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Two issues will engage this column today. Each of them is reflected in animal imageries. The first has the dog as the totem of its analysis. The second too is better explained by the bestial engagement of rams. Let us begin with the latter.
Last Wednesday, Osun State witnessed a bestial ram fight. Children in, especially the Northern and Western parts of Nigeria, grew up to see the perennial rituals of ram – called agbo in Yoruba – fights. By the way, the flaunting of rams during the Id-el Kabir celebrations are part of the pot-pourri of the religious festival. These generally include a celebration of financial muzzle by many, alongside the displays of how well-off and wealthy Islamic adherents are. The Quran makes it mandatory for adherents who are able to afford it to offer rams for sacrifice. Here in Nigeria, however, procuring rams at Id are a signification of wealth. Now, it has transcended the show of wealth to a blood sport organised between large-horned male sheep. The venue of the animal duel is always an open field. Ram owners, as a way of reinforcing the sport, preparatory to the festival, make large investments in specially training the rams, from their infancy, in readiness for these competitions. Grand prizes are even given for the most animalistic of the rams. During this Islamic festivity, young people gather in open fields to watch the fights, as they exhibit brawn and animal superiority. It is a sport that is looked up to as an exciting feature of the festival. Pool betters generally rake money off the bestiality.
In Osun last Wednesday, two Moslems in high places – a senator in the ninth National Assembly and, indeed, a former Senate spokesperson – Bashiru Ajibola, and the governor of the state, Ademola Adeleke, chose to make a sport of their scuffle. Like rams preparatory to Eid-el-Kabir. The drama occurred at the Osogbo central prayer ground, as the governor’s aides engaged in a clash with Senator Bashiru in the contest for space and, I daresay, political relevance. A rumpus ensued which ultimately prevented Governor Adeleke from observing the prayer rites as he stormed out of the place. Media reports said that Senator Bashiru occupied the front seat usually reserved for the governor. In the bid to ask the ex-senator to vacate the space, he flared up. The governor’s media team thereafter issued a release insinuating that Adeleke escaped assassination, with back and forth allegations flying between the two parties.
By the way, for several years, I had sought to put the face of reality to a particular flesh-singeing track from Yoruba Apala music great, Ayinla Omowura. In the track, while attacking a traducer, Omowura says that anyone whose mother he is older than cannot look down on him. In an interview on Rave FM in Osogbo, Alhaji Muniru Adebayo Raji, who was at the centre of the Id-El-Kabir rukus, explained his role in the crisis, connecting the dot of this song with Senator Bashiru. I enjoyed the physical unraveling of Omowura’s song in the rukus.
For the first time in its entire pursuit of bigotry, t
he Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) initally made sense in its intervention on the Osun Eid crisis. That was before MURIC then descended into its usual gutter of bigotry. In its call after the clash, the group’s Executive Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, pointedly told the two warring politicians to desist from desecrating a consecrated Muslim prayer ground. This was a necessary and profound call because in turning the grounds into a tiff party, both leaders of the warmongers, themselves Muslims, behaved like rams in blood fight. For them to turn
an event as significant and sobering as an Eid prayer into an avenue for scoring cheap political points, to the extent of desecrating the holy ground, was an affront on its holiness.
By the way, Islam enjoins Moslems not to offer to Allah a blemished ram. If in the process of using an Id-El-Kabir ram for a fight, its horns get broken or the ram sustains injury, it is not worthy of being offered as sacrifice. So, it stands to reason that the two “rams” fighting at the holy praying ground injured their horns and, as such, their sacrifice on that day, which was haram. These two political agbos “o wo’leya” as the lingo of Eid-El-Kabir goes. Their blood fight vitiates whatever sacrifices they made.
Now, to the second issue. An ancient, non-scientific perception of the dog is that it is a very fatty animal. Even science confirms this. For a gourmet, the dog’s fatty drippings, while being roasted could be a put-off. A roasted meal of dog meat, called ayangbe aja, is a pain in the neck of a grillardin. This is because it requires a painstaking wait for the chef to get rid of the surplus fat. Like the proverbial patient ones who alone can extract milk from the mammaries of a lioness, the wait for the fire to divest the dog meat of its fat could be very unsettling. It is similar to making an interminable walk through a long tunnel, whose end is nowhere in sight. As such, Yoruba elders pose a query to the chef who demands patience for the laborious process of grilling dog meat. Yes, in truth – gourmands angrily tell the chef – we are aware that if we are patient enough for you to rid the dog meat of its fat, it becomes a fascinating delicacy; but what if we starve to death between the long wait in roasting the dog and eventually ridding the meat of its fat?
The roasted dog meat anecdote is usually thrown up, not as a measure of people’s unbelief in patience. It is usually a riposte to taskmasters who give their servants laborious tasks, declaring the times austere, while cavorting in plenty.
The ayangbe aja anecdote may be an explainer of the painful time that Nigerians are passing through today. The Nigerian grillardin is in the kitchen, no doubt. His cap and apron speak to the tiresome process he is deep in. Smoke even oozes out of the rafters, heralding the reality of the meat we salivate for being treated to perfection on the hot gauze of the grill. But, as the chef performs his culinary magic, the people’s palates are dry. These times are certainly not the best for the Nigerian. Since the month of May, hardship has walked leisurely into homes like an unwelcomed rapist. It is as if the biblical King Rehoboam had been sworn in to the throne of his forefathers. The yoke of Nigerians have proved heavier, even more than in the days of Muhammadu Buhari. With the subsidy removal, Nigerians are not only laden with a heavy yoke, yet like whips and scorpions, the poverty-inducing policies of the last four weeks have chastised Nigerians daily. Fewer cars are on the road now, no thanks to the outrageous costs of petrol. We are still told that this is only a tip of the iceberg. We might soon be buying fuel at N700 per litre. The cost of living has risen agonizingly. If we were a statistical people, we would have seen a sharp rise in the curve of suicides, bludgeoning crime and violence as a result of the hopelessness in the land.
But, not to worry. The World Bank has asked Nigerians to lift up their cymbals and rejoice. Along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), these institutions have lauded President Bola Tinubu’s decision to effect key economic reforms as “bold choices.” The two key reforms of a foreign exchange unification and fuel subsidy removal, taken to reset the economy, were commended as bold moves that would pull up the economy.
Nigerians are one of the most resilient people on earth, global statistics have said. They can walk through the thorns and briers of today, with blood dripping from their feet, in anticipation of a great tomorrow. They even do not care if they die in the process, once there is an assurance that their children won’t go through the deprivation that is their present lot. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote on a thrust almost similar to today’s, invoking the spirit and song of the late Yoruba Sakara music great, Yusuff Olatunji and his song, “O ye ka ni’fura” (“We should be watchful”). I called for us to adopt the strategic attentiveness to adultery that Olatunji adumbrated in that song, using an adulterous man seeing off his married woman liaison as a motif.
My counsel was that, even in our infantile excitedness about the “new dawn” which we have opened our curtains to see, we should reserve a space in our hearts for critical thinking and dispassionate evaluation of the unfolding drama. We have trodden this road of titivating excitedness about a “new dawn” before, beginning with the military hijack of power in 1966. On each occasion, from Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Muhammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, Shehu Shagari, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha to the present moment, we have always be exhilarated at the hope of “a new dawn” whenever there is a regime change. Yet, we are where we are, constantly struggling with, in the words of Professor Francis Egbokhare of the University of Ibadan, an exponential decay of bad and unreflective leadership, whose cancerous afflictions ruin us from top to bottom. Only a foolish woman falls prey a second time to the wiles of a man who had earlier lured her to bed, the elders counsel. Some people said my counsel was borne out of a foundational disdain for the new men in power. My response is that the rainmaker who invokes downpour would himself go home drenched. The babalawo who proclaims famine in the town will partake of the drought too. It is in our interest that this “new dawn” brings purity and succour or we are all done for.
Even if times are harder than this, getting as hard as – God forbid – the biblical Samarian famine scenario, when father and mother, in a consensus, agreed on which of their children to slaughter for dinner, the level of our fascination for this “new dawn” is such that, we believe it cannot transform into thick darkness. Don’t the Yoruba say that eni aye nfe o l’arun kan lara – the one beloved of the world is beyond reproach? All I ask for is strategic thinking and not sheepish following in a period of great optimism.
While Nigerians are ready to be patient and starve, if possible, to see the end of the process of grilling this dog meat for dinner, yet they disdain the optics of the chef tossing huge chunks of meat into his own mouth during the period of the long wait. Last week’s optics of the president in a convoy of over a hundred cars from the airport, even if most of the cars belonged to his well-wisher and power apparatchiks as it is claimed, was nauseating and sickening. In a country where a peremptory decree of subsidy removal was made, jerking prices of fuel to an all-time high of over N500, with threats that prices could soon hit N700, it was highly absurd and inappropriate to see the president and his cabal junketing in such sickening flaunt of wealth and worth. Retiring service chiefs will coast home with billions worht of perks and officials of the exited government will equally smile home with trillions of naira. But the Nigerian people are to endure pains.
It is good that the president is embracing neo-liberalism as an economic policy. This denotes market-oriented reform policies, such as eliminating price controls, deregulating capital markets, lowering trade barriers and reducing, especially through privatisation and austerity, state influence on the economy. Till date, this “new dawn” is yet to pay the tiniest attention to the lowest rung of the ladder of society. What is in this for the poor? Or, don’t they matter? It would seem like putting the cart before the horse to remove fuel subsidy when no attempt was made to cater for the welfare of the people yet. In four weeks, Nigeria is said to have saved N400 billion from the subsidy removal. Great news. Do we trust the new men in power enough to believe that the dividends will be invested in the lives of the people? Do their antecedents speak to the probability of doing so? Again, we must listen to the wise counsel of Baba Yusuff Olatunji.
In this “new dawn,” do we sincerely envisage a Nigeria of our dream coming out of the power ensemble? My pessimism takes the best of me. I wish you good luck if your optimism is as fertile as to expect “a new dawn.” There are already allegations of political office seekers paying multiple of millions and even billions to surrogates of the “new dawn” to clinch top ministerial positions. And these are the midwives of our optimism. Again, we should not throw Olatunji’s counsel on how to deal with an adulterous relationship like this out of the window. We will need it.
Senator Kola Balogun’s light
About a year ago, the people of Ososami area of Oke-Ado, Ibadan, Oyo State, reached out to me. Their decades-old electricity transformer had become a total burden as it grumpily transmitted power to their homes. A resident with knowledge of its history claimed the transformer was brought in the 1960s. They needed a new one. As they spoke, I suspected they expected me to go into my purse and bring out the multiple millions of naira required to fix their pain. Did they expect an ordinary purveyor of words to afford this?
So, I navigated through the then-existing power barometer of the state and found out that the area fell within the sphere of Senator Kola Balogun’s political influence. I then made a call to him, in my mind, to fulfill all righteousness. Politicians were notorious for their opaqueness, I thought. And I literally went to bed. A few days after, someone who identified himself as the senator’s legislative assistant gave me a call. Some people would be coming from Abuja to visit the site, he said. That soon? Then I linked him up with some members of the landlords’ association. Six months after, an almost six decades old transformer was replaced. The people of this area have since been enjoying a brand new installed transformer, courtesy of Balogun.
I am writing this, not to actually thank Balogun, for to cushion the pains of his constituents is his responsibility. He was there for his people. I am writing it because this pen is always quick to apportion blames. Balogun did this for his people of Ososami and it is marvelous in their sights. Oh, where are my manners: Thank you, Senator Kola Balogun!
Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.
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