Caught Between Good Roads, Pounded Yam and Efo Riro

Caught Between Good Roads, Pounded Yam and Efo Riro

Thursday, August 31, 2017 8:41 am

Bayo Adeyinka

By Bayo Adeyinka

I saw canopies outside. There was a sea of heads. The main hall was also filled. Several people were dancing. The itinerant ‘gangan’ drummers were present. A cultural group was performing. There was a music band on standby. Several women were dressed in ‘aso-ebi’. Several cars were parked. The hall was decorated. I had actually almost driven past the place when I was stopped and told that was the venue. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought it was the funeral ceremony of a popular person in town and that people had come to celebrate a life well spent. Alas, it was the celebration of the political appointment of a son of the soil.

The crowd I saw couldn’t have been less than two thousand. Even the traditional ruler of the town was there. Food was served to everyone. People were served pounded yam and efo riro. Some ate jollof rice. There was enough to eat and drink. ‘Small chops’ had come earlier. The MC was under a strange kind of inspiration as he seemed overjoyed. He kept on praising several people. The musician played at intervals. The celebrant/political appointee went round shaking hands. I could see the tiredness in his eyes. Everyone struggled to get his hand and attention. Some shoved their complimentary cards into his hand. He was extremely polite as he tried to satisfy everyone. He is a very good man.

Yet, no one is bothered that if a man who has just been appointed today has to feed about 2,000 people, that money has to come from somewhere. The music band to keep people entertained has to be paid for. The hall is not free of charge. The pretty ushers who smiled as they ushered people to their seats will not take ‘thank you’ as their payment. The several bottles of champagne and alcoholic drinks that were consumed by everyone are not complimentary. I’m sure some will still collect transport fare from the ‘celebrant’. By tomorrow morning, he will start to get requests from people in his village about some children whose school fees he has to pay. And he is no longer a free man as from today. On Sunday, he has to do ‘thanksgiving’ in church. The service will certainly not close at the normal time that day as he will share a testimony of how God favoured him. The Pastor will remind him of the prophecy he gave at the Cross Over Service. And there will be another party after church.

Pounded yam and efo riro (vegetable)

We place excessive demand on political office holders in this clime and then wonder why they steal! The society expects too much from them. The parents start to drum it into the ears of their lucky son that it is their turn and they have been waiting all these years to reap the fruits of their labour. His church will remember him now and make him a Deacon or Honourary Pastor. He has to be committed one way or the other. From now on, he will get invited to events where the least he can be is either the Chairman of the occasion or the Chief Launcher. His traditional ruler will confer him with a chieftaincy title. He can no longer be referred to as ordinary Mister. ‘Otunba’ actually sounds better. Or maybe ‘Jagunmolu’. His wife will also get a chieftaincy title too. In this clime, any appointment given to a man is not for him alone. His wife will suddenly come up with an NGO that no one knew she had been nurturing. They usually come with names that prey on the emotion of the public- Better Life for Rural Women, Family Support Programme, etc. If the appointee is a Police man, the wife automatically assumes the role of the leader of the Police Officers Wives Association (POWA). The military have their own- Nigeria Officers Wives Association (NAOWA).The schools of his children will also have to be changed- at least levels don change. His friends will remind him to make hay while the sun is shining. His Local Government people will tell him that it may take another 20 years before this kind of opportunity will come their way again. The society has already taken him hostage.

This is why our society will continue to breed the Diezanis. Not that she’s been found guilty though. But the seed of corruption is sown earlier. We can arrest many corrupt people and get forfeitures but it will continue to be an unending cycle. Corruption was a major reason cited for the first military coup in Nigeria. According to Kaduna Nzeogwu in that coup broadcast, “Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent; those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as ministers or VIPs at least, the tribalists, the nepotists, those that make the country look big for nothing before international circles, those that have corrupted our society and put the Nigerian political calendar back by their words and deeds”. That was 1966. And then we had the Umaru Dikko years. You would think nothing could be more brazen after Umaru Dikko. Then we had Babangida. We thought that was the icing on the cake. And then Abacha happened. Till today, we are still recovering Abacha’s loot. As if nothing can shock us again, we have been inundated with news of Diezani’s alleged escapades. But this will not be the end. Let this government leave and then we will be treated to gists that will eclipse the previous ones. The further we go, the worse we become.

We need to revisit our foundation and tear down the structure. The system supports corruption. I can’t buy a form to contest for Governorship at a sum of N20m and spend billions of naira to contest and you will not expect me to get my money back. If I don’t have that kind of money, there are godfathers who will provide it but it is not for free. So the godfather will have an irrevocable standing payment order on the State’s IGR and allocation. The general public that also came to eat and dance at the coronation have already eaten their future. Instead of good roads, they have been given pounded yam and efo riro. The future has been mortgaged because of the present. That’s why politicians don’t give a damn in this clime. Political appointment is a call to eat: the people eat first and the appointees eat much later. It is clear that we are not serious about fighting corruption. We just fight the corrupt people who are not in our good books.

The truth is that there are no easy answers. One just has to cling on a tiny string of hope that there may still be redemption. Our nation is riddled with several contradictions and time is running out. And this is why I’m joining the call for restructuring. It may not solve all our problems but it provides an alternative as all other attempts have failed. Let’s make certain political offices less appealing- especially the Presidency. Let’s look again at the bicameral legislature that we have. How long can we sustain this waste pipe? Let’s make House of Assembly part-time. Let’s make the Local Governments more effective. Let’s support independent candidature. We also need to educate our people. There is the need for mass orientation. We have a dysfunctional society that is breeding dysfunctional leaders. No nation can grow with the way we are going.

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