Baba and the Four Hundred Thieves

OA Fakinlede

We are not talking about Ali here. And once the Ali is gone from the name, the thieves multiply ten fold! If you are only a stranger in these parts, you may be forgiven for not immediately realizing that there is only one Baba. And, tell me, where else would he live if not Ota? Baba’s thieves are not highwaymen; unlike Ali Baba’s their treasure store is the national patrimony.  These ones are, civilized, no vagabonds in the forest, but all live in sumptuous opulence in a certain well-decorated city, Central Nigeria. Bullet proof cars, robotic massaging machines, etc. These are regular paraphernalia! Here  men and women upon whom have been thrust the duty to make laws for 160 million people prefer to play the “Wetin’ You Carry?” game instead. For them, probes, probes and more probes, like aphrodisiacs allure irresistibly and must be carried out as if no other duty exists under the sun. Democracy has been successfully turned into a feast of scandals. When it is not the Power Sector, it is the Capital Market. Now starring: the Subsidy Probe. Then we probe the probe on the subsidy. If  juicier scandal emerges, we will  iterate again and probe the probe on the probe … ad infinitum. The only other important businesses that come close to this one are the “Oversight Functions” and Budget defense. For these, if no big probe emerges, there can be a need to travel to Ghana or some other safe haven to think about more probes! Wait a minute, even this one can bring up yet another scandal that will lead to more probes!

Nigeria! Hapless Nigerians!! Chained and packed like sardines for slavery (padlocks in the mouth) in the Americas; Looted silly to stupefaction by the British; Lured to Nationalism by Dreamers; Raped into unconsciousness by its very own paid armed Soldiers; Constantly molested now by well-rewarded swindlers in the name of the best remunerated “Honorables” in world history. In a week when worshipping souls were sent into their untimely graves by the Boko Haram scourge, When tanker trucks roasted human beings like bush meat on perhaps the most slumish expressway in the world, When 150 air travellers paid a fiery unscheduled visit to people hoping to use “better-pass-my-neighbor” to watch a football match with disastrous results on all sides, Our “Honorables” were busy probing until they probed themselves, as expected, into yet another scandal. The rest of the story is still unfolding. No need to mourn the dead, clear the roads and make the air safer. Just turn on your TV and enjoy the Soap! Or, tell me, what else are you enjoying?

Somewhere in all of this, there is the Baba that is also known as “Dey Kampe” firing in the now familiar pontifical pose. Swearing, cursing and prophesying all at once. And here, as usual, there are the “Baba knows all” praise singers who have not stopped despite the fact that Baba has few carrots left to throw at them these days! Talk about faithful old soldiers. And then you have those calling on Baba, the Kettle, to stop calling the Pot black. Baba! O Baba!! Friend or Foe? Saint or Devil? Hero or Villain. Baba, depending on whom you ask, is all of the above and more. He has been around for long enough, has wielded the bayonet, the gun and the staff for so long and has made many friends and enemies. Whichever name you call, Baba will answer!

To those who think Baba was good for nothing, the truth is that he tried his best to move Nigeria. Recall that he was a only rank soldier, catapulted to unexpected heights and lacked the depth commensurable to the power wielded. Void of the temperament to attract self-respecting giants that would have ameliorated well-documented deficiencies, he contented himself with a train Baba-mouthing upstarts that could only dazzle him with spreadsheet graphics he did not fully comprehend. With all his faults, Baba tried to give this nation a working Health Insurance System, A contributory Pension system and fought the “Honorables” hard and long to remove their hands from the till and monetized civil servant emoluments so that Nigeria can plan for the modern world. He even tried to undo his foolish “Indigenization” fiasco that robbed the nation of foreign investment. If efforts were all of it, Baba should be a huge success. Unfortunately, huge success, Baba is NOT! He is forced to watch from the sidelines the Nigeria he tried to redeem (as the messiah that Abiola was not) mired deeper and deeper into the very same self-inflicted immolations he tried so hard to avoid!

Naturally, Baba is angry. His ire is directed at the “Armed Robbers”! To Baba, these “Honorable Armed Robbers” are the cause of Nigeria’s woes and a curse to the nation. What will Baba do? “I dey laugh”, “I dey look” are fast replacing “I dey Kampe”. What a pity. It is not usually a good view looking at a man who once wielded power complaining of helplessness! He ends up much worse off that the rest of us who have always been in the latter state!

Are the “Honorables” Nigeria’s main problems? Of course, there is no equivocating the fact they a major drain on the nation’s money, health and wellbeing. As long as they are constantly lusting for more of the nation’s patrimony with insatiable greed, there will be no money for roads; None to make electricity; We will be buying 30 year-old planes and 80-year-old locomotives! Even if you buy a new car, you will drive it on bad roads and salute robbers and the real “wetin you carry”. They emerge from their parties by excessive amounts changing hands; They “capture” power via money; They can never have enough in order to remain in their line of business. There is no time to settle down and use the minds to properly legislate to grow the economy to create wealth through hardwork for Nigeria. Their mindset, comportment and carriage are on the other side of the street to work. They have inflicted on Nigeria this mighty disconnect between work and gain. “Ise kekere, owo nlanla, ka mi a gbadun kelele”! That is the fundamental norm and principle of their existence! It is a well-known fact that unearned income benumbs and stupefies the soul. Our “Honorables” are benumbed and stupefied. Their insatiable appetite for more of it; For conspicuous consumption and for misplaced priorities are all terrible yokes the nation must bear! The end is not near!

In spite of all this, sorry Baba, the “Honorables” are NOT Nigeria’s main problem. They are as bad as they are because of the fundamental weakness in the system we are running. We can abuse our representatives all we like; They are our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. They did not come from Chile, Yemen or Mongolia! (I wish they did so we can have a deportation order! Problem solved!) They are Nigerians. And that is the problem. They are people who if you were to replace wholesale under this same system by other Nigerians, will still behave the same way. We MUST come to terms with this fact if we want to get to the root of our problem.

Baba, I am sorry to say, you have actually been a bigger part of the problem. You also had two great opportunities to help Nigeria to solve the problems but you listened to the wrong drummer! We looked to you in vain: Each time you blew it.

The suffocating unitary arrangement of pretended federalism, that refuses every attempt at redemption, no matter how feeble or non-threatening, is our major problem, our cancer. This cancer that is eating up Nigeria shows its face in five major ways: The Sharing Mentality, Unviable States, Militarized Constitution, Effete Policing and the Culture of Impunity. It is these that build up the infrastructure upon which corruption thrives. Our infantile attempts to fight corruption without demolishing its infrastructure have failed as many times as we have tried. If it is true that a mad man uses the same method and expects different results, what can we be called even after all the considerations of charity? With the corruption infrastructure in place, the Nigerian population performs at less than ten percent of its capacity! The Jews and Arabs have been fighting for centuries for a stretch of sandy desert that is hardly larger than Oyo State. To get and to keep small pieces of this land, they have tanks, bombers, battle ships and nuclear weapons. Nigerians sit down and look at some of the most fertile pieces of real estate on earth and go hungry! Able-bodied men are selling Chinese trivia on the roads when coal lies buried under them and they sleep in darkness with no electricity! They all love football but cannot grow a national brand so they are all doing Manchester United or Chelsea. They send children to Togo, Benin and Ghana because school discipline here has collapsed. They build churches on the expressway to pray God to give them Jeeps to drive on gulley laden roads. And God answers by sending them accidented scraps from those who pray not which they lay hands upon in church with teary eyes of gratitude. And yet, despite the joke upon us, no one is laughing! We forget the simple no brainer that those who want cars need to build assembly plants! Think, Nigeria, Think! They live contemptuously of one another as if mutual abuse can solve any problem!

The list of foolishnesses we indulge in can fill several books. The root is one: A suffocating unitary arrangement. With this in place this, nothing can grow. What grew MUST die. Retain the infrastructure, Corruption remains with us.

Baba had the opportunity to dismantle this infrastructure. He did not. Several deep thinkers in the land tried to help, Baba prevented them! It is too late to cry. Uncle Tai, Pa Enahoro, Pa Ajasin, Pa Adesanya, and many others have gone to the great beyond with these tears in their eyes! Others are at the brink. Even Baba himself will not likely see an improvement in our lot because this suffocation is hegemony and creates trillions of unearned income and subsidy for a powerful few. They have a new name. I refuse to call it; Detestable, detestable, detestable!

Sorry, Baba. I know how you feel about the “Armed Robbers”. They are not going away soon. You had your chance.

21 comments on “Baba and the Four Hundred Thieves

  1. Ayomoh, Michael says:

    Sir, can you allow the press workers have a copy of this article for publication in one of the national dailies? A great piece indeed.

    • oafak says:

      I used to send articles to media houses; My experience is that unless you know them personally, they do not read or properly judge the article. Most times they don’t even vouchsafe you a reply. I have my own web page. My articles are free for anyone to use. I will not stop anyone from using what I paste for public consumption. We are all in the battle together. We want a better Nigeria!

  2. Anthony says:

    Someone wrote this yesterday in the CNN webpage about Egypt which I felt matched the Nigerian situation. He said (adapted):

    “The problem with the Nigerian culture is, that it is highly emotional and full of symbolism, with very little substance….and that is a huge problem for any country, culture and people.”

    That is why when people say let us discuss the arrangement of the country, immediately some people begin to froth about unity. When you say, let us have state police, they begin to sing about seccession. Yet, they never proffer any solutions to the country’s problems. They just chant unity and indivisibility as a mantra as if the country should drift about like a ship without rudder and perhaps by chance find a safe landing and as usual chant “inchalla” since everything in Nigeria has to be done for us by God. Our God given intelligence is not for use. Anyway, intelligence has never been a strong point in Nigeria as most of us know. many of us have gone away simply because we were shown how less citizens we were. Our leaders talk of prayer when they should be talking of mobilizing the people. My worry is that this deception called Nigeria and the deceptive democracy it claims to practice is destined to crash and what a nasty crash it will be. Our people are so deceived that Nigeria is a special creation of God that nothing can happen to. This is a big lie from hell. Nations come and go. Unviable nations just like any business will die and go and those more worthy will take it over! Many of us are tired, worn out, feel nationless and simply live by the saying, “What is the worst that could happen?”

  3. J O Akanmu says:

    This is a good piece, sir you do not need to know them for your opinion to be heard. Try Punch newspaper (opinion) column or daily trust, guardian for a trial and also comment online through some of the newspaper. If you care to appear on electronic media on a burning issue such as this I can facilitate with NTA, Channels.
    I am happy that you can appreciate that Baba can see beyond many of us, his resignation as chairman Board of Trustee of the ruling party was a signal, Baba style now in my opinion is “I de watch o, but I go talk before u spoil the country”
    I wait for your opinion on bombing of churches every Sunday in recent time.

  4. yinka says:

    This is a good write up. But do we do to the 400 armed robbers? There must be an action against them even if Baba has no choice. Credit Baba for crying out. We can only support him for an action against the thieves.

    • oafak says:

      Did I not give credit to Baba? I thought I did! He tried his best. His best was not good enough, that’s all. We need to get these problems solved. When you apply the same solution thirty times, and you fail thirty times, is it not clear that it’s time to try something else? The infrastructure of corruption is this power concentration that does not allow for healthy competition. When you try anything to redeem the situation, they mouth “Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable”! Is it not that unity that is being negotiated every Sunday now with Boko Haram bombs? Why do they prefer negotiation by bombs when we could do it in a more civilized way? Baba not only prevented the people who wanted peaceful restructuring to operate, he reversed some of the gains of decentralization and must therefore be blamed for some of the activities of the “Armed Robbers”!

  5. Ekwo Samuel Obinna says:

    With no equivocation, this is undoubtedly an article suitable for publication in a national daily, but as you said, nepotism & corruption which has been a bane to the upright standing for justice in this side of the planet may make it not to see the light of the day, however, the truth must be said as there remains a witness in every generation, just like the Biblical Noah, Abraham, Daniel Martins Luther king etal. More power to your elbow Prof. Thumbs Up. Your student/son.

  6. Waleisiro says:

    In my opinion, I do not believe that Baba was shouting with a good intention. It seems to me that Baba only thinks this is an opportunity to deal with the small fry who attempted to derail his government when he was in power. However, I believe sincerely that one day the sleeping dose Baba and the one thousand thieves injected into the veins of Nigerians will wear out and Nigerians will wake up to their responsibilities. When Egypt woke up from their sleep they fought for their freedom. Nigeria with all the intellectuals are rule with iron hands by kleptoparasites. I believe one day will be one day.

  7. Chidi Onyedikam says:

    sir, you have really analysed Nigeria. look for a way for many more Nigerians to access this article. Even though you are not in governance, at the local, state or federal level we can enjoy your leadership attributes as our next dean. Start from there. let’s have a model of the country, how things should be done, in our faculty. From there you can become the VC: possibly the president of our nation. Thanks sir, we are solidly in support of you.

    • friends says:

      Yeh, am enjoying yr scripts, write more & more. but pls. give us yr (readers) vivid pictures of Baba and thousand thieves or are u not a critics writer. Sir I love yr courageous act. Not many in the corridor of suffering can take the bull by the hone.

      Sir on contrary opinion, I know power changes people and sure if you are there also this write-up might be a different story or one interesting tales.

      • oafak says:

        Nigerians have plenty to say about fiery writers (latest example, Abati) who change gear once they get near power. That is actually well addressed in this article if you take a closer look. I have said here that the infrastructure of corruption needs to be dismantled. First remove the unitary system and allow competition. If one federating unit is independently doing better than another, the people are bound to ask questions! It is that lack of competition where everyone moves at the speed of the slowest of us that allow corruption to go with no challenge. If I say you are a thief, its no use telling me I would steal too if I were to be in your position. We punish you now because you are the thief. Tomorrow, when I steal, punish me. Stop posing hypothetical questions, Apply the rules now, apply the rules tomorrow! That way, we will move!

  8. Kola Aiyesimoju says:

    Yes, so true. I also think that the intellectuals have not generated enough ideas to Nigeria’s problems, from which the politicians can choose, We need to start suggesting specific solutions to specific problems e.g. Boko Haram, the educational system, revenue allocation, the constitution, etc. Some of the solutions I have heard suggested are just too shallow – a popular one being Sovereign National Conference. Convening one does not mean we will agree. In fact we will not. A Nigerian will agree to being treated fairly only when he is in fact being favoured.

    • John Green says:

      You are one of the intellectuals. Perhaps, one of the smartest people in Nigeria and the world as a whole. You have a Ph.D in Hydrolics Engineering from University of Califonia, Beckley Campus USA, with several distinctive academic achievements. It is very sad that people like you are not being utilized. I will encourage you to continue to put yourself out there.

  9. oafak says:

    Thanks Kola but you know we must start from somewhere. Policy analysis is one thing we can contribute to. The Internet gives us an easy distribution channel. Let us at least ensure we are not idle and only criticizing. On Thursday do something as you are advised in Remember that we must put the right people in the right places to have a fighting chance.

  10. Prof.
    Analyses about Baba are absolutely correct and valid. He wasted the best of opportunity to create a new Nigeria build on true federalism, rule of law and strong democracy. He departed unprepared and replaced himself with a sick man, supported by mediocre to take power. In a country with very weak and dysfunctional institutions, the phony democracy of today will only create monumental corruption by executives and legislators. Hapless people are paying for the corruption of the wicked elites created by ‘baba’; we now consistently see bloodletting, arson and carnages, kidnapping and pen robbery facilitated by legislate-thieves is mind boggling. The sad part of this conundrum is Nigerian masses that are busy wallowing in poverty of ideas, religion and ethic chauvinism. That 95%, of our people are PDP at heart is to say the least; many are bunch of opportunist and profiteers. They celebrate these rouges, sell their votes and support corruption of the same elites that are busy stealing their common wealth. Have wonderful day sir.

  11. Tolu says:

    Excellent piece.

    We all seem to know the problems of our leaders. Like footballers playing on the field, the spectators see all the faults, the wrong passings, tacklings, moves and whatever, but in my opinion it is not enough to highlight shortcomings, one must also proffer solutions.

    But a good starting point is to know that there is a problem and put a finger on the problem. To me, the real issue is CORRUPTION, DISHONESTY, LIES, HIDDEN AGDENDA etc. How do we start a new generation of Nigerians that are bereft of these qualities that we see in the average Nigerian. That is my own trepidation.
    Nigeria can’t go on like this.
    Our leaders, day in day out continue to fail us.
    The good ones don’t get there, the bad, did I say bad, no, I mean the horrible ones, with no idea at all, and who can’t even lead a community, “maradona” their way, by hook or by crook, and are made our leaders.

    Someone pls tell me, where is the way forward.

    Oafak, keep up the good work, but be careful, this is Nigeria, before Baba organizes for you and before you know it you have been “lawaned”

    • oafak says:

      I accept for a fact that we need to fight corruption and not all be mere pundits analyzing and talking. Yet, I want to draw your attention to a
      subtle part of the problem. Simplistic as it looks, most Nigerians cannot answer the simple question, “What is corruption?” When people ask you to give them preferential treatment over others in a position of power while leaving out more qualified people, do they think that that is corruption? When people pretend to be praying for you when what they want is your vote or some other favor, is that corruption? We can go on. Why is a man disgraced out of Abuja for corruption and given a hero’s welcome and a chieftancy title in his village? Did that corruption suddenly become valor just by travelling 500 km? Why don’t we have a uniform definition?
      Why is it possible for a Chief executive to keep doing the wrong things and the closest people to him cannot even whisper a disapproval? Several years back, a newspaper carried an item that the Inspector General of Police was involved in corrupt dealings; all the serving DIGs took a newspaper advertisement to deny the allegation on his behalf. Several months later, when he was found guilty, one of those that previously denied was named IG in his stead. Why did we not ask questions about this same man’s previous complicity? What makes the cycle of corruption unstoppable?
      I think the answers to these questions is that we must not only fight corruption but must undermine its mighty infrastructure. We must fight small, we must fight big. Nothing is too small. Shunting at the petrol queue is petty corruption. When someone tries to resist, we must not allow him to carry the can alone. We must be ready to take risks. We must stand for something. One of the ,most important causes for corruption is that people here don’t stand up for anything. They want to eat form all pots. Why not realize that we must lose sometimes?
      I am beginning to rant. But thanks for your time. I appreciate all who take the time to read and comment!

      • Tolu says:

        Totally agree with you, the fight against corruption starts from the little, little, acts we do everyday, the seemingly insignificant things we do and say, our motive for doing whatever we do.

        My conclusion is let us all start from ourselves, from our little corner, to fight corruption.

        Little drops of water makes a mighty ocean.

        Take care and remain blessed
        2moro is D-day.

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