, even at the point of death. A man with a degree of Doctor of Philosophy, cut to be a philosopher in words and in deed, a king and champion of worthy causes and believer in eternal accomplishments and legacy. He should be above many temporal cravings, the reason it is often said that “the teacher’s reward is in heaven.”
In the recent past, I had come to regard the employment of Professors as returning officers for INEC a masterstroke that was bound to reduce the cases of electoral malfeasance and corrupt temptations. Professors are known to live humbly and simply within their modest means. In our days, they were happy in the company of their colleagues, after work, in the confines of the staff club, where they washed down some affordable grilled fish and pepper-soup with criminally cold beer. I had been mesmerised and hypnotised by their admirable performance in the 2015 elections, under the headship of a man of honour, Professor Attahiru Jega. It is unthinkable, and unimaginable, what could have gone wrong so soon, four years down the line. Perhaps, we can find explanation in one of the favourite wise-cracks of MKO, “if you want to know if a fish is bad, smell the head, once the head is rotten the whole body is gone.” Can anyone challenge that brilliant theory?
I did not know much about Mahmood Yakubu, but I took more than a cursory interest in him nearer to the elections when I started reading all sorts about him. There was a particular story that struck me, written by Professor Farooq Kperogi, whose essays I read religiously, almost like Biblical verses, just like I gulped everything written by Sonala Olumhense (right from my university days), and Abimbola Adelakun. Kperogi had stated, matter-of-factly, that Mahmood Yakubu hated Atiku Abubakar with a passionate venom. While it may have sounded like beer parlour gossip, the writer went ahead to regale his readers with copious information at his disposal. As much as I tried to dismiss them as tales by moonlight, I still couldn’t obliterate them from my gumption. It was difficult for me to fathom why a cerebral man would despise a fellow human being for whatever reason. Despite this, I was still willing to give Yakubu the benefit of doubts.
I decided to watch Yakubu very keenly and read every bit of information I could find on him. I was fascinated by the fact and realisation that I was about two years older than him. For me, he seemed to be a pride of my generation and I expected him to push the frontiers of human endeavours to sustain the confidence that many Nigerians had reposed in him. Any normal human would be inspired to raise the bar beyond where Jega had placed it. Never did I envisage the nightmare that the 2019 election turned out to be. It was as if Yakubu could not be bothered at all. In all honesty, I won’t put all the blame on him. I believe the terrain was deliberately made difficult by our politicians. The desperation in certain quarters was hopelessly difficult. The involvement of the military was horribly depressing. I have never seen our respected and respectable soldiers misused and misdirected since the end of military rule. Those who were already over-stretched by the wars against terrorists and terrorism suddenly found ample time, men and resources for intimidating voters and rigging elections. As I write this, no one knows what to make of the Rivers State debacle. It is as if our country is under an evil spell.
I expected Yakubu to address the electorate, reassure them tangibly, conduct elections sensibly and professionally, have a balanced sense of judgment, and so on. I never expected the conundrum that ensued. To whom much was given, much was expected. Why did Nigeria have to waste millions of dollars on a sham called elections? Why did innocent Nigerians die because of the incompetence of some people? Why did Yakubu behave incoherently with no uniformity in the operations and execution of the elections? Why did he allow some politicians get away with murder? Why did he not resign if some leaders were hell bent on rubbishing his achievements in life? There were too many unanswered questions and riddles? Did Yakubu think this election was a joke? Will he in good conscience say this was the election he planned to conduct, and this was his best performance? Is he a happier and more fulfilled man today than he was before this unfortunate charade? When tomorrow comes, how would he look at Nigerians and explain how he spent the humongous cash and resources allocated to him? I can’t stop asking, what manner of man would watch his reputation go up in smoke in order to please mere mortals like himself?
I’m sure the APC operatives would have done a better job of conducting these amazing elections. Yes. Those guys, led by my dear Brother, Uncle Adams Oshiomhole would have replicated the same with, if not a higher, expertise we saw during their primaries when they recorded millions of votes for President Muhammadu Buhari nationwide and completed the exercise within a twinkle of an eye. The same geniuses conducted primaries in Lagos, and before you could say Jack Robinson, Babajide Sanwo-Olu had emerged victorious with a landslide, almost 2 million votes. So, how could APC perform better than INEC? Is that not a big shame to imagine?
I watched incredulously as Professors of several decades standing struggled to add up figures that were obviously concocted inside the forest of a thousand daemons. The numbers were terribly harder than Additional Mathematics. What could be responsible for this type of monumental disgrace at a time technology has reduced the stress of over-using human brains? Then I remembered the words of Chief Moshood Abiola again, and the wisdom in his parable of the hungry man in the kitchen. The professors are not Masquerades from heaven. They are human beings on planet earth. They have suffered under various governments and leaders who don’t see education as anything of value, or priority. Chief Abiola was to write: “you can’t put a hungry man in the kitchen and ask him not to taste or touch.” Food is very essential to the human body. With all due respect, it is thus tempting to conclude that the some of the Professors who failed us were those that suddenly found themselves in the kitchen with plenty of food to taste and touch.
We must salute all the wonderful people who made the difference, from the great INEC leader in Akwa Ibom, the incorruptible Commissioner of Police in Kano, the INEC official in Rivers who cried out for help while under danger, the one who was nearly killed at gun point in Imo State, because some people must win elections fair or unfair. They stood firm despite their lives being in danger. They did not try to eat what they lacked in arears and in advance. No man is perfect, but elections are too important to be toyed with. I must state, however, that the resoluteness of INEC in Imo State, and the unwavering decision not to give a politician employing duress any joy, is to be commended, but in the scheme of things, it is too little, too late! I will always give praise where praise is due.
If I were Yakubu, I will tender my unreserved apologies to the good people of Nigeria and without any hesitation, throw in the towel. He would forever thereafter be regarded as a man of courage and conviction, a hero and legend. Kings have been known to drink poison in the past as atonement for lack of peace and progress in their community. A sacrifice that they know is not too great to make so that their society may thrive.
It is not too late for Yakubu to fall on his sword and follow in the hallowed footsteps of those kind of great kings.
Philip Iyiola Abiola – A Legend Ahead of His Time
Yesterday, in London, I attended, with Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, the funeral of my great friend and St. John’s Grammar School, Ile-Ife school mate – the physician, General Practitioner (GP), Pastor, Mentor, humanist and philanthropist – Dr Philip Iyiola Abiola who died in his prime at the age of 58 years. PI as he was fondly called by all those who knew him, succumbed to the deadly, dreaded curse of cancer, but it was as if God wanted to elevate a passion that he had, and bring it to the consciousness of not just his family and friends, but also the general public. The creation of awareness of the fact that cancer and diabetes were beatable was what he lived for in his final few years. He was particular about the fact that there was a need to reconceptualise the treatment of these ailments in black people and ensure that treatment was tailored to their different physiognomy. I and Prince Aderemi had been by his hospital bed barely one week before he passed on.
I have not seen such a huge gathering of distinguished professional people from all over the world at such a gathering in a long time. Some came merely for the day to pay their last respects to these Icon and giant. The tributes and eulogies that poured forth from family and friends, at the unusually lengthy service of songs and the funeral reception, attest to the fact that this highly acclaimed man was of a special, rare and different breed, whose life and virtues should be emulated. This royal scion of Ile-Ife, cousin to the present Ooni of Ile- Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, urged that his funeral not be one of dirges and mourning, but full of songs of praise and celebration. And that is what he got from the outpouring of love shown to him, as encomium after encomium was heaped upon him.
Amongst the guests were, the Ogunwusi’s – Sooko Adegboyega, Adetunji, Tolu, Mrs Ogunwusi; the Aderemi’s – Adedamola and wife, Kemi, Adeyemi, Adelekan, Dr Deinde Orafidiya, Senator Jide Omoworare and wife, Bisi; HRH Segun Layade, his medical colleagues – Dr Kunle Oladinni, Dr Odejinmi, Dr Salawu, Dr Dapo Alalade, Dr Ayo Adebanjo, Dr Ropo Adeojo, Dr Oladipo Oguntola, ; Akodi Ife – Dapo Eluyemi, Niyi Murele, Sikiru Aiyedun, Gbenga Owolabi, Kola Famakin, Seyi Awofisan, Wale Odutoye, Lawal-King; His Ilara Mokin in-laws including Larry and Ronke Bakare; Mr Raphael Lewu and wife, Bimbade, From America came Pemi Adereti-Folarin, Adewale Adeyemo, Leke Ijiyode, Dr. Akin Awofolaju, Mr & Mrs Adebowale, Mr and Mrs Madamidola, Dr Dapo William, Former Lagos State Speaker, Hon Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Hon. Odulana, Chief Bola Oba, the Adereti family from Canada, Mrs Biodun Olufisan-Magnus and daughters, Bolu and Kitan; the Adesiyans, Bose Agbesanwa, Deola Adesanmi, Jade Onigbode, Pastor and Minister Yemi Onigbode, Pastor and Mrs Omotayo, Mr and Mrs Akinyemi, Mr and Mrs Oladipo, Dr and Mrs Lawal, Mr and Mrs Elegbenla and Dr and Mrs bayo Ola amongst many others. The officiating ministers for all the events came from Christ Apostolic Church worldwide. Bidemi Alaran compered at the fantastic reception where Jazz and saxophone music soothed the guests.
Dr PI Abiola is survived by his beautiful wife, Eunice Taiwo, his phenomenal children who made him proud on the day – Dr Bolade, Lawyer Okiki, Toyin and Seyi; and his siblings, – Moses and Michael.
At the graveside, five white doves were released in his honour. We at Ovation Magazine also honoured him by ensuring that ace photographer, Dragan Miki, was there to cover the events.
To say that he will be sorely missed is just simply an understatement. I believe my friend and brother Damola Aderemi, put it aptly when he said, “Without PI we are lost o!”.
Sun re o, Olokiki, Philip Iyiola, omo Abiola!!!
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