In the next few days, specifically nine days from today, the party will be over between many of the current state governors and their mandates to steer the ships of their respective states. One of the philosophers whose essays speak to the brevity of life and the certainty of time is Seneca. One of the three core Stoic philosophers of his time, the two others being Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus, Seneca was also a playwright and an advisor to Nero, who has gone down in history as about the most despotic and cruel emperors to live on earth. In On the shortness of life, Seneca gives man what looks like an urgent reminder about the sure, irrevocability and non-renewability of time.
So, for these governors, their time will be up in about 216 hours from now. The most important lesson therein, as I said in the preceding paragraphs, is the lesson of Tick, tick says the clock. Like all men, most of these governors assumed that they were Lords of Time and that the so-called brevity of time was within their gubernatorial jurisdiction to decree out of existence.
The first reality that will dawn on the exiting governors in the morning of May 30 is that the colour of life after office is dark, very dark. The second reality is that, of all the gifts of existence that providence may bestow on man, power is the most un-enduring, the most perishable and the most treacherous of man’s earthly friends. If providence bestows on one wealth and it vamooses like the billows of vapour, wealth will still abide by man. Not so with power. The moment power vacates its holder, it does so with precise abandon and abandons him immediately. The paraphernalia leaves, the adulation leaves and the ex-holder of office is as bare as naked fire. The ex-governors will witness this in its manifest crudeness and cruelty.
Many of the former governors will be very miserable and downcast post-May 29. Yes, their financial situation has been highly enhanced by their stay in government and they still retain sizeable chunks of that stolen cash, the collapse of the ephemeral human wall they erected round themselves in the last few years would give them emotional upheaval. In 2007 in Enugu State, I learnt the cadence of this realization which is encapsulated in the Igbo proverb which says that he who holds the palm frond is one the goat migrates towards. The Yoruba also have a similar proverb which has been used serially to justify treachery; they say won kii ya’go f’elesin ana, meaning, no one vacates the road for he who rode the horse yesterday.
What more, the governors, who were “men of timbre and caliber” will soon find out that they are not as indomitable as they seemed to be while donning the majesty and power of office. From May 30, the governors’ security would be removed, leaving probably their police orderly. Those DSS men who could not sleep because H. E. was sleeping, the policemen who cordoned His Excellency’s Government House Empire, will leave in droves to begin afresh with today’s rider of the horse. The siren affixed to their convoys, which they blew even while going to the toilet, will lose its trenchant nuisance. For some, EFCC cells will be home, like common felons.
From May 30, a cache of fraudsters will mill round the governors vacating their offices. Because they are generally known to have stashed illicit money in China, America and suchlike countries, a chunk of which was paid therein by foreign road contractor allies in the crime of fleecing the Nigerian people, corporate fraudsters will swarm the former governors like ants crowd round the pee of a diabetic. They will be waving in their faces irresistible offers to buy over companies. In the process, the governors will be duped of the huge heists they made from the Nigerian people. For some of them who had bought properties and companies through partners in crime while they were governors, this is the time they will feel the texture of treachery. Their proxies, in whose names those properties were bought, will play Peter the Apostle on them. If only late Governor Abdulkareem Adisa could talk, he would have told you his encounter with such an infernal proxy while in Oyo State.
On the whole, these men who straddled the Nigerian stratosphere like pestilence, will witness the Yoruba wise saying which says that the Egungun (masquerade) festival, with its lavish wining and dining, will soon be coming to an end and the son of the Chief Masquerade will also queue like everyone else to buy akara (beans cake) with which to eat his corn meal porridge. The governors will find out that nothing differentiates them from the vagrant next door; their poo-poo smells as unbearably as the mad man on the streets and they are subject to every existential battle that every other man fights. Gradually, they will realize that they should have made life more pleasant to live for the people while providence entrusted the baton of power in their care.
Aketi, pass me a wrap of marijuana, please
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has come under a welter of flaks in the last few days since he made that unconventional call on the Federal Government to support the growing of marijuana, otherwise known as hemp, in his state. One of those who took umbrage against him was the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA) superintended over by Mohammed Buba Marwa.
My major bother with Nigerians and their governments at all levels is the preponderance of ignorance, naivety and fascination with the dross of doing same old things same way and yet expecting different results that are on display in the public square. Condemnations against the governor range from Sanni’s usual loose talks censoring Akeredolu as having misdirected his energy and some other commentators saying that he wants to implode the number of cannabis users in the country.
Ever since I heard that seminal discussion by Omoyele Sowore, presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the last election on the huge market Nigeria is losing by criminalizing the cultivation of the psychoactive drug, I had been a convert into the marijuana debate. His averment had been that Nigeria will become a major exporter of the drug which can be used for medical or recreational purposes. Akeredolu’s Ondo State is one of Nigeria’s hugest cultivators of cannabis. If you approximate the cannabis growth in Eleyowo, Ogbese and Ilu-Abo, you would have a chunk of foreign currencies at your finger tip.
The naivety and hypocrisy behind the anti-cannabis advocacy is that our people are deliberately blinding their eyes to social and economic change that is a clarion call in other climes. Rather, we are allowing ourselves to be pinned down and enslaved by the cants of western religions and centuries-old practices, when those who bequeathed them to us have since moved ahead. Canada, on October 17, 2018, decriminalized recreational marijuana in full. Growers only require a licence from the central government. Jamaica did in 2015, Argentina in March, 2017, so also Columbia, Equador, Peru and many more. Some states in America have too.
The truth is that, we enjoy tomfoolery in Nigeria and our hypocrisy is blindingly alarming. Our prudery against the growth of marijuana is ancient but by the tip of our noses, Tramadol and other drugs are imported into the country. Only a few days ago, N1billion worth of Tramadol was reported to have been imported into Kano and our children are hooked on this global fad of drugs use like a junkie is glued to a fix. A far more armful drug but which the colonialists decriminalized because they were hooked on its consumption themselves – cigarette – has stuck to our consciousness for over a century now. This drug has caused so many dangers to its consumers, chief of which are cancer and allied diseases.
Apart from the curative portents of marijuana, as it is used in the treatment of asthma, influenza and tuberculosis, its recreational potentials have been underscored by medical scientists. Yet, Nigeria, steeped in tradition and old methods, slavishly promotes cigarettes and criminalizes cannabis. Yes, cannabis has been fingered in the mental railroad of many of our children but the fact still remains that we can license its cultivation for export while strengthening social and legal mechanisms against its misuse by the public.
Akeredolu apparently knows that, just as Kebbi State is blessed with the cultivation of rice, his state has an abundance of cannabis and he could, with the help of the Federal Government, harvest foreign currency therefrom, as well as employing the state’s army of unemployed youth. Nigerians will rather encourage charlatan pastors and Imams who turn our moribund industries into church parishes and mosques where idle youth are enslaved ad infinitum than think right out of the box where their consciousness is imprisoned over the years. That is Aketi’s message from Thailand.
Ajimobi and the politics of memorialising
On Tuesday last week, Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State made a very huge contribution to the politics of memorialising. Apparently in search of immortalisation, he named some edifices, tertiary institutions, roads and hospitals after himself, some ex-governors of the state, monarchs, as well as some personalities. And as usual, this has sent tongues wagging.
Why would Ajimobi name an edifice after himself? Many have labeled it self-serving, indecent and a puerile attempt at seeking self-immortalization. But how genuine are these criticisms? What are the historical purports of memorialization by governments in Nigeria and has memorialisation through naming streets and monuments after persons ever succeeded in etching the memory of those so-memorialised in the consciousness of the people?
One of the first attempts at memorialising was made by General Yakubu Gowon while he was a military Head of State, almost five decades ago. In what was declared indecent too by the populace, Gowon just woke up one day and named the popular Broad Street, Lagos after himself. Not only did Lagosians never called the street by the Ngas-born General’s name, a few years after, the Murtala/Obasanjo government, which ousted his government, officially reverted to its old Broad Street name.
Another attempt at memorialising was done under the Sani Abacha government. Publicly claiming that the pro-democratic movement called NADECO that fought his government tooth and nail was being sponsored by anti-military forces like America and its former Ambassador, Walter Carrington, the Abacha government angrily renamed the Eleke Crescent in Lagos, which had been renamed Walter Carrington Crescent, to Louis Farrakhan Crescent. The renaming of the US Consulate caused huge upheavals in the polity. Not only was the Crescent never for once called Louis Farrakhan Crescent by anybody, it was reverted to Walter Carrington Crescent immediately Abacha expired.
In Oyo State, in spite of his wide acceptance, the renaming of the popular Ring Road, MKO Abiola Way, by the military government really never washed as the populace stuck to calling it Ring Road, till today. On the converse, the Orita Challenge/Elebu Road, constructed by the government of Alao-Akala, in appreciation of his government’s opening of that road, was immediately named by the people as Akala Road. It has stuck since eight years now. When Ajimobi now named the road after Akala, he was merely giving official impetus to a decision taken by the people years ago.
If Ajimobi had stopped at naming roads after those eminent personalities as he did and none after himself, he most probably would not have received flaks from the people. Many people see it as self-glorification and feel that he ought to have left the bit about memorializing himself in the hands of the people. There is no doubt that Ajimobi positively affected the road infrastructure of the state and the people, who are never ingrates, would have named those mementoes after him after his departure. I reckon that he did so in the euphoria of departure. The psychology of the eventuality of leaving an office you occupied for eight years is traumatic. Advisers ought to have defrosted that natural inclination towards this path in him him by telling the governor the unfavourable attacks it would naturally evoke in the hearts of the people.