Nigeria at point zero 

Nigeria at point zero 

Sunday, February 5, 2023 11:00 am

Festus Adedayo

By Festus Adedayo 

I am peering at the viral video of the naked young man inside the banking hall as I write this. His manhood dangles like the pendulum of the Grandfather Clock of colonial Nigeria. He is totally naked, even as he shouts that he needs to withdraw cash from the bank. I am aghast and disillusioned at the same time. I do not know what to think. My mouth is wide open, saliva gliding majestically as it drooled off my lower lip. Before now, I saw a similar video. It was that of a semi-naked young lady. She too had peeled off her wraps in protest of the crisis of cash that engulfed Nigeria last week. She was a centimeter off revealing her total womanity. She was a pathetic sight too as she constantly mouthed her frustration. Her kids could not go to school due to the crisis, she lamented in Yoruba, asking to be given her money or get her account closed. What could have driven humanity to this Albert Camus’ absurdity?

As I look at the naked young man, I am transfixed and transposed in time. I am right now inside Akachi Ezeigbo’s Literature class at the University of Lagos. It is 1991 or so. The text that Dr., now Professor Ezeigbo asked us to read is the 1975-published Woman At Point Zero, authored by Egyptian psychiatrist, Nawal El Saadawi. It is a true-life story picked from Saadawi’s fieldwork research. Sacked from her position in 1972 as Director of Health Education and Editor-in-Chief of Health magazine after a sexually suggestive piece she did with the title, Women and Sex, Saadawi resorted to researching into neurosis in Egyptian women. This necessitated her visiting the Qanatir Prison and interviewing twenty-one inmates. This served as the building blocks of case studies for her 1976 publication, Women and Neurosis in Egypt.

However, one of those cases stood out. It was that of Firdaus. Firdaus lived her childhood in a poor Egyptian farming community, with a father who abused her mother repeatedly. With a clitoridectomy performed on her at youth by her parents, she finds out that sex was no longer enjoyable. Upon the parents’ death, life becomes a monstrous burden to Firdaus. She becomes a chattel thrown from one man to the other, used, abused and beaten by men she encounters. Crushed mentally and disillusioned, Firdaus then resorts to prostituting, from where she makes a lot of money. Then she meets this pimp called Marzouk who has on his palmtop a tab into many political bigwigs in Egypt. She collects rent from each man she brings to Firdaus. At some point however, Marzouk starts to threaten her with police action if she does not give him a chunk more in percentage from the pawning of her flesh. Then Firdaus decides she has had enough of prostitution, resolute about quitting it for another job. Marzouk however blocks her. This day, he pulls a knife. Firdaus cleverly retrieves it off him. She stabs him to death. She is arrested and sentenced to death by hanging.

One day in 1974, after repeated trials, she agrees to meet the psychiatrist in the Qanatir Prison. She had heard of her infamous renown from the prison doctor who talked about an awaiting-death murderess who totally delinked herself from everybody in prison. She tells the psychiatrist to close the window, sit down and listen to her life story as, according to her, she will be executed that evening. Then she begins to narrate the story. As she finishes the tale, hangmen enter the cell and match her to the gallows. Firdaus believes she was sentenced to death due to the threat her existence posed to men: “My life means their death. My death means their life. They want to live,” was her last word to Nawal.

What links Firdaus, the two Nigerians in the said viral video and millions of us in Nigeria last week is total frustration at the decadent status quo. That week would share nomenclature with what Americans, in their informal lingo, call one helluva week. While Saadawi is praised for the famous book’s ability to expose the subjugation of women in Middle Eastern societies, the author praises Firdaus who she describes as a martyr because, “few people are ready to face death for a principle.” So those who threw themselves into nakedness last week due to the frustration of petrol shortages, cash scarcity and the spiraling cost of living in Nigeria, in what ways do they share Firdaus’ frustration, despondency and mental torture? Was their nakedness martyrdom too? Wasn’t it? Or were they simply mad? Did they enter depression? Was Firdaus not depressed too at the point she stabbed Marzouk? How many Nigerians have started exhibiting traces of mental disconnect on account of the misrule of Muhammadu Buhari? Have we been driven to the brink of insanity too by this government?

Muhammadu Buhari, Godwin Emefiele and the gangs terrorizing Nigeria are the Marzouks in Saadawi’s Woman At Point Zero. As the men drove Firdaus to the point of despondency and depression, so do these ones to us. At that point, murder became a weapon in the hands of Firdaus to let out her pent-up angst. Many more Nigerians are manifesting their own depression in different ways known or unknown to them. As Firdaus said, Nigerians’ lives mean their death and our death means their lives because they want to live by all means. Only God knows how many Nigerians have died or sunk into the abyss of insanity on account of the Emefiele vengeful policy and Buhari’s conspiratorial abetment of it. Otherwise, changing a country’s currency is not rocket science. Nor is fuel supply such a Byzantine knot that should ground a country to its feet as this.

Tinubu himself, on Friday in Ekiti State, reified this theory that the twin of fuel scarcity and acute shortage of Naira notes were weaponized to willingly breed chaos in Nigeria. Since the campaign began, Tinubu has been accused of going the way of parasites and like them, deploying his proboscis to feed on the pain of the people. You would think he had always been on the side of the suffering poor. In Ekiti, he said: “They locked up money…They’re doing it to get you angry so that you can become violent, and they will postpone the election to bring interim government.” Who are the “they” who will postpone election? The PDP, Atiku Abubakar or Peter Obi?

It is either that Buhari and his Emefiele sidekick are antediluvian in their policy fashioning or were deliberate in their projection of a chaotic aftermath as Tinubu alleged. Either or both must be the reason why Nigerians would be dragged down to their feet, to point zero, by two key survival indices of our national life as this. Since the redesigning of the Naira, Emefiele has been shuttling from self-reversal to making outright laughable policy contradictions on the Naira. The latest is that banks will now dispense N20,000 notes across their counters. Was it myopia or deliberate attempt at dystopia that bred earlier statements on banks-citizens’ transactions on the Naira notes?

In the midst of these, Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, appeared on national television, apparently as bearer of a sword aimed at the Aso Rock Villa. El-Rufai is always the messenger and bearer of acidic arrows and conflagration parceled as messages whenever the system wants to shoot its shots. In an interview with Tinubu-owned TVC last Thursday, the Kaduna governor pursued further the allegation that the CBN currency swap was an incendiary plot to incite voters against the APC. This, he also said, was masterminded by Aso Rock cabal.

Having gone to this extent of belling the cat, El-Rufai’s bravery or bravado then stopped. He struggled frenetically to exonerate Buhari from the “evil plan.” He thinks that the cabal was exploiting Buhari’s goodness and desire to have things done the right way. Whether this was pun or euphemism, what El-Rufai manifested in that interview was the image of a Smart Alec and who was trying to be clever by half. It is either he was saying Buhari lacks grits, mind of his own, is a simpleton or indecisive with the power he holds. Otherwise, why would a president be as effeminate or lacking decisional power as to allow some people to take decisions for him? Did the cabal also instruct Buhari not to attend Tinubu’s campaign rallies?

The truth which many do not know is that Buhari is only decisive when it comes to matters that have to do with himself alone. I doubt if he does with even his children. Certainly not with his “wife”. Just as he did in Ogun in 2019, Buhari has also told Nigerians to vote whoever they wanted. In 2019, however, he was emphatic that voters should vote for him to return to his Aso Rock pot of soup. Yes, voters must be told to choose whoever they wanted but that must not come from the mouth of a man who climbed to his position riding the crest of a political party. It is an anathema in party politics.

And then in Ekiti, Tinubu switched from parasitism to weaponizing ethnicity. He conspiratorially worked on Yoruba people’s psyche for his selfish gain. It is similar to what, in argumentative pitfalls, is called argumentum ad misericordiam – appeal to pity. Knowing that, like every other ethnic group, Yoruba desire to have their own speaking their language inside Aso Rock, in Ekiti State, Tinubu played on that craving selfishly. He chose to appeal to the people’s emotion by touching that sensitive emotive chord of the people. Speaking in Yoruba and beginning his statement with that three-fold repetitive strategy of discourse which ancient Yoruba elders employed to ram home their thoughts, he had been quoted to have told the crowd: “Eyin Omo Yoruba! Eyin Omo Yoruba!! Eyin Omo Yoruba!! (Yoruba people!) Whose turn is it? Relax. If you hear rumblings; if someone is not pursuing something, then something is pursuing someone. This coming election is your election. Is that not so? It is the election you will use to liberate yourselves… They lie. We are not servants.”

Now, there are many strands of issues woven into that charge to Yoruba. The first question to ask is, how Yoruba is Tinubu himself? Or, put differently, how Yoruba-empathetic has he been, especially since he helped bring the Buhari affliction on Nigeria in general and his people in particular? First is that he sits on a Lagos State that has shown repeated disdain for the Oodua conglomerate, one of the bequeathals of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. His Lagos State – spearheaded by him – has disconnected itself repeatedly from any collective aspiration of Yorubaland. Aside Oodua, the Amotekun security outfit is another of such. When Akin Ambode attempted to change that narrative by pulling Lagos to Oodua and attending Oodua’s meeting in Ibadan, a source told me Tinubu hectored the governor out of it, shouting “gedegbe l’Eko duro!” – Lagos stands alone.

Again, when Yorubaland was going through hell in the hands of Fulani herders, the children of Awolowo never heard a word of empathy or show of sympathy with their tragedy from Tinubu. When Akesan market in Oyo got burnt, I am aware that he didn’t even send a word of empathy. A few weeks after, when similar calamity befell a town in the north, Tinubu was there with his trolley of empathy and a N50 million donation. Again, a few years ago, Tinubu was in the Akure home of Pa Reuben Fasoranti, ostensibly to commiserate with him over the death of his daughter. To douse the narrative of her being killed by Fulani herders, Tinubu asked “where are the cows?” But on Friday, a few kilometers away from where he asked where the cows were and where the daughter of the Yoruba patriarch was killed, Tinubu wanted the same Yoruba people to help go to war with him if he was not made president. We should remind him that the children of those friends of his who have now become his enemies because they don’t want him to succeed them, were the ones killing our own children and parents and mauling them to their deaths without a word from him.

The scenario of Tinubu and Yorubaland is akin to that of the selfish Oluode (Chief Hunter) who, aware of famine in the village, with the existential challenges it poses to the people, goes hunting games and devours them alone like a cat does, without sharing even the animal’s hoof with his neighbours. Yoruba explain this as Ile njo, ole nja, aa ri Oluode; o np’eran, o n da je bi ologboThe cat mirrors similar selfishness. A Yoruba aphorism which explains this selfishness of the cat says apa’dele ni o je ka mo p’ologbo ns’ode. The cat pretends that it doesn’t kill whereas it does but devours it on the rafters.

So, Yoruba should let Tinubu fight his political enemies alone and not allow him to use them as pawns and fodders of the war. When the going was good between them and we wailed and sorrowed, he pleasurably enjoyed the grisly groove. Any Yoruba who believes in Tinubu should feel free to vote for him on whatever index that sways them to him. It should never be on account of Tinubu being a crusader for the Yoruba or his innate Yorubaness. I cannot see any of such in him.

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