2023: Outgoing Herdsman, Incoming Bala Blu6 min read
By Tunde Odesola
Are dogs clairvoyant? People in the market square believe so. Mouths ajar, traders watched as over half a dozen village dogs barked and wagged their tails menacingly against the three notorious town criers, raising dust and eyebrows.
Protected by the king’s baton-wielding guards, the head of the town criers, Hadji Lie, smiled and pretended as if the dogs were the king’s pets. The angry dogs barked the more, advancing and retreating, kicking up more dust, threatening. Whaw! Whaw!!
Hadji Lie’s smile broadened into a grin, revealing an infamous diastema. Like his political party, the Association of Professional Crooks (APC), Hadji Lie is from the tribe of the lion of Judas.
Exceptionally gifted, Hadji Lie doesn’t need to wrack his brain for a lie; all he needs to do is just to open his mouth and the appropriate lie for the occasion will flow, it’s a natural endowment, just like biting is natural to snake.
Like Hadji Lie, the other two town criers, Sherwood Gharubba, and Femi(nine), – so called because he swam nine rivers from his village to earn a place in the king’s palace, wrapped their plain cloths round their bodies and tied them in a knot over their shoulders like the three statues in Lagos.
Hadji Lie: (Stops at the centre of the square, sounding his metal gong and shouting.) Yan uwa! Igbo kwenu! Kere o! (No one responds.) (He smiles, coughs, clears his throat and tries again.)
Hadji Lie: Yan Naijeria! Umu Naija! Gbogbo omo Naija! (A few people stepped out to the front of their stalls to listen. Some murmured, many hissed.)
Hadji Lie: (Continues, unperturbed.) I bring good tidings from the paramount owner of all the living and nonliving things in Naija. I can see everyone, including these friendly dogs (dogs bark), is enjoying the abundant life promised by Hiss Excellency. This time tomorrow, at the same venue, Hiss Excellency wishes to address the Naijerian nation on his eight-year stewardship, and also present to you his worthy successor. In his tradition of transparency, the ultimate monarch will entertain questions from all quarters, including opposition groups and the press. Did I speak well?
(Market people, who had increased in number while Lie was speaking, continued murmuring.)
The next day, the sun scorched the earth. Yet, the market square was like a pack of sardines. If you throw a needle up among the crowd, it can’t find its way to the ground. The needle would be held by the jam-packed bodies of the crowd with grim faces, nostrils blowing hot air and arms with wiry hairs like sandpaper. The Lekki tollgate scene flashed across the minds of the people as the king’s guards whacked batons on people’s heads, telling them to bend down so that people at the high table could have a better view of Hiss Excellency at the podium.
(The MC, Oke Bakassy, introduces the king to a round of applause.)
Hiss Excellency: Fellow Naijerians, I greet you all. My fipu, it is my joy to present my stewardship after almost eight years of meritorious service to God and fatherland. It is a thing of joy to inform you that my administration has cleared the Boko Haram terrorists from the North-East as I promised. It was not an easy task, but commitment, focus and patriotism saw us through.
(Murmurings rend the air.)
Hiss Excellency: It is my joy that my administration has been able to place the nation on the path of economic prosperity, massive employment opportunities, technological breakthroughs, 24-hour power supply, unprecedented improvements in road, health and educational infrastructure, improved agricultural yields, cattle herders’ immunity and Fulani superiority. Unfortunately, some people predicted my death, they even said that I’m dead. They said one Jubrila from the neighbouring village is the one engaging my beautiful wife in the oza room; walahi, e no go better for some fipu…
(Femi(nine) runs up to the king and whispers into his ears.)
Hiss Excellency: Femi(nine), I don’t care if I’m on national TV or not! National TV my foot! Today, this nation will see the oza side of me! Maybe today is the day the dog and the baboon will be soaked in blood. Haba, Naijerians have been very ungrateful to me and my family. They said my wife lives abroad; does she not have freedom of movement? They said my children are superrich; are the children of my predecessors poor? Femi(nine), I’m not seeking an election again, let me tell them a piece of my mind today!…
(Femi(nine) and Gharubba run to the podium to whisper to Hiss Excellency.)
Hiss Excellency: Ok, I’ve calmed down. I’m ready for their questions now. But it’s fire-for-fire today, I swear!
South-East press: Your Excellency, you lied on the issue of insecurity, sir. Insecurity has worsened across the country with banditry, kidnapping and ethnic agitation daily claiming lives across the country.
Hiss Excellency: Are you South-East press or Labour press? May you not labour in vain. I promised an end to Boko Haram, and I have done that; banditry, kidnapping and violent ethnic agitation weren’t deadly when I became president. I didn’t make promises on those. And I’ve said it repeatedly that we’ll speak to your people in the dot of a circle in the language they understand. I’m not joking! Boko Haram is no longer a major threat to my people, you too tell your people to stop the nonsense killings they’re doing.
Pin-Di-Pin: Your administration is the worst in the history of the country in terms of corruption, nepotism, hypocrisy and insensitivity. Banditry in the North, kidnapping nationwide and ethnic agitation in the South-East constitute insecurity…
Hiss Excellency: Eeh! Stop there! Was it not your grand patron, Ebora de Farmer, that introduced corruption to Naijeria’s 4th Republic by bribing to get a third term and impeaching South-East senate presidents? Where are the billions of dollars for electricity that went down the drain during the Ebora-Atike years? Whether you people like it or not, I know who’s going to succeed me.
Market people: Who???
Hiss Excellency: The Lion of Bourdillon!
Market people: Ha!?
Hiss Excellency: Yes, because he’s far better and more experienced than the ever lying, whining OB-China, who corruptly muddled family business with state business, and who couldn’t point to one achievement he recorded in Awka, except feed the people with alcohol. (Murmurings.) The god of Bourdillon is incomparable to Atike, the driver of Special Purpose Vehicles of corruption, whose former oga called a thief…Chief Siwaju, the god of Lagos, please, stand up and wave to the crowd.
Bourdillon: (Smiles, waves on his seat and attempts to stand up.) He rose halfway to his feet and got stranded, transfixed like a goalkeeper aiming to stop a penalty kick. Some stalwarts rushed to the scene but he remained stooping like a goalkeeper, tamely saying, bala blu, bulaba, probably an incantation to save the 2023 penalty.)
(In the commotion, Hadji Lie rushes to the podium.)
Hadji Lie: Everyone here should be proud to see Bourdillon observing Islamic prayer. I’ve never seen a man so pious. He decided to pray first before anything else…
(Market people, with dropped jaws, looked at one another, shook their heads and began to leave.)
There’s no hope in 2023. Naijeria’s hope lies in restructuring aka true federalism.
Written by Tunde Odesola and first published in The PUNCH, on Monday, January 16, 2023.
Facebook: @tunde odesola