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When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn – Proverbs 29: 2.
One tale by the moonlight that Granma regaled us with in those good old days involved Tortoise, Lion and Monkey. Tortoise, mischievous as ever, came across a gathering of other animals and said what seemed as a simple prayer: May we not pay the debt we did not owe; may the problem we knew nothing about not become ours; and may we not be asked to vomit what we did not eat (See also King David in Psalm 35: 11). The other animals, suspicious of Tortoise and his bag of deceits, demonstrated wisdom by saying “Amen” but Monkey, thinking he was wise, refused to follow suit. Tortoise went his way but not before he had boasted he would teach Monkey a lesson. Monkey, like Nigeria, went away, making trifles of Tortoise’s threat and thinking that was the end of the matter. Tortoise ransacked his bag of deceit. Soon, he found an appropriate recipe for his plot against Monkey.
Tortoise prepared a good-to-behold cake and laced it with honey. He then went in search of Lion. Getting to the king of the jungle, Tortoise saluted and said he had just made a discovery and, because of the highest regard he had for Lion, he felt he (Lion) should be the first to know of the discovery. Tortoise took out the cake he had made and gave to Lion, Lion tasted the cake and couldn’t believe his taste buds. He demanded for more of the delicacy but Tortoise said that was all he had. Lion would have none of that and insisted he must have more or Tortoise should consider himself a goner. Tortoise pleaded for his life and then told Lion the “secret” – That cake was the excreta of Monkey! Lion screamed! Tortoise saw the excitement on Lion’s face and knew his plot had worked. He advised the king of the jungle: If you want more of the delicacy, go early in the morning to Monkey’s house, his very first excreta will yield you the most delicious cake on earth. But if, as Monkey that he is, he chooses to play monkey game with you by refusing to bring forth a delicious cake, pummel his stomach very well and yell at him: ‘Monkey, bring forth delicious cake!’” Lion thanked Tortoise, went and laid ambush to Monkey’s house.
As Monkey came out in the morning, Lion pounced on him and commanded him to excrete delicious cake. Monkey, not understanding what Lion meant, protested. Lion remembered Tortoise’s advice and grabbed Monkey’s two hands and began to pummel his stomach, screaming: “Thou Monkey, bring forth delicious cake” Monkey excreted by fire by force. Lion grabbed the excreta and thrust it into his mouth. Rubbish! He spewed it out and eyed Monkey menacingly. So, you have decided, like Tortoise warned me, to play monkey game? He pummelled Monkey again and again. Each time Monkey excreted and Lion tasted it, it was not like the delicious cake Tortoise had given him. So he pummelled Monkey the more. Monkey’s life ebbed but Lion would not relent. Other animals gathered, the SOS of Monkey having reached their ears. Of course, an elated Tortoise hid somewhere near watching proceedings. The other animals asked Lion and Tortoise to state their case; it was then they realised that Tortoise was the proverbial “eku eda” or agent provocateur. So was Monkey rescued from the iron-grip of Lion!
Afterwards, Tortoise found out Monkey and repeated his prayer: May we not pay the debt we did not owe; may the problem we knew nothing about not become ours; and may we not be asked to vomit what we did not eat. This time around, Monkey, wiser after the act, wasted no time to say “Amen” That is why Monkey goes about to this day shouting “Amen”, “Amen” “Amen.”
Nigeria is the Monkey and a British firm asking Nigeria to pay for what it did not buy is Tortoise. We are being asked to vomit what we did not eat. This country may lose a whopping US$9.6 billion just for nothing – well, not just for nothing in the real sense of the word. It is for our famed tardiness and lack of seriousness; it is for our legendary fire brigade and lackadaisical approach to issues. We are being punished for our impunity and penchant to breach agreements and treat principles as scum. Petty local politics of seeing nothing good in a previous government may now cost us, a poor country by all standards, twenty percent of our meagre foreign exchange reserves. Not that the British company in question lifted a finger or turned the sod of any enterprise here. It is only leveraging on our folly, care-free-attitude, wastefulness, indifference, diffidence, and loss of respect and standing in the eyes of the international community to make this kill.
The oracle asked a man seeking after sudden wealth to go bring a man’s footprints for a sacrifice. He went all over but returned to say he couldn’t find the footprints of any sane man but those of a mad man. The medium was livid: Which sane man would let you have his footprints if not a mad man? Which sane country can fall into this kind of trap if not Nigeria? Which people or leaders, to be more specific, can be this laid-back and thread-bare of every modicum of responsibility and sensibility if not Nigerians and their leaders? Governments here treat agreements the same way Adolf Hitler held Versailles Treaty which ended the First World War, declared it mere piece of paper, held it up and tore it into shreds to the consternation of other world leaders, triggering the Second World War. Ask NLC! Ask ASUU! Ask anyone else that has had the misfortune of entering into agreements with Government here. We treat agreements as trivia. Ask our sportsmen and women at the on-going African Games in Morocco. Ask our footballers, dead and living!
It must be Monkey’s wisdom – and the monkey game our leaders play with our Treasury – that made a claim of US$40 million to become US$250 million, then US$850 million, then US$6.6 billion, then US$8.9 billion and now US$9.6 billion and still counting! And not that the foreign firm lifted a finger here! It did not put one brick upon another! What we are being punished for is our penchant for being careless and carefree. Everyone has come to know us as a country and people that throw away their riches while their people wallow in penury. Nigeria is a huge cesspit of corruption and anything-goes and only a mad man will not profit from it. We are a bazaar where everyone who has an opportunity makes a kill. In which other country of the world can this happen? Which other country can be this wasteful? Which other leaders can commit this hara-kiri and still sit pretty in office; not just sitting pretty but also junketing about, frittering the little that will remain after this judgment debt is paid? Only in Nigeria can this happen! And no one will be called to question! No heads will roll! The Muhammadu Buhari/APC government sat on this for over four years; at the point that the PDP/Goodluck Jonathan exited, our liabilities were just US$850m; that was bad enough. What it has now become under Buhari/APC is simply bewildering. Fela aptly described this as “Oro p’esi je o/Oro di hun” Just confounding! Simply perplexing! Unbelievable! Such mediocrity! Such wantonness!
Now, this is a classical case of a Nero that fiddled while the country burned. Between this leadership deficiency and notoriety and the e-mail and other internet fraudulent activities of Nigerians (youths?) abroad that have given the country a bad image, which makes us more of a laughing stock? Can we still disagree with David Cameron’s characterization of Nigeria as a fantastically corrupt country or of Donald Trump’s description of our leadership as lifeless and our country as shithole? Can we look Robert Mugabe or the Russian and Chinese leaders in the eyes and complain about their making Nigeria and Nigerians the butt of cruel jokes? How many days of national mourning will Government declare for this monumental calamity and for the national flag to fly at half mast?