2023: Tortoise, the North and the rest of us

I begin today’s sermon with Mr. Tortoise and the naming ceremony of his three children. Tortoise once had three male children. At their naming ceremony, their father asked them to choose their names. The first child said he would like to be called “he who learns from two mistakes”. Tortoise dismissed him as a useless son. “No wise child learns from two mistakes”, Tortoise submitted. Taking a cue from that, the second son said he should be referred to as  “he who learns from one mistake”. Again, Tortoise threw him out of his house as a hopeless son. “One mistake is enough to kill a child”, father Tortoise intoned. The last child stepped forward and said his name is “he who learns from other people’s mistakes”. Tortoise killed a cow in celebration of the last child’s naming ceremony. “A child who learns from other people’s mistakes is the only wise child that will grow up and inherit his father’s estate”, declared Mr. Tortoise. 2023, no doubt is Nigeria’s father’s estate. Only a child who learns from the mistakes of the  others will occupy Aso Rock after the election. If the South failed to cinch the presidency in 2023, we may have to ask all the southern political gladiators, who aligned with the North in the past, to tell us the names of any of their Southern forebears who aligned with the political North and benefited from such political matrimonies. History benefits only those who are ready to learn from it.

I am not necessarily sold on storytelling. I grew up in a pastoral setting. Our pastime was storytelling, especially good folklores, in the cool of the evenings. In writing this piece therefore, I combed my native folkloristic repertoire to take me on a voyage, back to my rich past. A past that tells me that every human event can be likened to the beating of the “Agidigbo” traditional drum. Agidigbo drum gives its percussion in proverbs, hermeneutics and mysteries. Only the very wise can decode the embedded messages in the sounds. The uninitiated, out of lack of understanding dance to Agidigbo’s beatings haphazardly. The 2023 presidential election, with the recent happenings, has turned to the metaphorical  Agidigbo drum. The North is the drummer. The rest of the country are the dancers. The discordant tunes down South is an indication of how naive the South has been in understanding the messages of the North’s Agidigbo drum. They once told a father that his son was an ignoramus. He responded by saying that he is comfortable as long as the child did not die. Pray, what kills more than ignorance.

In my analysis of the North and its love for power, I draw wisdom from the parable of the groundnut farmer and the animal called ikun. Ikun is in the phylum of the mammal, squirrel. This particular specie is noted for its deafness and its penchant to relish groundnuts. When our elders see a man who opens his two eyes and makes a silly mistake,  they describe such a man as: “o ri oko ikun nile, o gbin epa si” (he sees an ikun infested farmland and plants his groundnuts on it). Any political alignment by a southern politician with the North is akin to a farmer who plants his groundnuts on a land infested with ‘ikun’. There is no harvest for such a farmer at the end of the farming season. The South-North farming season began in 2015 through 2019. The harvesting season is 2023. Unfortunately, the southern political groundnuts farmers have, all along, been planting their seeds on the North’s ikun infested farmland. The ‘harvest’ is what we are seeing now. How the rest of the country did not realise this and understand the North and its political power play baffles me.

Get me right. The North is not entirely bad. But the North is incurably bad, incurably selfish and self-conceited, when it comes to political power. The DNA of the North does not share power with anybody. The North has just one business. That is the government. Government is the North’s only industry, investment and company. To understand the relationship between the North and power, you have to understand the allegory of the Agbigbo bird. Politics to the North is like the agbigbo bird (hoopoe). Of all games, a good hunter will tell you that no hunter kills an agbigbo bird and shares it with anybody. It is simply too  sweet to be shared. It is the same bird that the rest of Nigeria successfully hunted with the North in 2015 and 2019. We expect that by 2023, the North will give us our own share of the venison. Taa, I speak the street lingo. No hunter does that. I tell you why in another Tortoise folklore.

Tortoise entered into a turn-by-turn eating game with other animal hunters. The rule is such that whichever game an animal killed, he would share with others. Everything went well until it was the turn of the Tortoise. He killed an agbigbo bird. The other animals gathered in his house to eat. When Tortoise realised that he was expected to share venison from  his agbigbo game  with his fellow animals, he picked an unnecessary quarrel with his wife after which  he climbed a tree and refused to come down. After entreaties, Tortoise gave a condition for him to come down from the tree. He said he must be allowed to sing his family traditional song, for those who are angry in his clan. They obliged him. What did he sing? “Iyawo mi gbe agbigbo kuro ni le” (My wife, hide the pot of agbigbo soup). The wife responded: “I have kept the pot of agbigbo away. How could I have married you all these years without knowing your character”.  Some wives married husbands they don’t know. The rest of the country cannot be too ignorant to know that the North will never share the agbigbo meat with anybody at the fullness of time. This is why the cacophony of political songs down South, the number of aspirants and all the political permutations, juggling and the rest of them, are meaningless to me. We first need to ask what direction is the North going. The answer is right here with us as delivered by Professor Ango Abdullahi.

Last Saturday, at the Arewa House, Kaduna, venue of the meeting of  the Northern Leaders of Thought, convened by him, the former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria, made the rest of us to understand that the North is the ultimate decider of our collective political destiny, any day. Hear him: “I heard that somebody was saying he’s the kingmaker and now wanted to be King. Is not that I want to be seen to be arrogant but the North has always been the kingmaker”. Professor Ango Abdullahi is the North and the North is Ango Abdullahi. When he speaks, we know the direction the North is going. Ango is a professor of Agriculture and also, a professor of Northern Nigeria politics. He made the quoted statement in his opening remarks at that meeting. Please pay attention to the gerund, “opening”. In elementary Stylistics, we were taught that what is most important is usually foregrounded. Nigerians should therefore have no doubt why the elder statesman foregrounded the topic of “kingmaker”. No-one should also be in doubt about who the remark was directed at. Every man knows which proverb affects him except those who are afraid to enter the ring and fight. The choice of the abstract noun, “somebody” in Ango’s remarks is deliberate. His choice of word is informed by how the North has always perceived all their southern political allies; they are mere “somebodies” (somebody).

“Somebody”, in any linguistic and semantic analysis, has negative connotations. In Yoruba Language, it means “Lakasegbe,  Lamurin or  Tamedu”- abstract human being; an inconsequential, faceless persona non grata, whose real identity  may be expunged at will.  “Somebody” is a nondescript personality. That is exactly what Ango called the rest of us. It amounts to another pot of ignorance to think that Ango meant only one individual. We should be wise to know that whatever ails Aboyade (chief priest of Oya deity), ails all Oya’s devotees.

Baba Ahmed, Northern Elders Forum Secretary, amplified Ango’s claim on Monday. In an interview on Arise TV, Ahmed explained why the North would not allow the nation to hold any census in 2022, ahead of the 2023 election. He said that the majority of northerners are in IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps. The NEF scribe is blaming the rest of us for the North’s self-inflicted injuries, occasioned by the activities of Boko Haram, bandits and other felons. The characters that chased northerners to IPDP camps are northerners themselves or the North’s imported cousins from the neighbouring countries. But the rest of us must suffer for it. The benefits of census notwithstanding, the North said we cannot have it. And you know what, that is final!

‘Olua’, a deity in my hometown, spoke about what makes a cult go into extinction. Olua ordered that children should be allowed into the inner recesses of his shrine. His priest asked why. The deity responded that any cult which forbids little children to come into the inner recesses of the shrine will eventually go into extinction. This is the same thing my Lord Jesus Christ did when He rebuked His disciple to “suffer not the children to come unto me for unto them belong the Kingdom of God”. Awoism is a political philosophy and movement which survives till now because children were allowed into the inner recesses of the avatar’s political shrine. We need to ask ourselves, down South, why, after we tried, many times, to create another political philosophy different from Awoism, the southern political dynasty or philosophy appears to be going into extinction. If by 2023, the North succeeded in giving us another Fulani president, we would all have ourselves to blame. Truth be told: we have learnt nothing down here. Eshi o (what a pity), as my Ijesha cousins would exclaim! I say no more for now.



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