(Published by The Cable, December 12, 2021)
As former governor of Osun State and pioneer Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bisi Akande, got ready to launch his autobiography in Lagos last Friday, a day before the launch, one very unAfrican event occurred in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso. Christophe Joseph-Marie Dabiré, the West African country’s Prime Minister, presented his letter of resignation to the country’s president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. It was accepted. Dabiré threw in the towel on the heels of persistent demonstrations against his government’s inability to stop the bloodletting Burkinabe faced from ceaseless jihadist attacks. With the PM’s resignation, according to Burkinabe law, an end had ipso facto come to his administration.
There is nothing bad happening in Burkina Faso that is not happening a hundred fold to Nigeria. But at the launch of the 559-page autobiography entitled My Participations, Akande had no word of comfort for the afflicted. He instead chose to make a Pope of the sleepy incumbent. He beatified President Muhammadu Buhari while demonizing former President Olusegun Obasanjo and some unnamed northern elites, including “an aristocratic leader” who he said fought strenuously to ensure that Buhari never became the Nigerian president. Every political enemy of Tinubu was a villain in the book, from Chiefs Ayo Adebanjo, Olu Falae to Sir Olaniwun Ajayi.
For Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to whom his being a sidekick is a notorious fact, Akande chose to do a sleaze, slimy job of whitewashing. This is against expectations that, as the Yoruba say, agba kii wa l’oja k’ori omo tuntun wo – an elder does not watch things go awry – the book and its launch would provide Akande an opportunity to be a genuine elder and reconcile the factitious leadership in the Southwest. He however chose to deliberately miss this opportunity, electing instead to grovel – do oraisa – to both Buhari and Tinubu, in a book that will be available for decades, availing remembrancers an opportunity to point accusing fingers at him for his jaundiced opportunism. In My Participations, Akande did his oraisa the perfect Oshodi way, both hands raised in praise and worship of his gods, for whatever measure of a mess of pottage.
Like Nigeria, since 2015, rising insecurity had gripped Burkina Faso’s Sahel region as it faces increasing and frequent, yet lethal attacks. Though an extension of the seemingly interminable Malian conflict, local dynamics fuel the Burkina insecurity. Spearheaded by the Ansarul Islam group, founded by Malam Ibrahim Dicko, a preacher from its Soum province, the crisis has religious, social and security dimensions. Dicko’s jihadist armed group, like Nigeria’s Boko Haram, is said to be affiliated with Al-Qaida, as well as the Islamic State organization. Targeting civilians and soldiers, Ansarul has thus far killed 2,000 persons, with 1.4 million displaced. On November 14, the Inata Northern Province came under an attack said to be Burkina’s deadliest ever. Jihadists mercilessly shelled Burkina security forces of gendarmerie detachment, which led to the deaths of about 57 people, 53 of them gendarmes. Till date, military offensives against Burkina insurgency have not been able to stem its tide.
Like Burkina Faso, the butcherbird stalks the Nigeria for which Akande believes Buhari was God-sent. Butcherbirds, in description, are similar to birds called ravens. They are meat-loving birds with a unique audacity of spirit. The butcherbird’s name is got from its gruesome mode of feeding. With its mean-looking hooked beak, the moment it catches its prey, it hangs it on a branch or fork of a tree and hacks the meat clinically as butchers do at the abattoir. It then hangs the leftovers on tree forks, to be eaten afterwards. It walks up to home frontages, gardens and backyards with a magisterial confidence that is uncommon. Endowed with beautiful, rollicking voices of a sonorous orchestra, butcherbirds often perform a duet. While it scavenges on the road to kill, this isn’t strictly the butcherbird’s dark side. Small birds tremble at its sight. This is because these small birds, chicks and eggs, constitute the menu of the butcherbird.
South African novelist, Alex La Guma, in his 1979 novel entitled, Time of the Butcherbird, popularized the renown of this flesh-eating, flesh-hacking bird. The book was La Guma’s last novel before his passage in 1985. Does Bisi Akande know that, whether on issues of security, economy, social or political, butcherbirds have taken over Nigeria? Does he know that under Buhari, Nigerians groan daily? If he knew, why shower butcherbirds with eulogies if you are not one?
On the security side, as it has become commonplace, in the last one week, as Yoruba say in elegy to the dead, the ground has opened its irreverent mouth to swallow the blood of another set of innocent Nigerians. Not to worry, our government-by-obsequies wasn’t watching helplessly. As is its wont, it commiserated with the families of the deceased. In Sokoto State last Tuesday, recently legally- transmuted-from-bandits-to-terrorists butcherbirds set a passenger bus ablaze, killing over 40 people, including a pregnant woman, in the process. Seven of the passengers escaped with sustained grievous injuries. Earlier in October, same bandits stormed the Goronyo market in Sokoto, killing 43 people on a Sunday morning.
Two days before Akande’s attempt to make the Buhari stone talk, specifically last Wednesday, in Ba’are, Mashegu Local Government Area of Niger State, 16 worshippers were killed and 12 others injured by suspected armed bandits. Official figure claimed nine died. Add this to the calamity that occurred at the Lagos’ Ojodu area on Tuesday where about 12 pupils were run on by a truck that must have lost its reins, and yet the eight children found dead in a locked car in Badagry and the murder of a 7-year old child in Ekiti, plus sundry other unreported killings, death stalks the land like an apparition. If you are to conduct a proper clinical autopsy on those deaths, as you disembowel each of the blood spillages, hidden inside a corner of the carcasses is the Nigerian State and leadership failure.
Earlier, in the first six weeks of 2021, according to Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) a project of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa programme, 1, 525 persons got wasted all over the country by the insecurity in Nigeria. Same week, as the world mourns with Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari was on a binge to the United Arab Emirates, with ten of his ministers and undisclosed cache of aides. It will seem as if shedding blood of innocent has become such a thriving but ghoulish national industry under Buhari. It is so bad that if you are homophobic, Nigeria may not be the right place for you to live now. Under Buhari, Nigeria has assumed a couple of unflattering nomenclatures. Nigeria is either a failed, failing or fallen state.
There is a consensus among Nigerians and stakeholders on Nigeria that gloom is Nigeria’s second name. Economists, financial analysts, political scientists and even the common man on the streets, give unimpeachable statistical data to back up their claim that Nigeria is at the precipice. Their conclusion is teased out from the excruciating pain and agony on Nigerian streets and the hopelessness that has become a daily example in the country. Excluding government and its apologists and a coterie of systemic leeches who say the pains are fuelled by intolerance of the Nigerian political opposition, the agony is visible for the blind to see.
The Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, which began 12 years ago, with a group of men trying to impose an extreme version of Islamic extremism in some parts of North-eastern Nigeria, under Buhari, has opened a greater Pandora’s Box about Nigeria. Inside it is an exposure of a deep-seated crisis that incriminates, implicates and questions the competence of the Nigerian military and civilian leadership. Banditry and war against Nigeria then followed. These were followed in tow by separatist violence in some parts of the country, economic crises, acute food shortages and the collapse of the Nigerian Naira.
Under Buhari, Boko Haram, now an affiliate of the Islamic State, has killed multiple of thousands of people in Nigeria, more than in previous regimes added together. The North-East is by far the most affected, with Borno State harvesting the largest chunk of the statistics. Over 34,000 deaths are said to have been recorded in this state.
Bandits kill, maim, rape, murder and kidnap and are said to collect taxes from farmers when they are planting and harvesting their farm inputs. In some parts of Niger State, there is an allegation that Boko Haram controls a part of the country. An Economist magazine report said that more people were kidnapped in the first four months of this year than all of last year in Nigeria.
The South is not immune from the butcherbirds. In the Southeast, life answers to Thomas Hobbes’ description of nasty, brutish and short. Recently, two policemen were reported beheaded. Since some brigands shot and killed the husband of former NAFDAC boss, Dora, Chike Akunyili, others have been hacked to death, especially in Imo State, deaths that didn’t have the honour of gracing the media. Indeed, fighting between government forces and Igbo separatists in the south-east has recorded so many deaths, figures that may embarrass the Federal Government if the actual statistics are made public. Southwest is also a recipient of this insecurity trauma. Kidnapping for ransom, spontaneous criminal activities and the uncertainty of life rule the airwave.
In May this year, Robert Rotberg, founding director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Intrastate Conflict and President Emeritus of the World Peace Foundation, in conjunction with John Campbell, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, gave a very damming report on Nigeria’s democracy and government under Buhari and concluded that Nigeria is a failed state. Some other scholars disagree with them and say that Nigeria under Buhari hasn’t failed completely but is a failing state. To yet another group of scholars, from their prognosis of what the sickly Nigerian child in Buhari’s hands is, she is a fragile state. Whatever it is, it is apparent that Nigeria is hemorrhaging. And badly too. Yet Akande’s autobiography didn’t see this gloom.
On the economic front, as alluded to by Rotberg and Campbell, the Nigerian economy is in throes. Recently, Simon Harry, Statistician-General of the Federation and Head of National Bureau of Statistics, said that the country’s economy grew by 4.03 per cent in the Third Quarter of 2021. When we go to the market, reality there boos Harry.
Nigerian social crises are no less mind-boggling. The society is at the receiving end of all these crises. Social relations are at their lowest and life is almost at a standstill in Nigeria. Nigerians are suspicious of one another and even other nations have utter disrespect for us. Night life is almost dead as a result of the huge insecurity in the country. Inter and intra-state travels are at their basest, not to talk of inter-regional relationship which is almost totally absent. No time in the history of the country have mutual suspicions been at this lamentable level. Nigerians face trauma of all kinds daily. If you add the above to the acute hunger, unprecedented in the history of the country, which the people face, to say that Nigeria is in a period of crises may be an understatement.
The critical question to then ask is, is Bisi Akande aware of all these? Or does he live in Saturn? How many of those who voted Buhari in 2015 in the north are alive today? Why didn’t Akande summon the courage to tell Buhari to resign like Burkina Faso’s gallant leader, Dabiré? It is instructive that in the entire book, Akande never had a word for the people of Ibarapa, Oyo State, who were killed by identified Fulani herdsmen and the gale of kidnaps that gripped the Southwest, yet a leader is a leader when he shows empathy for his people. Not to worry. Even from Tinubu, mum is the word for the people of Ibarapa and Nigerians dying under the butcherbirds in government.
Rather than reply Akande, Obasanjo and all those mentioned by him as having attempted to deflect the arrow of the Buhari calamity in 2015 should thank Akande for doing them a big PR job. What Akande invariably accused them of was that they were not guilty of feeding Nigeria with this Buhari poison. They should all take a bow for their resistance to the selfish, fatal and ill-conceived job of making Buhari president in 2015. They were patriots and Nostradamus,, men who saw and warned against the bleak tomorrow of Nigeria that is today under Buhari.
The Akande book, in its apparent lick-spittle job of whitewashing Tinubu, is laced with ignoble falsifications of facts. While he claimed that Buhari betrayed Tinubu, having hitherto promised to make him a Vice Presidential candidate, in December 2014, Tinubu himself issued a statement claiming that he turned down Buhari’s offer to him to be the party’s vice presidential candidate so that he could maintain his position as leader of the party, as well as act as bridge builder across all divides. Tinubu wrote in the 2014 release: “My contribution to the party was never based on the expectation of a later political handout. Nigeria is in trouble and we are well past the moment for such narrow, selfish games. There came a time during the course of the events when our Presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari offered the Vice Presidential slot to me. Being a normal human being, I was deeply moved and honoured that he would consider me for the position. Being a patriot, I had to weigh my potential candidacy in all of its dimensions.”
One of Akande and Tinubu then must be lying. Or the two of them lied desperately. And Buhari knows this, being the recipient of their tissues of incongruities. Knowing this, when Buhari, in his speech at the book launch, now said he could go to the jungle with Akande due to his ‘inflexible integrity,” he himself became an accessory after the untruth being peddled for cheap political gains.
Insinuating that General Mai Gaskiya was treacherous, Akande wrote in the book, “General, this was not what we agreed upon. You are changing our agreement? He knew I was getting angry. He said he was under pressure from some governors from the north, including those who were Muslims. I told him the slot belonged to the South-West and among the Yoruba, religion is not a factor in leadership.”
All in all, it is evident that Akande’s My Participations is another of the Tinubu group’s plan to deodorize him preparatory to the 2023 elections, stomping on sacred facts with scant regards in the process. If Akande wanted to lick Tinubu’s spittle as he has always done, he should have done it with more respect for the people of Nigeria. Calling the Buhari butcherbird years a blessing to Nigeria and whitewashing Tinubu this mendaciously are terrible affronts on the people. One of the ways he could address the Tinubu debacle is to advise Tinubu himself to write his own autobiography – so that we all could know everything about the man who desperately wants to be our president, and so that we all could benefit from his uncommon grass-to-grace story. This is a challenge for the Lion of Lagos to take in the new year. We are waiting.