The Grass beneath their Feet
I do not mind the ijakadi festival orchestrated inside a bus recently by two corrupt members of the PDP, Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun state and Ogbeni Dimeji Bankole of the Federal House of Representathieves; I do not mind the fact that the opportunistic Gbenga Daniel apparently sought to milk political capital by going to commission a bridge that Ogbeni Bankole had rescued from abandonment; I do not mind what increasingly appears to be a set-up carefully orchestrated by those who knew that the latent Molue conductor in Dimeji Bankole would be unleashed once they sufficiently provoked him; I mind what happens to the grass beneath their feet whenever the accursed members of Nigeria's political rulership treat us to their routine and primordial spectacle of mediocrity. The grass beneath their feet? That would be you and I: we, the people! And you know what happens in that Yoruba proverb to the grass beneath the feet of two feuding elephants.
Quite frankly, I am surprised by all the expression of outrage, shock, and disbelief by members of what I call Nigeria 's community of conscience (I prefer this to the narrower term, 'progressives') online and in other spaces of public disquisition. It is as if folks expected them to behave differently. It is as if folks expected better from a Governor, commissioners, two Ministers, and the Speaker. That amounts to waiting for the miracle of a spotless leopard. I stopped being disappointed in Nigeria 's rulers the day I lost the final shred of hope in the possibility of their redemption. Let me be clear: I am not inure to oppression and their corruption. I have merely programmed myself to expect absolutely nothing from any of those fellows in our rulership. I have become a much happier citizen of Nigeria since I lost hope in the rulership. I prefer to invest whatever hope I have left in the ability of Nigeria 's oppressed but somnambulistic followership to wake up some monday for sure and chase those crazy baldheads out of town (apologies to Bob Marley).
Once we reject the submission of the self to shock and outrage because the protagonists of the Ogun Parapo coaster bus war didn't really do anything beyond what we should expect from their sorry ilk, we are better positioned to dissect the broader statement that the said Ogun Parapo war makes on our collective existential condition. In that bus was a fragment of Nigeria 's rulership at two tiers (Federal and state) and two branches (Executive and legislature) of governance. Some of the funny characters in that bus were recently in South Africa wasting our money on their world cup safari and partying in a Johannesburg mansion bought with money that Lucky Igbinedion stole from us; they all junket regularly in Euro-America; they compete with Arab oil sheikhs and Hollywood royalty for choice property in Dubai and the French Riviera.
In all those places, they see postmodern 21 st century infrastructure. The infrastructure that people of their ilk have had the vision to put in place in those places is what attracts them in the first place. That is why they all steal so much. Yet, these corrupt and shameless agbayas - everyone inside that bus - all carried their sirens and annoying convoys to Otta to commission an ordinary flyover bridge in the 21 st century. Awon alai n'ironu. It is a sad and sobering sign of our backwardness that while many countries in Africa are on the train to join the rest of the world in the 21 st century, it still takes members of the Federal Executive, the Federal legislature, and the Governor and several commissioners in one state to commission just one average flyover bridge in Nigeria .
That is an entire day of work wasted by Gbenga Daniel on a needless commissioning jamboree. That day's pay should be deducted from his monthly salary. Dimeji Bankole even tried. At least he worked before catching an afternoon flight from Abuja . Next, they will pay some hungry journalists to call the project an 'ultramodern bridge'. What would these people do if they stopped stealing for a second and built the sort of infrastructure they saw in South Africa during the world cup? Declare a national holiday to commission them? I have seen pictures of that bridge. It is below the standard of a county bridge leading to local farms around here. That is what a Governor, two Ministers, and the Speaker went gaga over! This would be a funny episode of awada kerikeri if it weren't so tragic.
We need to put pressure on these efulefu rulers to stop the ridiculous practice of commissioning every index of our backwardness and underdevelopment that they manage to showcase as 'completed projects'. The list is endless: some silly governor could expend billions building pit latrines or UNICEF-assisted water boreholes in the 21 st century and still commission them 'with pomp and pageantry' as we say in Naija; another governor could import fairly-used computers from Pakistan or Bangladesh for the price of new and commission them; elsewhere some other foolish governor could tar a one-kilometre stretch of road and roll out the drums to commission it, never mind that the rains will wash the whole thing away next year because of poor execution; another efulefu governor could donate a generator to a hospital without doctors and commission it very loudly; their overbearing wives are, of course, endlessly commissioning 'projects' that the rest of the civilized world have abandoned in the 19 th and 20 th centuries.
Last time I was home, one ridiculous local government chairman hired some local boys to expand a roadside drainage (alias gutter) with diggers (alias jigger). Some faceless 'construction company' then came and poured in cement to do the 'kankere' (concrete) as we see in regular open-air roadside gutters in Nigeria . Mr. Chairman then proceeded to commission the 'ultra-modern' gutter with fanfare. What shocked me was the fact that our people trooped out: market women singing his praise and ululating endlessly, local hunters treating us to a cacophonic melody of dane gun salutation, gangan drummers wasting their ancestral art on renditions of his oriki idile - the full works! 'Omo wa' had delivered on another campaign promise to our people. He had 'built' a gutter! Sheerman wa tirai gan ni o. O se gotta yen.
This is what we, the people, have allowed these fools in the rulership to reduce us to: celebrants of over-invoiced but antiquated infrastructure that would not pass muster in Benin Republic or Ghana . We dance and buy newspaper advertorials to babysit their huge egos. We congratulate His Excellency for stealing our money to deliver outdated infrastructure. The open-air gutter they 'built' in your neighbourhood is probably more expensive than similar sealed drainage systems in Euro-America. Yet, they bring you and your Kabiyesis out to sing and dance as they move in. You form a human mass of excited wailers escorting their glistening convoy on foot. They over-invoiced every jeep in that convoy and will probably steal some of them when they leave office. Yet you sing as you escort them:
Gomina wa mbo l'ona Rora mi a gb'ese l'okokan
You sing, chant, and ululate. Their overzealous and ill-mannered security details are there. Always there to flog and hound you because you allow yourself to be the grass beneath their feet. Always there, violating your space of civic and civil agency with AK-47s and other instruments of violence that their ogas do not see when they visit their foreign counterparts. The last time Gbenga Daniel and Dimeji Bankole were in Canada , did they see rifle-totting policemen and soldiers violating public space with AK-47s just because oga's convoy is coming? Did they see convoys?
Yet they return home from every foreign trip to the arrogance of power. They return home to operate a democracy that swims in the barbaric atmospherics of protocol, convoys, aides, wailing sirens, AK-47s, kobokos, and the jackboots of crazy security details, all building up to an overwhelming symbology of violence that they foist on you, the grass beneath their feet. Your intimidated Kabiyesis gather their agbadas and run for dear life. The oppressors are too obtuse to understand that the mere presence of these instruments in civilian areas is a negation of democratic ethos. Maybe they understand but are comforted by their knowledge of the fact that you always run away rather than confront them and demand answers. You are still running. By Pius Adesanmi