I heard my grandparents and parents, particularly my mother talk about Egwu ìkpè. I didn’t meet the era, but from their description of the once popular folklore, it was a beautiful way of sending messages through remarkable euphemism. It was a community’s lyrical mission, delivered with scientific precision to the owners in morsels of smooth parables. They enjoyed it, but mother said it was not because it was plain sweet per se to tear down fraudulent empires, as there were stranded, innocent victims. However, it was a constant reaffirmation to the high and ordinary folks alike that there is joy in integrity and that justice is blind.
I was told Egwu ìkpè made a lot of impact across Ikwuano communities. This practice prevented atrocity and reined in those who wouldn’t want the world to know what they cooked that got the house burnt. The singing event brought people together to hear the latest and to know who had done what. The school of thought that ‘not doing it is the antidote to not getting to know about it’ plays in its full majesty during Egwu ìkpè as the pampered leaders and their undisciplined acolytes were exposed. Their hidden, unbecoming acts would be highlighted in euphemistic songs to draw their attention to the fact that the people knew and would warn them against a repeat of such.
Flip to the other side of my childhood in Ibadan, Oyo State. There I also found that Egwu ìkpè has an equivalent in Orin Owe… It is common to hear people speak or sing in ‘parables’ to drive home a point. And by the time you hear the lyrics, the Olowe would know, and embrace that which is his. Late popular singer Alhaji Odolaye Aremu accentuated this in his Olowe m’Owe song. However, when you are oblivious of the warnings and suasion or entreaties, the Yoruba will say that the owner of the words is deaf to them (Olóro abetí dídi).
We seem to be dealing with the deaf in our endless clamour for a change in the order of running this country. We have repeatedly been singing in parables and in plain terms to no avail. The country is in a firm grip of people without feelings. That is why many humongous crimes against the citizenry would just be waved aside. At best, they make strenuous efforts to as much as respond to the clamour, and when they do, they would promptly sweep the main issues under the carpet.
In the last two weeks, we have listened to and cried against a Sheikh Abubakar Gumi and a Governor Mohammed Bala Abdulkadir. We have also heard the Minister of Defence, Bshir Salihi Magashi, who charged us, like the legendary Don Quixote, to face armed bandits and armed herdsmen with our bare hands. They seem to know more than those dragging us around in circles in pretentious act of building the country. The Minister of Defence showed so much knowledge by giving us very useful intelligence information. He says that those armed bandits are only joking with all the guns – assault rifles, general purpose machine guns and all. He says we should fight them with our bare hands because, according to him, they sometimes have only three bullets in those guns.
Then we should also remember that the President or, as we have come to know, the presidency, once told us to go on our knees in prayer to the bandits and criminal herdsmen. The presidency said prayers against insecurity, banditry and so on is our duty. We have our job cut out for us. We know what to do as prescribed by the powers that be. But do they know what to do… Do they know their own duty, the primary role of government?
From what Governor Bala Mohammed, Sheikh Gumi and Minister Magashi have said, it is clear that we are on our own. The Sheikh went to where our security agents cannot get to, had a parley with bandits in their splendour and came with a demand that we should give them money and rehabilitate them because they are like the Niger Delta militants. Gumi, however, did not tell us what our debt to them is or what they are fighting for.
Bala Mohammed said the criminal herdsmen that have been killing farmers, raping their wives and kidnapping their children for ransom deserve to carry their assault rifles because they are defending themselves with them. Bala Mohammed had the balls to say that nobody owns the forests, that the forests belong to Nigeria. It means that the Fulani can do whatever they like in the belly of Yankari reserve. He didn’t say a word To address the criminality which brought about the revolt against them, and which led Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to ask them to leave Ondo State forest reserves.
The minister said we shouldn’t be cowardly, that we should not be courageous enough to face our demons. He said those guns displayed by bandits were all a fluke, and that we could tackle them like Jet Li, as in a movie. He didn’t think that we might have heard that our soldiers sometimes complain that they don’t have the kind of arms and ammunition those criminals have. He also hasn’t been on the same page with the Police Force which lacks the requisite equipment and motivation to face the bandits. Besides, even if a gun has got a trigger, who would want to face the gun? We are expected to face the armed bandits with slaps – abara and ura or akanti – the type our mothers gave us freely back in those days when we strayed.
The entire scenario in the fight against insecurity shows a country that is uncoordinated and haphazard in its approach.
If you are in your farm, your ranch, your property and I come in there, illegally, to steal your property, your cows, and you use your AK47 to stop me from stealing your property, from rustling your cattle, you might have a basis for the defence of the use of firearms. But when you are the one who invades my property, my farm and vandalise my property, destroy my crops, my investment, armed with AK47, that is armed robbery. Why is this so difficult for Bala Mohammed and his brothers to understand? Is this not wilful case of t’eni baje ò kan mi?
Dambazau when he appeared before the Senate for screening as a minister, said cow would destroy farmlands, and that it is for the farmer to find how to protect his crops and property. Didn’t we get enough signs? Haven’t we been fools enough?
Bala made a statement in which he attempted to explain his earlier comments but, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. If he didn’t speak the mind of the presidency, or those who have sought ways of assuaging the criminal herdsmen, I’m sure they would have called for his head or, at their merciful best, seek his retraction and apology, and ask him to eat his vomit.
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