Naija Notes: Let’s Kill the Generals

by Toni Kan Onwordi

Back in school we, my crazy friends and I had a terrible habit of making up quotes which we then attributed to William Shakespeare. One of our favorites was “Time doth flit, O shit!”

Time indeed doth flit, but that is not what this piece is about. It is about a quote that I have heard people use and which is oft attributed to William Shakespeare. I speak of: “First, let’s kill all the lawyers!” I don’t know whether Shakespeare really did say that. What I know is that listening and reading news reports on the on-going party primaries I am appalled at the number of retired generals whose names keep popping up as winners and party flag-bearers.

I was surprised when last night my very apolitical wife expressed surprise at the emergence of Brigadier General Olagunsoye Oyinlola as PDP flag-bearer for the gubernatorial race. “Why are military men winning everywhere?” The surprised woman asked rhetorically.

The answer I gave her is the same I want to give now. The military men, the army generals, are the ones with all the money and come 2003 elections they will be the ones in charge along with their better halves: the 419ers.


Talking about 419, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) has released very “exciting” figures showing that Nigerian con men better known as 419ers scammed a princely $5bn off greedy oyinbo’s in 2002. Putting that figure in real terms we are talking of N675bn.

Now, a chance meeting with a politician at an upscale watering hole in Victoria Island 2 weeks ago revealed an interesting fact. The politician said that in 1999 many principled Nigerians did not believe that the transition was going to be seen through. So, they did not bother to take part. The natural consequence was that less qualified types with money to spare hijacked the process and flooded the legislative houses, with the majority of them dropping anchor in the Lower House. Most of those with money to spare were, you guessed right, 419ers

Now, with N675bn in their kitty, you can bet your fanny that post 2003 elections the House of Reps will not be lacking funny types whose preferred mode of payment is Ghana Must Go bags.


I have just been supplied a copy of The News magazine and atop the cover is a banner headline, Ekwueme Speaks!

Whatever the Loser-formerly-known-as-Ekwueme has to say will have no affect on what I want to state here and now: for the Igbos to rule this country, they must learn to look away from the North for political validation.

At the last count there were 4 Igbo men running for president. Add losers like Ekwueme and Okadigbo and you will have six. Aside from Akande and the laughable Gani Fawehinmi, the Yoruba people have all rallied behind their own and Buhari has actually made peace with his arch enemy Babangida all in a bid to consolidate Hausa votes in his favour.

Ndigbo nko? They are busy forming alliances, severing alliances and generally acting as funny as they have always acted.

Now, let’s see what Ekwueme has to say.


Let me relate an unfunny joke I just heard recently. A man got married three years ago and he and his wife have been trying to make a baby. Luck finally smiled on them last year but last week the woman had a miscarriage.

The husband was devastated and kept asking the doctor what caused the miscarriage. The doctor told him he needed to conduct tests and all but the man wanted to know. When the distraught man would not let up, a nurse sitting quietly nearby said ” Oga if you wan know, na IBB cause am.”

Funny or not, what this joke points to is the sheer ubiquity of the IBB brand. Like a doppelganger, a poltergeist, the man is an overwhelming and terrible presence in our lives.

Who ever owns the rumour mill that churns out IBB flavoured gists must be making a tidy sum. Last week, IBB was everywhere. Neither present nor accredited to attend the party primaries, men invoked IBB’s name to strike fear in their opponents as well as hapless contestants.

And once again, I ask, how do men acquire such powers. How does one become an Anenih, a Yar Adua, an IBB? What horrible alchemy distils such potent brew?


Now this might sound stale, but not when you consider its relevance vis a vis my questions on the peculiar art and equation of power.

Steven Akiga, the Honourable Minister of Sports was until a few years ago, precisely 1999 an unknown factor. His major claim to fame lies in the fact that he was the Chief Warden in charge of OBJ when Abacha threw him into jail on a trumped up coup plot charge.

Only God knows what transpired in jail, but a relationship developed and led to OBJ appointing Akiga Minister for Police Affairs. Following the death of Ishaya Mark Aku in a plane crash, OBJ moved Akiga to the Sports ministry. History lesson over.

Well, Tony Anenih and his political sons seem not to realize Akiga’s portfolio. Well, that is if you consider what happened at the closing ceremony of the African Women’s Championship in Warri. At the end of the tournament, when it was time to give out medals, the officials called up Issa Hayatou, Gov James Ibori and Tony Anenih. No one remembered the Minister of Sports who sat through it all with a scowl on his face.

As they say in Bendel, power pass power

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