Nigeria is a jungle of mafia dons. Its unsalutary alias is Naija. A forest of many large animals. It suffers royal rumbles every day. Peace eludes where the Lion and the Elephant forever claim the kingship of the forest. And so it goes with this jungle called Naija where the Lion and the Elephant regularly contest for command and space. Royal Lion is here: immense being, solid strength, sharp claws, iron teeth – beast of fear and courage. And here too is kingly Elephant: immovable mountain, regal royalty, respectable visage and carriage, perceptive and fearless, scornful of smallness and pettiness. When the elephant moves, the forest shakes.
In Naija, Lion and Elephant regularly square up and sneer at each other. Sometimes, they forge sudden friendship when other ambitious beasts attempt a contest for the jungle with them. And such lesser beings are very many. They can be sly, dangerous and subversive. Lion, in particular, won’t forget in a hurry bad, ugly Monkey and his antics. This miserable creature is like Bat: neither here nor there. What animal lives on land and on trees? Monkey daily darts around with a bagful of dark motives, deadly ideas. Once he attempted using patient Elephant to destroy impetuous Lion. The talebearer set one against the other. He needed it for the forest to be safe, so he thought. He went to the Elephant, cowering in feigned loyalty: “The Lion claims the crown of the forest, derides you as big, old, brainless fool.”
“How dare Lion,” Elephant, in a fit of anger shook the forest. Surprised Lion wondered why the Elephant moved with rage and vengeance. They fought. Both bruised, bloodied and sorry. And Monkey, from his tree, watched and danced.
At another time, Monkey, for the sake of banana, told proud Lion that he shared his hunting glory with another king called Man. Who is Man? Royal Lion followed Monkey in an angry search of the forest. Wily banana eater sighted the one with gun. Terrified, he tarried. He pointed Man out to Lion and ducked up his tree of safety. Lion looked distant Man straight in the eyes, daring him to a fight. Sharp shooting Man gave Lion, point blank, full face. Lion turned to run. Man released another volley into the beast’s back of fur. Lion staggered, fell, rose and into his den he disappeared. For weeks, the forest heard no roar. Then, one sunny day, Monkey found Lion by his cave, nursing his healing wounds in the sun.
“Kingly one, what ails you since all these days?”
“That fellow you call Man, he released lightning in my face and thunder in my behind. I just managed to come out to sun myself. Truly, Man is also king,” humbled Lion managed to tell his ordeal, returned to his painful sores.
Sometimes, Elephant and Lion held summit on threats from insignificant beings. Once Lion asked Elephant why he kept flapping his ears. The big one pointed at the whizzing gnat: “That little, buzzing thing is a constant threat and it must not get inside my ear. If it does, I am doomed.”
“Really?” Enlightened Lion asked. “My own headache is the rooster. Its early morning shrieks jars courage out of me.” Small things, troublers of the lords of the jungle.
“So, what do we do? We keep the forest unsettled, forever in turmoil. Some will die, the ones who live will learn to survive in silence.” In sober quietude, they agreed…and that is what they do, till today.
When the forest is under threat of firestorm, the big ones know and the wise among them rings the bell of danger. He knows his tribe of lords of the jungle loses more in a situation of general ruin. Conflagration aides predators of the kingdom of beasts, the wise knows and warns the addled playing with fire.
Did you read Obasanjo’s ballistic missiles last week? The old cat took no prisoners in his slaughtering spree. The bold, old man said what other big men say under their wives’ creaking beds. The nation bleeds; the people suffer. Rome is burning; Nero must stop fiddling. The economy is killing and the reigning King Buhari must stop the bleeding and heal the land. “Economy does not obey orders” and panders not to the wish of impotent voodooism. That was the chicken farmer’s one pence donation to the steely cow farmer. Both are Lions — Generals of uncommon courage and blessings. But one appears luckier than the other. Obasanjo’s first and second comings were periods of prosperity. But his gnat were his successors. But he chose them deliberately. And so, he should blame himself. The nation blames him too for the doom that loyally came after his years in power.
Buhari’s rooster is the economy. He has come twice too, like Obasanjo. And that is why I say he has a grace of uncommon texture. But his rooster has been the economy, defying orders, shaming wishes. Kings’ eras are marked in history by how prosperous and safe the people were under their power. The old Oyo sang of kings and eras of war and peace; they sang of kings of fine, multicoloured pieces of velvet and damask. They sang too of palm frond kings that fed the land with yam peels. “The economy does not obey orders.” No. It does not. And that is why this Lion must listen to the other with the mane of experience at managing good and bad times.
Other dons of the jungle have been coming out, one after the other. I haven’t read Tony Anenih’s addition to our rich library of history. But I have read that he wrote of his roles in almost all the terrible storms that threatened to sink the ship of Nigeria from IBB days to date. The nation should read him and underline the hard lessons. Abubakar Atiku too has been talking. He is another stale refrain in the elegy in our sour mouths. Rewriting what has been written can be very unsightly. The paper gets soiled and fouled. And that precisely happened when one of his accidental ex-boys returned his fire, full face. But he has done well by not keeping quiet. In character and reputation, he is a talker like his boss, Obasanjo. And that explains the tempest that marked their years in the charmed Villa in Abuja.
Now, when you have all these men forming a pattern in talking and fighting, what strikes you? Could it be that they are scared of the dawn of nemesis? Could it be that they see hunger striking matches of strife in the jungle and they are afraid and in advance, pleading alibi? Or is it that their elephants are seeing the sun of the jungle strolling down the western horizon? Whatever it is, these are not nice times. They are not nice and cool for the hewers of wood, the herders of cattle and the tillers of caked soil. The times are not safe too especially for the comfortable. This is a season for all men and women with stakes in the Nigeria project to come out boldly, stop all politics of survival and put their hands on the deck. A shipwreck sinks all.