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Mystery snake and a nation’s comedy of errors

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JAMB Center

The Comedy of Errors is one of William Shakespeare’s early plays. It is his shortest and one of his most farcical comedies, with a major part of the humour coming from slapstick and mistaken identity, in addition to puns and word play.
The play tells the story of two sets of identical twins that were accidentally separated at birth but were eventually united after a series of witty events.

Today, the phrase ‘a comedy of errors’ is often used to describe a situation that is so full of mistakes and problems that it seems funny. On that premise, it won’t be out of place to tag our nation as a Land of Comedy of Errors.  Things happen in our clime that you cannot but remember the famous Charley Boy Show where anything can happen.  Ours is a land of lots of comedies. Hardly have you finished savouring the amusing effect of a particular national humor than you are faced with the prospect of another rib cracking one.  So, it is more of a one day, one comedy scenario.

Few months back, the whole world was given a dose of our characteristic hilarious shows when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC discovered a large sum of money in a house in Ikoyi, Lagos. EFCC operatives allegedly found the cash during a sting operation. Specifically, the operatives uncovered about $38m, N23m and £27,000 from the apartment. This comes two days after EFCC operatives recovered ‚¬547,730 and £21,090 as well as N5, 648,500 from a Bureau de Change operator in Balogun Market, Lagos. Six days earlier, the EFCC had recovered N449, 000, 860 hidden in an abandoned shop also in Lagos. Prior to these discoveries, several millions of cash in different denominations have been discovered in bizarre places such as water tanks, burial grounds, farmlands among others.

While the foregoing scenario might look odd to those in other climes, it isn’t to us here. It simply follows a well known tradition of carefully keeping government fund in choice places. Years ago, during the Second Republic, a huge amount of money was discovered at the Government House, Kano. It was then such a big scandal. But, typically, the man at the center of it all, Barkin Zuwo, the then Kano Governor never saw anything strange about the discovery. In his words: It is simply a case of safe- keeping government money in government house.

While he was still in the saddle as the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, current Emir of Kano, Lamido Sule Lamido, once alleged that of the $67 billion crude shipped by NNPC between January 2012 and July 2013, only $47 billion was remitted to the Federation Account.  According to him, given all the issues raised, the NNPC needed to produce the proof that the $20billion unremitted either did not belong to the Federation or was legally and constitutionally spent. This was an era when there was a presidential pronouncement that stealing was not corruption. So, it was not really surprising that rather than paid him up for being a patriotic whistle blower, everything was done by the powers that be to get rid of Lamido.

Ours is a nation of unending jokes. Many have insisted that our survival instinct, in the face of so many mounting pressures, is deeply rooted in our national comedies that are so numerous that it is difficult to arrange them in order of prominence. Years ago, the country’s senior soccer side, the Super Eagles became a butt of joke across the continent when its players had to improvise by cutting off their tracksuits in order not to miss a match against Burkina Faso.  It was later discovered that officials who were to come with the team’s jerseys forgot them at the hotel and unsuccessfully made efforts to retrieve them. To others from different climes, this is odd. But to us, it is good comedy.

As if to authenticate the high rating of the country as a land of plenty comedy, new kid on the block, Philomena Chieshe, a sales clerk in the JAMB office, Makurdi, recently added to our long list of rich comedies when she could not account for N36 million she made in previous years before the abolition of scratch cards. While trying to exonerate herself of any claim of complicity in respect of the missing money, Chieshe alleged that her housemaid connived with another JAMB staff, Joan Asen, to steal the money from the vault in the account office through a weird snake.
Now, while it is true that ours is a land of bountiful comedy, this latest episode seems to have been a joke taken too far. How did the snake manage to swallow such a huge amount of money? How did it unlock the vault? How did it move the money away from JAMB office? Did it crawl or fly? These are logical questions that every sane mind would want to ask.

But then, the situation is an illogical one. It is one that defies logic. This is because a spiritual snake is involved, and in the spiritual realm anything can happen!

It is, perhaps, in order to confront the issue using the appropriate spiritual approach that the senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Shehu Sani, visited JAMB office accompanied by distinguished snake charmers. Speaking about his mission to the office, Sani said: I believe that the contribution I can make is to bring snake charmers from my constituency to the JAMB office and to help them fish out the snake and weed out snakes from their premises. Sani further said that if a snake could actually swallow N36 million, one day Nigerians may wake up to say that a snake had swallowed the country’s foreign reserve. Even if it is a spiritual matter, we believe that these people I brought (the snake charmers) are some of the best snake charmers in the country and they will help in arresting both physical and spiritual snakes if there has been any in the JAMB office.

In an obvious response to the weird Makurdi snake event, the EFCC on its official twitter page @officialEFCC added its own colourful dimension to the issue when it twitted that: an eagle (EFCC) shows no mercy for money swallowing snake(s). What the EFCC might, however, have to be really cautious of is that a spiritual snake that is so audacious to have defied a safe JAMB vault and could swallow N36 million in one full swoop would be a tough one for any natural eagle to contend with.

Since ours is one huge comedy enclave, before long, we shall have another hilarious funny story to deal with. Gradually, the world seems to be taking note of our breathtaking brand of comedy. This is partly why we were once ranked the happiest people on earth.

Ogunbiyi is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy


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