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Egungun Be Careful…

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A masquerade (Egungun) must hearken to the warnings of his guide if he is to make it back to base safely. He could take liberties in the alleyways and rural roads, but when the procession is heading towards the expressway where vehicles zip along at breakneck speed, the masquerade must be attentive to the instructions of his guide, lest an auto accident reduce him to just another orthopaedic casualty, a humiliating climbdown from the olympian heights of ancestor-hood.

Thus, when Fuji musician Abass , in his unique sassy style, sang, “Egungun be careful, na express you dey go”, the song quickly caught on, serving as a warning, not just to masquerades who are revered as representatives of the ancestors, but also to the general society. When the choreographed pandemonium of the procession appears to have developed a racy kind of velocity even without self exertion, perhaps the cavalcade is heading downhill!

 

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Mirage

Living in Nigeria and having to experience the same foibles that catapult us backwards to the starting blocks while our co-runners are breasting the tape, is an extreme sport of sorts. One republic comes, one republic goes, what was once considered a prospect becomes a mirage with successive generations of leaders outdeviling their predecessors.

Flagellated by the harmattan of lean times, we are suffocated by the choking déja vu's of knowing that we have passed through this valley of the shadow of want before — and shall do so till Kingdom come. Unlike the great American civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer, it appears we can never be sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Egungun be careful! The social media is awash with contending covens of hate casting spells on gullible youth to join forces for the Ultimate Uprising, the one that will end all uprisings. The last time I checked, there were still many people languishing in the gulag on account of the last EndSARS protest. But for continued efforts by conscientious activists like Shehu Sani, Femi Falana and several civil society groups, those in jail would have been completely forgotten by now.

Last July, in the heat of claims and counter-claims by many interested parties, Amnesty International challenged the Lagos State government to disclose the identities of 103 #ENDSARS victims allegedly billed for mass burial after three years in the morgue. The protest which had started as a rage against police brutality eventually became politicised and weaponised by those fighting for the political soul of the nation.

While that unfinished business was inherited by the Tinubu administration and efforts are ongoing to secure the release of those still in jail, those who thrive in conditions of guaranteed confusion have been cloning posters and protest materials pinched from Kenya, urging Nigerian youths to emulate their Kenyan counterparts.

 

Strange

I find that campaign strange because, while any group can influence another irrespective of size, Nigerian youths have always demonstrated the capacity to do their own thing their own way at their own chosen time. They did not need any external stimulus to reject the Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact that was negotiated between the Nigerian government and the United Kingdom in 1958, signed in 1960 and abrogated in 1962 due to public protests led by Nigerian students.

Egungun be careful. The wanton looting, arson, maiming and savagery that attended the Kenyan protests were not part of the agenda of the organisers. The day after, when Nairobi's central business district was no longer recognisable, it became clear that some other dark forces had also come to the party.

The irony is that no society can make progress without a culture of protests, disputations and vigorous intellectual intercourse. Last month, we celebrated the remarkable events of June 12, 1993, because it was the day a new Nigeria was born and then strangled at birth. Such savagery! We had not only protested; we had made the country ungovernable! Every season has its own costume. We should not confuse harmattan with winter.

In terms of how we can make our country better, I am completely open to any kind of developmental ideas that we can use to help our people conquer current challenges and live a better life. In Nigeria, as in many other places, political parties are mere alphabets. Watch what they do; not what they say. Any idiot can write a manifesto. What matters is how the power of representative democracy is deployed. Our people have the capacity to recognise good governance when they see it.

Egungun be careful! The headlong rush of Nigeria's First Republic towards perdition was not unpredictable. It was just that the main actors were too steeped in their happy-go-lucky ways and couldn't spare the time to notice what the streets were saying.

 

Titanic

Doyin Okupe may not exactly fit your description of a principled politician. The more uncharitable of his critics say he's a political harlot committed only to the ideology of the oesophagus. However— fair is fair, in contrast with some of his peers, Okupe is a qualified medical doctor and could have a day job if he so chooses. I have learnt not to look at the messenger in the Nigerian public space. It is the message that counts.

The other day, Okupe was at his most lucid when he compared the Nigerian situation with the last revelry on the Titanic before the ‘unsinkable' ship sank. The Titanic was a big ship with many floors. The top deck was the very definition of luxury. The lower decks were packed with lower class people that weren't even counted when planning for lifeboats.

When the Titanic started sinking, water started filling up from under the ship, the lower decks where the lower class passengers were. While those in the lower floors were struggling and dying, those in the first class cabins on the higher floors had no idea that their end was near. They were making merry in the grand ballroom with champagne and fine dining, still living the lie that their ship was unsinkable. They looked around them at all the luxurious fittings and despite all the signs that they were in trouble, they just didn't get it. The band continued to play until the very end.

Okupe's punchline was that Nigeria was in trouble; those at the bottom know it, while those at the top think it's business as usual.

In these circumstances, you would expect that the government would deliberately cultivate a broad base of friends and collaborators to help bridge the perception gap between what the government claims to be doing and what the people think it is doing. Unfortunately, what we have here is that the man appointed by the president to administer the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, does not have the temperament to be a team player. If he continues like this, he will surely win more enemies for President Tinubu.

 

Pola-Pola

Telling Senator Ireti Kingibe who disagreed with his cement and mortar mentality to “go and hug a transformer” is the kind of lingo that area boys in Mushin or Onitsha main market would use. It is an infra dig for a minister of the federal republic. And to think that Senate President Akpabio then went ahead at the occasion of the flag-off of the construction of a bus terminal (see how low we have sunk) to orally throw the concerned senator under the bus!  Gladly, I hear that the same Akpabio is now cobbling together some kind of truce mechanism.

Egungun be careful! When the bata drum becomes too stridently loud, polá-polá, it may be about to burst. Hear Ola : ”When the tortoise is going on a senseless journey and you say to the tortoise, ‘brother tortoise, brother tortoise, when will you be wise and come back home; eehn! The tortoise will say: Not until I've been disgraced.”


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