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Seasons Of Books And Denials, By Dele Momodu

Seasons Of Books And Denials, By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, let me confess that one of my addictions is reading books. I just love the feel and thrill that books can give to you. I simply cannot resist great covers. And the subject matter is irrelevant. From prose to poetry, fiction to science fiction and even faction, autobiographies, biographies or what have you, I read them all. I’m therefore just greedy and voracious about books and bury my head into whatever I find near me. Our generation was raised on books. We loved to make shakara with books and the bravado even attracted ladies to us as undergraduates. Girls of those days respected your intellect. They were particularly titillated by your ability to discuss varying topics and of course we did not have recourse to google at that time.

But for books, it would have been impossible for paupers like me to interact with certain classes or levels of boys and girls. However, education is the biggest leveller in the world and the basic tool of any sound education can be found in books. Books also had their special place for poor kids like me. They provided an avenue for escape into the world of make-believe and the realms of fantasy. I could live another much richer life through the experiences I gained from the books I read and I don’t just mean riches in terms of money but in terms off an all-round experience of life.

I’m eternally grateful to my dear beloved mum, Gladys Arike Momodu, nee Fatoye, who despite being unlettered knew and appreciated the power of knowledge and struggled to send me to school despite her meagre means. Incidentally, she passed away on May 18, 2007, nearly ten years ago. I continue to marvel about how she slaved and starved herself to send us to school. May her beautiful soul continue to rest in the Lord. Amin.

 

I was talking about books. I love authors and saw them as the greatest humans on planet earth. Just imagine for a minute the sheer pleasure of meeting Wole Soyinka as a teenager and even having the opportunity of becoming close to him at the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University. I fell in love with his luxurious beard which made him look like one of those famous Greek playwrights and philosophers. I vividly remember the stern look of his picture on his controversial book, The Man Died and the one on the cover of The Trials of Brother Jero and Jero’s Metamorphosis. I often wondered why writers loved to keep beards, Ayi Kwei Armah, the author of The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born; Kofi Awoonor of This Earth, My Brother fame; Sembene Ousmane, the Senegalese author and film director who wrote God’s Bits of Wood; Kole Omotoso, author of The Edifice; and others. How can I ever forget the great Russian writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn? I just loved his looks. Beards added some mystique to the awe-inspiring looks and persona of writers.

However, the main man I want to write about today is far from being a bearded author. Apart from being tall and probably gangling, he looks too smooth to be easily recognised as one of those controversial writers. His style is also clearly not their style but in another sense he possess their unique attribute of being different from the norm.

His name is Segun Adeniyi, one of Nigeria’s most popular columnists with stupendous readership. Segun has done what most of us have not been able to do; he is an author of very important books and historical documents about our country. His authoritative and commanding interactions at different stages of our national crises is what has endeared him to many of us. He wastes no time in coming up with fresh ideas and churning out book after book that would ultimately affect the Nigerian trajectory, sooner or later. Say what you will, Segun helps to fill a void in our lives. It is not in our character to produce books on historic landmarks in our country. Events come and go and we all move on pronto, as if nothing happened. But, mercifully, we have a Segun Adeniyi who grabs our head and necks and forces us to sit up to read and revisit many of our vicissitudes of life. He tries so hard to ensure that we don’t forget so quickly or relapse into the collective amnesia that we seem to be notorious for.

Segun’s latest book is a very smart move on his part because the subject matter was guaranteed to attract a debate and popularise the book, thus soaring the sales in little or no time. Nothing sells like controversy as we have seen all over the world.

Titled ‘Against The Run of Play (How an incumbent President was defeated in Nigeria)’, Olusegun Adeniyi took his readers on a racy journey by capturing the narratives of the principal actors, otherwise known as dramatis personae. I was fortunate to get an autographed copy from the author ahead of release and could not wait to open and devour it. I’m reasonably convinced that Segun has done a fantastic job. I belong to the sociological school of literature and knowing Segun’s background well enough, I believe he did not concoct what he wrote. He made adequate effort to reach out to the relevant characters, the deluge of denials notwithstanding. It must always be appreciated that most autobiographical authors genuinely record what they saw and heard. That does not mean that what they saw or heard is accurate, especially when one is dealing with politicians. The autobiography is the merely the experience and perception of the author and must be viewed with some caution for the reason I have given. In my view, no document can be clinically precise but it is possible that some of those casting aspersions on Segun’s effort are doing so as an afterthought. There are times people suddenly remember the import of a statement and regret what has already become part of public discourse. Political books generally suffer from this unfortunate notoriety. Awolowo, Obasanjo, El-Rufai and others never got away with the wrath of some readers for stepping on sore toes in their books. Segun should be proud to walk in their great company.

In fact, Segun has challenged me personally. I’ve been too lazy and reticent about writing or completing my books in progress. My first manuscript was ready as far back as 1997 in London. It was titled ‘PENDULUM: Writings of an Angry Man’ and was edited by Dr Reuben Abati. It never saw the light of day for reasons I can never explain or justify. I worked on the biography of Chief Moshood Abiola, titled ‘The Pillar of Joy’ but never completed it once Nigeria was thrown into total confusion and commotion. I dreamt of writing an informative account on the June 12, 1993 Presidential election in Nigeria but it evaporated when I dialogued with my feet and fled into exile. It was practically impossible to gather the actors from that distance and at a time the main protagonist Abiola was in solitary confinement. The next book was written by my National Campaign Manager, Ohimai Godwin Amaize, after I contested the Presidential election in 2011. It was titled ‘Fighting Lions’.

I have written hundreds of essays in Pendulum since 1997 and would easily have up to three or more compilations but the many troubles of Nigeria would not let me rest or concentrate on publishing these books. I must confess that Segun has really fired me up and I wish to publicly thank him for inspiring a few of us. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Dr Reuben Abati are expected to release their explosive books as soon as possible. I cannot wait to read how Dr Goodluck Jonathan would explain and defend the unprecedented and atrocious malfeasance that rocked and ravaged his government. Who knows, he might know and divulge what ordinary mortals like us didn’t know. There are so many books in waiting from several potential authors. On my part, I have decided to break the jinx and I have fixed some strict deadlines.

We owe it a duty to our country and fellow citizens to educate and entertain them with our robust knowledge of Nigeria. I think we’ve deprived our people of good information about how we arrived where we are and where we are likely to head from here. The time has come to get serious and sit down to produce eternal works. This is particularly so when one considers that a lot of revisionist history now dots our literary landscape. We must not let our children suffer the ignominy of not knowing their background and heritage.
Prof A.B.O.O. Oyediran – He Leadeth Me

My birthday comes up on May 16 and I am privileged to share it with an erudite scholar, brilliant teacher, seasoned Administrator, astute political observer, great family man and above all a quintessential gentleman, Professor Allen Bankole Olukayode Oladunmoye Oyediran. He is the father-in-law of my best friend, Prince Adedamola Aderemi, and his daughter, Mrs Olukemi Aderemi and I have been good friends since she was a student at the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Professor Oyediran will be 78 on May 16 and in keeping with the nature of the man he has decided to celebrate by launching an autobiography titled ‘He Leadeth Me: Autobiographical Testimonies of Olukayode Oyediran. The title of the book itself epitomises the simplicity and humility of the man. There is no mention of the well known fact that he is a renowned Professor of Preventive and Social Medicine. Not for him in this work, which is in one sense, not a work in his discipline of Medicine, but a story of his childhood and work as a Professor of Medicine and University Administrator.

The book traces Prof. Oyediran’s childhood days to his secondary education at CMS Grammar School Lagos and King’s College Lagos. He then proceeded to his university education sponsored on a UAC Scholarship for Medicine at the University of London (Guy’s Medical School) where he graduated and then went on to the University of Edinburgh where he obtained his postgraduate degree with distinction.

His distinct sense of humour marked with his candour and candidness is typified by his recollection of how he eventually ended up completing medical school. In effect he professes to have been guilty of some prevarication and hesitancy in the choice of his career. He says in the book “Shortly after I got to Guy’s I came to the conclusion that what I really wanted to do was to read politics, philosophy and economics (PPE) at Oxford and then law and international relations …. My dilemma was that I was on a UAC scholarship for medicine. It seemed most unlikely that UAC could be persuaded to allow me to change my course of study. Also it seemed unreasonable to expect my father (who wanted me to become a doctor) to agree that I could jettison the UAC scholarship and that find money to support my proposed studies at Oxford. In the event, I decided that I should pray that I should win the football pools so that I could present my father with a fait accompli. My prayers were not answered, even though I was a very active member of the Christian Union!”
Upon his return to Nigeria, Professor Oyediran joined the University College Hospital Ibadan and eventually became a Professor of Preventive and Socual Medicine in 1975. He went on to become the Executive Secretary and head of the West African College of Physicians and the WAPMC responsible for the postgraduate training of doctors in West Africa.

He was appointed the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan where he was faced with all sorts of political intrigues that he did not expect from academics in the Ivory Tower. It was a baptism of fire for him. His keenness of mind and willingness to cut to the chase did not endear him to the Unions in the University but he stuck to his guns because he knew it was for the good of the institution.

When he left his post as the Vice-Chancellor he was appointed the Director of the Malarone Donation Progamme which wss geared at donating malaria tablets fr free in East Africa. He was successful with this project and returned to Nigeria after completing his stint to great adulation and accolade.

Prof Oyediran is married to his wife of more than 50 Years, Chief Mrs Omotola Oyediran, daughter of the late Sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Professor Oyediran was a keen observer of the political developments in Nigeria by virtue of this fact.

Professor Oyediran’s account of his life is a refreshing one laced with anecdotes, unique experiences and vision that one can learn from. It is a compelling read which I will commend to all those interested in University administration and some political developments in Nigeria from the viewpoint of a close family member.

About Author

Anih Ambrose is the Managing Editor of Sustainability Watch Nigeria. He is a Sustainable Development Practitioner. He is very Passionate about Social and Political Sustainability Issues. Ambrose loves reading, travelling and swimming. Follow him on Twitter @able_ebu. Email him at editor@sustainabilitywatchngr.com. call him at +2349061197608

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  • Of Chibok Girls And Falomo Boys, By Olusegun Adeniyi

    In April 2014, Nigerians were confronted with a monumental tragedy when 276 female students were abducted from the premises of Government Secondary School, Chibok by Boko Haram insurgents. While more than 150 of them have, at different times, regained their freedom—many of them with physical and psychological scars that they will carry for the rest of their lives—the primitive instincts that led to their abduction by those who claim to be fighting for God also account for the criminal behaviour of some male students of Ireti Grammar School, Falomo in Lagos State who last week assaulted and would have raped their female colleagues but for the intervention of a passer-by.

    While we must commend President Muhammadu Buhari for staying the course and the tenacity of the BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) coalition that led to the release of additional 82 of the Chibok girls last weekend, we must also deal with the bigger issue of the way we treat our women and girls. If we must be honest, the reason the depraved Boko Haram insurgents carried the Chibok girls into captivity is not different from the madness that drove the Falomo boys into attacking their female colleagues. But in a society where the sexual domination of girls and women has become an expression of power, it must worry all of us that the malaise is so deep-rooted that secondary school students now believe rape is just another sport.

    In January 2004, Amnesty International released a damning report about our country titled “Rape—The Silent Weapon”. Although it was about how the personnel of the police and other security agencies allegedly use their positions to sexually exploit vulnerable women and girls in Nigeria, any discerning reader cannot but come to only one conclusion: the infractions reported are not exclusive to the law enforcement authorities, they represent a general problem within our society.

     

    That much can be glimpsed from the “Gender in Nigeria Report 2012” sponsored by the British Council on which several Nigerian female professionals collaborated. With the Foreword co-written by the former Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and her then Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) counterpart, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the report is quite revealing of the hurdles before our women and girls in a society where the seemingly strong take pleasure in oppressing those considered weaker.

    Whether we want to admit it or not, rape is becoming a problem in our country essentially because of gender hierarchy and we must begin to deal with it like most other countries are trying to do. For instance, in her piece titled “The Psychology of Rape”, Melody Sundberg wrote that a 2010 study conducted in South Africa revealed that “466 out of the 1686 men participating in the research, had forced a woman to have sex with them against her will. Most commonly, they stated that they did this out of a sense of sexual entitlement. In other cases, they raped to inflict punishment on girlfriends and other women, or sometimes simply as entertainment.”

    I am sure that the situation is not much different in Nigeria but since there has been no attempt to analyse the challenge, we can all pretend all is well on that front. It is also within that context that we can situate the unfortunate incident at the Falomo school which, as it is now coming to light, is actually a common occurrence.

    According to the eye-witness account, a crowd of boys had overpowered and surrounded two girls and were being hailed as they attempted to gang-rape them in the public glare: “People are looking and some security guards in the office near us are recording it. I open my car in disbelief and shout at the boys to break it up, while shouting at my security and the second driver to assist me. As I make my way towards them, I see another group and this time, they have cornered one of the girls who falls while running from them. I see her kicked down, she bravely pushes herself up and another guy tries to clear her legs and she lunges at him and then a guy takes a pair of scissors in his hands and with one swoop, tears her skirt from the bottom and also a part of the black ‘spanx shorts’ she has underneath…”

    That some men who should have intervened were more interested in recording the ugly scene, evidently to post on Youtube, is a sign of the troubling times. But the Lagos State authorities and the Police have so much lead to work on in this matter. All the boys involved in the disgraceful and criminal act must be apprehended and made to face the full wrath of the law. The authorities of the notorious Falomo School from where such scumbags graduated must also bear vicarious responsibility for what happened given reports that it is a familiar scene.

    However, when taken together, the episode at Falomo and the Chibok tragedy presents an inconvenient truth about our country and the culture of rape—physical and metaphorical—that pervades the land. While this has become a sociological issue that we must address in a larger context, given its manifestations in several areas of our national life, it also provides explanations for why some politicians have chosen to intentionally hurt the parents of the Chibok girls by calling the abduction of their children a hoax.

    As a father of two girls, I can imagine what any parents with such harrowing experience would be going through and I will strongly recommend to those who see politics in everything that a little compassion will also not take anything from them. In case such people have spoken out of ignorance rather than in mischief, they should reflect on the hopes and dreams that have been derailed as well as the potential that may never be realized, all because these girls decided to go to school, like their peers in the country and around the world.

    Besides, not knowing where your daughter is or how she is being treated or whether she is in fact alive or dead is perhaps the hardest thing for any loving parent to face. It is a roller-coaster kind of existence that can try the soul of any human being. That is why the Yoruba people would say ‘my child is dead is better than my child is lost’. One minute you could feel a surge of optimism, the next, you are back to the depth of despair. That has been the story of the Chibok parents in the last three years. The only thing we can offer them, especially those still awaiting the return of their children, are words of comfort and love; not bile and reckless statements that are based on some petty politics and can only hurt and damage.

    Indeed, if there is any lesson that politicians and public officials must take away from the Chibok tragedy, it is that in times of crisis, playing the blame game is not the right thing to do as it was partly responsible for the inability to rescue the children when there were opportunities to, at the initial stage of their abduction. That should teach us never to elevate political cold calculations above our common humanity.

    What we must understand is that in an atmosphere of dread and terror, it is difficult for parents to send their children, especially of the female folks, to school. Yet to the extent that education remains the only path to sustainable progress, we must do everything we can to ensure that some sexual perverts do not stand in the ways of our girls who seek knowledge. That is why the rapists of Falomo School must be severely dealt with so that other animals like them will know that there are consequences for such criminal acts.

    The Model Policemen
    Until Dr Reuben Abati paid homage to him on Tuesday, I did not know that Mr Taiwo Lakanu is now an Assistant Inspector General of Police. As many senior journalists would attest, everything Reuben wrote about Lakanu is true as he has been—for almost two decades that many of us have known him—a shining example of what a policeman should be. But for me, the real essence of Reuben’s tribute is that as much as we like to talk about the bad eggs in the police, it is also good to promote those who take their jobs seriously and are professional in their dealings. As difficult as it may be to believe, there are actually many Lakanus in the Nigeria Police Force. I encountered some recently.

    On 27th April, 24 hours to the public presentation of my book, “Against The Run of Play”, it suddenly occurred to me that I had made no provision for security. I called TheCable publisher, Mr Simon Kolawole, to ask whether he had the phone number of the Lagos State Police Commissioner, Mr Fatai Owoseni. He immediately sent me the man’s number. I called the Compol and introduced myself and he was very warm and friendly despite the fact that we had never met before. When I told him about my book presentation and that I would need security, he asked me to send him a text message containing venue of the event and time. I did as instructed.

    By the time the event started the next day at the Nigeria Institute for International Affairs (NIIA) in Victoria Island, a detachment of police from the anti-bomb squad (based on the inscription on their vehicles) led by a female officer had been drafted to the venue. While I noticed their presence throughout, the real surprise for me was that, none of the policemen or their leader approached me for the customary “we-your-boys-are-on-ground” salutation. And because I did not know when they left, that meant I also did not have the opportunity to say thank you to them. They just did their job professionally and left after their operation without any interaction with me. I am therefore using this opportunity to thank Mr Owoseni and the Lagos State Police Command.

    Meanwhile, I am overwhelmed by the incredible support I have been receiving from many Nigerians, including those I do not even know, who have taken it upon themselves that I must reap the financial benefits of my book, following the hacking of the online edition. The online campaign undertaken by some groups that those who have been forwarded the free online copy should pay into the publisher’s account or buy their own have also been very effective. I am grateful to them all.

    However, as I stated last week, we must collectively join in the efforts to fight piracy and theft of intellectual property. Our society will be the better for it.

    Original Article at Thisdayngr

  • Ile-Ife And The Nigerian Tragedy, By Olusegun Adeniyi

    The less you say, the less risk you run of saying something foolish, even dangerous. In 1825, a new czar, Nicholas I, ascended the throne of Russia. A rebellion immediately broke out, led by liberals demanding that the country modernize–that its industries and civil structures catch up with the rest of Europe. Brutally crushing this rebellion, Nicholas I sentenced one of its leaders, Kondraty Ryleyev, to death. On the day of execution, Ryleyev stood on the gallows, the noose around his neck. The trapdoor opened but as Ryleyev dangled, the rope broke, dashing him to the ground.

    At the time, events like this were considered signs of providence or heavenly will, and a man saved from execution this way was usually pardoned. As Ryleyev got to his feet, bruised and dirtied but believing his neck had been saved, he called out to the crowd, “You see, in Russia they don’t know how to do anything properly, not even how to make rope!”

     

    A messenger immediately went to the Winter Palace with news of the failed hanging. Vexed by this disappointing turnabout, Nicholas I nevertheless began to sign the pardon. But then: “Did Ryleyev say anything after this miracle?” the czar asked the messenger. “Sir, the messenger replied, “he said that in Russia they don’t even know how to make rope.”

     

    “In that case,” said the Czar, “let us prove the contrary,” and he tore the pardon. The next day Ryleyev was hanged again. This time the rope did not break. Learn the lesson: Once the words are out, you cannot take them back. The momentary satisfaction you gain with your biting words will be outweighed by the price you pay.

    ===================================================================

    The foregoing story titled, “Always say less than necessary” was lifted from chapter four of Robert Greene’s “48 Laws of Power”. It is one lesson that many Nigerian politicians have refused to learn to our collective detriment. Anytime there is a crisis, without even interrogating what the issues are, many of them would take to the media in a bid to outshout the other; not necessarily because they care for the victims but essentially just to score cheap political points. The danger is that their biting words, which in most cases earn them the applause of an unreflective mob, have contributed to the spiral of violence that now defines the current season in Nigeria.

    It is in that context that I want to commend the Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, for the maturity with which he has handled the tragedy at Ile-Ife, despite provocations from two sides: One, a section of the Yoruba establishment that was goading him into making inflammatory statements that could have resulted in reprisal killings; two, reckless officials of the federal government, including the Police, who have evidently taken sides, given their sectional actions and irresponsible utterances.

    Notwithstanding the much known Ife-Modakeke palaver that has given the town notoriety, there is something about Ife that is unique. It is a town that when people visit, they hardly want to leave. The University may have a lot to do with that. In all the years that I have known him, for instance, whenever Harvard University Professor, Jacob Olupona says he was going home, it isn’t to Ute in Ondo State (where his parents hailed from), it is to Ile-Ife where he built his country home. My friend and former classmate, Charles Ukeje, now a Professor in our Department (International Relations) at Obafemi Awolowo University arrived Ife with his Igbo parents when he was only three years old. Today, Charles not only speaks better Yoruba than me, he can also speak in Ife dialect, the town where he has built his home.

    In his piece last Saturday, Chief Dele Momodu (Bob Dee) wrote about the allure of Ife and the generations of people from other cultures and ethnic groups that have found home within the community. So, the tragedy at Sabo is not about Hausa-Fulani “invaders” coming to disturb the peace of Ife; it is about the travails of a people that have domiciled within the community over many generations and have been so accepted that Ife is the only place they know as home.

    On Monday, Governor Aregbesola inaugurated a six-man committee with a strong emphasis that it was “not an inter-ethnic, inter religious or inter regional conflict by any stretch of the imagination. It was just an ugly development, a breach of public peace, masterminded by hoodlums and criminals resulting to loss of lives and property”. He went even further: “While not denying the political and economic roots of conflicts in our land, every infraction of the law is primarily a law and order matter. Even while we seek political solutions to a problem, the first line of approach is law enforcement…Some people, for reasons best known to them, might decide to fan the embers of discord, division, even separation and incite one group against another, with a false narrative of Yoruba-Hausa conflict and call to arms. They are wrong and have to be unhinged in their bid to promote needless strife and protracted inter-ethnic crisis.”

    I have read several writings that Yoruba people are not cowards. That is true. But Yoruba people also have an uncommon sense of justice, even in instances where their own people are involved: “Ejo ko le je ti eni, ki a ma moo da”. Therefore, in a crisis involving even a thousand people, I have no problem if 200 persons are arrested and they come from just a section so long as there is fairness and transparency in the process. The problem begins when those whose responsibility it is to restore order come with a biased mindset and discrimination in the application of commonsense. That was what happened at Ife and unfortunately, that has become the pattern under President Muhammadu Buhari.

    Whether it is in the mass murder of the Shiittes in Kaduna by soldiers or in the violence against the Agatus in Benue State or in the lawlessness being perpetrated by some herdsmen in the South-east, the Buhari administration has created a situation in which the response of the federal authorities to any of these tragedies is defined by how they classify the victims. And it would seem that federal officials have also learnt to read the famous body language of the president as one that speaks only for a particular group. That is not the way to restore law and order in a plural society.

    In his very revealing interview in PUNCH last Sunday, Mojeed Owoyemi, the vulcanizer (tyre repairer) whose alleged beheading was said to have triggered the Ife violence, knocked the bottom off the false claim that some Hausa people murdered a Yoruba man, hung his head on a pole and danced with it. But the vulcanizer also said something very instructive: “When the crisis started, the two sides were throwing stones and bottles at each other. We thought that the whole thing would soon stop but we were wrong. Suddenly, we started hearing gunshots and the Hausa also were shooting arrows. I ran away from the scene because in that type of situation, anybody could be shot.”

    While I have lived in this country long enough to know that there is more that unites us as a people than what divides us, I am also aware that what most of our leaders promote is what divides us because that is the only way to sustain their private advantage in a system that is very much skewed against the people. That is why it is so easy for them to incite violence and reprisal killings either by what they say (write) or what they do. But we cannot continue that way.

    Last Friday in Abuja, Dr. Munzali Ahmadu Dantata, scion of the famous Dantata family of Kano and former Director General of the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism, hosted a reading of his novel, “Tammunnde: Hope on the Horizon”, which revolves around a Fulani family that followed their herd to Okitipupa village in Ondo State where they resided for decades. As one would imagine, a novel around Fulani herdsmen in a season like this was bound to provoke serious debate and it did; especially with the executive members of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) led by their president all in attendance.

    The highlight of the session for me was when Brigadier General Salmanu Bala (rtd), a friend of the author who was at the event, gave an interesting anecdote of a trip they once made to the Southwest during which they got lost while trying to locate the village they were going to. He said at a point when they were getting frustrated, they saw some young Fulani men with their cattle and they heaved a sigh of relief, thinking that their problem was solved. As it turned out, the Fulani men could only speak Yoruba!

    In extrapolating from the General’s summation about where would be home to such Fulani people, Dr Lizi Ben-Iheanacho, a Director at National Council for Arts and Culture, Abuja, posed a question: “When it comes to Nigeria, where exactly is home? I am sure if anyone had asked the Igbo people who were killed in the pogrom in the sixties before that madness started where their home was, they would probably have said Kano, Kaduna and those towns where many were born. But all of a sudden, they were uprooted to go to places many had probably never been to before as their home. I am from Imo State but I have lived my adult life in Abuja where all my children were born yet they dare not claim Abuja as home. How do we build a country under such circumstances?”

    What I took away from the session is that there is a yearning by many Nigerians for us to build an inclusive society where every citizen can claim wherever they reside as home without any threat to their lives and livelihoods. But such would not happen in a situation in which public officials identify, and take sides, with particular groups even on issues that border on law and order. Without any doubts, the federal officials who converged on Ife did so clearly not out of any patriotic duty but because of their ethnic affinity with the residents of Sabo whose pain and loss, I must add, I also share. Due to their clear bias and partisanship, the police have now allowed the tragedy to be unduly politicized with the potential to undermine national security.

    It is indeed unfortunate that government, at all levels, tends to take peaceful co-existence for granted for the simplistic reason that people have lived together for centuries and should be left that way. Thus, when changing social and economic circumstances force cracks in longstanding communal relationships, the authorities are easily caught off guard. Even in routine law enforcement, what is embarrassingly missing is a sociological grounding of the very law enforcement personnel we send out to contain communal disquiet in the dynamics of the environment they have to deal with. The inconvenient truth is that because we have for long neglected education, there remains that untouched critical mass of our citizens in the urban ‘native’ settlements and rural areas who interpret reality principally along ancestral ethnic lines.

    It is therefore little surprise that when economic conditions harden, age long communal harmony is torn apart as many of our people tend to see their adversity in the face of the “enemies” next door. Even members of the elite are not immune from this sectarian consciousness. Just check the exchanges on WhatsApp and other social media platforms on burning national issues and you will realise how badly divided Nigeria has become.

    I doubt that either the federal government in Abuja or the various state administrations have cared enough to insist on a clear understanding of the internal security issues that have been thrown up by two factors: the Buhari administration’s undisguised parochial disposition in dealing with national issues and the dire economic conditions in the country. The two are interwoven. When a national leader is deemed, rightly or wrongly, as discriminating between different groups in the conduct of public affairs, that becomes a breeding ground for intolerance that hoodlums can easily feed on, in moments of crisis.

    That is why I admire Aregbesola’s position on the Ife tragedy. In the enforcement of law and the protection of order, the relevant authorities must be blind to the ethnic costume of criminals. But in the management of diversity in a federal state, our leaders in Abuja must never pretend to be blind to the competing sensitivities in our diverse society.

    Meanwhile, when all the issues surrounding the Ife crisis have been resolved, nothing would delight me more than for the Ooni of Ife, whose efforts on this crisis are quite commendable, to rally all Yoruba sons and daughters to contribute towards rebuilding Sabo not to appease some irredeemable ethnic champions in Abuja but to demonstrate to the world the enduring value of a precious Yoruba virtue: OMOLUABI! But apart from that, the Ooni should also consider inviting leaders of the Hausa community to his palace, breaking bread with them and letting them know that Ife is their home too.

    Above all, it will help us a lot if all the critical stakeholders across the country, including those with access to the media, play more positive roles in promoting peaceful co-existence and national unity.

    Against The Run of Play

    …President Jonathan himself admitted as much to me in the course of our lengthy chat, saying, “Go and check the results from Kano. The presidential election and that of National Assembly happened on the same day and same time. The National Assembly result reflected that about 800,000 people voted but that of the presidential reflected a vote of about 1.8 million. I had reports of what happened but I decided that for such to be accepted, it meant that those who called themselves my supporters must have colluded. I was betrayed by the very people I relied on to win the election.”

    Read Also: Nigeria’s Angry Children Of Suicide - Reuben Abati

    However, Prof Mohammed Kuna, Special Assistant to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, begged to differ. “There is nothing particularly special about the Kano result; it is a general trend as many voters were more interested in the presidential election than in other elections. That was what happened across the country and you can go and do the tabulation,” argued Kuna, who maintained that the use of card readers had made the election more difficult to rig. “With the card reader, it is no longer possible to return results that are higher than the accredited voters. If you analyse the results nationally, you will discover the same trend.”

    The foregoing is from my coming book, “Against The Run of Play: How an incumbent president was defeated in Nigeria” which will be released after a public presentation in Lagos on 28th April. A few posers: Why did Ahmed Adamu Muazu refuse to read the statement prepared for him after Jonathan had conceded? Whose script was Godsday Orubebe playing at INEC results collation centre and why/how did the plan collapse? Why does Asiwaju Bola Tinubu still believe that a Muslim-Muslim ticket, with him running with now-President Muhammadu Buhari, could still have won the 2015 presidential election?

    Read Also: Heresy In The House Of Oduduwa, By Dele Momodu

    Yet there are several other questions: What were the intrigues surrounding the emergence of Prof Yemi Osinbajo as the APC presidential running mate and what role did Rotimi Akeredolu play in that? What did Nasir El-Rufai say about Tinubu and the South-west in his ten-page memo dated 30th June 2012 which he sent to Buhari? Who addressed Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as “you this Hausa boy”? What was the real problem between Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and Dame Patience Jonathan? How did Diezani Alison-Madueke contribute to the defeat of Jonathan and what role did Presidents Barack Obama and Francoise Hollande as well as Prime Minister David Cameron play in that?

    More questions: Was the concession by Jonathan a jump or a push? If the former, was it out of altruism? If the latter, was Jonathan coerced by some Western powers as insinuated in some quarters? Did he simply concede out of a personal conviction that it was the right thing to do, having been defeated at the polls? Even more importantly, against the backdrop of the pervasive notion that it was virtually impossible to defeat an incumbent president with all the resources at his disposal, how did Jonathan lose the election?

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    You will get answers to those questions and many more as I take readers through the issues that led to the defeat and concession of a sitting president in Nigeria. You will also read the insights of many political leaders with whom I had interviews, including Muazu Babangida Aliyu, Gabriel Suswam, Aminu Bello Masari, Kashim Shettima, Tambuwal and El-Rufai. And then, there were Okwesilizie Nwodo, Abdulrahman Dambazau, Matthew Hassan Kukah, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Osita Chidoka, Mohammed Bello Adoke, Emeka Ihedioha and Alhaji Mahmud Yayale Ahmed. Of course, there are also revealing insights from President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Senate President David Mark as well as Buba Galadima, Amaechi, Muazu, Tinubu, Kuna and several others. Just watch out!

    To chair the Lagos ceremony is former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar while the unveiling will be done by the former Cross Rover State Governor, Mr Donald Duke. Interested bookshops and sales outlets should direct all their inquiries by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 08077364217.

    First Pubihed at Thisday Nigeria

  • Dangerous Relevance Of Bad, Sick Trump, By Akin Osuntokun

    “He should not have the nuclear codes because it’s very easy to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because someone got under his very thin skin. We cannot let him roll the dice with America… a man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons…. when the president orders a nuclear attack, ‘that’s it. There’s no veto or Congress. No veto by the joint chiefs. The officers in the silos have no choice but to fire. And that can take as little as four minutes”.

    I habitually keep away from foreign affairs commentary-except only as it directly impacts Nigeria. My take is that there are tons of qualified experts out there who are better able to adequately grapple with extra Nigeria issues. I consider it presumptuous of me to presume to pontificate on the European Union, France, China, NATO, Uganda and others. An element of this habit has to do with avoiding what the Nigerian fraternity of the pen calls “going Afghanistan”-that is deliberately avoiding more relevant subject matters for whatever reasons. A large part of it has also to do with the fact that Nigeria (inclusive of sub-Sahara Africa) is peripheral, almost of no consequence, to the global community-except maybe as a nuisance, an object of pity and derision. Where however President Donald Trump is concerned, I have decided to make an exception. For that turn of phrase I give the original credit to Denzel Washington in the movie titled “Equalizer”.

    Read Also: Beyond the Circus - Chidi Amuta

    The two Presidents that scare me the most in the world are Donald Trump of the United States of America and Kim IL Song of North Korea. Both basically share the same personality impulse and are prone to the Samson complex. These two men are governed by an infantile ego driven impulse of mutually assured destruction, MAD. If it becomes clear they are going down, they are going to try and bring down the World with them.

     America appears to have sleep walked into disaster and the resilience of its normative political order is being put to hard test by the new normless sheriff in town. The consolation is that America has an inbuilt sturdy mechanism of anticipating and containing a rogue President. How America manages to egg this bull out of its china shop is going to remain a classical case study in rogue leadership management.

    Of equal concern is how God’s own country descended from the Olympian heights of the noble exceptionalism of electing Barack Obama, its first African American President, to the valley of the base level perversion of electing a serial pathological liar, devious racist and sadistic philanderer as Obama’s successor; a dialectical reversal from progress to regression.

    In a most cruel irony of fate, of brazen double jeopardy, we are perplexed at how an unrepentant transgressor who, through the peddling and perpetration of a corrosive blatant lie, inflicted a deep laceration on an innocent predecessor, could be gifted the rarefied political prize of successor to his victim. What lessons are we supposed to learn from this apparent triumph of evil?

    I am writing from Nigeria and the fact that a commentator from a country with such poor leadership standard can presume to lecture America on leadership standards is a testimony to how low Trump has taken America. It is a platitude to say that the American election that produced the new ‘big beautiful wall’ President reflects a particularly shocking degenerate propensity in the American electorate. The more alarming revelation is that Trump is a personification of at least forty per-cent of the American electorate-that category whom Hilary Clinton so aptly depicted as ‘deplorables’..”You can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables” She said. What characterisation can be more appropriate for a typical supporter who, impervious to reason and education, inveighs ‘Obama is a Muslim who hates America’ well into the last year of the second term tenure of the former President.

    Three weeks ago, President Trump broadcasted the concocted lie that Obama wire-tapped him: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism! How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”. The dark truth is that Trump’s fixation with Obama (as fall guy) is rooted in the latter’s vulnerability and utility as lightening rod for stoking the undying embers of racist bigotry in America-to which a substantial proportion of white male America are covertly and overtly sworn.

    More illumination was shed by the Atlantic magazine “Trump made himself the face of the so-called birther movement, which had as its immediate goal the demonization of the country’s first African American president. Trump’s larger goal, it seemed, was to stoke fear among white Americans of dark-skinned foreigners”.

    The CNN writer, Nia-Malika Henderson, similarly reasoned “For Trump’s base, Obama is the ready-made villain, he launched a kind of trial run for the White House in 2011 by embracing birtherism. Long after most had given up speculating about Obama’s birthplace — and years after Obama released his birth certificate — Trump clung to the racially charged conspiracy theory, insisting that there were still more unanswered questions. It took him five years to finally let it go. Now, it seems, Trump may have landed on a conspiracy theory that has equal staying power. In fact, the contours of his recent Obama fixation have much in common with birtherism. With his wiretapping claims, Trump once again positions himself as the great unmasker of Obama, a fraudulent figure who isn’t who he says he is — or so the theory goes”.

    The most authoritative repudiation of Trump as a liar lately came from the FBI director: “With respect to the President’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets.”

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    A lot has been said and written about the potency of these lies to debase and undermine the credibility of the American Presidency (but), the damage to the American society is actually deeper and more extensive. American children are being schooled by their President that it is not only meet and proper to lie but that when you are called out on the lie, the proper response is to insist on the lie and refuse admission of any wrongdoing. Here are the prescient comments of Michelle Obama at the last Democratic Party convention in Philadelphia.

    “We know that our words and actions matter not just to our girls, but to children across this country. Every word we utter, every action we take, we know they are watching. We as parents are their most important role models. This election is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives.”. She added “Being president doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are”

    And it is not as if there were not sufficient troubling indications of what a potential Trump Presidency harbours for America. At the risk of sounding illiberal-there was the prospect of a first lady who used to pose in the nude. By itself, this colourful resume may be readily discounted but taken together with the totality of the Trump record with women, a rampaging licentious misogynist perversion, it portends the subsisting real life decadent Trump incumbency. The Trump era phenomenon that has emerged in American democracy is a weird portrait of mutual unintelligibility between the wilfully blind and fanatical supporters of Donald Trump versus the thinking, common sense demographic of American society. From the latter came the following prior character witness of the emergent President:

    “I am not a highly partisan person. I have views that are left of centre, but others that are conservative. I think well of many Republican politicians, including the last two GOP presidential nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney, both of whom are honourable men and would have been good presidents.” “Donald Trump is different. “Not just because he is obnoxious, tacky and vulgar, or that his business dealings show him to be a scam artist. He is different because of what he believes…. Trump’s views on policy issues, from social security to taxes, are insincere reflections of what he thinks his supporters want to hear” remarked Fareed Zakaria.

    “Trump seems to believe deeply in ethnic stereotypes. The common thread is that Trump is quick to tell Americans facing economic hardship that they should blame their problems on foreigners. He has said and done dozens of things over 30 years that confirm a demeaning view of women — in interviews with Howard Stern, during his ownership of the Miss Universe pageant, when describing working women and when debating female candidates like Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton. In addition, Zakaria said, Trump has contempt for many of the foundations of liberal democracy, from banning Muslims from entering America to threatening to jail his opponent if he is elected. “Donald Trump is not a normal candidate. He is a cancer on American democracy,” Zakaria concluded.

    Donald Trump, argued the Atlantic magazine,” has no record of public service and no qualifications for public office. His affect is that of an infomercial huckster; he traffics in conspiracy theories and racist invective; he is appallingly sexist; he is erratic, secretive, and xenophobic; he expresses admiration for authoritarian rulers, and evinces authoritarian tendencies himself. He is easily goaded, a poor quality for someone seeking control of America’s nuclear arsenal. He is an enemy of fact-based discourse; he is ignorant of, and indifferent to, the Constitution; he appears not to read”
    To the misfortune and consternation of the US and indeed, the whole world, all this was to no avail as the early morning pall of November 10th 2015 gave birth to the unexpected and unwanted monstrous baby.

  • Dino Melaye: The making of a brand, by Reuben Abati

    It is a sign of the times, and a tragedy that the most popular Senator in the Nigerian National Assembly at this moment is not the person who has moved the most impactful motion, not a lawmaker who has proposed a thought-provoking bill, and certainly not any Senator who has given any impressive speech debating a matter of national importance. What we get, most of the time, in place of legislative responsibility, prudence, accountability and distinction is burlesque, farce, Japanese-styled Bungaku-Bunraku enactments, a dose of medieval commedia d’ell arte and an enormous supply of Yoruba Alarinjo with a bit of the Akata from Efik and Ibibioland. And the star in this comedy of errors that the Nigerian National Assembly has become is a gentleman called Dino Melaye. He is the perfect archetype of all that is wrong or right with the Nigerian legislature, a fine representation of contradictory binaries, and a lesson unto the rest of us.
    I am not condemning Dino Melaye. I am in fact just about to say that we created a man like him, just as before him, we needed a Busari Adelakun, and a Lamidi Adedibu to show us the true character of Nigerian politics. And to those who think Dino Melaye is something of an aberration, I say to them that Dino Melaye is indeed a true picture of Nigerian politics. He is much smarter and far more politically savvy than those who condemn him. His Wikipedia profile announces that his ambition is to be Nigeria’s President someday, may be he won’t become President, but he may suddenly show up in the future as something close to that high office. He is far more Nigerian than those who criticize or condemn him. He knows the system. He plays the system. He has the capacity to beat the system. Most people who get to the top in Nigeria beat the system, and when they do so, they flaunt their smartness in the people’s face. The pundits write their articles but nothing changes, because a man like Dino Melaye can get a whole Vice Chancellor of a University created under the Act to do his bidding, and a National Assembly to queue up behind him.
    I read one piece in which the writer was wondering how on earth we ended up with a Dino Melaye in the National Assembly: A man like that whose brand raises too many questions. His school certificate result is not exactly impressive. His year of graduation from Ahmadu Bello University has been controversial, even with the sitting Vice Chancellor’s needless testimony. Nobody is sure whether a BA or a BSc is the appropriate description of a degree in Geography. Dino’s name is allegedly missing in the University’s Graduation Year Brochure, an omission that nobody has been able to explain. There is an NYSC group photograph but he is just about the only person not properly dressed. Former classmates have confirmed that he was actually a university student and that he graduated, and the Vice Chancellor says he got a Third Class. Third Class!

    Read Also: Ile-Ife And The Nigerian Tragedy, By Olusegun Adeniyi


    I have never seen any student so proud of a Third Class like Dino Melaye. To celebrate his Third Class he wore to the National Assembly, a Doctoral candidate’s gown, and thus insulted the entire academic establishment. I have a Ph.D gown and the full robes of the Nigerian Academy of Letters, but no form of temporary insanity will make me wear either of both robes to a wedding party. Dino Melaye is a Nigerian Senator; nobody should be surprised if one of these days he wears his distinguished borrowed robes to a funeral just to convince everyone that he has a university degree. No serious person advertises a Third Class degree, but Dino Melaye says on top of that, he has acquired six additional degrees, including certificates from Harvard and the London School of Economics! The lesson from this is that the certificates of everyone who aspires to lead Nigeria at any level must be carefully verified henceforth. Only God knows how many persons at the highest levels in Nigeria are parading certificates and qualifications that should form the subject of scrutiny. A nation that is led by the least educated and the most ignorant of its population is definitely in trouble.
    In the United States, a man like Dino Melaye would probably never win an election. His former wife, Tokunbo accused him of battery and domestic violence and showed pictures to prove her point. Her short-lived successor made similar claims, spent six months and fled. There was another lady, one of those “man-eating” Nollywood girls who entertained us with her misery and the story of a child and DNA tests. If the wives and the baby mamas were wrong, Dino Melaye soon had a tiff with Senator Remi Tinubu and what he said about her menopausal status, we don’t have to repeat. He even went to the front of Remi Tinubu’s house in Lagos to pose for a photograph, daring her husband to do his worst. Senator Tinubu’s husband, the Jagaban of Borgu, Asiwaju of Lagos, former Governor of Lagos and national leader of the APC knew better. The last time Dino Melaye got into a duel, he came out of it with torn clothes, which he proudly advertised.
    Dino Melaye poses as an anti-corruption crusader. He rides some of the most exotic cars in Nigeria, all labeled Dino 1 to 5 or whatever. He is loud, flamboyant, and unconventional. He can talk, which means he is articulate, he is fearless, he is also fiercely and stubbornly loyal to the incumbent Senate President Bukola Saraki. He can sing.

     

    Read Also: Heresy In The House Of Oduduwa, By Dele Momodu

    He can dance. He obviously has no respect for women because he is a macho-man, an alpha male. He can also fight, and he considers journalists the scum of the earth. That is why when Omoyele Sowore of Sahara Reporters digs into his past and qualifications, his immediate response is to say that he is being stalked and to go after the investigative journalist with everything that he can deploy. Melaye was elected as a Senator to make laws for good governance, but he has been busy acting like he is an awada kerikeri actor on loan to the National Assembly.
    I am not condemning him. He won an election. In fact he has won many elections. The people who voted for him must see something in him. The man who represented Kogi West before him used to make useful contributions that made the headlines, he was respected for his informed interventions; there was never a time he wore torn clothes to the Red Chamber, but the people voted him out and elected Dino Melaye and since he started ruffling things up, nobody who voted for him has questioned him. You actually get the impression that Melaye is considered a hero in his Kogi West constituency. This should explain why he enjoys being the drama king of the National Assembly.
    To politicians of his type, every kind of publicity is good publicity.

    Read Also: Dino: 21st-Century Crook, 17th-Century University By Pius Adesanmi.

     

    It is better to be heard and known, for whatever reason, than to be unknown and unsung. In Melaye’s mind, he is obviously having fun. The kerfuffle over his academic qualification is probably as far as he is concerned, a joke, because afterall, he doesn’t need more than a secondary school certificate to be a member of the National Assembly. When we write about him, discuss his politics, interview him, project him in the media, we are actually promoting his politics and brand.
    His kind of brand works in Nigeria. What was the value of Busari Adelakun’s politics or that of Lamidi Adedibu? But both men ended up being more prominent in their constituencies than other politicians of their time. Lamidi Adedibu, the exponent of Amala politics, was so powerful, when a certain Governor refused to pay him Godfather-rent, he got him removed from office and as they say, nothing happened. Adedibu derived his power from being close and loyal to a bigger man of power. He could sing too. And he could dance. And that is perhaps why Dino Melaye should be taken seriously when he breaks out into a song:
    A je kun iya ni o je
    A je kun iya ni o je
    E ni ti o to ni na, to n dena de ni
    A je kun iya ni oje
    That song is now top of the charts in Nigeria today, with a remix and multiple parodies by other public figures. The only man who is probably yet to learn that song is Senator Ali Ndume, but it is a song that speaks to him directly and accounts for his six-month suspension from the Senate. It is also a song about power and dictatorship. There is nothing in it about values or fairness, or justice. It is a might-is-right composition, about the mighty punishing and oppressing the powerless. “A je kun iya” emphasizes the severity of punishment, “eni ti o to ni na” underscores the imbalance of weight, and the lack of equality in strength. It is a song of intimidation, threat and abuse, completely arrogant in tone and sense.
    Dino Melaye knows how to taunt his critics. I visited his website: dinomelaye.com. There are nice photographs and links to other sites including his Facebook page, projecting him as a courageous and outspoken anti-corruption crusader and a political activist. We do not find any information about the bills and motions that he sponsored, or projects that he has embarked upon, or his relationship with his Kogi West Constituency. This may be an oversight on the part of those who manage the site for him, but their omission is perhaps in order, since Dino Melaye is better known for the drama that he creates.
    His Wikipedia profile offers nothing more impressive other than the notably juicy details about his marital life, his threat to “beat and impregnate another man’s wife”, and his monumental contribution to legislative debate about how Nigerian men should stop “importing” wives from foreign countries. To this should be added his promotion of the “aje kun iya” folk song into a quasi-national anthem. Elsewhere, a lawmaker’s profile online would refer to his or her electoral history, committee assignments and ideological positions on key national issues. What constitutes a lawmaker’s brand is what he stands for and how well he has served the people.
    Dino Melaye’s brand is peculiar: he can sing, dance, fight and speak out loud. He is an artful master of form. But what exactly does he stand for? What is his position on national security, healthcare, federalism, social security or agriculture? I don’t know. But I won’t condemn him, because he is a well-made product of Nigerian politics. It is after all, difficult to know what most contemporary Nigerian politicians stand for. He is in addition, probably much better than half of the National Assembly. He is more attentive at least than all those other Senators who don’t attend plenary, certainly better than those who have spent more time there dozing off, or the ones who have spent years in that Assembly and have never uttered a word, or sponsored a bill, support a motion or do anything of note. The pity is that many of such are now running up and down, seeking to become Governors in their states in 2019. So, why won’t Dino Melaye nurse the ambition of becoming President someday? A je kun iya ni o je…

     

    First Publised at Reubenabati.com

  • Nigeria’s Angry Children Of Suicide - Reuben Abati

    I once wrote about Nigeria’s “children of anger”, but the country seems to have progressed from anger to clinical depression, resulting in a rise not merely in social aggressiveness, but a determination by certain individuals to escape from it all. 

    The percentage of Nigerians seeking escape through suicide nonetheless remains small relative to the size of the population, but the sharp increase in the number and frequency of reported suicides in the last two years alone speaks to a certain dysfunctionality requiring closer inquiry.  

    Suicide is an act of self-destruction, an escape from the self, an act of self-defeat. Whether the suicide is anomic or fatalistic, due to loss of job, broken relationships, dis-inhibition, economic deprivation, environmental factors, disability or psychosis, it usually arises from an awareness of the inadequacy of the self.  What Germans call “weltschmerz”, that is, a discrepancy between personal expectations and the reality of personal space, which for many may result in anger, aggressiveness, a feeling of rejection, isolation, inadequacy and ultimately a revolt against the self.

    It is often assumed that poverty is synonymous with this resolve to deconstruct the self but the highest suicide rates are actually found in countries with wealth, and better environment, and all ten of the most popular spots for suicide in the world are in developed countries

    What is certain however regardless of the place and time, is that human beings decide to abbreviate their own mortality when they resolve that they can no longer live with the discrepancy between what they are and what they would like to be, or what they have been and what they have suddenly become or what they expect and what happens to them eventually, all of this basically in the context of the imagined stigma, shame, disgrace or disappointment.

    What is instructive in our own circumstance, however, is that suicide has always been frowned upon in our society: It is forbidden by law, religion, society and tradition, to the extent that in local communities, persons who commit suicide are not given any decent burial, they are thrown into the evil forest to serve as a deterrence to others, and the affected family is stigmatized. It is for this reason perhaps that suicide cases used to be very few in our land. Besides, Nigerians are known for their optimism and resilience.

    We were once described as one of the happiest people on earth, and one Dictionary describes a segment of our population, the Yoruba as the “fun-loving people of the South West part of Nigeria.”  Nigerians love life so much they describe virtually every funeral as a “celebration of life” and every life, including the poorest is advertised in funeral posters as “a life well spent.” 

    The cemetery is seen as a desolate, lonely, outside corner of the social space where no one is in a hurry to go.  But all that has changed; or appears to be changing, for in the last two years, suicide seems to have become fashionable among seemingly ordinary folks.

    I use the phrase “seemingly ordinary folks” advisedly, because the other kind of suicide that is known to Nigerians remains even surprising, and I refer here to the terrorism, religious fundamentalism-inspired suicide attempts of the likes of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Boko Haram agents. When the news broke in 2009, that the former had been uncovered as a suicide bomber, Nigerians were shocked. 

    The reaction then was that it was impossible for a Nigerian to willingly decide to die for, of all reasons, ideological or religious reasons. We were soon proven wrong when Boko Haram began to deploy both male and female, mature and teenage, suicide bombers who turned Nigeria into an extension of the killing fields of al-Qaeda. This trend continues, with the hope within the larger society, that it is something that would end someday.

    What the emerging literature shows is that the conditions for every suicide vary in time and space, but in Nigeria, the reported cases point to too many cases of self-deconstruction on the basis of economic deprivation, loss of status, debt, helplessness. The responsibility of government is to ensure the security and welfare of the people. There has been a great failing in this regard, with the people driven further below their perceived reality, which reinforces the causative principle earlier defined. 

    Some of the recently reported cases are as follows: a man ended it all because he could not give his wife “chop-money”, another woman chose to die because she could not pay off her debts, in one week in Lagos, a doctor, two women and an elderly man chose the Lagoon as their death-spot. With the way the Lagos Lagoon has suddenly become a popular spot for suicide in Nigeria, it may well  in due course, become one of the most popular suicide spots in the world.

    It is noteworthy, if I must say so, that the ten most popular suicide spots on earth are associated with the sea, and bridges, with perhaps the sole exception of the Aokigahara Forest-Mount Fuji in Japan where suicide rate is as high as 100 per year. The Japanese may tolerate suicide and consider it supernatural, but here in Nigeria, it is a growing trend that should be discouraged.  Some priests have said the Lagos Lagoon is angry and that is why it has been attracting persons to jump into it: if indeed whatever spirit that controls the Lagoon is hungry, the Oba of Lagos and his chiefs should hurry up and feed that spirit with whatever it eats. I assume that this would be a more useful venture than the partisan declaration by the Oba of Lagos that nobody should contest against the incumbent Lagos State Governor in 2019! 

    But how about the other unreported causes of suicide, far away from the Lagoon? This is where the dilemma lies and where our constructive social theory, and the admissibility of every piece of evidence, empirical and customary, meets a brick-wall.    

    As a country, society and government, we would always have to deal with deviant behaviour, into which category suicide – the ultimate act of violence and rebellion against self and society falls in this particular context, what is crucial is society’s level of preparedness to reduce the scope and range. 

    In Nigeria, we are not prepared at all. When people fall into depression in other countries, they visit counselors and psychiatrists. In Nigeria, a prominent leader once dismissed psychology as a useless course that should be removed from the curriculum. Graduates of psychology end up doing something else, or they end up offering pro bono counseling on social media like my in-law, Joro Olumofin, but with people dying for no just reasons and jumping into the river or hanging themselves or killing their spouses and family members, this is a country in urgent need of professional counselors. Psychiatry is another relevant discipline that has been utterly neglected.

    I once gave a keynote address at the Psychiatric Hospital, Aro in Abeokuta and I was again Keynote Speaker at the 100th anniversary of Psychiatry in Nigeria. Nothing has changed since then. We don’t have enough psychiatric doctors or hospitals in Nigeria. The few psychiatric hospitals are poorly funded, psychiatric doctors are poorly treated, the discipline is disregarded, and yet this is a country of psychotic cases at all levels, the more serious cases are in government, making decisions that create more problems of bipolar disorder in the larger society. 

    Nigeria is a victim, like many other developing countries, of a one-sided embrace of globalization and its gains and evils. People watch TV and they are socialized into a new form of thinking that is disconnected with local values and culture. They become anti-heroes in the process. Suicide or attempted suicide has not fetched any one or any family any kind of honour in our society.

    Given this sociology, greater attention needs to be paid to the increasing incidence of suicide, in the North and the South particularly, with the most vulnerable states properly identified and strategic intervention measures put in place. A preliminary observation indicates that the most affected persons in the North are radical Islamic extremists used as pawns by the Boko Haram, while in the 10 most affected states in the South, the cause is basically existential.  This observation is based on reported cases, but with the increasing frequency, it is safe to hazard a guess that there are many more unreported cases, which may provide additional or different sociological conclusions.

    Whatever the case may be, this rise of despair in the country needs to be managed. Suicide prevention hotlines have been announced, but the thought of suicide should be discouraged in the first place, through better governance, opportunities for professional counseling, and better management of mental health.  Most Nigerians don’t even know who to go to, or talk to when they are depressed! And if they know, they don’t want their private secrets to be known. When the suicide succeeds or fails, the relatives are in need of help: they will need counseling, to deal with the frustration and the shame.

    I believe that suicide-related problems can be fixed. The challenge is to convert the people’s pessimism into optimism through people-centred governance and to deliver the much-expected, much-trumpeted change in their circumstances. Disappointment leads to frustration, to anger, to despondency, to losses, to despair and ultimately to self-destruction for the weak-hearted.  But suicide is not a solution. And to those who doubt this, Teebliz, Tiwa Savage’s husband is a living testimony.  Not too long ago, he wanted to jump into the Lagoon. He said his wife, the award- winning singer, had disappointed him. He accused her of many better-unmentioned-again-things. He could not take it anymore and he wanted to self-destruct.  

    His suicide attempt was more or less televised, because it was everywhere on social media - it is not every suicide that is so televised- eventually he was prevented from taking the plunge, and he raved and ranted afterwards and then went quiet. Months later, he has been shown taking photographs with the same woman for whom he wanted to play a Romeo without a Juliet.  In their most recent outings, they have been shown with their son, Jamil who looks like his father’s twin, and last weekend, the boy had his Christening at a church in Lekki. Teebliz has been pictured bonding with his son and beaming with fatherly pride.

    If he had jumped into the Lagoon when he wanted to do so, he would have been long dead and forgotten. But Teebliz looks much happier now, and deep within him, he must be grateful to the persons who did not allow him to jump.  He must be particularly happy seeing his son growing up into a fine young kid. There is nothing in this life that cannot be fixed and there lies the futility of suicide.  

     

    First published in reubenabati.com.ng

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