Tinubu and His Egungun

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Edifying Elucidations By Okey ikechukwu, Email: okey.ikechukwu@thisdaylive.com

As I write, there is some talk about procuring emergency powers for Mr. President. Soon Nigeria will be made to build an expressway whenever he wants to take a walk. Meanwhile the existing and inhering powers in that office have not been understood, or been properly and substantially unexercised, by the incumbent. It was not the lack of emergency powers that delayed the nomination and appointment of ministers for four months. Emergency powers are not needed today in order to appoint boards and inaugurate them, months after they were dissolved; among other basic but critical administrative and policy issues. Will the much-vaunted emergency powers remove the fact that the budget the government is trying to implement stands at about 38% of its value at the time it was passed and will not deliver anything? The Presidency`s explanation that Mr. President himself does not know anything about this plan to secure emergency powers for him only worsens matters.

It means that we are back to the practice of defending the initiator and beneficiary of a plan by assuring everyone that he knows nothing about it. Remember Abacha`s failed transmutation? President Obasanjo once received a letter at his Ota Farm, all on national television, “the content of which he did not know”. The PDP Governors and party leaders who allegedly authored the letter had assembled in his farm to deliver it. The rest is history.

Truth is: most of those who birthed the current Presidency, complete with ill-advised intimations of El Dorado, are now confounded. The once most enthusiastic among them are quivering in the limited space allowed him by the very talisman they procured and celebrated. Their circumstance is proof that a politician may get into trouble more because of his own errors of judgment than from the evil machinations of his enemies and competitors. The lessons of the hour for the Lion of Bourdilon, Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the APC`s hastily contrived coalition, are legion. There is “ominous loyalty” from all sides. That loyalty rests on a frivolous thesis: namely, that it is best not to publicly disown a government they have concluded in private is no government al all.
These loyalists are all standing in public with bruises inflicted on them by their own, or their family`s, Egungun or masquerade. The very Opambata, or cane, with which they are being flogged was crafted by them. And this avoidable misfortune is all traceable to their inebriated and hasty grab at power, without close attention to some essential ingredients of political discretion. Look around you and you will see the truth of the saying that politicians can be likened to the spotted hyena, of which it is said: “Of all mammals, they are the most self-centred and most inconsiderate. They are also the most brutal to their kind”.

As explained to me by some Yoruba friends who are versed in some aspects of the Yoruba cultural traditions, an Egun (singular for Egungun) is always someone`s Egun. But `Egungun` in its more specific, common sense, refers to masquerades connected with the ancestors as a collective force for communal unity, moral probity and economic betterment. (This makes the president our National Egungun). But even when the word is used in the broadest sense, wherein “Egungun refers to all types masquerades, or masked and costumed figures, (like Speaker, Chief Whip, Majority Leader, Committee Chair, Senate President, etc.), it is still dressed and `brought out` by its `owners`.
An act of invocation (known as ”Alapi”) must be performed by the Chief priest, ushering the Egungun, before the worshippers dance, drum and are possessed by the ancestral Egungun, or spirit. It was Tinubu who performed this ceremony, as Chief Priest of the APC. But contrary to the norm in the Egungun cult and Festival, wherein the the Chief Priest and family members are not `flogged out of the way` by the Egungun, Chief Bola Tinubu and his co-travellers were soon in the line of fire. The spirit they summoned turned out not to be the one they intended, or expected.

Tinubu, as Chief Priest, had barely finished the “political Alapi rituals” before the Egugun came for his throat, intent on summarily asphyxiating him. He barely extricated himself and is still clearing his throat, after that unfriendly grip. Smaller masquerades, like Saraki, are still scampering for cover. The masqueraders have thus become victims of the distemper of the very masquerade they dressed up and brought to the village square. Their political calculations before the elections, including their fallback positions and their third level machinations, have collapsed. The masquerade has shredded its leash. Disappointments, heartache and an embarrassingly ethnocentric presidency that treats everyone with contempt are the harvests of our masqueraders.
Traditional wisdom dictates that a man who secures himself a talisman should be protected by it, especially from the machinations of his enemies. But no talisman can protect, or prevent, a man from harming himself. No talisman can also prevent a man from carrying out harmful designs that his enemies would have loved, but which he personally inflicts on himself; out of folly, or in a temporary attack of un-wisdom. Read the auguries badly, take an unwise decision, or embark on the wrong course of action in any given situation and you become prime candidate for sundry misfortunes. Your security man cannot prevent you from quietly killing yourself in your bedroom, behind doors you locked with your own hands. Thus the talismanic code of service avoids presumptive interference with the free volition of its owner in matters of self-destruction; lest it be accused of exogamous talismanic insurrection.

An Igbo proverb says that the person who goes to a heap of birds and brings home a vulture will be scandalized by the fact that his greed made him focus on the presumed quantity of meat, instead of the species of bird he was carrying home as booty. That is the issue for many of APC`s erstwhile promoters and supporters today. All the warnings about the wrong political and personality profiling of their man was ignored. All his reflexes, which were clear intimations of what was to come, were ignored. Today the chickens have all come home to roost – along with everything no one bargained for.

The APC talisman has done enough harm already; yet it is still at work! President Buhari, in all his phlegmatic, somnambulistic and incompetent wobble shall be an essential instrument for a national winnowing and cleansing that is long overdue. Not because he designed it, or because it is a planned engagement, but because his bungling will make a conflagration inevitable. There shall be mighty winds and heavy rains, floods, landslides and denudations. Even the rainmakers shall fall victim to the elements; because they did not know the full implications of the incantations they were mumbling. Lo and behold, the entities they unwittingly invoked have emerged. And they cannot even take full flight! They locked the gates before the incantations began. They arranged a funeral, while dressed for a banquette, such that, even if Buhari leaves the stage today, all cannot to be the same in Nigeria ever again.

Do not take solace in the Igbo saying: “When your talisman begins to assume a life of its own and even terrorize you, it is time to show it the tree from which it was carved and remind it of how it was `activated`”. That proverb rests on the belief that the talisman in question actually belongs to the man who is laying claim to it. In the case under reference, the ownership of the APC talisman is open to question. Remember that, shortly after the elections, Buhari thanked Nasarawa State for catalyzing his victory. This gesture left the South West and its politicians speechless with consternation. Thereafter the president assured the nation that patronage and appointments would go to “those who stood by him” through thick and thin. They turned out to be members of his nuclear and extended families!

Thus, the joke is on those who are now discovering that some sneaky third parties had made substantial inputs into the `programming` of what they paraded as their talisman. Welcome to the triumph of unmitigated talismanic insurrection, a la Tinubu, APC their Change Project in Nigeria. They are like a man who, after dressing up a masquerade and bringing it to the village square, faces the indignity of seeing the masquerade dancing to its own music, not responding to his controlling gestures, and also even not refraining from flogging him. Such a man will find no solace in the Igbo saying: “A masquerade that flogs its followers and drummers walks alone and ceases to dance”. Reason: that proverb did not take into account the possibility that a masquerade may smuggle a drum into the village square, or plan in advance to disperse the original drummers for new ones.

Besides, there are solitary, cheerless masquerades; which do not dance, or play with anyone. They are rarely relevant to the joy of the community, except during occasions that call for a certain ceremonial aridity. No one who has his wits about him prances after a masquerade that is known to operate without due regard for teams, drummers and followers. Those who put their wits on hold while preparing for electoral victory are looking for it now!

It was rumoured that Tinubu and many senior politicians initially resolved to wait the man out. “Oh, it`s just a minor blight on our political landscape”, they thought. Not anymore! Fear and perplexity are in the air. Baffled, besmirched, excoriated and roundly diminished by their masquerade`s aberrant and atavistic totality, they crouch; hobbled, as they huddle. Aquiver in little corners, they are now muttering “Olori buruku, ma ba te mi je o! (One with evil fortune, please may your ill luck not contaminate my fortune, or affect me and ruin my good fortune o!) Is that also not too late now?