I am not about to dabble in weather forecast or climate change in Spain. Rather, I am more concerned about matters nearer home. At exactly nine o’clock on the morning of Monday 29th May 2023, two invitation cards were delivered to me in Lagos, one for an event at Eagle Square in Abuja and the other one at Tafawa Balewa Square, Onikan in Lagos.
A cursory look at the two cards confirmed that both events were actually scheduled for 9 o’clock on that very day. How very strange!! In any case, I was at home in Lagos. Besides, it was raining heavily. The rain came down with a vengeance. To make matters worse, the traffic on the roads was horrendous. Matters were further compounded by the deluge of flooding which advertised the inadequacy of the drainage system in Lagos.
At any rate, there I was battling with getting out of Victoria Island. Predictably, the traffic around Onikan was totally chaotic. What a way to start a new regime or renew the old one. Nevertheless, we must remain hopeful and optimistic – regardless of the warning by the philosopher Francis Bacon (1909 to 1992).
“Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.”
A quick detour from Awolowo Road into Igbosere Street led me directly to Tafawa Balewa Square which is guarded on its eastern flank by the dilapidated Federal Ministry of Works (disgraceful) followed by the former Supreme Court (now the Federal Court of Appeal) and the iconic King’s College, Lagos.
Suddenly, the memories start flooding back – to 1st October 1960 when Nigeria gained Independence from the British. It rained all day regardless of the hefty sums doled out to the rain doctors in order to ensure that the day would be radiant with hope and sunshine. It turned out that even back then, some smart Alecs had gamed the government.
They were rain doctors alright but they insisted that they had been shortchanged by those who collected money on their behalf. In any case, they only knew how to start the rain but not how to stop it!! That was all of sixty-three years ago and it is raining all over again in our beloved Lagos on a day that should hold out much hope and brilliant sunshine.
According to the playwright George Bernard Shaw [1856 to 1950] in Pygmalion:
“The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plains.”
This is where patriotism kicks in. According to former American President Barak Obama:
“Hoping your president fails is the same as hoping your country fails, and it’s NOT patriotism. Patriotism is supporting your Commander-In-Chief, even if you don’t agree with him on everything.”
According to the front page of “The Guardian” newspaper of May 29, 2923: “Oluremi Tinubu, wife of the President-elect yesterday said that She would be of one the oldest First Ladies the country has ever produced. She said this during the presidential inauguration Interdenominational church service held at the National Christian Centre, Abuja.
What has gone viral is her closing remark:
“Nigeria’s wealth is the commonwealth of all. It belongs to everyone. God has blessed my family. We don’t need the wealth of Nigeria to survive but to do the right thing. And I promise you on this altar, that with your help, with the help of God, we will set this nation on the right path.”
My immediate challenge is how to navigate the right path out of the traffic chaos. It is still pouring with rain. It is relentless. No going forward; no turning back.
When “Pygmalion” was published in 1912, it was an instant hit — a witty and highly entertaining study of Victorian class distinctions and social conventions. George Bernard Shaw became a celebrity.
In the midst of all this, the powerful message that is trending on social media is directly from the new President-elect of Nigeria, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It was delivered on the same day the First Lady elect spoke (on the eve of the swearing-in ceremony).
“From tomorrow, don’t pity me. I applied for the job; I campaigned for it; and I got the job. No excuses. I must deliver.”
He will do well to heed the advice of the legendary President Nelson Mandela of South Africa (1918 – 2013):
“There are times when a leader must move out ahead of the flock; go off in new directions, confident that he is leading the people the right way.”
In the meantime, I am stuck in the traffic in pouring rain. What comes to mind is a note of resignation to fate. In Latin, it comes with a sense of guilt:
“Tempus terrera in nihi agendo”
It translates as: “Wasting time doing nothing.”
Rain has always played a powerful role in our folklore and methodologies. However, the role is interchangeable. Sometimes it’s a blessing; but other times it delivers a sinister warning of doom. My mind travels back to 1st October 1960. I was in the fourth form at King’s College, Lagos.
My rank in the Cadets Unit was that of Sergeant and from the rumour mill we got to know that we had been invited to rehearse and parade alongside the Nigerian Army on that epochal occasion. It turned out to be fake news.
On the eve of the great event, we learnt that the task actually assigned to us was the lowly rite of distributing programmes and acting as ushers in the VIP section of the Grand Stand. Fortunately, the venue was the Race Course (now known as Tafawa Balewa Square) which was right opposite our college.
It was with considerable excitement that on the appointed day we lined up to carry out our assignment. No sooner had we ventured out of the college compound than it started to rain cats and dogs: It was too late to return to the college to fetch our raincoats and umbrellas. We just had to soldier on.
As we approached the Grand Stand, we could hear the loudspeaker announcing the names of the dignitaries as they arrived. There we were in our snow white college uniform topped with our blue blazers marching majestically. Out of nowhere, we were splashed with the full dose of rainwater from a pool as a car screeched past. It was no consolation that our tormentor turned out to be the Minister of Education, Mr. Aja Nwanchukwu. It turned out that we were not the only victims. A fellow victim and bystander took a different view of matters when the name of the new arrival was announced as “Aja” which in Yoruba means dog.
He proceeded to lament:
“If the Minister’s dog would do this to us, what will the Minister himself do to us?”
Thereafter, we proceeded to the VIP section for our own bit of national duty. It was a truly memorable event. The crème de la crème of Nigerian society were all there. The only hitch was that Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the leader of the opposition and his wife were ushered to an obscure section.
Even the Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa was embarrassed. I believe it was Alhaji Shehu Shagari the youngest minister, who volunteered his seat. Nineteen years later the same Alhaji Shehu Shagari would be sworn-in as Prime Minister (1979 to 1983). Both Alhaji Tafawa Balewa and Alhaji Shehu Shagari lived very austere lives.
Amongst the Governors elect is Dauda Lawal of Zamfara State. It is alleged that according to his Asset Declaration Form, he is worth N9 trillion!!
I cannot but recall that when Chief Justice Ovie-Whiskey was presiding over the investigation of N2.8 billion which was alleged to have gone missing at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in 1977 he publicly declared:
“If I see one million naira in cash, I shall faint.”
Here we are, the abnormal has become the new normal. It is now a distant memory when professors from the best universities in the world (Cambridge; Oxford; London etc.) used to lobby to come to Nigerian universities as Examiners.
Their stipend was only about N400 but it was enough to pay for a nice holiday with their wives and children in Spain, Italy, France, etc. That was the age of innocence and contentment. Now we worship mediocrity at the altar of money, mendacity, corruption and looting. The crooks are united against us!!
As the outgoing, President Muhammadu Buhari departed for Daura, Katsina State he delivered his final audit report on Nigeria:
“My cattle and sheep are easier to control than Nigerians.”