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The lion and the billions

The lion and the billions

By: Abdulrahman Yahaya

In my first-year literature class at the university, we read Professor Wole Soyinka’s The Lion And The Jewel, a rich play about a village head and a village belle. Notorious for marrying regularly, Baroka, the Baale of Ilujinle, is set to take another wife and he has settled for the most beautiful girl in Ilujinle, Sidi, the village Jewel. But Sidi will not stoop low to marry Baroka, the scourge of women, the old fox. She will not do that to herself, especially now that the white man has captured her beauty, and she will soon be known beyond Ilujinle. The young girl dismissed the lion’s proposal with disdain.

But what the lion wants, the lion must get, come what may. Isn’t that what lionhood is about? Nobody denies the lion its food, lest that person becomes the food for the lion. But Baroka was a different lion. Though as deadly as all lions, Baroka does not have to run to eat. Where wisdom brings you food, what do you need speed for? With his wisdom, Baroka lured Sidi into his den and in no time, she was back home, preparing to be his latest wife. You will get the details of how he did that in the play. Yes. Go read it.

That’s the Lion of Ilujinle. Let’s talk about the Lion of Kogi, a self-acclaimed White Lion. Like Baroka, the Lion of Kogi did not have to run at full speed to have access to the billions in the coffers of his state. It was given to him on a gold platter. In what will remain one of the most controversial political verdicts in Nigeria, Yahaya Adoza Bello was declared governor-elect in an election he wasn’t a flagbearer. He became governor by virtue of being first runner-up in the APC primaries, benefiting from the shocking death of the party’s candidate, Abubakar Audu, on the day of the election.

A legal declaration unearthed Bello and the people of Kogi would be introduced to the “White Lion”. They would soon learn how leadership worked in the jungle. But in the meantime, Kogites and Nigerians celebrated the emergence of a youth. Bello was 41, so it was expected that he was coming with something different from what the oldies had been doing. They thought the one who would show the importance of youthful exuberance in leadership had finally arrived. The first of many to come.

It is important to note that this was what they thought of Yahaya Bello; he did not ask for the high expectations. Moreover, he had his own plans. He was a lion, and it was now time for the people to feel the unique way a lion rules his kingdom. The people must shiver down their spines whenever he roars. Nobody, be they a mere voter or traditional ruler, must question the lion. That you work for 31 days doesn’t guarantee you pay at the end of the month. You get paid when the lion feels up to it. After all, it is the lion that provides you security; that much should be enough.

The Lion assumed his throne, and in no time, Kogites felt the scorching change in the Jungle. Civil servants queued more for screenings than they did in banks. Salary came like the Ramadan crescent, once after eight months. Teachers couldn’t teach because their mouths did more yawning than speaking. Doctors fled for greener pastures. The Lion couldn’t care less. He double-dared anybody to protest. Who could be fit enough to protest? The lion roared everybody to silence.

It will be over in four years, the people spoke hopefully. He will be voted out. He is a disgrace to the youth. The people barked despite themselves. But the lion couldn’t be bothered. He was governor and would be for eight years. He had every means at his disposal. He would simply pay the wolves to cause uproar and see how other animals would scurry into the woods on election day. The lion knew his onions. He was back again for another four years. Civil servants wept silently, cursed in their dark corners as the lion celebrated.

Four years later, the lion delivered even better. This time, there were no dogs. “Let them vote. We can just write a favourable result.” The people voted, and the Lion wrote the results for them. His stooge emerged, and yet again, the lion survived a supposed democratic process, once again roaring everybody to silence. That is the lion of Kogi!

Strangely, recent developments have cast doubt on the bravery of the once-feared lion. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) beckoned on the former governor to explain how ₦82 billion was looted. In a character unexpected of a lion, he has been hiding in the woods. The Lion, who is renowned for hunting, is now being hunted. How the might has fallen!

One would have expected the Lion to honour the invitation of whoever dared to invite him. One would expect the lion to look anybody straight in the eyes and say: “Yes. I am the White Lion, the best and the most feared Governor Kogi state has ever seen. What is it you want from me? How dare you invite me? Do you not know what the consequences of your actions are? I have people in high places that will deal with you. Oh, you allowed that fair lady to put you up to this? Or is it that antelope from the East? Go tell them that I am the White Lion! So what if I didn’t pay civil servants? Did the former governors pay? Excuse me, please. I have to address the press!”

That is how the lion of Kogi is expected to have replied. But now we don’t know what has incarcerated the lion. The lion no longer roars. We do not see him even. What we see is a portrait of him being shared online, wanted for looting.

This reminds me of the character Tyrion Lannister of Game of Thrones. He said, “A man who must say I am King is no true King.” The former governor was no lion. We were scammed.

Abdulrahman Yahaya writes from Suleja, Niger state. He can be reached via email at yahayaabdulrahman02@gmail.com.

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