By Festus Adedayo
In the next few days, specifically nine days from today, the party will be over between many of the current state governors and their mandates to steer the ships of their respective states. Four, or in some cases, eight years which, on May 29, 2011 or 2015, looked like yesterday and the day of their accomplishment which seemed like an eternity, have ran their full course! Juxtaposed with the seeming brevity of human life and man’s fleeting sojourn in this earthly assignment, the time to exit the Government House, for these privileged few out of about 180 million Nigerians, in the lingo of the holy writ, is nigh.
One of the philosophers whose essays speak to the brevity of life and the certainty of time is Seneca. One of the three core Stoic philosophers of his time, the two others being Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus, Seneca was also a playwright and an advisor to Nero, who has gone down in history as about the most despotic and cruel emperors to live on earth. Seneca’s most venerated epistles are De Brevitate Vitae (On the shortness of life) and Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium, (Moral Letters to Lucilius). In On the shortness of life, Seneca gives man what looks like an urgent reminder about the sure, irrevocability and non-renewability of time. Time, I hope we all know, is man’s most important resource. Broken down to its basics, Seneca’s teachings almost rhyme with the Nursery poem we used to recite by rote those days: Tick, tick says the clock; what you have to do, do quick!
From time immemorial, the problem of time has fascinated and engaged man, through thinkers of those ages. Philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Immanuel Kant as well as scientists like Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein have sought to come to terms with the concept and problem of time. What is time? How come it is so elastic, so fleeting and yet to important in the life of man? Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, born 544 BC, seems to succinctly speak about the brevity of time when he said that “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
So, for these governors, their time will be up in about 216 hours from now. What lesson does it hold for us as human beings, for those in position of authority, those aspiring to this sacred office and those who are on the verge of stepping into the shoes of these men who would soon be yesterday men? The most important lesson therein, as I said in the preceding paragraphs, is the lesson of Tick, tick says the clock. It is the lesson of running the race as if it will end today or even this hour; the lesson of what I call, positively immortalizing self by the minute.
Like all men, most of these governors assumed that they were Lords of Time and that the so-called brevity of time was within their gubernatorial jurisdiction to decree out of existence. They never saw the office as a sacred bestowal worthy of being used to immortalize themselves in the hearts of the people. Rather, it was a tool to re-enact Nero’s cruelty, amass, at the expense of the state, the notorious wealth of Haitian despot,Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier and harangue their enemies. Baby Doc who ran Haiti for 16 bloody years, was said to have spirited over $120 million from the wealth of the impoverished Haitian nation.
The first reality that will dawn on the exiting governors in the morning of May 30 is that the colour of life after office is dark, very dark. The second reality is that, of all the gifts of existence that providence may bestow on man, power is the most un-enduring, the most perishable and the most treacherous of man’s earthly friends. If providence bestows on one wealth and it vamooses like the billows of vapour, wealth will still abide by man. Put rightly, when a man who was hitherto wealthy ceases to have wealth, wealth does not leave him in its totality, at least not immediately. He will still have the shadows of wealth ensconcing him round and about. For instance, the imposing cars, the clothes, what is left of the stupendous mansions that have not yet been sold to repay debts, may still abide. The wealthy man could drive his magnificent Posh car about, to the admiration of an unsuspecting world. He alone will know that it is a mere shell. So also with other earthly gifts of health and fame. Not so with power. The moment power vacates its holder, it does so with precise abandon and abandons him immediately. The paraphernalia leaves, the adulation leaves and the ex-holder of office is as bare as naked fire.
The ex-governors will witness this in its manifest crudeness and cruelty. They will suddenly begin to see a consistent casualty of loyalists who will abandon them to their fates. In droves, they will move to the next dispenser of largesse and because, in this clime, government is the hugest dispenser of unearned cash and prebends, the migration to the port of next meal will be so humongous, so sudden and enough to make anyone with a faint heart lose the rhythm of his senses. If you ever sight human traffic round the ex-governor, it is probably the people feel that the governor still has remnants of stolen money that could be squeezed off him. This is not to talk of the EFCC cell that many will make their second homes, like a common felon.
Many of the former governors will be very miserable and downcast post-May 29. Yes, their financial situation has been highly enhanced by their stay in government and they still retain sizeable chunks of that stolen cash, the collapse of the ephemeral human wall they erected round themselves in the last few years would give them emotional upheaval. In 2007 in Enugu State, I learnt the cadence of this realization which is encapsulated in the Igbo proverb which says that he who holds the palm frond is one the goat migrates towards. The Yoruba also have a similar proverb which has been used serially to justify treachery; they saywon kii ya’go f’elesin ana, meaning, no one vacates the road for he who rode the horse yesterday.
What more, the governors, who were “men of timbre and caliber” will soon find out that they are not as indomitable as they seemed to be while donning the majesty and power of office. From May 30, except for the vermin of corruption which has eaten into the marrow of the Nigeria Police and which will allow paddy paddy manipulations, the governors’ security would be removed, leaving probably their police orderly. Those DSS men who could not sleep because H. E. was sleeping, the policemen who cordoned His Excellency’s Government House Empire, will leave in droves to begin afresh with today’s rider of the horse. The siren affixed to their convoys, which they blew even while going to the toilet, will lose its trenchant nuisance and the reality of financing the logistics and fuelling of a senselessly-long convoy will dawn on them. No one will teach them the need to downsize the nuisance.
From May 30, a cache of fraudsters will mill round the governors vacating their offices. Because they are generally known to have stashed illicit money in China, America and suchlike countries, a chunk of which was paid therein by foreign road contractor allies in the crime of fleecing the Nigerian people, corporate fraudsters will swarm the former governors like ants crowd round the pee of a diabetic. They will be waving in their faces irresistible offers to buy over companies. In the process, the governors will be duped of the huge heists they made from the Nigerian people. For some of them who had bought properties and companies through partners in crime while they were governors, this is the time they will feel the texture of treachery. Their proxies, in whose names those properties were bought, will play Peter the Apostle on them. If only late Governor Abdulkareem Adisa could talk, he would have told you his encounter with such an infernal proxy while in Oyo State.
On the whole, these men who straddled the Nigerian stratosphere like pestilence, will witness the Yoruba wise saying which says that the Egungun (masquerade) festival, with its lavish wining and dining, will soon be coming to an end and the son of the Chief Masquerade will also queue like everyone else to buy akara(beans cake) with which to eat his corn meal porridge. The governors will find out that nothing differentiates them from the vagrant next door; their poo-poo smells as unbearably as the mad man on the streets and they are subject to every existential battle that every other man fights. Gradually, they will realize that they should have made life more pleasant to live for the people while providence entrusted the baton of power in their care.
Aketi, pass me a wrap of marijuana, please
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has come under a welter of flaks in the last few days since he made that unconventional call on the Federal Government to support the growing of marijuana, otherwise known as hemp, in his state. One of those who took umbrage against him was the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA) superintended over by Mohammed Buba Marwa, former military governor of Lagos State, which said, among other doggerels, that the call was “disturbing” especially now that the country had an approximate 10 million Nigerian youth in the cannabis smoking net at the moment.
Akeredolu had earlier, on his twitter handle, commenting on his recent visit to Thailand, undertaken with the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA) Col. Muhammad Mustapha (rtd), for a programme tagged, ‘Medicinal Cannabis Extract Development,” said the state was going to be in partnership with the NDLEA to appropriate the wide cultivation of hemp in his state. According to him, Nigeria stood the chance of being shortchanged by about $145bn-worth of cannabis grown in Ondo State, between now and 2025, if she did not tap into the legal marijuana market, with an estimated 1000 jobs as icing on its cake. Senator Shehu Sanni of Kaduna State also joined the fray in condemning this initiative.
My major bother with Nigerians and their governments at all levels is the preponderance of ignorance, naivety and fascination with the dross of doing same old things same way and yet expecting different results that are on display in the public square. Condemnations against the governor range from Sanni’s usual loose talks censoring Akeredolu as having misdirected his energy and some other commentators saying that he wants to implode the number of cannabis users in the country.
Ever since I heard that seminal discussion by Omoyele Sowore, presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the last election on the huge market Nigeria is losing by criminalizing the cultivation of the psychoactive drug, I had been a convert into the marijuana debate. His averment had been that Nigeria will become a major exporter of the drug which can be used for medical or recreational purposes.
“We have to start taking care of our weed, igbo, such that we can also contribute to the GDP of the world. Some of the best weeds in the world are grown in Ekiti state. I’m very serious and people are making billions out of that particular plant that is very potent in Nigeria. We should be focusing on it,” he had said. Sowore was apparently unaware that Akeredolu’s Ondo State is one of Nigeria’s hugest cultivators of cannabis. If you approximate the cannabis growth in Eleyowo, Ogbese and Ilu-Abo, you would have a chunk of foreign currencies at your finger tip.
The naivety and hypocrisy behind the anti-cannabis advocacy is that our people are deliberately blinding their eyes to social and economic change that is a clarion call in other climes. Rather, we are allowing ourselves to be pinned down and enslaved by the cants of western religions and centuries-old practices, when those who bequeathed them to us have since moved ahead. Canada, on October 17, 2018, decriminalized recreational marijuana in full. Growers only require a licence from the central government. Jamaica did in 2015, Argentina in March, 2017, so also Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and many more. Some states in America have too.
The truth is that, we enjoy tomfoolery in Nigeria and our hypocrisy is blindingly alarming. Our prudery against the growth of marijuana is ancient but by the tip of our noses, Tramadol and other drugs are imported into the country. Only a few days ago, N1billion worth of Tramadol was reported to have been imported into Kano and our children are hooked on this global fad of drugs use like a junkie is glued to a fix. A far more armful drug but which the colonialists decriminalized because they were hooked on its consumption themselves – cigarette – has stuck to our consciousness for over a century now. This drug has caused so many dangers to its consumers, chief of which are cancer and allied diseases.
Apart from the curative portents of marijuana, as it is used in the treatment of asthma, influenza and tuberculosis, its recreational potentials have been underscored by medical scientists. Yet, Nigeria, steeped in tradition and old methods, slavishly promotes cigarettes and criminalizes cannabis. Yes, cannabis has been fingered in the mental railroad of many of our children but the fact still remains that we can license its cultivation for export while strengthening social and legal mechanisms against its misuse by the public. Already, in spite of its criminalization, marijuana is widely available at the discotheque and at joints, even in the hands of law enforcement officers. I remember Peter Tosh in Nah go a jail saying that “This here spliff(marijuana) that you see me with sir, I just got it from a Priest, sir… from (a) police officer…” He uses this to say that cannabis is of wide acceptance across social strata. I remember that when Tosh smoked the Nigerian cannabis on his visit to Sunny Okosuns’ Irrua home in current Edo State in the early 80s, he said Nigeria’s variant was the best in the world.
What we don’t know as Nigerians is that cannabis has left the realm that the conservative world thinks it inhabits. In her book entitled Higher etiquette: A guide to the world of cannabis, from dispensaries to dinner table, Uzzie Post looks at the etiquette of cannabis consumption and how to smoke it. According to her, cannabis has come mainstream and needed to be accorded that due. For instance, if you have a party and cannabis needs to be served, how do you announce to the audience that you had wraps of it for your guests? And again, how are its side industries like alcohol factored into the chain of its consumption? A great, great granddaughter of Emily Post, the American woman author famous for writing about etiquettes who passed on in 1960, Uzzie has been a cannabis supporter for an upward of 20 years.
Akeredolu apparently knows that, just as Kebbi State is blessed with the cultivation of rice, his state has an abundance of cannabis and he could, with the help of the Federal Government, harvest foreign currency therefrom, as well as employing the state’s army of unemployed youth. Nigerians will rather encourage charlatan pastors and Imams who turn our moribund industries into church parishes and mosques where idle youth are enslaved ad infinitum than think right out of the box where their consciousness is imprisoned over the years. That is Aketi’s message from Thailand.
Ajimobi and the politics of memorializing by naming
On Tuesday last week, Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State made a very huge contribution to the politics of memorializing. Apparently in search of immortalization, he named some edifices, tertiary institutions, roads and hospitals after himself, some ex-governors of the state, monarchs, as well as some personalities. The Oyo State College of Agriculture, Igboora, he named after former Lam Adesina College of Agriculture, Igboora; Ibarapa Polytechnic Eruwa, named Adeseun Ogundoyin Polytechnic, Eruwa; Maternal & Peadiatric Centre, Olodo Ibadan after himself; Elebu road after ex-Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala; Monatan-Olodo Road, after Chief Rashidi Ladoja, among others. And as usual, this has sent tongues wagging.
Why would Ajimobi name an edifice after himself? Many have labeled it self-serving, indecent and a puerile attempt at seeking self-immortalization. But how genuine are these criticisms? What are the historical purports of memorialization by governments in Nigeria and has memorialization through naming streets and monuments after persons ever succeeded in etching the memory of those so-memorialized in the consciousness of the people?
One of the first attempts at memorializing was made by General Yakubu Gowon while he was a military Head of State, almost five decades ago. In what was declared indecent too by the populace, Gowon just woke up one day and named the popular Broad Street, Lagos after himself. Not only did Lagosians never called the street by the Ngas-born General’s name, a few years after, the Murtala/Obasanjo government, which ousted his government, officially reverted the street to its old Broad Street name.
Another attempt at memorializing was done under the Sani Abacha government. Publicly claiming that the pro-democratic movement called NADECO that fought his government tooth and nail was being sponsored by anti-military forces like America and its former Nigerian Ambassador, Walter Carrington, the Abacha government angrily renamed the Eleke Crescent, which had been renamed Walter Carrington Crescent, toLouis Farrakhan Crescent.. Full name Louis Abdul Farrakhan and his original name being Louis Eugene Walcott, who was born on May 11, 1933 in Bronx, New York, Farrakhan was in 1978 made leader of the Nation of Islam, an African American movement which entwined the teachings of elements of Islam and black nationalism. The renaming of the US Consulate caused huge upheavals in the polity. Not only was the Crescent never for once called Louis Farrakhan Crescent by anybody, it was reverted to Walter Carrington Crescent immediately Abacha expired.
In Oyo State, in spite of his wide acceptance, the renaming of the popular Ring Road, MKO Abiola Way, by the military government really never washed as the populace stuck to calling it Ring Road, till today. On the converse, the Orita Challenge/Elebu Road, constructed by the government of Alao-Akala, in appreciation of his government’s opening of that road, was immediately named by the people as Akala Road. It has stuck since eight years now. When Ajimobi now named the road after Akala, he was merely giving official impetus to a decision taken by the people years ago.
If Ajimobi had stopped at naming roads after those eminent personalities as he did and none after himself, he most probably would not have received flaks from the people. Many people see it as self-glorification and feel that he ought to have left the bit about memorializing himself in the hands of the people. There is no doubt that Ajimobi positively affected the road infrastructure of the state and the people, who are never ingrates, would have named those mementoes after him after his departure. I reckon that he did so in the euphoria of departure. The psychology of the eventuality of leaving an office you occupied for eight years is traumatic. Advisers ought to have defrosted that natural inclination towards this path in him him by telling the governor the unfavourable attacks it would naturally evoke in the hearts of the people.