Naija Notes: Madness is sweet!

by Toni Kan Onwordi

A friend of mine has an interesting argument. He often says that madness is a sweet enterprise. The only snag is that mad men are usually too mad to notice the fun they are having.

My friend’s strange logic has been revolving around my head for some time now. It all began three days ago. A Tuesday, I arrived work early. Early means before 7 am. My sister in-law, a fellow banker had asked me to pick her up. She had woken late and missed her staff bus.

Riding with her meant taking a different route from the usual one and that was how I missed the early scenes of a smoldering drama unfolding on Mulliner Street, off Kingsway road, Ikoyi.

Immediately I got to work, I got busy and it wasn’t until about two hours later that I over heard a colleague saying something about the NNPC office in Ikoyi being on fire.

At the news, someone had said “Ah, somebody don chop money!”

Call it the classic Nigerian reaction to a fire incident in a public or corporate edifice and you won’t be wrong. Someone has perpetrated a crime and wants to cover his or her track. It was a simple matter.

But those things that appear too simple usually have an uncanny facility for surprising and shocking us. This one sure did.

Wednesday was Christmas day and I took my time getting up from sleep. When I did, the day had dawned and the morning news had been read. So I sat down to wine, dine, watch movies and entertain my guests.

26th of December was no different. I woke late, I stayed in and watched movies. And it wasn’t until my younger brother called in the afternoon that I learnt that “a certain man from our home town had confessed to setting the NNPC complex on fire.”

That certain man turned out to be Chris Nwaokobia, a lawyer, newspaper columnist, teevee talking head, and leader of two shadowy organizations, Youth Democratic Movement (YDM) and National Liberation Coalition (NALICO).

For those who never saw Chris Nwaokobia, handsome and debonaire, dressed casually in floral shirts and beads and dropping high sounding words (his favourite was hoi-polloi) on Channels Television’s Saturday talk programme, Sunrise, nor read his articles in his Glowing Vistas column in Sunday Post Express, will not have to wait for too long. Because in no time, the face of Chris Nwaokobia will be on the cover of all the major newsmagazines.

Believe me, nothing sells like bad news.

Who is Chris Nwaokobia? The answer will have to wait, but from what I saw and heard on those mornings, when as I had breakfast with my dad, Chris Nwaokobia would be delivering his vitriolic attacks against OBJ, Naaba, Anyim, Nzeribe, Gauis Obaseki or any other unlucky person unfortunate enough to be the subject of Yori Folarin and Alero Edu’s programme, I sensed a young man walking in the footsteps of other rabble rousers (yes) like Gani and Keyamo.

But this man has taken a different route. He has left shouting and screaming and writing. He has embraced action. He has struck a massive blow. He has burnt down a N1bn edifice.

Did he do it, did he not? That answer has to wait too. His wife says he did not, that the man she married is not a violent man. Now, that is open to debate. A man may not beat his wife, but setting a house on fire is another matter entirely.

When I heard the news of Chris Nwaokobia’s confession from my brother, I went into my study and dug up old editions of Sunday Post Express. I share with you a piece he did on December 15, 2002 entitled Syndrome (1).

Find below his first paragraph: “I grew up learning that self-survival is the greatest law. I was taught that one could apply reasonable force in self-defence.It took years for me to understand the purport (sic) of these philosophies and to what extent one can go in the application of them.”

But the interesting part is from a paragraph taken form somewhere in the middle of the piece where he rails against the FG and the NNPC: “Wait a minute, think of the anti-corruption drive of Mr. President. Think of the culture of selective probe that this regime sediments. Think of the allegation that over N300bn NNPC money grew wings. Think of the fact that Mr. President, the Chief Executive and Minister of Petroleum turns his eyes the other way without ordering a full probe into the NNPCGATE.”

I understand that Chris Nwaokobia called the BBC first to claim responsibility for the fire that gutted the NNPC building before going to AIT and Channels. I also understand that he is presently the guest of the SSS at Shangisha. What I do not understand is the reason behind his claim. Even if he did, was he under any obligation to make that claim? And how can he articulate the struggle if he is sentenced to a jail term?

I have turned these questions over and over in my head and the only conclusion I have arrived at is that something is seriously wrong with my kinsman. Call it sweet madness if you will.

And this is for those of you who have taken time out since Naija Notes made its debut on this site, to read or write. I thank you all and pray that all your dreams for 2003 shall sprout wings and soar like eagles.

And as the year ends, please take out time to reflect and count your blessings and then name them one by one. You’ll surely find something to be thankful to God for.

Have a great year.

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