JAMES Hadley Chase’s The Paw in the Bottle is an excellent thriller whose teachings apply to the world of today. Published in 1949, the thrill in the novel lingers, both for its clinically descriptive power and applicability to the concepts of class conflict, loyalty, betrayal, trust, greed and so many others. Set in London with a British character, it is the story of Julie, a young girl working in a West End café, home to the underworld and where thieves, pickpockets and all sorts converge. She is introduced to a robbery and asked to play the role of a maid in a wealthy household, tasked with finding the safe. Describing how hunters catch monkeys in Brazil, Julie is asked: “Have you ever heard how they catch monkeys in Brazil, Julie? Let me tell you. They put a nut in a bottle and tie the bottle to a tree. The monkey grabs the nut, but the neck of the bottle is too narrow for the monkey to withdraw its paw and the nut. You would think the monkey would let go of the nut and escape, wouldn’t you? But it never does. It is so greedy it never releases the nut and is always captured. Remember that story, Julie. Greed is a dangerous thing. If you give way to it, sooner or later, you will be caught.”
Nigerian politicians and Northern hegemons have overtime practicalized this Brazilian hunting gambit, even exhibiting far greater proficiency and mastery of it than the hunter himself. The politician uses the troika of ethnicity, religion and Messianism as his own paw in the bottle which the Nigerian monkeys grasp and never let go.
Convinced that the paws they kept in the bottle for the 2015 and 2019 Nigerian presidency have effectively arrested our monkey, President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Yerima Shettima, has been told by our Northern Nigerian captors, Nigerian version of the Brazilian hunter, to go and hunt monkeys again for 2023. Suave, assertive and glib like a demagogue, Shettima’s nuts in the bottle are very fascinating and we are about to grasp the nuts. Like the Brazilian monkeys who surround that bottle where those fascinating nuts are kept, there is no gainsaying the fact that the day the poor of Nigeria’s North and the oppressed of the South wake up to the reality that they are pawns in the chess game of hegemons and politicians, that is the day of their liberation.
Shettima, in a video that has gone viral, circulating like an infectious pestilence, had told Nigerians why the North has to remain in power for another four or eight years after Muhammadu Buhari must have vacated office – if he will at all. He has also granted some newspapers interviews where he cloned same narcissistic views. Hear him and permit me to quote him extensively as published by one of the newspapers, last week:
“For us in the North, we can’t continue to fold our hands, and that’s one of the reasons we believe that after Buhari, the next President should also come from the North. Then apart from that, between 1999 and now, the South has ruled for 15 years, but by the time Buhari would finish his second term in 2023, the North would have just about nine years. Let me break it down to make it easy for Nigerians to understand my logic. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a southerner and Yoruba man spent eight years, former President Goodluck Jonathan spent six years plus. Before he became President, he was first Acting President of Nigeria but later had to complete late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s tenure when Yar’Adua, a northerner died in office. So in the spirit of justice, equity and fairness, is it not clear that it is supposed to be the turn of the North in 2023?”
There are two very disgustingly prominent cants in Shettima’s doggerel above and they ooze out very smelly tang. The first is a narrative that the North had promoted to a level of lie since the fake federalism which was sired by the military was heralded in 1966. The narrative goes that, the South is in charge of the Nigerian economy. It may well be true for some ages and time but, gradually, from the time of General Ibrahim Babangida and down to the current regime of Muhammadu Buhari, especially with the latter’s brazen deployment of cronyism and ethnic ascendancy, this product of a natural economic system has been debased.
Nigerian political economy theorists who canvass that ownership of production is the greatest resource in a political power base never reckoned that a ruler with an acute disregard for process, norm and obsession for cronies, would emerge in power someday. Right now, since the incineration of norm and due process of ascension to positions of economic authority by this government, the north is having a fief hold on the Nigerian economy. The equation is such that, never in the history of Nigeria have we had an executive who possesses a Mandarin power like the one currently sitting comfy in the hands of landlords of the Rock of Aso Villa. Check where southerners sit as chairmen on alleged economic pillars of Nigeria and search out the power locus of such establishments – they have Managing Directors or some power subordinates who are answerable only to the Villa. When you read the Acts that set up those economic power bases, you would realize that Shettima was merely playing a banjo of lies so as to draw the monkeys to the bottle of nuts. The Acts are worded like this, “The Board shall decide…” Check where the hugest of the board members’ population hail from: North!
Shettima’s second nut which he cleverly inserted into the bottle is the most laughable and reprehensible logic ever. What appears to even dwarf his sophistry is its reductionism, his limiting reading of Nigeria and its governance architecture. Reductionism, you all know, is the practice of analyzing and describing a complex phenomenon in terms of its simple or fundamental constituents, especially when the interlocutor claims that in doing this, they had ipso facto provided a sufficient explanation of the phenomenon. The question to ask Shettima and his selfish reductionist school is, did Nigeria begin from 1999? So if Nigeria did not begin from 1999, why did Shettima not elasticize his analysis to include the Nigeria that began operations from 1960?
Even a student of Civics knows that from independence in 1960, Nigeria had been unfairly ruled by the North. The troll is from Tafawa Balewa, down to the exemption of the first coup of 1966 which had Gen Aguiyi-Ironsi taking over power and upon the counter-coup of July that year, spearheaded by Northern officers which got him assassinated, General Ogundipe who was the most senior officer in the military of the time, ought to have taken over. Ogundipe had to be stampeded off Nigeria, only for Yakubu Gowon, a Colonel, to take the baton of power. His upstage in 1975 paved way for Murtala Mohammed and only his unexpected assassination accidentally gave power to Obasanjo who though, the most senior officer, had to have a Lt. Colonel, Musa Yar’Adua, promoted to Major General, so as to keep the North in the cusp of power. After him, Shehu Shagari, Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and Abdusalami Abubakar respectively took their turns like masquerades at the market square.
If Shettima had forgotten, his sleepy memory needed to be joggled to the fact that Obasanjo’s second coming was a unanimously agreed decision by the Northern hegemons and their Southern lackeys that the presidency must be ceded to the south as atonement for the killing of MKO Abiola. Don’t forget that this selfsame Abiola had been a lickspittle of the North, establishing his Concord newspaper majorly for that purpose, believing that the North would cede power to him, until a hurriedly held National Convention of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) on June 12, 1982, (can you see the purport of this grotesquely prophetic decision day?!) had unanimously picked Shagari again by the party to hoist the NPN banner in the 1983 elections. MKO had thereafter been told that the presidency was not up for the highest bidder and, miffed by this decision, Abiola resigned his membership of the NPN and resisted every attempt to make him come back to the NPN, including President Shagari’s visit to his Lagos home. The Concord too immediately put an end to its romance with the NPN and began to overtly and covertly support the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). At that 1999 election intersection, it was obvious to the North that, for it to continue to keep the monkeys by the side of the bottles, it had to temporarily cede Nigeria to a man who was merely southern in name but then Northern in his worldviews –Obasanjo.
In reality, but for the selfishness of the Northern hegemons and the insatiable depth of their throats, as well as their hegemony that is reinvigorated by so doing, the fact that a region’s son/daughter is in position of power does not make it poor or rich if we practice a merit-based economy, rather than the contact-based economy in our hands. The truth is that, the poor of Malumfashi is the same as the poor of Arochukwu and the poor of Iberekodo: They are united by their exploitations in the hands of their political lords. Shettima and all those who sent him on errand should be made to know that we know that they have begun to put the usual nut in the bottle and they are about to tie the bottle to a tree. As usual, we the monkeys will grab this reprehensible nut of Northern entitlement to power and the lackeys among us would jump at the neck of the bottle. Finding that it is too narrow for them to withdraw their paws and the nut, they would be there, sentenced to eternal servitude.
I wish my good readers a happy and prosperous New Year.
Think Like That, Fayeun and others for whom the bell tolls
IT is at seasons like this that mankind literally becomes activist in his thinking, prompting him to ask very troubling questions that regretfully border on atheism. Last week, newspapers and the social media were awash with stories of men and women who, a week or so ago, were on this side, savoring our human excitements and naivety about tomorrow. They looked forward to Christmas and the New Year, with some of them even making fascinating projections that curved out of this season into 2020 and even beyond. But, alas, they were caught by the unkind and scaly hands of death. Their deaths provoke the unresolvable question: Why do good people die?
The first was the bursting-with-energy Adeyemi Abiodun Adeniran aka Think Like That, a youth leader in Oyo State who had an accident and died. On Abuja’s Kubwa-Zuba expressway on Christmas day, a family of five also perished after its car crashed and burst into flame. Samson Alowe, his wife and three of their kids, were incinerated in the resultant inferno. So also was an RCCG Pastor who drowned with his two children in Spain. This is not to talk of affable Deaconess Folake Rachael Fayeun, nee Oguntuase, my mother’s friend, who passed on in Akure on Christmas day.
Though I never met any of the above, except Deaconess Fayeun, the death of Adeniran and the comments trending about him show that he was a great man. He had died at the age of 44 in that tragic road accident while returning from Abuja to Ibadan, after witnessing the Supreme Court judgment in Makinde v Adelabu’s appeal. The tyre of the vehicle which he drove was said to have burst around Adegbayi/Alakia area of the state. The car reportedly somersaulted four times and only Adeniran died in it.
Dirges on him are sobering reflection that we must leave positive imprints on the sand of this perishable life that we live. Politicians who paid tribute to Adeniran said in a society like ours with its rat race pursuit of materiality, sauced with avaricious thirst, he pursued politics of principle and prosecuted same with courage. He was immediately immortalized by the Students Union of The Polytechnic, Ibadan which named its Union Building after Adeniran for his huge contributions to student unionism while in the school.
The truth is, we all will die our own deaths as death. It is the only constant that reminds us of our finite composition and limited sojourn on earth. Rest on, compatriots.