Travelling through Nigeria in Tinubu’s yacht By Tunde Odesola

By the Rivers of Babylon, there I sat down; yeah, I wept, when I remember N-i-g-e-r-i-a. Verily, verily I say unto you, these words that I write, are words of redemption and wisdom. Therefore, I beseech you, brethren, to keep these words in your hearts, inscribe them in stones and scribble them on scrolls.
I exhort thee, keep the stones and scrolls, do not hide them under the bushel, set them on the hill for light to shine on them and bring people to know the truth, for only the truth shall set the land free.

Like the hands of a sinner spread wide on the cross, River Niger and River Benue divide the land called Nigeria into three unequal communities of the North, West and East. The Fulani dominate the North, the Yoruba have the West, and the Igbo populate the East. Each region and people had their strengths and weaknesses. The land knew peace.

But when political iniquity became official, and the supplications of the oppressed minorities rose to the ears of the Most High God, the portion of the land that flows with oil, milk and honey became gazetted as the Niger Delta, a vast treasure that was initially part of the eastern and western regions.

And the Lord regretted creating man because the heart of man was perpetually evil. So, the spirit of the Lord hovered upon the face of the waters, inspiring patriots to call traitors to repentance and justice.

It came to pass that there arose a mutiny within the Nigerian Army when some young, idealistic officers, mostly from the East, toppled the civilian government of Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, a northerner, who was killed, and an easterner, Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, ruled in Balewa’s stead. The January 1966 coup broke the embankment that had dammed the river of hate and suspicion from flooding the country.

Six months later, a countercoup executed mainly by Hausa-Fulani soldiers was nicknamed a revenge coup, in which Aguiyi-Ironsi was killed. The fallout of the countercoup fed fodder to the cannons of a Civil War, which boomed between July 6, 1967, and January 13, 1970, as crazed soldiers played football with three million Igbo skulls felled by battlefield bullets, ethnic cleansing and starvation. 

In anger, the Lord God of Host turned his eyes away from the people and the land, and He allowed jackboots in military uniforms to chastise them with scorpions because the innocent blood of coup victims and Biafrans refused to drain into the earth. 

Here are the names and surnames of the rulers of Nigeria after the Civil War, in order of their ascension. Yakubu, the son of Gowon; Murtala, the son of Mohammed; Olusegun, the son of Obasanjo; Shehu, the son of Shagari; Muhammadu, the son of Buhari; Ibrahim, C the son of Babangida; Ernest, the son Shonekan; Sani, the son of Abacha; and Abdulsalami, the son of Abubakar. All these rulers ruled in the Old Testament.

But Babangida was wiser than a snake. Indeed, he was a deceiver extraordinaire. His bright smile has the cooling effect of iodine on a fresh wound, before the stinging pain. For is it not written that Babangida’s regime was the bloodiest in the 63-year history of Nigeria as many soldiers died in alleged coup plots while 163 senior soldiers died in a plane crash on September 28, 1992?

“They got me,” were the last words of Dele Giwa, the Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch magazine after a letter bomb blew open his entrails in his Ikeja home on October 19, 1986, shutting his eyes in brutal death. Giwa’s deputy and comrade-in-pen, Ray Ekpu, described the killing as 'state assassination’, adding that the Friday preceding the Sunday Giwa received the letter bomb, he (Giwa) was grilled by the State Security Service, which accused him of ‘arms importation, planning a socialist revolution, doing a follow-up story on Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, who had been removed by President Babangida, and planning to employ a former Lagos Police Public Relations Officer, Alozie Ogbugbuaja, who said the expertise of the Nigerian military top brass was in drinking pepper soup and planning coups. Ekpu said Giwa was only guilty of one of the four allegations, that is, planning to employ Ogbugbuaja.

After he annulled the June 12 presidential election won by MKO Abiola in 1993, and the backlash thereof was unbearable, Babangida planted on the throne, Sonekan, who was blown out of power by the hot air from the nostrils of Abacha. Abacha ruled for just four and a half years before karma handcuffed and flung him into the bottomless pit reserved for the shameless. Nothing confirms the looting of public treasury by successive Nigerian governments than the unending return of billions of dollars stashed in foreign countries by Abacha. Remember, Abacha spent just four and a half years in the vault and he became the Glutton of All Time!

I am a full-blooded Nigerian. I have no family roots in Niger Republic like Buhari, or ancestrial link to Mauritania like Peter Obi’s presidential running mate, Datti Baba-Ahmed. Nigeria is my only home. I feel anguish daily when my hands hit the bottom of my empty trouser pockets, groping for unavailable naira, whose value equals the clap of thunder to the deaf.

Hope is dead in Nigeria’s New Testament. The testament of the latest Republic. Obasanjo’s civilian government opened the floodgates of corruption in the electricity sector, the privatisation process and the National ID card scam. Governments, thereafter, stirred the broth and served the booty, strangulating the economy.

Sadly, the chickens are back home to roost. Now, everywhere you turn, cries of economic hardship have taken over the land even within the Emi Lokan ruling party. Curses have replaced compliments. But me, I thank God I still have my mind intact. Many Nigerians don’t. Whenever I see any of the corrupt clique of 99.9% Nigerian leaders – former or present – I say in my mind, “Look at this one, it’s only God that knows how much of Nigeria’s money that this thief has stolen. Ole!” Treasury looters know what Nigerians think of them but they’re just shameless and unperturbed because the river of justice in the land has frozen.

The economy is gasping. Fathers have turned to beggars, and wives have turned to harlots. Children are deflowered for a bite of Gala. Commodity prices reside in the sky. Yet, our President buys a $6.1m yacht, and our senators and representatives crave N58bn SUVs, all living the life depicted in Luke 12:19, “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’”

Brethren, look closely at the pictures of their merriment, the voter is missing. So, tell me, what does it profit a voter, who supports bàráwò candidates, and is dehumanised after elections?

When the earth brimmed with iniquity, Noah stood up to be counted for righteousness. He built a three-deck ark with gopherwood and ushered in two of every kind of living creature, including the members of his family.

When Nigeria brimmed with escalating prices of goods, soaring foreign debts, double-digit inflation, and starvation, Tinubu, lawmakers, ministers and members of the ruling class tightened the belts harder on the masses. To cater for the insatiable gluttony, they have demanded underfunded federal universities to submit 40% of their meagre IGR to a federal purse which, characteristically, would lack accountability.

You don’t need righteousness to enter the presidential yacht. You need a brainless head and a soulless body. You need to make money your god and not flinch to proclaim all the seven colours of the rainbow black – like our judges who sell elections like pure water hawkers in traffic snarls, smashing and grabbing, kówó sá ti pe.

I thank God I have my mind intact. In my mind, I can see Noah in his robe, hewing wood and fetching water, sweating, sawing and nailing. I can see him clutching a bell, trekking the length and breadth of the land, calling the people to come and enter the ark. Noah’s ark is for salvation.

Tinubu’s yacht is for enslavement. He doesn’t need gopherwood or God’s directive to build his yacht, he needs dollarhood. He doesn’t need the masses inside his toy, he needs his people. 

Barely a month left in 2023, the year of his election, Tinubu has bought a yacht for himself, SUVs for lawmakers, with the $2.176 trillion 2023 Supplementary Appropriation Act he signed a few days ago, and the masses are left wondering ‘is this not the ‘son’ of Abibatu Mogaji, who claims to build modern Lagos? Emi Lokan doesn’t only mean 'it’s my turn'; it also means 'I’m badly hit'. Ask the Yoruba. 

True, it's Tinubu's turn but the masses are badly hit. True.

Since Tinubu performed so well in his first year, may he sail safely in his yacht and perform much better next year. 

Amen.