Many Heinekens ago, my good friend Professor Bolaji Aluko and I got caught up in one of those weekly slugfests that seemed to characterize the affairs of Naijanet, that premier electronic watering hole for Nigerian academicians, professionals, cab drivers, bus boys, McDonald’s short order cooks and all else loitering in that nebulous space called “ovahseas!” The original and formerly vibrant Naijanet is almost defunct now after having spawned a million spin-offs by angry losers of the million wars. Anyway, after a particularly ferocious flame-fest, as we rested under an e-palm tree, exhausted from the mutually assured madness of unnecessary roughness, it occurred to us that we were fighting over symptoms of a deeper set of issues, one of which was that we were applying land-based rules in an electronic world, and fighting over the resulting mayhem. Ever so resourceful, we devised a few electronic knots that brought Naijanet to a virtual standstill. Our Naijanet of a thousand convoluted land-based rules was no match for mischief makers prowling the net with a million fake email handles. And Bolaji and I set out to prove that Naijanetters were leaning on old paradigms and spitting in the wind of new realities. And the village stood like a constipated behemoth, unable to dislodge the effluvium of our mischief. As that venerable village stood, shivering under the weight of our mischief, Professor Aluko declared with mock sadness: “We are stuck!” And so, another term was birthed to join the lexicographic ranks of unforgettable Naijanet terms. We are stuck.
We are stuck! Let us move on! In the heat of a raging battle, with no apparent winners, and in order to get us out of the quagmire we had dug ourselves into, Bolaji would announce like an out-of-shape Nigerian General, “Let us move on!”And nimbly excuse himself from further self-flagellation. He was also fond of having “belly laughs” while “scratching” his head at some foolishness or mystery that was usually authored most exclusively by his long suffering adversaries. A brilliant man (as both his friends and foes would readily admit) he did not suffer fools gladly and sometimes the fool would be any one of his friends (myself included). So I am thinking of Nigeria and I am thinking of Bolaji and I am wondering what he would say under these conditions. Of all his legendary un-patented statements, he would probably deploy the sage observation: We are stuck. Like the Naijanet of old, Nigeria appears to be stuck in an old paradigm, helped down the river of darkness by a deadly cabal of thieves posing as leaders. And the pro-democracy movement helped birth the hydra-headed monsters in Aso Rock. Shame on us. But I am not here to accept any responsibility for the mess we find ourselves. Such honesty would be distinctly un-Nigerian.
We have been entertained by the products of our pro-democracy struggle to wit Olusegun Obasanjo and Abubakar Atiku. The scale of the irresponsibility of these two generals of kleptomania makes Sani Abacha a near-saint and visionary. Professor Bolaji Aluko of course has not been quiet about the disgrace that is playing out in Nigeria. We have been entertained and educated by Professor Aluko’s blow-by-blow analysis of the tragicomic farce ensuing from Aso Rock. He has led a vanguard of very angry intellectuals baying and barking at the nuclear waste spewing out of Aso Rock. And we are talking people with brains the size of Olumo Rock, each with an armory of English words that would be alien to even the authors of the English dictionary. It is a roll call of powerful writers: Reuben Abati, Okey Ndibe, Obi Nwakanma, etc. Even Colonel Abubakar Umar, who always reminds us proudly that he is retired (rtd!) from that vessel of thievery euphemistically called the Nigerian military, has recently weighed in with enough self-righteous indignation to sink a flotilla of pirate ships. Not to be outdone, a rickety flotilla of elders has been drafted to, gasp, stop the airing of dirty linen by both camps (You be tief! Na you tief pass! Ole! Ole!). It is good to know that Chief T.O.S. Benson is still alive and lucid enough to drag whatever is left of his dignity into this mud fest. Someone should tell him to stay out of this rofo-rofo fight and enjoy the rest of his days in peace (if that is possible in Nigeria). We, his children are incorrigible thugs, with Mr. Obasanjo as the head area boy. We will not stop until every penny is accounted for and deposited in our personal accounts. And anybody that asks us silly questions will hear from our houseboy EFCC Ribadu. In fact the only thing keeping Obasanjo and Atiku from fleeing Aso Rock is their need to finish the job that they started several years ago – to clean the treasury of every penny that shows its shiny face in Nigeria’s vaults is a task that must be done.
Out of all of this penkelemesi, I see oodles of hope. You are laughing! When you stop laughing, I shall explain. Are you done laughing? Don’t be rude, please stop laughing… Okay, I am thinking that when the soldiers come back to loot er rule, we now have something to keep them in line. If they start misbehaving and stealing as they are wont to do, we will say to them, if you are not careful, we will invite the pro-democracy movement back to Aso Rock! Heh! Heh! Heh! Heh! That should put the fear of God in their thieving heads! I still have my placards.
Talking about placards, I am thinking of my father Chief Papalolo of the neglected kingdom of Esanland, chuckling in his hut in our village.He has absolutely no use for my generation, the generation before me, his generation, and the generation before that generation… His favorite book is Peter Pan Enahoro’s How to Be a Nigerian. Papalolo thinks that Nigerians are a very unserious people. His level of distrust for the Nigerian is almost comical. He once assured me that things started falling apart when the white man granted us independence. As proof, he invites me to go visit today’s FESTAC Village and see what Independence gave us. “My son, you call this freedom, enh? At this rate, WHO wants to be free?” he would ask with great fanfare. My mother, Mamalolo is even more cynical of my generation, the generation before me, her generation, and the generation before that one. In fact she has no use for the black (wo)man. At every opportunity, she looks up from the hopeless despair of her condition in our arid village and she whispers a secret to me: “My good son, in the first coming, the Black man was superior to the white man and he was in charge of the world. But he so f*cked up the world, God said never, never, never again… That is why the white man is in charge this time around!”
In the nineties, during the pro-democracy struggle to free Nigeria from General Sani Abacha’s gentle clutches and hand her over to General Obasanjo’s thieving arms, a friend of mine who claimed that she was a thorn in Abacha’s side set forth at dawn and escaped Nigeria and somehow ended up with a green card in America (asylum!). I phoned home to tell my father the good news, that my friend had escaped Abacha’s Gulag and earned the coveted Green card. Papalolo snorted with so much derision, I thought that my phone would break into a billion shocked pieces. “Ha! Na wa O,” he brayed, “Where your friend deyrun go? Who dey look for am? Abacha does not read newspapers! Is it not the same country where every newspaper ridicules him like he is the village idiot? Well, tell your friend that I am happy he got his Green card! When is she coming home to celebrate? We go wash am O!” I must add that not all of us pro-democracy activists profited from the struggle (green cards, poorly edited self-serving books, etc). I for one did not get my green card because of Abacha’s evil machinations. The good people of America gave me my green card in the eighties on account of my well-documented persecution by the evil dictatorial regime of Mr. Shehu Shagari. May Allah forgive that man for what he did not do to me. There was a whispering campaign during the pro-democracy struggle fa
nned by Abacha’s chief side kick Mr. Tony Anenih (Mr. Fix-it and Chief Beneficiary of the pro-democracy struggle) that the “pro-democracy activists” were nothing but a bunch of McDonald’s cooks and cab drivers seeking green cards in America. That was of course not true; some of us were actually unemployed at the time. But we fought hard and Abacha subsequently died in the hands of Indian prostitutes. I am told by usually unreliable sources that he died happily because the fool was assured that there are more Indian virgins in heaven (Heaven ke? Yep, he bought a place in heaven with his riches. Nigerians!!).
The pro-democracy movement pulled an Animal Farm on us. Our vision of democracy has not weathered as much as a sneeze and so if we were not so self-serving we would pause to ask ourselves what to do in order to, well, move on. Instead what we are doing is shepherding a relentless march of crass capitalism on our way of life. Things have definitely fallen apart. So every now and then, when my father Papalolo calls to check on me in America (he has his own cell phone and my mom Mamalolo has hers, Abacha be praised!) he goes: My son, I am calling to THANK YOUAND YOUR FRIENDS in the pro-democracy movement for saving us from Abacha! Now work your magic and save us from your savior Obasanjo! He is worse than Abacha! Find him a dozen prostitutes! Give him orange juice! Put him on a 27-year old Nigerian airplane! Tell him to go feed the crocodiles of Ita Oko Island! Do something! Save us! We don’t want democracy! This is crazy! We don’t want to be free! We want Abacha back!” And each time, I can hear my mother Mamalolo chanting in the background, “Hallelujah! In the name of Jesus!”
My people, we are stuck.