Pigeons, baboon blood and our Philemon punishment

Fatalists haven’t yet returned from the market square. They had rushed there to parrot what they called the eerie signification of the news of pigeons that won’t fly at the National arcade on January 14. It was at the Nigerian fallen soldiers’ anniversary celebration. According to them, there was a weird symbolism in President Muhammadu Buhari’s futile move to prod the memorial pigeons to fly. This ceremonial action had traditionally got the pigeons flying into the sky over the years. However, at the Armed Forces Remembrance event last week, the Buhari pigeons merely diffidently looked at the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, I dare say, literally with bemused disdain.

In reality, what have stubborn or hesitant pigeons got to do with Buhari or the current Nigerian situation? Shamanism and spiritism explain pigeons’ mannerism better. According to them, pigeons, which are one of the first birds that man tamed and creatures that have lived as man’s companions for centuries, symbolise home and security. They equally symbolise love, peace and are thought to be messengers that deliver gifts of physical, emotional and mental healing to man. As spirit messengers, they are a channel of communication between the living and dead worlds. When they are released to fly into the sky on fallen soldiers’ anniversaries, they are a totem expected to be instruments of communication with the land of the dead, a national invocation of the spirits of the dead, if you like.

Now, so why did the pigeons flatly refuse to bear Buhari’s peace message to the land of the dead, the dead soldiers, our forebears who pre-deceased us and thereby became our ancestors? Is it that they are angry with us, with Buhari, his administration or the rivers of blood that maroon the land?

Fire spitting Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Mathew Hassan Kukah, had provoked the most recent war discourse in Nigeria, in the magnitude of the fire on American Capitol Hill. The latter fire was presumed to have been ignited by President Donald Trump, an action recompensed with his impeachment last Wednesday.

Kukah had begun his 2020 Christmas homily, which he entitled A Nation in search of vindication, with his usual harmless demeanour and gradually brought out the desirable nukes. “Every honest Nigerian knows that there is no way any non-Northern Muslim President could have done a fraction of what President Buhari has done by his nepotism and gotten away with it. There would have been a military coup a long time ago or we would have been at war,” he said.

Kukah’s nukes have since exploded, provoking a repeat of the Salman Rushdie-like threats and fatwa. On January 6, a statement issued by Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, Secretary General of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, a Muslim group, tagged Kukah’s message “irresponsible and seditious.”

Aliyu claimed that the message was “a poisoned arrow fired at the heart of Islam and Muslims in Nigeria, hence the need for this intervention” and “a calculated attempt to insult Islam which is typical of him. His veiled insinuation that Muslims have a pool of violence to draw from, is disgusting, disheartening, as well as condemnable.” Another group, the Ummah Movement, headquartered at the National Islamic Centre (NIC), Zaria, expressed same umbrage at Kukah’s homily, demanding that the Nigerian security apparatus should “question Bishop Kukah on his incitement to a coup, persistent and deliberate stirring of communal conflict and slanderous targeting of the majority Muslim population of Nigeria along with their faith.”

In his own reply, Special Assistant to the President on Media, Garba Shehu, attempted to whitewash a stinking sepulcher by seeking group empathy for the president. “Father Kukah has greatly offended many with his controversial remarks against the government and the person of the President,” he said. Who are the many who feel offended by Kukah’s statement? Perhaps, Aso Rock contractors, their minions and Islamic zealots and marabouts like the groups above? I challenge the presidency to give secret service agents the go-ahead to conduct a sampling of Nigerians’ views. They will be shocked that Kukah’s statement has a huge resonance with the views of the common people on the streets.

Wholesale and without let, virtually all the Islamic and Northern groups that came out to attack Kukah’s homily have unconsciously admitted his allegation that Islam and North have been Buhari’s convenient shield for his mis- or zero governance. If anyone is looking for why Nigeria has retarded in decades and how characters like Buhari managed to come into leadership office and festered along the line, it is because spineless groups like the above encourage him. There is nothing that Kukah said about Buhari that is not in the public domain.

The truth is that Buhari’s directionless government has no reference in modern history. It is neither borne of his religious affiliation nor his ethnic base. Were Buhari’s directionless government to bear any ethnic or religious colouration, should he not have been bothered enough to stop the volcanic destruction of his own Katsina and northern home by insecurity and banditry? He is apparently too lost in a world only he occupies.

At that critical juncture, Buhari’s lapdogs in the hue of Jama’atu Nasril Islam and the Ummah Movement suddenly found an accomplice and alibi, something in the mould of what Yoruba will call the slovenly widow who, rebuked for not taking her bath since her rites of widowhood began, blamed her filth on her husband’s death. Thus, some Nigerian and African commentators thought Africa had found a lawless ally in the unruly Capitol Hill irritants which to them equates an American example. For instance, Zimbabwean President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, while condemning the violent protests on the US Capitol by pro-Trump rioters, said that, with such lawlessness, the US “has no moral right to punish other nations under the guise of democracy.”

Buhari, Mnangagwa and other African leaders who felt they had found comforting place of refuge to rationalise and legitimise the slide in Africa by pointing at the foiled coup at the Capitol, missed the point real good. The Capitol misadventure was a novel aberration, America’s pus-oozing sore that its institutions immediately rallied round to cure. One of the ways America treated this gaping and embarrassing sore was by a legislative bi-partisan agreement to expel the putrid Donald Trump pus. In Africa, we leave such pus and wound to fester continually and gather gangrenous greenery. African leaders have done worse than Trump and the system turns a blind eye.

In May 2012 after losing the presidential election, Buhari, then an ex-Head of State, swore in Hausa at a press conference held in Kaduna that, “If what happens in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon will all be soaked in blood.” Indeed, not long after, the baboons and dogs began to be drenched in blood as the picture got clearer. Boko Haram insurgency hit the roof and Nigeria became ungovernable for Jonathan. Yet, that same Nigerian system, with the support of its leadership, elected the self-same man as president in 2015. Since he became president, Buhari has abetted economic violence, insecurity and hopelessness by a combination of his actions and inactions in office, far tripling that of Trump, yet the system allows him to luster. And we all gather here to attack America which has since confronted its heuristic manifestations and sure has taken necessary actions to make sure the country never walks that alley ever again.

Whenever talks about the evil and inept combine that births a leadership as Buhari’s come up for discussion, as well as the fawners who exculpate them like Jama’atu Nasril Islam and Ummah Movement, I always liken their hatred for Nigeria and Nigerians to what I call the Philemon wound. Philemon was a character in South African writer, Can Themba’s famous and award-winning short story entitled The Suit. The story tells of Philemon, a middle-class lawyer. He had an adulterous wife called Matilda and both of them lived in Sophiatown. Devoted as Philemon was to Matilda, the latter is always fond of turning his home into a tryst immediately he leaves for his office. On this particular day, Philemon is told of the escapade of his wife again. Rather than his wont of leaving for home late in the evening, Philemon sneaks home in the middle of the day. As the lawyers say, he caught his wife in flagrante with the lover. In the melee that ensued, the lover scampers out of the window but forgets his suit jacket.

To effectively deal with Matilda, Philemon then concocts a strange and bizarre punishment for her. It became a routine he spells out to Matilda. She has to behave to the suit which he hangs on the shelf as a honored guest. This involves treating it with utmost respect, feeding it, providing ample entertainment for the suit and taking a walk with it, while discussing with it as an animate object. In conceptualising the punishment, Philemon reckons that this treatment would serve as a bitter and constant reminder to Matilda about her adultery. Remorseful, psychologically beaten and humiliated, Matilda eventually dies of shame.

Whatever Nigerians did to Buhari, he should be persuaded to please forgive us and halt this Philemon wound that his administration is inflicting on us. We apologize for our adultery of going to bed with him in 2015.

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