Hassan Ayariga, founder of the All People’s Congress (APC) of Ghana, in a recent viral video, publicly reminded Nigerians that their country had become a butt of jokes in international discourses. Right before our very eyes, Ayariga rudely poked his hands into our eyeballs. Nigerians are however taking the insult in their strides because they know Ayariga had their balls in his palms.
“(President) Nana (Akufo-Ado) is 72 years old and weak already, sleeping every moment he gets; (he) cannot be the president and if he wins, he is not the one who can manage (the country)… Nana has a health problem; that is a fact. We all have health problems at this age, not to talk of a man who is 72 (years-old)… Nigerians have given their country to Buhari. Look at what is happening there. Buhari has killed the country. The country is dead. Nigeria is no more what it used to be. Are we bringing another Buhari in Ghana?… Nana would not have the power, the strength to manage. That means we’re voting Nana as a ceremonial president but in the actual sense, somebody is going to do that job,” Ayariga said in the video.
Interrogating the concept of geriatrics in government, Ayariga provoked a discourse that has engaged many Nigerians since President Muhammadu Buhari got to power in 2015. The Ghanaian APC founder brought out muck in Nigerians’ face which they are too frustratingly shocked to acknowledge, but whose externalization outside the shores of the country drags them to their feet in shame. In simple summary, Ayariga tells Nigerians that Buhari’s absent presence in the Aso Rock Villa has dragged their country to the brinks. Warning Ghana not to make the fatal mistake that Nigeria made in cloning a Buhari again in Akufo-Ado, such mistake, he said, was capable of sinking the former Gold Coast into the abyss that Nigeria has currently sunk into. Last week, Nigeria’s opposition party, the PDP, stole Ayariga’s patent right and authorship of this thesis by claiming that Nigeria was dying under Buhari’s weak hold.
Closely related to the Ayariga submission is another which holds that, either arising from his sequestration by his health condition or a natural failure of his inner constitution, Buhari cannot separate a fight between two warring chickens. Indeed, someone, whose acquaintance with Buhari has spanned decades, claimed that the President’s queer phobia for peacemaking is so astounding that if he sat in his living room and his little grandchildren were in a disharmonious rancor, even to the point of exchanging blows, Buhari would keep at whatever he was about, say reading a newspaper. And if the spat got too discomforting for him, the peacemaking-phobic president would pick himself up and walk away from the din of the battle. Queer, isn’t it? If you then add the Ayariga frightening dissection of the Nigerian stagnant but regressing headship, the stasis in governance, and this psychoanalysis of the Nigerian president, you will arrive at a clearer picture of the chaotic problems that confront Nigeria daily.
Now, have you ever witnessed a spat between two cockerels? Or even chickens in general? It is always very interesting and reveals that disharmony constitutes a major ingredient of existence. Michelle Dunn of Your Chickens said of chickens’ fight: “Two young cockerels from the same brood will live together in perfect harmony until they reach sexual maturity…These fights can become so severe that they injure or even kill each other… The only way to stop cockerels fighting is to separate them.” Stopping a chickens’ spat is considered to be one of the easiest tasks ever. The peacemaker merely makes an appearance between the two warring mammals and pronto, as the Americans say, they reach an armistice.
This queer withdrawal syndrome attributed to the President, some say, is a medical malfunctioning. To the president’s retinue of minders, however, this reticence is an apt fit into the Daura-born military General’s nature, which to them is ennobling. In the last five years that Buhari has been in office, he had manifested not only a pacific disposition, a clear signal that he is absent from government but also a gross timidity to settle quarrels within and without.
A combination of a peacemaking-phobic nature and Ayariga’s thesis of a Buhari whose senescence has literally grounded Nigeria, have resulted in the reign of a ceremonial president who knows next to nothing about what happens around him. Or that he just doesn’t care. This is clearly Nigeria’s hugest burden at the moment.
Let us begin from even the nucleus of his family. Aisha, Buhari’s wife, has been publicly up in arms with Mamman Daura, Buhari’s Aso Villa-resident uncle and some members of those, in Ayariga’s thesis, are managing his ceremonial presidency. Even when a gun duel ensued in the Villa recently between the president’s Personal Assistant and Aisha’s security operatives, in the words of those who know, Buhari seemed too far away from this din to recognize that there was any spat.
Several other chickens’ fight have hallmarked the Buhari presidency. One was between the DSS and the EFCC; EFCC and National Intelligence Agency (NIA); Minister of Finance and the Minister of Power and recently, NIPOST and the Minister of Communications. Buhari is said to lack the capacity to ensure an armistice.
And this: Faced with morbid opposition from erstwhile Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and his former boss, the governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, had booked an appointment to see the president in the Villa. Appearing in his well-starched babanriga for the usual photo-ops, Buhari and Obaseki were photographed in a smiling binge. Nigerians knew that Buhari would not raise a finger to stop the drift. And he didn’t. This was a replication of an earlier one when, ex-Governor of Lagos, Akinwumi Ambode, pummeled by a heavy combat by the Godfather of Lagos, reportedly scampered to the Nigerian Villa. The President had no capacity to stop the chickens’ fight.
Some analysts argued that while he held forte, late Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, shawled this very disagreeable failing of the president’s from view. Rather than to the awkwardly aloof president, the warring chickens reportedly ran to Kyari to procure interventions. At his death, however, confronted with an academic replacement in Agboola Gambari, the chickens have taken to public spats and open advertisements of their sabre-rattling, many of them very messy.
In the last couple of months, the presidency had clearly become a messy house of commotion, or a pen of warring chickens without a peacemaker. The first clear signal that this queer model could not but dissemble was the spat between National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd) and Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai. While both hailed from Borno State, the epicenter of Boko Haram insurgency, it did not stop their chicken fight. Monguno had, in a leaked memo, leveled a very huge allegation of “undue and dangerous interference on matters bordering on national security,” – supplanting Nigeria’s presidency, in short – against his kinsman. Literally alleging an absentee president at critical junctures of national decisions, Monguno had alleged “unprofessional practices such as presiding over meetings with service chiefs and heads of security organisations as well as ambassadors and high commissioners to the exclusion of the NSA and/or supervising ministers (which) are a violation of the Constitution and directly undermine the authority of Mr. President.”
The rancorous, chickens’ fight din, became even more embarrassing and messy in the last few months. One was between the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) and former Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu. An indication of this unruly and disagreeable governmental template became manifest when a presidency which declined to diligently pursue the confirmation of the acting status of Magu, had its AGF seek the anti-corruption czar’s replacement, basing this on infractions “raging from diversion of recovered loot to insubordination and misconduct.” In a memorandum to Buhari in June, Malami had even unabashedly named his preferred nominees for the office. This was enough for a peacemaking president to wade in. Not long after, this spat became a public ridicule and a mess that tar-brushed the presidency as a home of sleaze.
The latest of these is the ongoing probe into the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by its House of Representatives committee. The stench emanating from the parliament in that regard is enough to bother any forward-looking government. Was that not why there is an Adviser to the President on his office’s relationship with the parliament? While odium from the probe reveals an executive/legislative corruption debacle that predates this government, the mess that oozed from it voids the mantra of the Buhari government as one persuaded to change the status-quo. The chicken fight was between a Joi Nunieh, flippant, yet reversible Godswill Akpabio who developed lily-liver immediately he was confronted with the House’s intent to crumble the House of Sleaze jointly built by the executive and the legislature and a rancorous legislative investigative committee which sounded like misdirected inquisitionists. Between them lies a visible path of a house that is against itself that will ultimately fall.
An analogy of the figurative pen of chickens without a peacemaker that this government has become came again last Tuesday. Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, had honoured a House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating the suspension of the management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF). Ngige began his submission by veering into the very mundane and, pardon this expletive, the irresponsible. His first bombast was the clearly unnecessary comparison of his own age with the members of the committee’s. He picked on James Faleke, a Bola Tinubu, APC National Leader apologist in the parliament and began a session of phlegm-spillage.
Members of the committee, Ngige said, were all his younger brothers’ age, but for Faleke whose age he put to about 60. Yet, in Ngige’s estimation, Faleke was a “small boy.” Like a minor playing the fool in a game of bric-a-brac, Ngige again proceeded: “So you are near my age, at least I am seven years older than you. I’m the same age with your mentor in Lagos, Asiwaju. I was governor with him at the same time. He was a senator, I was a senator. I am a two time minister, he isn’t a two time minister.” Ngige capped his infantile ranting by submitting that, “I’m responding my friend, if you yab me, I yab you ten times. I am a Lagos boy, you are just a small boy in Lagos. Look at this Mushin boy, he’s talking with a VI boy. I lived in Victoria Island. Look at this Mushin boy from Kogi o.” Pardon me: Upon hopping into the conversation, I thought it was a drinking shack dialogue, with one of the parties drenched in considerable liquor.
This government’s familiar thread of a chicken tender who cannot separate two chickens in a spat has provoked two schools of thought. One holds that, a Buhari who cannot separate two warring chickens is desirable for the polity at this time. Why? While the chickens are embarked on their open, shameless disharmony, so says the school, Nigerians can have a peep into the kind of and quality of those who administer them. Strong-willed, no-nonsense leaders like Olusegun Obasanjo and even medium-willed ones like Goodluck Jonathan, effectively ensured that the maggots within the polity were shrouded from view through the leaderships’ peacemaking grips. That was why the Diezani Maduekes’ festering stench was kept from the view of the world until their exits.
A Buhari who cannot separate a chickens’ fight model, so reasons this school, is also advantageous in that, if Buhari had waded into the NDDC and NSITF probes, for instance, we probably wouldn’t know how repugnant, petty and disgraceful the thinking faculty of a Nigerian “Honourable” Minister was. Nor an opportunity to be told that 60 per cent of NDDC projects were frittered into the palate of legislators. And an opportunity to know that Minister Akpabio couldn’t maintain his spine, reversing self like a school boy caught stealing an akara bean cake, in a submission whose truth is self-evident to Nigerians,. So, kudos to the Nigerian President who cannot separate two chickens in a fight?
The squash in Adetayo Koleoso
If we are careful and mindful enough to listen to what people do not say or what is not communicated, we probably will grasp human character better. Harmless acts sometimes forewarn us about the person next door very clearly but we are either too unmindful to notice these acts or too careless to properly situate them. When you are behind the wheels, for instance, your manner of driving speaks volume of who you actually are. Of a truth, there are those who put up a façade to shawl their real selves but even in the midst of this, character, so they say, is like a hail of smoke covered with a bowl which will ultimately bail out.
One sporting activity that reveals almost your totality immediately you get into it is a game of squash. On the squash court, you literally unbowel yourself for your opponent to have a glimpse of. The fraudulent, the liar, the one who cuts corners and one who cannot be trusted in real life is nakedly positioned within that ample space of a squash court.
At the Meadow Mill Athletic Club, Baltimore, Maryland some years ago, a Nigerian resident had waited for a while to play a game of squash without any opponent in sight. He was almost leaving dejected when, all of a sudden, this middle-aged American appeared. And a game of squash between the duo ensued. After some bouts, they came out of the court and a chat began. What line of business was the Nigerian into? The American asked. He had been trying to break into the business league in the United States but the Nigerian blemish of corruption and wonky character had always been his nemesis, he replied. “You’re straight-forward and worthy of doing business with,” the American had shot back. And that began a long, yet productive business relationship.
That Nigerian man was Adetayo Alao Koleoso, Loyola College, Ibadan and University of Ibadan alumnus, former Commissioner of Integration to Late ex-Governor Abiola Ajimobi. Unlike that American in Baltimore, what strikes me about Koleoso is his fidelity to the other person and strength of character.
For me, Koleoso is one of my most bountiful harvests in my few years of sojourning in that queer environment of Nigerian government and politics. Selfless, patriotic and forthright, he is my quintessence of the concept of the rare species of mankind called the good man, adumbrated by Yoruba as Omoluabi. On Monday, July 27, 2020, Adetayo Alao Koleoso would be 50 years old. This is celebrating my model of the Nigerian.