This is not a tribute to Chinua Achebe and his first novel you are familiar with. This is rather a post-mortem on whatever happened in Abuja last week. This is also a pre-mortem on the beast slouching towards a ruptured future of Nigeria. This is a tribute, really, to W. B. Yeats, his 1919 Second Coming and the fulfillment of his prophecy.
Last week, the falcon and the falconer lost contacts in a maze of politics and frightening power play. Ibrahim Magu of the EFCC was before the Senate to collect a job forwarded there for him by President Muhammadu Buhari. Expectant Magu went there but came out empty handed. An arm of the presidency blocked him. Magu’s friends are everywhere. They point at his enemies who hold the yam and the knife. They yelled at the Senate for using a security report from an agency of the presidency to hack down a nominee of the president. What happens when the thirsty chases the afternoon waters on the highway of power? Was there anything there for him in the first place? Magu belongs to the Villa and his nomination went to the Senate from the Villa; but a report from a corner of the Villa said “no, don’t give him.” And since that incident, have you heard any thunderous or thundering disapproval from the seat where power sits? The gyre appears widening. Was Magu surprised? He shouldn’t be unless he would have us shake our heads at his detective credentials. Or was he taken by surprise? If I were him, I would not. I would see the depth of the seas and the beckoning spirit of deception. I would ask myself why a falcon would dare shame the falconer and there would be no consequences. I would read Yeats and be tutored on the state of the nation and the direction of the winds:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
What happened was a tribute to Yeats’ accurate prediction of a future of hares and hounds wearing the same costume. A celebration of things falling apart rapidly, with the shutters of anarchy lifted. Hameed Ali of the Customs was also before the Senate. The soldier in him went into that chamber of power wearing a brocade of white steel. The Senate wanted him in the Customs’ gilded uniform of rank and epaulets. He wouldn’t wear it. He was sent out. How this will end and where this will end are in the womb of time. Then, on Thursday, it emerged that Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State fired an Obasanjo-type letter to Buhari in September last year (2016). Wailers have labeled el-Rufai as the head of this government’s own cabal, the custodian of this dispensation’s power abductors. If there was a cabal in charge of our affairs, Wailers would insist that this petite tank of ideas and brilliance in Kaduna government house was the nucleus. But Thursday cast a slur on that submission. The man is saying true, there is a cabal, but some other persons are its registered members and trustees. He said his party and its government of change were failing and the pilot was not in the cockpit: “Mr. President, there is an emerging view in the media that you are neither leading the party nor the administration and those neither elected nor accountable appear to be in charge, and therefore the country is adrift.” We heard this before from the president’s “other room.” Now this from a man we had been told held Aso Rock’s spare key. What is happening? Or what has happened? Are all these people — the Villa, the Senate, Kaduna government house, their arms and legs — not of the one and only APC? It appears there is no ceremony of innocence again. It is drowned in anarchy. Now, where is the centre, the hub and where are the hinges? Was this the revelation Yeats said was coming? A troubling vast future of desert sand and of lions with human heads. Yeats also wrote about ‘indignant desert birds’ casting their shadows on the sun, dropping darkness for all. What omen do they forebode?
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
What is happening? Why the blank and pitiless gaze at hungry people by government men who hold the yam and the knife? President Buhari is smiling and shaking hands with governors who don’t and won’t pay salaries. The president is giving money and more money to governors to pay what they have vowed not to pay. Last week, he ordered many more bullion vans of refunds of Paris Club loans to states. He wanted the money for the hungry and the sick government workers and pensioners in the states. The money will come. The governors will roll out the drums to receive the billions. But the hungry will still go home empty handed. Contractors of dubious projects in the states and their concubines will inherit this largesse from President Buhari. It happened before. It will happen again. And again, Buhari the free-giver will not ask questions before giving much more. Our governors are the deserts of our land. Woe betide that stream, that river that pours its vital fluid into their belly. You can’t satisfy them. They take. They don’t give. They are the ‘rough beasts’ of the present. And after this feast of endless and repeated Paris Club refunds, they will design new free money schemes and Abuja will approve and release the floodgates of money and more money. The governors will go back for more; Abuja will pump more and more. But salaries will remain unpaid; pensioners will die and die, waiting and waiting for the lions to release their appropriated milk. Things have fallen apart. The future is a waste of desert sand. Desert birds are the only beasts that enjoy the heat; the only survivors of the deluge from the collapsed dam of innocence and decency. Again, Yeats and his accuracy:
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
For Nigeria, the beast is past slouching towards Bethlehem. It is already in there, wreaking unimaginable havoc. Things have fallen apart.