And Then, Finally, Death Spoke… By Olusegun Adeniyi
Heralded in by drummers, it was clear to all those who were already seated, important dignitaries in their own rights, that the new entrant was a class above them. That was because for the first time, the master of the house, the great Death himself, stood up to receive a visitor whom he allowed to sit on the throne beside his.
Apparently worried that he might have lost his preeminent place in the Kingdom of Death, Terrorism stood up to speak: “Your Majesty, High Chief Prophet Death, Grand Commander of the Earth and all things beneath, I salute you. As all my colleagues here are quite aware, since 2009 when I scaled up my operation in Nigeria, nobody has given you as much blood as I have done yet I have never received the kind of attention you gave this JJC. In recent days, I have brought in the blood of several Nigerians: From the twin-bomb attack in Kaduna to my operations in Kano and Adamawa, now I serve you blood minute by minute. While I am not aware of the area of expertise of this agent who just came in, one thing I am sure of: In the territory called Nigeria, nobody has served your interest as diligently as I have done in the last couple of weeks…”
“Point of Information my Lord, Your Excellency”, someone interjected. It was Strike. With Death nodding his spectre, Strike knew he had the permission to speak. “My advice is to Terrorism. He should please stick to what he knows. Yes, he has killed many Nigerians in recent days; I concede that to him. I even understand that he is now gradually turning one section of the country against another such that at the end of the day the people themselves would begin to do his job for him on a massive scale. That is very clever. But if he is talking about the amount of blood made available to Your Majesty in the last two weeks, I deserve commendation. Now that I have medical doctors working in public hospitals on my side, I supply more blood to this kingdom. Terrorism may kill with guns, knives, cudgels etc but the fact that he helps editors to sell their newspapers doesn’t mean he has done more harm in Nigeria than me. Unlike him, I do my work quietly and I do not inflict needless pains; I simply allow Nigerians to die on the hospital beds and they do so in droves without their people paying much attention. My formula in Nigeria today is simple: From the hospital ward to the mortuary–a seamless journey!”
At this point Disease stood up and having been allowed to speak he said: “I think I am the most injured person here Your Majesty, because the nonentity you now honour so lavishly is my new creation called Ebola Virus. Yes, I designed him to kill fast but he has not even killed a single Nigerian before he is being celebrated here…”
The revelation that the agent being celebrated had not even brought in the blood of a Nigerian led to commotion in the Kingdom of Death. Cancer, malaria, HIV/Aids, armed robber, ritual, kidnapper, assassin et al stood up in protest. At this point, Death knew he had to restore a measure of order so he commanded them to sit down and keep quiet. They complied immediately but there was still unease.
Turning to where Disease sat with all his principalities, Death paused and pointed to Strike, “Join them because I want to address all of you together. Yes, you are all diligent in what you do in Nigeria and I can attest to the fact that you bring much blood every day. But ask yourselves, what has been the response to you by Nigerians? Do you command enough attention to cause tremor from Lagos to Abuja?” Turning to cancer, he asked: “With all the people you have killed, has it compelled Nigerians to build specialist hospitals and diagnostic centres to fight you back? Even you malaria, since you have been killing their children, was it not one busybody computer man from America who has more money than he can possibly spend in a thousand lifetimes that is fighting you back? Is that a sign that Nigerians take you very seriously? And you Strike that has been running your mouth, did you hear the sarcastic remark from the Nigerian government? They said the doctors hiding behind you are wasting their time: they will not print money because of them! That means the lives you take are the expendable ones…”
At this point Terrorism interjected, “But I understand that this new agent also works for Disease. And if you say Disease is wrong, how many people has this agent killed?”
Waving his spectre, Death smiled and said: “But I never said Disease was wrong; his figure is quite accurate, Ebola has taken just one life in Nigeria.”
“One life?” many in the hall exclaimed in unison and Terrorism, who could not contain his anger said: “So all that he did was to take the life of one miserable Nigerian and you gave him this attention! By the way, who is this Nigerian whose life he took? A Governor, Minister or has he penetrated Aso Rock?”
Terrorism waited for an answer and Death smiled again before responding: “The victim of his operation is not even a Nigerian but a Liberian. He just took him on Nigerian soil”. Knowing he had already caused enough commotion and to avert a crisis, Death decided to cut to the chase. “Gentlemen, this guy that you see here is called Ebola Virus; he is not only deadly but more importantly very swift in his action, unlike some of you that spend years when I send you on errands”, pointing in the direction of cancer, HIV and others. “Ebola delivers my message with immediate effect and you know in a society like Nigeria where carelessness is the order of the day that is special.”
“But you said he has not taken any Nigeria life”, Terrorism interjected again.
“Yes”, Death responded, “But he has already created the kind of attention and drama that you no longer create. Did you hear the latest? They are going to seek some foreign loan to procure the ammunition to fight you! They will debate that in their National Assembly after which they will seek the loans. By the time they bring in their Tokunbo ammunitions which cannot be as sophisticated as the ones you have, you would have …” he paused and invited Terrorism to come over. He whispered in his ears and Terrorism roared with laughter. He took a bow and said “Your Majesty, you are too much.”
Now turning to the full audience while Terrorism was still laughing hysterically, Death snapped his fingers and a big projector was turned on: “That is the victim of our friend here, the unfortunate Liberian. You can see the kind of attention he got from Alausa to Aso Rock. Did you see the elaborate preparation to dispose of the body after I took his blood? Is that not funny, especially in a country where I take life just like this?” (Snapping his fingers), “However, Nigerians may be a funny lot but there is also a method to their madness. They know that with Ebola right now, there is no place to hide. Its initial symptoms can resemble those of other illnesses, especially Malaria, but by the time they know what it is, the damage would have been done.” Turning to Strike, “I am sure you are aware Ebola here has claimed the lives of some doctors in the process of treating the victims. So be honest, could that be the reason why your Nigerian friends are hiding under you to down their stethoscopes at this particular period; are they running away from Ebola?”
There was roaring laughter in the Kingdom of Death. He continued: “Ebola here walks in a stealth manner. An odd kiss, a harmless handshake, an innocuous peck and before they know it, his victims have me to contend with. And the Nigerian big men know too well that with Ebola, they cannot run to America or Germany or United Kingdom with their Private Jets because once the authorities there hear the name of Ebola, they would not let them land.”
“What about India?” Cancer interjected.
“You know the real big people in Nigeria hardly go to India for their medicals and in any case, those who patronise Indian hospitals would not even be allowed to take off at Murtala Mohammed Airport. If they try, Ebola will simply finish the job before they complete their immigration formalities.”
Now that he has the attention of his audience, Death continued: “How many of you ever read James Hadley Chase?” With a few hands up, he further asked “do you know the character called Poke Tohola? Well, go and read the Chase novel, ‘Want to Stay Alive?’ where he said something memorable. According to him, ‘fear is the key that unlocks the wallet and handbags of the rich…’ In Nigeria today, the fear of Ebola is the beginning of wisdom; that is why they are running from pillar to post…”
As that joke elicited another round of laughter, an aide walked in to announce that it was time for Death to take blood. Death stood up and as all the people prostrated in obeisance, he pointed his spectre in the direction of Terrorism who stood up and moved behind Death as they walked into the inner chamber. Ebola also stood up and wanted to follow but two guards prevented him. Shocked, he asked: “Don’t you know who I am?”
It was now the turn of Terrorism to laugh again hysterically, before he said: “You are new here so you don’t know the rule. That was just your initiation but you believed all that drama, thinking you are really important. Since you are a JJC from Liberia, let me give you a brief about Nigeria. Yes, you can kill many of their people in the villages and in some remote areas of their major cities where I have also operated but after a few weeks, Nigerians will move on. They always do as nothing catches their attention for long. In any case, there will be other drama for them to follow and they will ignore you, no matter the number of lives you take. You will become just another story…”
“What if I kill a big man, a very big man; a political leader or top government official?” Ebola asked.
“That will never happen. You cannot kill a big man, not in Nigeria”, said Terrorism.
“But I can”, Ebola insisted and he was shocked to hear a roaring laughter from the hall as some guards came to lead him out. Shortly before the door was closed on him, Death delivered the final message: “Ebola, you are still naive about Nigeria. You can kill as many of the poor people as you like because in that country, the citizens have left the solutions to practically all their problems (including those self-inflicted) to God, the One you and I know help only those who help themselves. But you can never kill a real Nigerian big man because even if you do, such feat would never be attributed to you. Such a person would be deemed to have either been poisoned by his political opponent or another story would be invented…”
“They would say he was hit by spiritual arrow sent by his enemies”, Ritual interjected to draw applause from the crowd.
Looking straight at Ebola, this time in a menacing manner, Death continued: “You see, nobody will ever credit you with killing a Nigerian big man so you need to wise up. Now, let me share a secret with you. I operate all over the world and to be honest, I probably kill less people in Nigeria than I do in several other countries but what I like about Nigeria is that as much as their people fear me, they do practically nothing to deter my operations. I have never seen a more suicidal society than Nigeria. That way, they make my job rather easy. You see Terrorism here. He has paid his dues and still paying it. He nearly took out two prominent Nigerians last week but have you been following their discussions? Nobody gives Terrorism the credit for what happened and for that reason, there is no unity of purpose and they are not looking for ways to fight him. In fact, many enjoy making unsolicited excuses on his behalf. As far as Nigerians are concerned, all that matters now is their so-called election coming up next year and while they are doing all their permutations either to capture power or retain it, Terrorism is also planning his next target…”
To that, Ebola interjected: “But I understand Nigeria will fight Terrorism when they finally secure some foreign loan…”
That elicited a roaring laughter and Ebola was pushed out of the Kingdom of Death.
What Are They Demanding?
It was about six weeks after they started their daily sit-out at the Abuja Unity Fountain and the time was 3.30pm when this heavy rain started. I decided to leave my office to go and check if I would still find any of the #BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) members at their designated venue. I had been going there almost on a daily basis (to spend no more than three minutes) as a form of solidarity but on that particular day, it was more out of curiousity. I wanted to be sure they would still be there when it was raining and was pleasantly surprised to meet 14 women and two men (I counted them) at the venue.
As the rain began to pour, a lady whose name I would later know to be Hajia Aisha Yesufu stood up and began to chant in a defiant mood: “What are we demanding?” And her colleagues chorused back: “Bring back our girls, now and alive!” Without pausing, she asked a second question:“What is our singular cry?” Again, they responded: “Bring back our girls, now and alive!”
Then she asked: “What do we want?” The response was immediate: “Results from the rescue operation!” From her came another chant: “What are we asking?” Her audience responded: “The truth and nothing but the truth!” Then she asked: “When will we stop?”
The response: “Until our girls are back and alive!”
I left the Unity Fountain that day not only with more respect for members of the BBOG group for their discipline and focus but also for the sacrifices they make, on a daily basis on behalf of all of us. Whether we realize it or not, it is their tenacity that has restored our dignity as a nation where the people would not just shrug and move on, while more than 200 female students are held in captivity by some lunatics.
Since I know most of the women who represent the moving force behind the BBOG, I am also aware they are top professionals who are very busy people. But they also see themselves first as mothers; and they can relate with what the Chibok mothers are going through. From the first day when they matched in the rain from the Unity Fountain to the National Assembly where they were received by both the Senate President David Mark and House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, the group has kept the faith. Yet all they do is to remind us of our obligation as citizens as we try to build a society that cares.
Incidentally, today Marks Day 93 that the group began its daily sit-out with a solemn commitment to remain at the Unity Fountain until the Chibok girls (abducted 108 days ago) are brought home safe and alive. However, in the intervening period, the group has endured all manner of provocations: from the taunting of some strange women apparently hired by some government do-gooders to the attack by thugs who came to disrupt their gathering, breaking chairs, snatching phones and handbags while the police looked on, unperturbed. And they have been stigmatized, in fact criminalized, by some overzealous official media handlers who mistake national security for regime protection.
I fail to understand why government cannot engage with the group, except of course somebody somewhere has given up on securing the release of the Chibok girls and therefore finds BBOG women as irritants for reminding government of its obligations to citizens in distress. I have witnessed several BBOG meetings and was on one occasion conscripted by Mrs Oby Ezekwesili to speak. When I declared not being a member, Mrs Bukky Shonibare interjected that their members don’t have any identification mark nor do they “perform initiation rites”. And it is true because anybody can attend their meetings and with that become members. Their sessions are held in the open and the discussions are conducted in a free atmosphere with the only singular item being the latest news on the Chibok girls, welfare of their immediate families, responses from government to their plights (if any) and the rescue efforts.
On Monday, the message pushed out by the group to their members and sympathisers like me was particularly moving. But the beginning says it all: “Today is day 105 since Our Girls were taken from us! The number of days is increasing. But no matter how fast the days run, each has a second, minute, hour, day and night; the lives of Our Girls in each of these has a story. We must not give up on them; they are our future, our jewels. We must push harder.”
I salute the courage and doggedness of the women, who are the real moving spirit behind the BBOG.What they teach us most poignantly is that there are no borders when it comes to compassion for our fellow human beings. Whether they realize it not, and regardless of whatever those in authorities in Nigeria today say about them, they have already earned a worthy place in the history of our country.
I found no word adequate enough to console my sister, Mrs. Hadiza el-Rufai yesterday and I offered none. But I share her pain and that of her husband on the tragic loss on Tuesday of their very promising son, Hamza. I pray God grant the el-Rufai family the fortitude that a time like this demand.
Re: PenCom & The N4 Trillion Pot of Gold
By Innocent Ezeugo
I went through your last week column and was indeed thrilled by your in-depth analysis of the history of PenCom. However, the story of PenCom cannot be exhaustively told without mentioning the role the National Assembly played particularly the efforts of Nze Chidi Duru, Speaker Aminu Bello Masari and Senator Mohammed Abba Aji. Unfortunately, you did not acknowledge the role of the National Assembly to the enactment of the Pension Reform Act 2004 which established the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) and Pencom.
To my knowledge, the Committee for Labour and Productivity set up by the House of Representatives in 2003 had struggled with several setbacks in achieving the task of outlining the reform for the Bill with respect to Pension. On the 4th of March 2004, Nze Chidi Duru who had been at the Courts, contesting his election, had won his seat and returned to the House of Representatives. At this time, Mallam Nasir El–Rufai had asked the then Chairman of the committee, Mr. Tajudeen Fola Adeola to get in touch with Nze Duru to discuss the situation. Mr. Adeola who was attending a programme in the USA at the time did so. Adeola’s call to Nze Duru indicated that he would send a team led by M.K Ahmed (former PenCom DG), Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, (current Acting PenCom DG) and Dr. Musa Ibrahim to discuss further. After the team had spoken to Nze Duru, he had requested a week to establish the situation, which he did.
It is therefore pertinent not to understate the efforts of the Speaker of the House at the time, Honourable Aminu Masari, who was in support of the intended Bill. The Speaker asserted his commitment to giving every necessary support to which Nze Duru had requested to lead the team in achieving this feat. By Mid March, the speaker constituted an Ad hoc committee on Pension, which was led by Nze Duru. As promised, with the support of the Speaker, the bill was passed in a record time within the House. From the Senate chambers, Senator Felix O. Ibru (Chairman of their Committee) gave his support to Mohammed Abba-Aji (Deputy Chairman) to lead the Pension issue on the Senate floor. He consequently successfully drove the agenda and got it passed; leading to the constitution of a joint committee. Through this committee the necessary areas of difference were harmonized with the Bill being passed under two months. It was thus presented to the then President, Olusegun Obasanjo for assent.
- Ezeugo is an Abuja-based legal practitioner
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