Act One, Scene One
This place goes by many names. But one of the most prominent is, “London of Africa”. Her people were the last to truly gain independence, but they were also one of the first to taste from the pot of prosperity. The streets here are sparkling neat and beautiful, sandwiched between radiant trains of tall trees. The houses also stand tall and proud, with no limbs missing. Here, urban planning is a Bible that is religiously followed. Illegal structures are not demolished every other day. The schools are world-class and the leaders are people-lovers loved by the people.
A crisis has just rocked the government. Zuma, the self-educated polygamist, has just been couriered from the corridor of power. The government accused him of grand corruption; and the honourable thief he is, he had remembered to teach himself also how to resign. A new Sheriff has taken over. His name: Cyril Ramaphosa. Though he is as bald as his predecessor, he is certainly not as bad. His baldness seems to represent transparency, while Zuma’s showed there was literally and literarily “nothing on his head”.
The day is 16 February 2018. Ramaphosa climbs the stage to address the people for the first time as their president. He looked them straight in the eyes, cleared his throat, and declared, among other things:
This is the year in which we will turn the tide of corruption in our public institutions. The criminal justice institutions have been taking initiatives that will enable us to deal effectively with corruption. Amasela aba imali ka Rhilumente mawabanjwe. We must fight corruption, fraud and collusion in the private sector with the same purpose and intensity. We must remember that every time someone receives a bribe there is someone who is prepared to pay it.
“All hail Ramaphosa! All hail Ramaphosa!” cried the people, who saw in him the much-awaited messiah.
Act One, Scene Two
It is a month after the historic and heroic declaration, and Ramaphosa has already rammed into the marketplace of corruption without making a fuss. He is a president-priest who has joined Promise and Action in a blissful matrimony. To the people’s delight, he has made certain Zuma is to face prosecution over 783 counts of longstanding corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering charges. The question at this point is no longer ‘if’ but ‘how soon’, as the country debates who is to pay Zuma’s legal fees.
A bright future waves in the horizon to this Southern country. Being at the feet of Africa, even with great challenges, it has lifted the continent high in the international community. Today, it seems it shall soon grow wings like the Greek God, Hermes, and elevate the black continent even higher.
Act Two, Scene One
The place goes by many names, and one which stands out like a sore thumb is “Giant of Africa”. But even the sons and daughters of this giant laugh at the irony, and mock their leader for offering assistance to one of the continent’s shining light, Ghana. He had said, “See, I am ready to help you fight kwarapshan. Whatever you want me to do, just tell me. I’m ghana do it.” And the people of Ghana had responded, “Brada, why not first take care of the kwarapshan in your backyard? If you need advice, we are ready to offer some, man.”
This land, her people were one of the first to gain independence. They were one of the first to taste from the plate of prosperity. But they are also one of first to break this plate just as fast as they got it. What remains from it is called the ‘national cake’. But there is nothing national about it. Only one tribe has access to it: the rich and privileged. Others are forever banned from its scent and taste. They may however have a glimpse using 3D glasses, except most of them cannot even afford it.
Here, urban planning is a myth, regulated day and night by a billion-naira ministry. The city masterplan is a slave to the city’s master planners. Buildings grow like refugee pimples, with no guidance whatsoever. And once in a while, government amputates these outgrowths, rendering people homeless and homes peopleless, and making a city that already looks destitute appear like one of the strongholds of ISIS. Needless to say, the schools are not world-class and the leaders are not people-lovers. One reflects the ills in the other – the schools the leaders, and the leaders the schools.
A crisis has just rocked the government. The shoeless man was given the baton of relay and was asked to run, after the people saw that he now has all sorts of designer sneakers with nothing to show for it. In his place, an agent of change and preacher of the gospel thereof, Muhammadu Buhari – the autocrat turned democrat, the old turned young, the tribalistic turned nationalistic, the Sai Baba of our time and of all times after this – was asked to take on the mantle of manning the mandate of country management.
It was indeed a historic moment. Never in the past had the country witnessed so huge a revolution. And so, the people hi-fived and patted themselves on the back, expecting a change from adversity to prosperity. Their expectations are not too high; they only want corruption and insecurity to be given a quit notice from the land. On 29 May 2015, Sai Baba mounted the lectern to affirm and stamp the people’s modest aspirations. He cleared his throat, looked them straight in the eye [through his tinted goggles] and proclaimed:
My people … At home we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problems.
“Sai Baba! Sai Baba! Sai Buhari!” the people cried out, until their lungs also cried with them – for help.
Act Two, Scene Two
Nearly three years, several trips abroad and countless scandals after, the preacher of change has refused to be a practitioner of it. His ways are of the old. His reasoning is of the ancient. He leaves the people of Nigeria wondering where they got it wrong. Had they mistaken a snail for a ram because of what looked like horns? Had they thought the axe was a distant relative because its butt was wrapped in wood? One of them, with a PhD in Russian Savagery, even tweeted, “Perhaps when he cleared his throat to deliver his inaugural address, he was clearing it of truth and not phlegm.”
Today, 23 March 2018, Buhari shall mount the podium once again. It is the first time he would grant a press conference in his own country, and it is, people thought, the perfect opportunity to demand for answers. His, Minister of Misinformation, Lai Baba, is seen walking to the podium to declare the event open.
Lai Baba: [clears his throat] Gentlemen of the press, I thank you for accepting our invitation to attend this event. It is indeed a great honour to have you here today and make history with us. We all know this is the first time since the days of Mansa Musa and Shaka the Zulu that any African leader will grant a press conference in his country; and it calls for celebration. Records also show that it is the third time ever in the whole world, with North Korea and Brazil taking the first and second position. It shows how much Mr President cares about this country, and how much respect he has for accountability… Thank you once again for joining us. I shall now invite the His Excellency, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to address us.
[Lai Baba leaves the lectern, and Sai Baba gently fills his shoes.]
Sai Baba: Good morning, gentlemen of the press. You all know I am a military man, and so I am not a fan of long speeches. I will thus not be taking your time.
[Mild laughter dances through the hall.]
Sai Baba: [Continues] I have just put this in place to ask Nigerians to trust us with their votes in 2019. Nigeria has, under my watch, become a force to reckon with in the world. No other African leader has gone to Germany to put Merkel in her place, and declare that the woman’s workplace is in the oza room. Quote me anywhere. No other African leader! Not even Robert Mugabe. Again, under my watch, Boko Haram has been technically defeated, and only kidnaps people haphazardly. You can see from recent evidence that they even moved among the people, waved to them, and did not kill anybody. This shows that our government has finally tamed them. Finally, we have recovered trillions of naira under this administration, and we are keeping them safely for times of great need [whispers to himself, “like 2019”.] … So, we urge Nigerians to give us their mandate that we may continue the good works.
Lai Baba: Err, anyone have questions?
Journalist 1: Yes, Mr President. What is your take on the economy and Nigeria’s soaring unemployment rates?
Sai Baba: Yes, you see, this is because of the shortcomings of the Jonathan government. We are still trying to undo their misdeeds. It will certainly take time, and that is why we need Nigerians’ votes come 2019… Yowa! Next question?
Journalist 2: What do you have to say about the deteriorating health sector sir and Bill Gates’ recent allegations?
Sai Baba: Do not mind Gates. Why did he not talk when the Jonathan government was underfunding and understaffing everywhere? Now that I am in government, he thinks he can rubbish the legacy of change I have been trying to build. I have already set up a committee to look into his speech, and how we can react as a government. Next question, please.
Journalist 3: Nigeria’s ranking has got worse on the Global Transparency Index, Mr President. What is your government doing about it?
Sai Baba: Well, one, we cannot totally trust that platform called Transparency International. The Chairman asked for Zahra’s hand in marriage in 2015, but I said no, that I was going to marry her off to a fellow Nigerian. I suspect that is why they are sponsoring this shameless propaganda. This government has almost eradicated corruption. Our policemen only collect taxes and fines now, not bribes. And whistle blowers continue to expose corrupt practices. Whatever is left of corruption is because of the terrible Jonathan administration.
Journalist 4: But, sir, if the Jonathan government is to blame for all these things, including corruption, why have you not charged Dr Goodluck Jonathan to court yet? Is he above the law?
[Other journalists begin to cough and murmur.]
Lai Baba: [cuts in] Mr man, what is your name? Which organisation do you represent?
Journalist 4: My name is Sunkanmi, and I represent Sahara Reporters, sir.
Lai Baba: Haha! How did you get a pass? But we didn’t invite you…
Journalist 4: Ermm…. But…
Lai Baba: Security! Security! Security!
[Operatives of the SSS batter and handcuff Sunkanmi as they lead him outside the hall.]
Lai Baba: Ladies and gentlemen of the press, we are sorry but, due to a security breach, we have to call it a day. Thank you so much for coming.
[Exeunts Sai Baba, Lai Baba and other aides hurriedly, as some journalists scamper for brown objects that appear to be envelops.]