Hip-hop musician Harrisong, it was, who grafted the slang into the national lexicon two years ago with his hit, “Reggae and Blues”. Invoking the protest word “reggae” as metaphor for war and “blues” for peace, he’s is the musing about the desirability of making up after falling out.
“After the reggae,” he croons, “Play the blues.”
Bearing this in mind, the casual beholder will likely interpret media photographs of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) and General Olusegun Obasanjo locked in a bear-hug weekend in faraway Addis Ababa as making up, even when the skyline back home was still smouldering from the cataclysm caused a few days earlier by the latter’s “letter-bomb”.
Euphemistically entitled, “The Way Out: A Clarion Call for Coalition of Nigeria Movement”, the 13-paged document is his latest offering in what is now easily acknowledged as a chequered career as a busybody. Nothing perhaps readily bespeaks that overarching hyperactivity of his than the tautology in the very title of the composition.
For heaven’s sake, after “coalition”, what is “movement” for?
What’s more, as if by some telepathy, this Baba would surface in Addis Ababa bedecked in a garment made of turquoise blue, just like PMB.
But it is all what it is – a make-believe or “photo trick”, if you like. Reading rapprochement to it by any stretch of imagination will be a colossal error indeed. Considering the certainty that the invitations to the African Union event predated OBJ’s epistolary equivalent of a nuclear bombardment, the duo could therefore only be said to have lived up to their professional billing as battle-hardened Generals.
Non-attendance by either of them after the “letter-bomb” would have meant losing the first round in the psychological warfare programmed to follow.
Of course, OBJ’s predilection for physical eruption and hell-raising when provoked is now well known. His quarry may appear withdrawn and fragile, but experience already cautions that the way a cat walks at leisure is different when pursuing a prey.
OBJ himself once gave what would seem the deepest insight into PMB’s mental make-up. (That was before the now historic 2015 general polls when both Generals found themselves collaborating to oust Goodluck Jonathan from power).
Fielding questions on why PDP hierarchs appeared to dread the prospects of a Buhari presidency then, the Ota chicken farmer quipped that it was because of his reputation “as a hard man. Those who found themselves in an encounter with him in the past as head of state ended up either in jail or grave.”
If anything truly deserves to be celebrated on account of OBJ’s epistle, it surely is the lice… By its adoption as metaphor for continued leadership deficits in the land, lice is now more or less another word for the iniquities of incompetence, impunity, bigotry and the “condonation of evil” in high places.
So, from PMB’s transparently plastic smile and OBJ’s affectation of a bonhomie before media cameras at the AU gallery last weekend, no psychoanalytic skill was indeed required to recognise the two old gladiators sizing each other up on a foreign soil, with the one that cast the first stone probably undertaking additionally a close reece to assess the impact of the first cut.
It will therefore seem only prudent to put the nation on notice for a long-drawn slugfest between the bull and the slow poison in the times ahead.
Meanwhile, today, as is now customary, we shall, in exercise of our poetic license, press the still button on otherwise nagging public issues and proceed to attend to a slew of words and phrases that have treacherously crept into the national conversation lately, which the uninitiated needs to better comprehend.
Lice: If anything truly deserves to be celebrated on account of OBJ’s epistle, it surely is the lice, hitherto dismissed as despicable, good-for-nothing, blood-sucking creatures. OBJ copiously cited it as the reason why no man’s fingernails are ever completely ridden of blood-stain, until the parasite had been totally banished. By its adoption as metaphor for continued leadership deficits in the land, lice is now more or less another word for the iniquities of incompetence, impunity, bigotry and the “condonation of evil” in high places.
Such phenomenal transformation of status!
Nepotistic Court: In his classic, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, French novelist Victor Hugo unveils the “Court of Miracles” crawling with the treachery of mendicants, who feign infirmities to solicit alms by day but miraculously get healed by nightfall to savour their loot.
But with OBJ’s epistle, we learnt there is also a “nepotistic court” presently deployed in the land to create the illusion of grandeur around the Presidency.
For clarity, the latest mutant simply describes the new incest of power where a p,resident is so chronically suspicious of all and sundry that he decides to fortify his inner circle with only blood relations ranging from his uncle, cousins, nephews and nieces. They, in turn, constitute a cabal seeking to put a gloss on the monstrosity of state capture. The king may truly be abstemious in appetite, they on their own chose to fatten on the spoils.
Finish: The Italians gave another variant as “finito”. It describes the state of completion or finality. We would learn another variation of this from no other than our defence minister, Mansur Dan-Ali. Rising from an emergency meeting of the National Security Council in Abuja, after emphasising – if not justifying – that denying the herders “the right of way” on grazing routes that have been delineated since the nation’s independence, is at the root of the ongoing deadly clashes in Benue, Taraba and elsewhere, he ended by saying “finish” (actually pronouncing “pinish” due understandably to a peculiar condition described in linguistics as the “mother tongue interference”). The new word of power to convey immutability.
Colony: Until the British imperialists annexed the coastal city of Lagos in August 1861 and declared it their colony, we in this corner of the globe probably scarcely conceived of the word “colony” beyond being the synonym for the family of beavers. Of course, that illustrious member of the rodent family, native to North America is credited with near human intelligence.
In seeking to set a new template for leadership selection and recruitment for the nation at large, NIM itself should not fail the first crucial test – setting very high ethical standards for its own membership. Only then will it inspire public confidence and command respect.
It was only after the initially stated “commercial partnership” had transformed years later to the complete British domination of the local people that the latter learnt to associate “colony” with pain and exploitation.
Now, one-and-a-half centuries later, evolution seemed to have entered a golden phase in the animal kingdom. Thanks to the uncommon ingenuity of Agric Minister Audu Ogbeh in the face of the pervasive and seemingly intractable herder/farmer violence, it is now the turn of cows to exercise dominion over the earth in this part of the world by having communities forfeiting land to them directly and having such officially demarcated as “cow colony”. So, the real big news is that, by this singular gesture, cattle of Nigerian ancestry have been catapulted to the zenith in the order of precedence adopted in the animal world.
Cow: More and more derivatives are surely coming from cow as the animal increasingly gain visibility in national conversation. Apart from being a rich source of protein, the species, we are beginning to realise, also lends itself to describe human circumstances. We already know that “to cow” is to intimidate others. When you add suffix of “ard”, you have coward.
Now, in a burst of linguistic craftsmanship, some mischief-makers have stretched the word further to birth “cow-mander-in-chief”. A respondent was even more impish in a post just sent to me electronically. He tweaked “herd” to “herd of state”.
Well, as a law-abiding citizen conversant with the letters and spirit of the new “cow-mand” (sorry, command) given security agents to hunt down online peddlers of hate, I thought I should share these as something they may wish to immediately adopt as tip-off, well not completely ruling out the possibility of a reward for the “whistle-blower” here.
Disclaimer: First, it was BUA’s Isyaku Rabiu. Followed by svelte Ayo Obe in the spate of disclaimers against the fledgling political pressure group named the National Intervention Movement. By weekend, Aiteo’s Benedict Peters had also dissociated himself from OBJ’s CN.
In denying membership of the group, the significant thing is that neither Rabiu nor Obe faulted the democratic values the NIM espouses as counterpoise to the perceived inadequacies of the existing political parties. As for the two tycoons among them, the easy conjecture is that they took the step obviously for economic reasons. Not many will readily offer themselves to be thrown under a moving bus that a sitting government represents and be run over.
Indeed, the discerning saw the gale of disclaimers coming once an unwieldy list began to circulate. Many could accept genuine patriots like Femi Falana, Olisa Agbakoba, Donald Duke, Akin Osuntokun and Issa Aremu. But not the inclusion of some known political hustlers and double agents on the list. Obviously, the unspoken message for the truly committed volunteers among them is this: In seeking to set a new template for leadership selection and recruitment for the nation at large, NIM itself should not fail the first crucial test – setting very high ethical standards for its own membership. Only then will it inspire public confidence and command respect.
Louis Odion is a Fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (FNGE).