Saturday, 23rd September 2023

A brief history of things forgotten

Good day, brothers and sisters. Please, I need you to give me a minute of your time to share this good message with you. I hope I have gotten your attention? Don’t you just miss the theatrics...
President Muhammadu Buhari as military head of state of Nigeria before his regime was truncated. PHOTO: William Campbell/Sygma/Corbis

President Muhammadu Buhari as a military head of state of Nigeria before his regime was truncated. PHOTO: William Campbell/Sygma/Corbis

Good day, brothers and sisters. Please, I need you to give me a minute of your time to share this good message with you. I hope I have gotten your attention? Don’t you just miss the theatrics of the molue preacher or medicine seller of yore? No matter how annoying they were, one was forced to listen to them and bear the Lagos hustle funkiness that trailed the next person sitting or standing next to you in the crowded metal coffin. Because molue had no sick bags, you had to stomach it like we endure every depraved occurrence in Nigeria.

As you can see, I am back to this thankless job of column writing a.k.a. telling people what they already know or reminding readers what they would rather forget e.g. “You voted for a person you thought was a messiah only to realise you just bought Bata shares, a company that walked away from Nigeria in the 80s.” Oro p’esi je!

How do you even come back to something you used to do but have abandoned for a long time? For your information, I used to write a weekly column for NEXT newspapers under the Mr. Yar’Adua and Dr. Goodluck administration, then General Obasanjo discovered letter writing and sank Dr. Goodluck’s career and sent him back to his canoe-carving village in the backwaters of Bayelsa. Oh, and NEXT newspaper was also put to sleep like a beloved but terminally sick canine.

On how to stage a comeback, I know I should be asking my fantastically able president, General Muhammadu Buhari this question. Why? Because General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, a current resident of a mountainous house in Niger state, sent your current president (who was a head of state for a few months) a message when he went to Mecca in August of 1985. The message was “Do not go to another man’s country to pray when you are the military head of state of a country with ambitious Generals”. You see, I have always learnt in my village that a god never leaves it’s rock to go to a mountain to worship another god without losing it’s relevance. And with a cassette that was always on the pile of every Radio Nigeria’s DJ, IBB slot in martial music by Beethoven or maybe it was Sir Vivaldi and the rest was history, from IMF to Moshood Abiola to maladministration to radiculopathy.

General Buhari made sure for more than thirty years he proved to IBB that if you let an enemy soldier walk away from a battle field, you have only sown a seed that will blossom in another war front. So here we are standing with President Buhari on petrol queues, sweeping away stubborn corruption and waiting for Dasuki (who as a colonel gave General Buhari an un-presidential treatment back in 1985) to be convicted. I admire such tenacity, I must admit.

Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah, how do you come back to what you abandoned years ago. I don’t know about the Nigerian ruling class that rotates themselves every other four or eight years but I know that as for columnists, it is hard. I am sure by now you know this from my rambling, which absolutely is leading us nowhere. In fact, I am sure my editor at the Guardian newspaper is wondering if engaging me is like entering a “one chance” bus, in Lagos swindling parlance.

Talking about editor, the mandate I was given was to write about arts and culture, which I vehemently opposed because I am a villager and I don’t know how to write about such things. You want me to climb a palm tree and you are giving me a straight jacket instead of a climbing rope? Arts and culture belongs at the doorstep of the likes of the eponymous Molara Wood. And I will not even touch head splitting political analysis and politicians stoning with intellectual catapult because that rests at the doorsteps of some of my friends like Okey Ndibe and Pius Adesanmi, Phd holders school teachers in countries with uninhibited power supply, free WiFi and salary payment without delay. As for me, I repeat, I shall maintain my lane as a village man who has survived numerous fuel scarcity, generator fumes and pipeline fireworks.

And to satisfy my editor who insisted that my first article should at least talk about art, well Guardian newspaper was the first Nigerian newspaper to publish my drawing as a teenager. In May 1987, after the death of Obafemi Awolowo, my village of Uwessan went into depression and my father who was a staunch UPN supporter—he loved education and that was what UPN stood for—had many legendary stories about Awo, who then had the key to unlock our communal village taps that had been dry since Independence. So I decided to draw this legend and because there were no fax machines and photocopiers in a village that had never seen an electric pole since it’s creation, I mailed my original drawing to Guardian. Two weeks later, an uncle brought a copy to me in the village with my drawing published, that I was elated is an understatement. Why am I telling this story? Two reasons, I have satisfied the editorial request and secondly I am hoping Guardian will find my original drawing in their archives and send it back to me well framed.

I know it’s been decades now since I sent that priceless artwork to Lagos but if Buhari found mandate that Babangida couldn’t find despite his maradonic dexterity, Guardian can find my first published drawing as a teenage artist. See you in two weeks if this newspaper doesn’t throw me and my ramblings under the BRT. (How I hate that name, bring back molue and drama!)