Buhari, Twitter, Ali and the Angel By Lasisi Olagunju 

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The president tweeted a promise of war. Twitter deleted the promise. The government banned Twitter. It has also promised to jail anyone found in bed with Twitter.

The Buhari government’s role models on this road to infamy are North Korea, Iran and China. The list is that short. I laugh at Nigerians who say they are shocked because the president sold himself to them in 2015 as a democrat. I laugh at such simple people; they should know better – and they did.

Pepper, no matter how much you pamper and temper it, won’t ever lose its smarting character.

You know what a Ponzi scheme is? Anyone who has read the life history of an Italian man called Charles Ponzi, or of the more successful American, Bernard Madoff, should understand what has happened to Nigeria. Ponzi and Madoff were the reality version of a character called Ali in my primary school New Oxford English Course story book.

Ali was a merchant of tricks who conned whole villages, kings, chiefs and commoners. He was flat broke and so thought of a scam that would fetch him cool, large cash. Ali told the village that he had brought an angel into town, housed him in his bedroom and asked people to come see the celestial being for a fee. But, he warned, only clean people without sin would see the angel. Who would not want to see an angel and be saved? Again, who would refuse to see this angel and be dubbed ungodly, a sinner? So, soon, a queue formed in front of Ali’s house, and, one by one the villagers, including the king, went in, saw nothing apart from a pair of shoes placed in front of an empty chair. But, one by one, they all came out and announced how well the angel received them, shook their hands – and even prayed for them.

At another time, Ali’s house got burnt and while his people were consoling him, Ali was thinking deeply on how he could convert his loss to wealth. He soon travelled far from home until he got to a village that took tea without sugar. Ali gave them real sugar for their tea. They tasted it and chorused that it was good and great. They wanted more. He said they had to buy. Why not? Bring it, the villagers placed their orders. Ali went back home and packed the ash of his burnt house into sacks. He got back to his mugu village and sold them ash as sugar in their tea. Some attempted to complain that this did not taste sweet (as the sample was). They were promptly branded as faithless, sinful wailers. Did Ali get away with all his scams? I think you should go read the stories again. What I know is that Ali, the salesman, was so successful he came into Nigeria in 2015 and sold the nation ash labeling it ‘Change’.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) did a great job six years ago. It gathered all marketers of trash from the four walls of the world and shipped them into the life of Nigeria. They did so well convincing the children of Nigeria to drop the bean cake in their hand for some invisible honey.

They bought dollar from Nigerians in May 2015 at N197 and resold it to the nation in May 2021 at N500.

They rode the horse of social media’s Twitter to power in 2015; fed it richly again in their renewal war in 2019; but in June 2021, the APC slaughtered Twitter, their old war horse, to appease their god. Twitter is not the first and only casualty. Millions queued to enjoy the blessings of that angel in 2015. How many of them have since not fallen unmourned at the hands of pampered bandits of the angel?

Angelic Buhari last week vowed to treat “misbehaving” Igbos in “the language they understand.” To misbehave, my dictionary says, is to fail to function correctly. It also means to fail to act in an acceptable way; it means to behave badly. By now the president must have realized how ironic his statement was. So he knew misbehavour deserved consequences? You saw how Twitter, in its characteristic irreverence, buried its claws in our president’s pride? The president is angry now because Twitter gave him a slap on the wrist. He is teaching Twitter a lesson no black man has ever dared do. His lion is prancing from the forests of the south east to the south west thickets feeding his rage with the fundamental rights of all. Alaafin Sango at the height of his misrule did same. He complained of everyone’s behaviour. He emitted fire and fury; he silenced both city dwellers and the yokel on the farm. His dazed people, in helpless anger, watched as he worked his way to Koso, his place of hanging, derisive rest.

APC sold Nigerians a manifesto of peace, prosperity, freedom and justice. It promised that it would “restructure Nigeria to achieve devolution of power.” The authors of APC’s manifestoes knew what they wrote was not an article of faith. They knew it was an article of fakery, a Ponzi scheme. And they got the unwary to invest in the hollow pledge of their scam. The promiser got what he wanted; he has now turned his AK-47 at the scammed for whining and grumbling at the point of redemption. The APC and its operatives now criminalise all acts directed at making the ruling clique to pay their debts of restructuring and good governance. The bangle is firmed fixed on the wrist of the chief priest; who will remove it now? Our Federal Government is also insisting that it is doing well; that only blind wailers would not see how great it had performed since Muhammadu Buhari happened to Nigeria six years ago. A friend was angry and wondered if “these people think we have sawdust as brain.” I laughed and asked if he had forgotten the ‘Ali and the Angel’ story (and other Ali stories) in the New Oxford English Course story book we used in primary school. Sinners (and wailers) are forbidden from seeing angels and their performance.

Meanwhile, who really is the sinner here? Between the northern Araba (separation) headmasters and the Igbo secessionist students that are being given the civil war treatment, who is better in behaviour? Let me cite a case. Because the political north lost power in 1999, very early in year 2000, its famished leaders contrived a religious (sharia) crisis in Kaduna in which more than 2,000 people were murdered. The damage was so much on the Igbo that a flickering Emeka Ojukwu had to come out in anguish. He wept and wailed and said: “we are now forced again, to ask, how much more sacrifice do we have to make before we can be embraced as equal citizens of one Nigeria.” But the leaders of the north basked in the sun of their working strategy. They tightened the noose and the orgy of killing continued. It was a whole month of mayhem. President Olusegun Obasanjo did not send any python to dance in Kaduna. He avoided the trap. Instead, the police were used to quell the riots.

Obasanjo’s Federal Government soon felt there should be a nationally acceptable solution to the crisis. He summoned a meeting of the National Council of State for Tuesday, February 29, 2000 with him presiding. The meeting resolved to go back to the Penal Code and put implementation of sharia on hold. And it was so announced with all the northern governors and leaders, including General Muhammadu Buhari in attendance.

The following day, the north made a U-turn, denied ever discussing the matter at the meeting and invoked the principles of federalism to query where the Obasanjo Federal Government got the powers to suspend laws validly made by the northern states..

Alhaji Shehu Shagari came out from retirement that day to issue a statement on behalf of the north attacking the Federal Government. He said the decision undermined the federalist character of the constitution. Shagari wrote: “in the democratic system which we now operate, the federal government has no right to direct the state governments to suspend or rescind any laws which they have enacted through the normal democratic processes of the presidential system of government.”

General Buhari was even firmer and more frontal in his own offering. He told the BBC the same day Shagari spoke that “if we as Muslims want amputation or death penalty, we said we want it because it is our religion and the constitution of the country has agreed that everyone has the right to practice the religion of his choice.”

Yet, another frontline northern leader, Datti Ahmed’s federalist answer to the (political) sharia question was that under our constitution “If any individual feels too uncomfortable with any setup established by the majority in any state, the person has the right to choose another state.” All these northern leaders had no word of sorry to console the victims. So, again, let me ask: between today’s very bad boys of the east who kill and maim and the very bad elders of the north who killed and maimed, who is clean? The one who should be sold to raise money to buy a lantern must not be allowed to praise-sing himself as the ultimate bearer of light.

With the Twitter ban and the other misbehavours of our government, Nigeria will soon become a leper.

The appropriate word is ‘pariah’ in international relations. A pariah is the unsanitary somebody who is rejected soundly by the community of good people. He is an outcast; someone whose ways bought for it disgust and disdain.

He is that person who is despised and avoided because of his bad ways. Dirty Nigeria wore that horrible garment before May 1999. It had no friend, no lover, no suitor. One of the early gains of this democracy was the Obasanjo government curing the country of the pariah status Abacha bought for us. Now, is Abacha back? I ask because we are almost there again with the sad, shocking events of the last few days. The whole civilized, democratic world now slaps us with one rebuke and/or the other because of the autocratic, Internet-restricting choices our government is making.

Yet, the magisterial president asked if he was not ruling us in accordance with the constitution. From what you and I know of how we are being governed, should we not just ask what language the president himself understands? We need to know the language so we use it to “treat” and persuade him to let us live as a civilized people. Buhari heads a Federal Government that is anything but ‘federal’ and ‘government’.

A government that deplumes the peacock of others to beautify his vulture. He presides over a one-sided behemoth with no redeeming contrition; a system which administers pain, and even death, as medicine. A system that misbehaves with impunity. And he and his court and courtiers say: “So what?”

 

 

Dr. Lasisi Olagunju is an editor and Columnist at the Nigerian Tribune

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