Naija Notes: Rent-A-Saboteur

by Toni Kan Onwordi

Back in the day during the Nigerian civil war, (full disclosure: this is tokunboh information, because I was not born then) the worst name you would have the misfortune of being called on either side: rebel or federal was Saboteur.

No sooner had it been uttered than a mob would home in on you and deliver a swift form of jungle justice. At other times, it could be a lone soldier who would un-sling his rifle, act as prosecutor and judge then shoot you straight between the eyes.

To be called a saboteur thus became a euphemistic way of saying: you are dead. That was then.

These days our politicians bandy the word around without a care for its peculiar specific gravity. When a bomb goes off, government spin-doctors blame it on saboteurs bent on derailing the nascent democracy.

When fuel queues returned weeks back minister for Information Jerry Gana had summarily invoked the same name. Dusting the old rag he had spread it over the figmental figures he believed were behind the fuel scarcity: This is the work of saboteurs bent on derailing bla bla bla.

A panel was set up to look into the matter, but before they could begin sitting, the loquacious Jerry had started shooting his mouth.

Now, I‘ve been wondering, what happens when the panel rises and there is no saboteur in sight? Aha! Think no further. From the goodness of my heart I am setting up a RENT-A-SABOTEUR agency.

Meanwhile, business seems to be looking too good to be true. On my way back from the Nigerian Institute Of International Affairs (NIIA), I saw fuel queues on Awolowo road, Ikoyi.

Check out my agency’s ad in the classifieds: TRAINEE SABOTEURS WANTED!!!


Whenever I find a typo or a goof in TIME magazine, I end up feeling happy all day long and its all for a simple reason. Back when I was just starting off as a full time journalist, each time there was a typo, my chairman would pull out a copy of TIME magazine he always carried with him and waving it in front of me, he would go:

“Read through this, read through this. You will never find such errors in TIME magazine.”

Later on when I was able to afford it, I took to buying a copy of TIME magazine every Wednesday and even though it became a habit, which lasted for all of four years, I didn’t start reading because of Nancy Gibbs moving pieces or Charles Krauthammer’s flawless prose. I bought TIME magazine and read them closely because I wanted to spot errors. And I did.

There were actually two errors in the rendering in the current international edition featuring General Tommy Franks on the cover. On the NOTEBOOK and MILESTONES page, TIME reported the story of Marshall Harry’s death and claimed that he was shot dead outside his home even though the man was actually killed inside his bedroom. TIME also said he was a founding member of the ANPP when in actual fact Marshal Harry used to be the South-south Vice Chairman of the PDP before crossing to the ANPP.

Well as my friend would say, outside or inside, there was indeed a killing! And now no one knows what dangers lie ahead of the April elections and the future of democracy in Nigeria.

Like someone said the number 3 has always had a bad resonance in the political landscape: 1983, 1993 and now 2003.

God help us.


And to explain my infrequent appearance on this page: like a rush of blood to the head, I have been overwhelmed by a giddy spell of delight since the arrival of my daughter.

I promise to be more regular.

You may also like

Leave a Comment