Between Mushin and Ngige’s Victoria Island

Now, if the seller does not sell, what shall the buyer buy? Fear of death and disease has emptied the entertainment shelf of life everywhere. It is worse in Nigeria. There is nothing new on DSTV again to kill boredom and entertain us. No movie. No sports. What is shown as football is just a mimic of the real thing. Football without spectators, is that football? If it is not panadol, it cannot be the same thing as panadol. COVID has also locked up our Nollywood actors. All our five-star TV series are winding down. Some are repeating old episodes. We can’t go to parties. Everywhere is dry; even laughter has dried up in the mouths of comedy. There are no bubbling outings again; what we have are laughters that have gone rancid. COVID has made everything to be difficult. Veteran actor, Baba Wande, spoke this frustration in a recent newspaper interview: “You can’t travel to movie locations…because you have to maintain social distancing… Everything has become so difficult.”

COVID is an enemy to (and of) everything, living and non-living. But nature is stronger, which is why it gives a forest of beards to the bald-headed. It is the same reason we are grateful to God for giving us the National Assembly (alias NASS) at this austere period of our existence. The National Assembly is a solution to everything. There is nothing it cannot do, except that which may hurt its interest. Just when life was becoming drab and boring, and Nollywood is lost in the woods of COVID, the House of Representatives, backed by the Senate, came out with a bang. It whipped out Nigeria’s magic Doctrine of Necessity and created a reason for us to laugh again. The NASS is the new movie location, giving us a breath of fresh air from the suffocating heat of coronavirus and its deaths. We have seen how it released the NDDC as a promising TV series. It was an instant hit. At least you heard ‘it’s okay! it’s okay!’ and ‘off your mic’ skits. We want more of that and many more. It cannot end like it is threatening to do. Abrupt ending of everything good is never good. Not in amphitheater or theatre, not even in the other room. A two-minutes man, half-way to paradise, is never celebrated. And, I am sure, neither the strongmen of the House nor the uncommon Senator Godswill Akpabio and his virile NDDC team are premature people. So, we plead with NASSwood producer, Femi Gbajabiamila, to let the series run its full season. We need it from now till its arch-rival, Nollywood, regains its groove. It is good for our health.

There is already a silver lining in the sky. Labour Minister, Chris Ngige, premiered another series last week. Just as the NDDC location was threatening to wind up and we ran to prayer mountains for an extension of these times, the minister poked his forefinger right into the eyes of the legislature. Ngige, like Adams Oshiomhole, is a short man with big, hard balls. He has a huge part to play in this season of sleaze and he is playing it. He appeared before a House of Representatives committee to give evidence against an agency under him. Then he looked straight into the eyes of leopard and warned James Faleke, a forever member of the House from Lagos, not to dare him. In age and in location, Ngige said Faleke is a small boy because he (the minister) was from Victoria Island while, ignorantly, he identified the Ikeja Rep member as a Mushin boy. “If you yap me, I yap you ten times,” the short man told Faleke. I wanted to laugh, but I couldn’t. That joke was too deep to be cynically laughed off prematurely. Untimely laughters always distract actors and dry up the well. But, what exactly did Chris Ngige mean by his being the better Lagosian because he is from Victoria Island? How much of Lagos’ Mushin does he know? I consulted Kaye Whiteman, author of ‘Lagos: A Cultural and Historical Companion.’ He said Lagos is much more than an abode of “con-men and chaos.” It takes more than staying on the Island to understand the Mainland and its wisdom. He then referred me to what the 6 August, 1887 edition of The Observer of Lagos told night callers like Ngige who may think they know enough of the water city: “The inner life of Lagos is a dark and oftentimes incomprehensible mystery.” That is the knowledge the white man had which, sadly, eluded Ngige.

Since the minister’s territorial brag mirrors Johanne Miller’s “gang culture in the theatre of the streets,” I think it was very inappropriate of him to pair Victoria Island with Mushin. A proper Lagos boy wouldn’t do that. In real bare-knuckle contestation for the streets of politics and power, coast to coast, Ngige’s adopted Island has no chance. Does Ngige even know what it means to have a solid reputation in merchandised disorder? Mushin holds that title. Ngige smells like the hunter who thinks the monkey is silly; Mushin’s monkey is wise, only that it has its own logic of existence. If Faleke is truly Mushin in thought and in action, let Ngige quickly tell him sorry and stand up for the champion. The knowledgeable have no problem knowing that the unkempt, overcrowded Lagos interior holds the ace on what happens to the upscale VI – its politics and, therefore, its economy. If you know, you know.

The Mushin vs VI diatribe was meant as a diversion from the real issue. Of what benefit was that corridor to the argument over who stole what from Nigeria’s unzipped treasury? I cannot remember Faleke replying the minister on the Mushin bit of his attack. I think the Rep ignored him with a silence that was loud. The audacious minister even threw a poisoned spear at Faleke’s god and father, Bola Tinubu. That was also very unnecessary and risky. Ngige was testing the depth of the Lagos Lagoon with both feet. Who does that? The child who abused Iroko yesterday will realise next year how Olúwéré kills. When Lagos is called ‘ilé ogbón’ (home of wisdom) Mushin plays a great part in that christening. Ngige should find out in history why Island boasters like him were always the yokel who bought and rebought same plot of land in backend Lagos. The Igbo chief should also consult the gods of Okija Shrine for the secrets of Faleke’s never-ending representation of princely Ikeja part of restless Lagos since 2011. Let him come back after the consultation to tell us who is small between him and the Lagos boy from Kogi.

The drama has just started. First it was Akpabio, now comes Ngige. Members of the executive branch are moving their silted, dirty, muddy canals to the National Assembly. And that is because pigs know pigs even in the dark. The dirt-fight will be very dirty unless the lawmakers back off. When you demand money before passing budgets and/or you collect money before releasing signed copies of passed budgets, you lose all claims to respect. An elder whose ornamental beads are made of maize will be pecked by chickens. What we are seeing are feather-pecking drama sketches. Plumage will be irreversibly damaged; there will even be cannibalism. The poultry owner is not bothered. He is in his easy chair in the Villa picking his teeth. What we have is a perfect Animal Farm. Ministers can fight lawmakers; lawmakers can slap ministers; Napoleon belongs to nobody as long as his milk is not spilt by the feuding pigs. Ministers are miffed that members of the National Assembly who ate their cakes yesterday are acting to repossess them. In the skies of heist, there should be enough space for the thievish kites of the Villa to fly without annoying collisions with the vultures of the Dome. That is the message the ministers are passing to the lawmakers.

After Ngige and Faleke, the next movie will be very loud and the location will be right on the streets of Nigeria. It will be a battle between the Nigerian people, north to south, and the cannibals in government. I do not know why this government won’t know that after pursuing the people to the wall, a fight-back is the only option left. We are getting there, progressively. The latest fight-bait from those in power may be the trigger: If you rent out your house, the Nigerian government says it will soon start taking a cut. And you want to ask why. Has the president and his group become omo onílè? Or they are now a more daring version of Ibadan’s One Million Boys? I think it is worse than that. The profligate government is now into money ritual; the people are the ingredients. That can be the only explanation for the money-grabbing policies it sends out almost daily without deep thoughts for the down and out.

Abuja is directing landlords to charge six per cent stamp duty on every tenancy agreement on their houses, my house. You want to ask what that means? It means as tenants pay you a hundred thousand naira, they also pay the government in Abuja six thousand naira. You will collect this on government’s behalf and remit to it with your bank doing its own criminal deductions. Head and tail, the government cheats you and your tenant. Again, you ask: Were they the ones who built my house for me? What is our governor saying? The governor has no mouth there. They say it is a federal tax even when the law clearly vests the right on tenancy rent agreements on states. Abuja is lawless. The only thing they know there is money with the power and advantage it confers. We wait for the drama to unfold; then thunder goes out to ‘fire them.’ Why is it that they see no crime in making it a sin to be a Nigerian? No access road. No water. No electricity. No security. No salary. No school. But there is tax and more tax.



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