The Thief And Saint Called Abacha, Tunde Odesola

By Tunde Odesola

When Nigerians lament poor infrastructure such as roads, hospitals, schools, power and security, we know they reside in the pockets of our men and women in power. 

Fragile but brutal, life is the mortal combat that grinds slowly but surely. The Yoruba explain this paradox in their worldview description of life as being as delicate as an egg (aye gbe’ge), and as tough as war (ogun l’aye). However, some of life’s true essence lay in man’s simplest activities such as that walk, that breath; that kindness, that book, that song, that video, that scenery, that gift, that game or that name. Yes, that name. But there’s more to a name than what William Shakespeare called a rose. The Garden of Eden remained a paradise until it was struck by that apple hazard. Little wonder the Belgian football wizard goes by the name Eden Hazard? The same paradox situates the ferocious lion at the altar of mercy, giving the name Lionel Messi to world’s football greatest. Life and its oxymoron! The family of an American friend of mine further drove home the ironic nature of life when I visited them last week. I was in their home when a knock sounded at the door. A young man walked in through the door and introduced himself to my host. “Oh, you welcome,” my host said eagerly, pointing towards a seat. My host turned to me and said that the young man was from a pest exterminator company he had rung up earlier in the day, revealing that rats had taken complete control of their home. My friend called on his two young sons and wife, and introduced the exterminator to them. The exterminator asked some questions about how often rats are seen in the house, when they are seen, where they are seen, and many more. He said he would set up a device that would lure the rats out of the house to some designated points where they would eat a poison that would kill them. He said in some cases, “rats live two football fields away from the house where you see them; they only come to eat and go back outside.” No sooner had he left after setting up the rattraps popularly referred to as ‘Rat Gum’ in Nigeria than one caught a pup, which repeatedly let out a squeaking sound. My friend, wife and their two sons ran into the kitchen as if the house was on fire. None of them could touch the gum trap. They were all talking excitedly at the same time. The teenage sons said the tiny rat looked so cute. The wife pleaded it should be taken outside and set free, adding that it shouldn’t be allowed to die because ‘it is in the nature of rats to come inside homes and eat’. My friend said, “Who knows, today could be the rat’s birthday!” They all said I should set it free! I took the gum with the rat outside. Nobody could follow because they were afraid for the rat. They have an expansive frontage and a sprawling backyard. I went to the frontage. I got a twig and peeled the little creature from the gum, it was mortally injured. It couldn’t move. It couldn’t survive. If I left it, it would be eaten alive by some other animals. I placed a foot on the rat and snuffed life out of it, mercifully. I threw it into a tunnel and returned to the house. My hosts were eager to know if I saved the rat. I said, “When I peeled it off the gum, the rat dropped on the ground and sprinted away, stopping for once to look back and wave at me.” They all laughed at my joke. They all believed me. They were all happy. Then thoughts flood my mind. How can you so love a pest that can afflict you with plagues? I never knew pests were involved in the Stockholm syndrome matrix. Life and its oxymoron! Love for rat!? Ha! In my mind’s eye, I saw dusty Nigerian streets littered by the carcasses of giant rats smashed up by vehicles – after being killed and thrown out on the streets by residents. The more you look, the less you see. From the outset of the current political dispensation in 1999, the nation had bumbled from the Olusegun Obasanjo holier-than-thou administration to the short-lived government of Umaru Yar’Adua to the corruption-hailing Goodluck Jonathan administration. Sick and tired of the ruining Poverty Developing Party, Nigerians voted for Change and Integrity. And it came to pass that in 2015, Change mounted a bicycle and chased after airborne Corruption that was travelling in a 500km/h aircraft. After an ‘initial gra-gra’ of fighting corruption, before 2019, to be precise, Change and Integrity hopped onboard, piloting the same Corruption aircraft at a dizzying speed of 1000km/h – with everybody onboard singing, clapping and making merry. But where did Integrity receive flying lessons from that he became such as expert in such a little time, many asked? Ass-o-Rock? No! Bourdillon? No! Where? Wait! Integrity wasn’t a stranger to the power game having dictated the pace when he showed khaki uprightness several decades ago. He had come with the intension to clean the Augean stables soiled by the dark-skinned Fulani man with a skyscraper cap and his gang. But the Evil Genie and Nigeria’s Lord of Corruption, who currently lives somewhere on the top of a cracked hill northward of the Niger, torpedoed him. After his sacking, Integrity went back home, sad and sullen. He got back on the gravy train when Nigeria’s Grandmaster of Corruption and Dark-Goggle general seized the reins of power after kicking out the interim contraption foisted by the Evil Genie. The Dark-Goggle then portioned out the juicy petroleum jelly. A master-servant relationship eventually turned to a servant-master relationship all in the patriotic service for country. Life and its paradoxes! So, when you shout your shouts and call on the financial crime commission to investigate the family, relatives and aides of the Kano general, please, be reminded of the enduring admonition from the Book of Ecclesiastes 1:2, which says: Futility of futilities! Everything is futile! When you call the India-loving general a heartless criminal for despoiling his fatherland, please, be forewarned never to incur the wrath of Integrity. It is now clear why yesterday’s men and women of power have continued to be harassed by the financial crime attack dog while some people indicted in the robber-general’s loot are walking free today. When international investigators were unearthing monies stashed away by rogue general in the UK, Liechtenstein, US, Switzerland, among others, Integrity had remained silent – even showering him with occasional praises. But when he eventually spoke, he invoked God’s punishment on a cohort he said had stolen Nigeria blind. In a country serious about fighting corruption, the Evil Genie in Niger and other retired generals would have been long probed – going by the unending cash heists traced to the scar-faced little monster in military uniform. It goes to say that if all the money traced to Dark-Goggle had been domiciled in Nigeria, the lapdog financial crime commission would have kept silent. The multimillion naira allowances and kickbacks shared among state and federal legislators, executive officials and local government functionaries show that public funds are today fairly distributed in the pockets of elected officials than when Dark-Goggle kept the juiciest chunks to himself. When Nigerians lament poor infrastructure such as roads, hospitals, schools, power and security, we know they reside in the pockets of our men and women in power. Since Nigeria left the Nest of Killers to the Next Level, no visible Change has been felt. If things are looking up for the country, the Living Perfect Master, Sat Guru Maharaj, wouldn’t have called to be appointed the minister of oil.

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