JAMB And The Jàmbá Buhari Committed
By Tunde Odesola
The impact of former President Muhammadu Buhari’s eight-year rule on Nigeria is directly proportional to the impact a white crayon makes on a white chalkboard. Worth. Less.
By the way, jàmbá is a synonym for evil in Yoruba.
When contemplating this article, a lyric of the world-famous Juju superstar, King Sunny Ade, “Gbogbo igi t’elégbèdè ba fi owo ba se, didun lo n dun,” came to mind. So, I ran a comb through my brain for the meaning of elégbèdè. The comb picked elégédé (pumpkin) and Elégbédé, a Yoruba name meaning ‘group owner’. Confused.
I quickly called the renowned oral poet, actor and dancer, Sulaiman Aremu Ayilara, aka Ajobiewe, to help unscramble the meaning of elégbèdè.
Humble and soft-spoken, the 67-year-old Ila-Orangun indigene, who has taken his art to major city capitals of the world, said elégbèdè is the Yoruba word for the gorilla.
“The Yoruba call the gorilla elégbèdè. They also call it Iro. Its hands are very big. It uses its hands to hit trees playfully, and whenever it does that, the trees give a sound, that’s why the Yoruba say every tree that the elégbèdè touches makes a sound,” Ajobiewe said in Yoruba.
For eight years, a discriminative gorilla resided in Aso Rock with Buhari, touching everything and nothing. Buhari’s elégbèdè was on the 127-kilometre Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, striving to make travelling on the road cheetah-swift but, in the end, the snail that left the Ojota motor park in Lagos got to Ibadan before Buhari’s supercar reached the Redeemed Christian Church of God headquarters at Kilometre 46 due to ceaseless ‘go slow’ on the road.
Brilliant Babatunde Raji Fashola aka BRF is the immediate past Minister of Works and Housing. He celebrated his 60th birthday anniversary last week. But many Nigerians, who are daily ensnared in endless traffic on the expressway, will unanimously chant 60 hefty boos to Fashola than give 60 hearty cheers on his diamond jubilee.
Daily gridlock on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway has been reducing lifespans and killing Nigerians softly since the Goodluck Jonathan days despite appropriated financial allocations.
It’s terrible that empty rhetoric from Fashola failed to deliver the expressway in eight harrowing years, flashing the mind back to the monumental failure he recorded especially in the power sector during Buhari’s first term.
If Fashola, whose participation in the Buhari administration was a diminuendo when compared to his crescendo performance as Lagos State governor, considers himself and Buhari as a success story in the last eight years, then Buhari was right to pick his teeth when Nigeria haemorrhaged.
Like the folkloric elégbèdè, the beats of ethnicity, divisiveness and nepotism which the Buhari misadventure drummed for eight years have continued to echo and disturb the Nigerian forest, despite the herdsman retiring to village life in Daura since May 29. Truly, the evil that men do….
The evil of clannishness reared by Buhari and the polarisation of the polity by the Independent National Electoral Commission’s shoddy handling of the last presidential election have continued to afflict the Nigerian state.
Both evils reared their heads again in the controversy involving the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board and a 19-year-old candidate, Mmesome Ejikeme, an indigene of Anambra, who swore she scored 362 marks, a claim which eventually turned out to be false.
As soon as the controversy hit the internet, a cross-section of Nigerians of the southeastern part of the River Niger located hate, victimisation and discrimination in JAMB’s disavowing Ejikeme’s score. This is despite the fact that the same examination body had announced another Anambra State native, Umeh Nkechinyere, as the candidate with the highest marks, scoring 360.
In the same breath, a counter-narrative from a transection of the Yoruba pinned a ‘guilty’ verdict on Ejikeme despite the fogginess of the case, accusing the Igbo of trying to sweep fraud under the carpet of ethnicity.
Taking sides with Ejikeme, a few Yoruba, however, called for caution in handling the issue, saying JAMB needed to do some clarifications. Reacting on Facebook, a former colleague, Taiwo Adisa, and a former classmate at the University of Lagos, Abayomi Francis, specifically sensed that JAMB had something to hide.
Nigeria doesn’t need to look any further about how deeply disunited the country is, going by the needless storm the trivial case caused in a teacup – all thanks, in part, to the ethnic tension accentuated and bequeathed to Nigeria by Buhari.
If Nigeria ever gets her feet on the path of development, on which I won’t wager a bet, mankind would be ready to take tutorials from the first divided nation on earth to achieve greatness.
While ethnic chauvinists made a mountain out of a molehill, swearing and sweating, deepening the trenches of hate and suspicion, the police, Department of State Services, and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission snored, ostensibly oblivious of their constitutional duties.
Whereas all it takes for serious anti-crime agencies was a few minutes of interrogation or cross-checking – as Channels Television did – to save the country from needless ethnic blabbing.
It wasn’t that the police, ICPC and DSS were totally clueless about what to do in this case. I suspect they were simply hamstrung by a couple of retrogressive whims. One such is that none of the bodies can embark on an independent investigation in the national interest without seeking overt or covert approval from the top. Another hamstring is the nonsensical ideology of the police to expect members of the public to complain before an investigation could be launched into a crime which is public knowledge.
I recall that when motor parks leader and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress in Lagos State, Musiliu Akinsanya, aka MC Oluomo, threatened the Igbo ahead of the presidential election, the police said they couldn’t take action because the case was not reported.
I wonder how our next-door neighbours, Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana, would feel upon hearing that Nigeria’s House of Representatives, of all institutions, is investigating a case of alleged exam malpractice when the country has anti-crime agencies such as the police, DSS and ICPC.
I wonder how the face of the Governor of New York State would crease in a frown to know that Anambra State of Nigeria set up a committee comprising five professors and other eminent citizens just to unravel a case of alleged malpractice.
It’s easy to ask the common rhetorical question, “Who did this to us,” but all these puffing and huffing are the whirlwind we are bound to reap after Buhari kept silent when Fulani herdsmen killed and plundered for eight years, predominantly appointed his kinsmen to key positions, and reportedly told the Word Bank President, Jim Yong King, to focus development in the North.
Buhari has put a knife into what held us together, now things are falling apart, the centre cannot hold.
As I’m about to close this article, I stumbled on the reaction of former Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Commission, Osita Chidoka, who owns the centre, where Ejikeme sat the JAMB exam.
Chidoka said the result being paraded by Ejikeme is fake, considering the lack of JAMB security features on it. God bless Chidoka. God bless the few non-Igbo who gave Ejikeme a hearing to ensure justice.
As a 19-year-old, Mmesoma is old enough to face the consequences of her action if she’s found guilty to have orchestrated the fraud. But if she was ignorantly misled into it, I plead leniency on her behalf. As for the three-year ban, I plead with JAMB to show mercy.
Will Nigeria ever be united? Will Nigeria ever recover from this jamba?
Written by Tunde Odesola and first published in The PUNCH, on Friday, July 7, 2023)
Facebook: @Tunde Odesola