Wherever Can Themba is today in the spirit world, I have no doubt that he sees me as a fellow ecumenical spirit. Since that first day, sometime in 1989 or thereabout, as a second year Philosophy student of the University of Lagos who ‘minored’ in English, when then Dr., now Professor Karen King-Aribisala, read Themba’s “The Dube Train” short story to us in the class, Themba and I developed a strong literary affinity. A very pretty, brilliant Guyana-born scholar, King-Aribisala, who herself had written the famousOur Wife and Other Stories– apparently about her experience as a foreigner married to a Nigerian – which won the 1991 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Best First Book Africa – had read the story so pretty well that a natural love developed between Themba and I. Also listening in the class was the woman we all called Aunty Joke, Olu Jacobs’ wife, who was our older classmate. I must have cited Themba’s “The Dube Train” for eternity, conjuring his restless spiritad infinitum. This short story is ever so grimly relevant to the sad Nigerian reality.
Daniel Canodoce, otherwise called Can Themba, was one of South Africa’s weirdest writers. Born in Marabastad, near Pretoria in South Africa, most of Themba’s works were written in Sophiatown, Johannesburg. An investigative journalist with the defunctDrummagazine, he also tried his hands on short story writing. Together with Henry Nxumalo, Bloke Modisane, Todd Matshikiza, Casey Motsisi, Lewis Nkosi and Nat Nakasa, these men formed what was popularly called the “DrumBoys.” They were renowned by the dictum, “Live fast, die young and have a good-looking corpse.” Themba certainly lived his life according to that dictum of theDrumboys. He drank to stupor, literally lit the candle of his life and placed it by the windy route, in spite of his magnificent élan. He died at an early age due to acute dependency on alcohol.
Buhari receiving his WAEC certificate from WAEC Boss.
The need to wake the drunken spirit of Themba up once again arose due to the quantum of blood that has been shed in Nigeria in the last couple of weeks, placed side-by-side the laughter-inducing opera going on right now in Nigeria’s seat of power, starring septuagenarian Muhammadu Buhari as the lead cast. Three words sum it up – grim, ribald and grotesque.
If you have ever read the history of the South African liberation struggle, you will discover that it is replete with macabre situations and a number of horrendous murders that a civilised world would never condole. In the name of a global struggle to eliminate apartheid, many of those atrocities were excused and indeed came to light seldom. The world focused, on the reverse, on the evil regime of Frederick de Klerk and the atrocities of segregating white from Indian, black and coloured South Africans. The dastardly act of murdering fellow blacks who were perceived to have betrayed the cause of liberation struggle in very horrendous manners never came to light to the whole world. Thus, we never knew how base and bloodless the hearts of our brothers were.
You will recollect that Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC) perpetrated a lot of criminal and horrendous murders that were swept under the rug, from the prying eyes of the world. Several South Africans accused of betraying the struggle were summarily executed and nobody has heard of many of their deaths till today. Recollect also that late Winnie Mandela was accused of this same macabre act perpetrated by her football team assemblage, said to be a façade for the inhuman dispossession of the lives of fellow human beings. If you read Themba’s “The Dube Train”, one will find the theme of violence and abuse that the story is replete with. It opens with a narrator inside a train coach, where a tsotsi (tout) is harassing a young lady. A woman enters the train and sits beside the narrator. She is verbally assaulted by the tout, while both the narrator (who was instead bothered by the developments springing in Dube town) and the passengers maintain studied silence. The woman denounced the men in the train as “poltroons” or cowards for allowing the tsotsi make them effeminate. Another tsotsi pulls out a knife, hits the lady beside the narrator, prompting a huge man to come to her aid. The man hurls the tsotsi out of the moving train, to his death and the rest of the passengers are not bothered a bit about this early morning murder. The train passengers look on because death was ten-a-dime in Apartheid South Africa. Themba tries to show here that the totality of the apartheid experience had turned many South Africans into animals.
Just like Themba, Nat Nakassa (real name Nathaniel Ndazana Nakasa) was one of theDrumBoys. Born on May 12, 1937, he too died early at 28 on July 14, 1965. He wrote the short story entitled, “Must we ride… to disaster?” with a similar theme to that of Themba. His story deals with the surging problem of crime, especially in the trains and explains the ordinariness of crime and death in an Apartheid-tormented South Africa. Both of them explain the dehumanisation of the human person in the South Africa of their time.
Last week, 23 sect members and adherents of the outspoken and foremost Shi’a Muslim cleric in Nigeria, Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky were mowed down by gruesome bullets from the guns of the Nigerian government under Muhammadu Buhari. They were protesting the continued unlawful incarceration of El Zakzaky by the administration. That would not be the first time the adherents of this cleric would be shelled to death by soldiers of the Buhari government. Indeed, an adherents once claimed that over 2000 of them have been killed under Buhari. On December 2, 2016, a year after his incarceration, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, presided over by Justice Gabriel Kolawole, granted the cleric and his wife, Zeenatudeen, bail and ordered their immediate and unconditional release. It also fined the Federal Government the sum of N50 million for their unlawful incarceration. Lai Mohammed, Buhari’s minister of Information, has since then concocted all manners of ridiculous lies in the disservice of this official rascality of keeping El Zakzaky in Buhari’s gulag, chief of which is that government was trying to build where to keep him and that he is in protective custody. Like the Dube train passengers, Nigerians are just going about their normal business.
Under Buhari, Nigeria is getting to that eerie intersection where South Africa was under Apartheid. Last week, the Kaduna State police command owned up that at least 55 people had been killed in a religious crisis which occurred in Kasuwan Magani in Kajuru local government area of the State. If you know the lies of officialdom in Nigeria very well, the real figure in that mayhem must be at least twice the volunteered figure. Police claimed it had arrested 22 suspects in connection with the mayhem and the state government imposed a curfew. Both the American government and Amnesty International have condemned this naked brutality, when the protesters could have been methodically disarmed.
Gradually but surely, an irreparable fracture on the people’s humanity is being caused and official/unofficial inhuman killings and injustice are becoming commonplace. I doubt if under any government before in Nigeria’s history, the same quantum of blood has been shed as done so far, except perhaps during the civil war. This is aside the escalation in the number of social crimes, which make it apparent that the problems of existence in Nigeria under this government are weighing in so enormously on the people, so much that killings with impunity by government, by citizens against each another and getting involved in otherwise absurd crimes do not matter to us any longer.
What could be responsible for this careless disposition of the average Nigerian to the humanity of the other person? Why is it that cannibalism, which was thought to have ended a long time ago, is resurfacing in our midst and criminal activities are on the rise? Why are crimes, which before now were unheard of, like pedophilia and incest, on the upward swing? Why is government and indeed, all of us as a people, less bothered about such crimes among us? I find a readily available answer to these in the limitless border of the cyber age, the rise of ‘civilisation’ and the global village that the world has become, as well as the increasing hopelessness that governments and the rest of society seem to have colluded to inflict on the rest of us. It is in the same vein that we find more lunatics than we used to have on our streets. People are daily disillusioned about today and despondent about tomorrow. No one cares for the other.
The multiple murders of El-Zakzaky’s adherents were still ongoing when the Buhari government unleashed its certificate ribaldry on the public. The president has been knocked several times for not submitting his school-leaving certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and claiming to INEC that his credentials were in possession of the military board. Only two days ago, the presidency made a fanfare of the certificate. The West African Examination Council (WAEC), led by its registrar, Dr. Iyi Uwadiae, had made a presentation of the attestation certificate and confirmation to Buhari in his office, amid titivating laughter and backslapping. A number of controversies have trailed Buhari’s possession or otherwise of an ordinary school certificate. While in 2014, he claimed to have taken a University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES) examination conducted by the Cambridge University, the story has changed to that of a West African School Certificate (WASC) in 2018. The truth is that, WAEC is never known to have taken over from UCLES. There are claims that WAEC denied that in Northern Nigeria in 1961, the year Buhari purportedly graduated, it conducted any examination for any student.
As ordinary as this back-and-forth argument on the certification of the president is, it only speaks volume of where we have got ourselves in terms of leadership in Nigeria. While leaders of the world are emerging as the most cerebral of them and concluding plans to get into the moon, we are throwing up leaders whose certification is in gross doubt. It is also a shame that, almost 60 years after Nigeria produced a prime minister in the person of Tafawa Balewa who went on a visit to the United States and was given a rousing ovation due to his brilliant, cerebral ex-tempore speech and a Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello, whose Queen’s English was so impeccable that you would fall in love with his diction, we could be saddled with a Buhari, from the same Northern region, who barely makes sense while making speeches and exhibits absolute vacuity in his discourse.
Since we are all in this Dube train where grim issues are treated as commonplace, let us patiently watch our collective descent into a killing field and the mockeries that governance and government are fast becoming.
The Ganduje Dollar Roulette
Pointers to the joke that Nigeria is often come from different parts of our expansive country. It is Kano’s turn at the moment. Shocking videos of the Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, in black kaftan, receiving bribes from contractors have inundated the social media in the last few weeks or so. While the usual elite culprits’ alibi to stave off suchlike revelations had been that they were photo-shopped, the world was shocked when editor-in-chief ofDaily Nigerian, Jaafar Jaafar, appeared before the Kano State House of Assembly, which claims to be investigating the bribery scandal. Jaafar further tendered a plethora of other video clips which showed Ganduje collecting bribes from contractors. Buttressing the authenticity of the videos, Jafaar had said, “I swore an oath with the Holy Quran before tendering the several videos.”
Shawled in the thick cloth of the scandal, Ganduje has however denied the videos, lapping the usual elite shibboleth that they were photoshopped. The governor was alleged to have collected $5 million in bribes. He failed to honour the House of Assembly summon inviting him for his own side of the story last week but instead sent one of his commissioners, Mallam Mohammed Garba.
As we speak, neither of the two apparati of crime and corruption-tackling, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and its sidekick, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has advertised its interest in the matter. Ayodele Fayose wasn’t steeped in a quarter infamy as this by the time the EFCC went on its twitter handle to advertise its partisan bias against the ex-Ekiti State governor, early this year. If Ganduje were an All Progressives Congress (APC) governor, EFCC would have dramatised a vacuous competence so well that the tremor of its drama would be reverberating round the nooks of Nigeria. In a Nigeria that is basically patterned after a patron/client relationship, the Buhari federal government that is a potential beneficiary or victim of the Kano debacle, going by the millions of votes that are available in Kano at the polls, has kept a studied silence at this national shame.
To worsen matters, Mallam Garba, the state’s commissioner of Information, rather than submit why Ganduje didn’t collect the bribe or was not the one in the video or was a victim of a modern cyber doctoring called photoshopping, instead went on a binge of what philosophers callargument ad hominem. He said that Jafaar is a certified blackmailer. This is a pitfall in an argument, otherwise known as a personal attack, where an interlocutor goes on a rollercoaster of a fallacious argumentative strategy, characterised by abandoning the genuine discussion of a topic before him and choosing, on the reverse, to attack the character, motive or other attributes of the interlocutor. If Jafaar were a blackmailer, was it not better for him to collect ransom from Ganduje himself, which the governor would certainly have paid to save himself from this global embarrassment?
Having been said to have sworn to reveal the identity of those who sought to put the apparent serial graft-taking governor in the dragnet by setting him up, Jafaar needs to bite the bullet and further expose the details of this shameless roulette. We all know that government officials in Nigeria, with governors of Nigerian states as the major kingpins, are renowned to be at the forefront of the infamy of corruption. Bribes are paid into offshore accounts in China and other far-flung countries by some lackeys. It has even quadrupled since Buhari took up the reins of power, while claiming to be fightingkwaraption.
I am however very skeptical about this Ganduje dollar roulette ending in recompense for the guilty. It is an elite infraction and it will be sorted out in the nocturnes where the bribe was collected in the first place. Unless Ganduje had upset some apple-carts and needed to be made public example of.