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Theresa May, Nigeria and Warwaso

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Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS


There seem to be many misanthropes especially where gayism is concerned in Nigeria. You cannot blame them. Gayism is not part of the Nigerian culture. Certainly, it would not be accepted here like it is in other clime. But what is the Nigerian culture? That is a very difficult question to answer these days. Not when people watch BBNAIJA all day, how that programme contributes positively to the lives of people, I would not know? Since when is the revealing of a titty tat a Nigerian culture? Theresa May knows that nothing in Nigeria is ever even-keeled. We switch between cultures. Even though gayism is not a culture here, Nigerians know who the gays are in their neighbourhoods, where gay clubs are and do nothing but engage in Chinese whispers and maybe it was best according to May that it is legalised. Who are we?

I remember Baroness Lynda Chalker in my teens in the 1990s and how she came to Nigeria and asked the Ibrahim Babangida government at the time to increase the pump price of petroleum because she felt it was too cheap. Structural Adjustment programme was dumped on us, it did not work but succeeded in other Asian countries. Nigeria is a place where just about anyone comes over to sell outrageous ideas. As outrageous as politicians feeding Nigerians with breads of shame. In my boyhood days, we scarcely knew which state of Nigeria our friends were from. We didn’t bother to ask because we believed in the humanism of collective man. Most Muslims of our acquaintance teased we Christians if we didn’t go to church on Sundays, the same way we sniped healthily at those who couldn’t fast during Ramadan without fainting and becoming irritable at the slightest provocation.

Growing up was so much fun. We went for “Yawon Sallah” with our Muslim friends and the mischievous ones amongst them wondered why we should: after all we were Christians. They also went with us for “Yawon Christmas” and the mischievous ones amongst us queried such fraternity although not in a disagreeably harsh way but to poke fun at them. For reasons best known to the adults we besieged them for “Barka Da Sallah” gifts and  “Happy Christmas” On days when we went for “suna” (naming ceremonies) they preferred to give us money after they made us go through rigorous dancing sessions; surprisingly, not singly for our efforts but collectively for the common good in a process called, “warwaso.”  “Warwaso” was for ‘kowa da kowa’ ‘duka nku’ “for all” and “for everybody” (literal translation in Hausa) and not for one person. With “warwaso”, monies were thrown in the air for all. We struggled, bit, pulled, and elbowed one another to get these monies. It was a free-for-all conquest. The strongest amongst us went home with a good harvest. How it was for everybody in those days is puzzling when I recall those days today. You can imagine my bewilderment when I ran into the entourage of a mighty political person in Port Harcourt and with the grid-lock, we had to give way for traffic to clear. This political heavy-weight, on his way to his car, was besieged by praise-singers, thundering praises to high heaven, dipped his hands into his pocket and began to “warwaso.”

It was stupefying. Imagine the scramble. But unlike our innocent boyhood friends without any bitterness, adults here elbowed adults and rained blows as they scrambled for scarce naira notes. The heavyweight was oblivious of the din he evoked. His convoy sped away as the battle for “warwaso” began. For the better part of the day, I couldn’t take my mind away from the “warwaso” of my boyhood days and the “warwaso” as it is played out now. Even though men eat the bread of shame sometimes, because they ask others for help, “warwaso” debases people to a level of indignity.  

The warwaso of my childhood was a sport. Today it is an exercise in survival. Here again where I currently write from, a politician visited his community and engaged in ‘warwaso’ Is ‘warwaso’ like gayism now part of the Nigerian culture? I thought politics is for people who have dates with destiny.

Theresa May understands that Nigeria does not have a Thursday Prime Minister question hour where history, performance are never seen through rose-coloured glasses but debated for the good of party and country.  She is aware that our politics is not like hers where politicians are properly briefed by policy experts beforehand on all issues before they make public speeches and they wouldn’t be caught pants-down winging speeches publicly that are not in sync with reality. 

Theresa May understands that dialogue is thought which is not absolute and final but that there are few sages in Nigeria’s political scene now to question some foreign thoughts.  Sages are thinkers who commune regularly with sages elsewhere without the drawing of imaginary lines. Sages, before elections, know what they seek to achieve. They choose a team to help spiral down key messages to the electorate. Daily, members of the team rehearse their lines and never move away from the daily theme for uniformity of purpose. After elections, the electoral team stays in the shadow. The sages choose people outside the electoral team to serve and implement the policies and programs of the party. What informs their choice of ministers is personal loyalty to the country, policy compatibility and competence.

Under-performing servants are fired after recommendations by the electoral team who are now members of an elder’s council. Do you see sages around? Corrupt people who stole without dissimulation would have been expelled from their parties and not celebrated, because in politics when the sum of a politician’s liability is more than the sum of his assets, it would do the party more harm. May is aware that to villainise people has become the dominant leitmotif of Nigeria’s politics and is a country that needs help in everything.  She is aware that we do not know the importance of empowering workers and firms to win, to set up a research and development unit to help local firms compete favourably with foreign companies. That Nigerian market is a dumpster for all goods including gayism. We go to have forty winks, do nothing until companies crumble, take them over and jaw-bone the very people who set up these businesses out of business. Open governance seems to be an essential commodity. Many companies are run by proxies. Not many know who owns what in this country. And the proxies act like speculators who believe in short termism. Could they have helped changed the tide?

When I was a boy, my mother used to enter the train from Igala land to Gusau, after which she boarded a bus to Sokoto State. The rail track I gather stops at Gusau. Decades later, it still hasn’t been extended.  Why won’t May and her ilk preach gayism to us?


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Theresa MayWarwaso
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