Mommy, Daddy, ab’ole l’e d’ibo fun?

February 5, 2012

by Tola Adenle


Non-Yoruba readers should pardon what may appear to be lack of sensitivity.  A title that would do justice to this essay just happens to be a protest chorus I heard not too long ago.  I will attempt to translate the title into English; the essay, too, should make the title clearer.

A couple of years ago as I typed in my work area at home, I heard a strange protest chorus which immediately drew me to a window that often affords me a view of the goings-on at Elizabeth Road near the Ibadan NTA.  It was a protest following a recent “removal of subsidy” on petroleum and able-bodied young men took to the streets to register their protest.  As they jogged, many half dressed and most carried nothing in their hands but a lot of pain in their hearts, a chorus was repeated over and over again – like rap – to a near musical beat of 4-4 (Common Time)

Daddy, Mommy/ as’ole l’e d’ibo fun!

 Yoruba readers can understand that the adapted title justifies a question mark with my substituting the letter ‘b’ for the Yoruba ‘s’ (sh), changing those young men’s plaintive cries from “Oh my God, dear daddy and mommy, you’ve voted in thieves!” to  “daddy and mommy, is it possible that you voted in thieves?

To the National Assembly, we head for a look-see at the voracious appetite of this group of Nigeria’s rulers:  a vote of N1.5 billion – that is US dollars 11.4 million – for meat pi(l)es, soft drinks and the like in the ’06 budget.  The COMET of December 28 put it well:  “Food vendors, seem set for a bountiful harvest next year: lawmakers plan to spend N1.482 billion on refreshment and meals.” While it would be at least some relief if the money filters down to flour manufacturers, meat pie and assorted snack makers, etcetera, skeptics like me do not foresee a bonanza for graduates of catering institutes.  No, I am not disputing the fact that we will continue to see increase in disfigurement of legislators’ forms: disappearing necks; non-kwashiokor distended stomachs; rapid breathing brought about by non-exercise in spite of over-rich diet, etcetera.  Foreign economies, rather than ours, may be the beneficiaries.

There have been many others since 1999: bribes from ministries to pump up or accede to budget proposals (remember Education Minister/NUC’s head); how about Representative, Dr. Adeyeye’s cry of the plan to share billions towards the much-denied but never refuted by the President’s third-term bid?  How ‘bout bribe from nominees for ministerial posts before confirmation?  What of the obscene pays that make a primary six local government politician earn more than a professor as salary,less perks and bribes?

Protests are things of the past in Nigeria, circa 2006.  We were all witnesses to the Ehindero-led police force that used tear gas to disperse women who had gathered peacefully to register their displeasure at the frequent air crashes in Nigeria as well as commiserate with those who lost their children in the Sosoliso crash.  Unfortunately, Officer Ehindero, in true Nigerian leadership style, has developed reactionary tendencies, trying to enforce a law that no longer exists, not to talk of the immorality of his order.  This column wrote about this officer when he was promoted acting IG because I heard decades ago  why the new UI graduate joined the force.

Officer, your career was pursued with single-minded forthrightness till you became IG; stick to it, Officer, or resign; break the cycle of I-Gs who leave the service with ignominy. If you ordered Professor Akande, a former VC.and other such women to be tear-gassed, what would you have done to the protesters described above?  Shot at sight?  What will you do when (s)elections ’07 come around, especially in Lagos where attempts at rigging will be met with great resistance?

Now, to the meat pi(l)e business.  A hundred and nine senators and 360 reps, i.e. 499 men and women will spend about 1.5 billion naira on snacks.  My pocket calculator tells me each of these men and women will spend about three million naira (2.972 million naira. Pray, how much does a university lecturer or professor/administrator earn? Can a nurse/Sister/Matron at UCH, LUTH, etcetera afford DAILY Mr. Biggs’ snacks?  Pray, why is it that pensioners are owed arrears in excess of a year while these guys, many of whom (a)did not qualify to be lawmakers (b)do not understand nor are they interested in legislating (c)did not really win elections as we’ve learnt, and (d)are there to represent themselves?  Simple answer to all:  these men and women are high up in the hierarchy of Nigeria, Inc., that insidious group of sharers of the common wealth. Now, here is a tongue-in-cheek challenge: those who lay claim to democratic ideals and good governance in both chambers, step forward AND REJECT these obscene pays and perks that are totally out of place in a country like Nigeria.

What of the charade that passed for impeachment in Bayelsa and will soon happen in Oyo?  What are these “representatives” of the masses given to look the other way as brick by brick, the democracy structure that others fought and died for, is brought down through sheer greed.  What of governors who help themselves to state resources?  How come governors’ trips overseas have suddenly ceased?  How many governors can come clean if the EFCC decides to go all out instead of what most Nigerians see as a hatchet job?

After voting a billion and a half for snacks, twelve billion for transportation; t wo billion for materials & supplies; almost N800 million on postage and courier; Reps will spend app. N370m on medical and N208m on fuel and lubricants.  The Senate has earmarked about N1.5 billion for consultancy and professional services and over a billion each is earmarked for “unforeseen” expenses for both bodies.  What could still be “unforeseen”? (Ta)b’ole l’a d’ibo fun (Did WE vote for thieves)?

I was asked recently about this column’s constant reference to ‘Nigeria, Inc.’ Below are excerpts from “Nigeria, Inc.”, April 2003:

“ … Nigeria, Inc. which LOOKS to the world like any other giant corporation, … is not structured like normal organizations.  At the top of this contraption, instead of a chairman of the board, sits a disparage group: most elected /lawmakers’; most retired armed forces personnel of General rank, some traditional and religious leaders of the reactionary stripes AND the multinational oil producers.  There are no executive or non-executive directors.  These, and the next group of “stakeholders” or “investors” as they describe themselves, are all directors.  It is made up of not less than 99 percent of other politicians, most retired armed services officers of any rank, most civil servants above level ten, customs officers of ALL ranks, and many others too numerous to list.  Please note that ‘politicians’ are not only the elected men and women but the party organizers, the so-called money bags who get deliveries of more bags from ‘Ghana must go round’ weekly, monthly or quarterly as returns on their “investments.” … Then, there are those who muscle their ways into the group by sheer braggadocio: men and women “leaders” switching parties with “followers” they have not.  Below these directors in a uniquely-Nigerian “service to the people” …  set-up are those on the outside, looking in, the junior civil servants, the lower-ranked armed services personnel and party thugs. …  ALL policemen … shamelessly extort money or kill those unwilling to pay …

The Comet on Sunday, January 6, 2006


[UPDATE:  To re-read the whole Obasanjo-presidency era on Nigeria, Inc. essay during the protests following the removal of what-else but another phantom "subsidy" which I've already aired on this blog, please check of September 13, 2011.

Just as "subsidy removal" is not new, readers will notice that present profligacy at the very top of government is nothing new. TOLA.]




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