SCENE ONE: In the course of a break-in at a local branch of the Central Bank (not in Nigeria), one of the robbers, holding a pump action gun in his hands, shouted to everyone: “Don’t move, if you don’t want to die. The money in this bank belongs to the government while your life belongs to you.”
With that message, everyone in the banking hall laid down quietly. That is called “Mind Changing Concept”.
That is a lesson that will serve the people of Rivers State where the rerun legislative elections were conducted last weekend amid reports of beheading of security personnel, maiming and torture of innocent citizens, ballot snatching etc. The people must begin to ask themselves whether the violent men who preside over their affairs and the desperate invaders from Abuja really care about their welfare. Perhaps they may need to go and take lessons from their compatriots in Ondo State.
I understand that when the “Change agents” (and readers can take that both literally and figuratively) arrived polling stations in the Ondo State capital during the gubernatorial election last month, selling their “Dibo ko se ‘be” (vote and cook soup) philosophy, many of the voters also responded in deep Akure dialect: “Mi kin bami meo un ki mi sibe, omoluka ni Jegede, a se gomina lijomiran” (may I have the money now to enjoy the pot of soup; Jegede is a good man, he can still be governor another day).
At the end, without any blood-shedding, the vote-by-barter deal in Ondo State was closed!
SCENE TWO: When a lady in the banking hall lay on the floor in a suggestively provocative manner that exposed too much flesh, one of the robbers shouted at her: “Please cover up! This is a robbery, not a rape operation!”
That is called “being professional”.
On Monday, a gang of armed bandits who now operate freely in Zamfara abducted about 35 women working on a farm at Matankari village in Dansadau district of Maru local government area of the state. A few hours after whisking the women away, they sent back the aged ones among them while retaining the younger ones that they believed would command value for their nefarious activities. The bandits obviously have some “code of ethics” but the question remains: how can we encourage agriculture and ensure food security in a situation where farms are no longer safe with several rural communities now at the mercy of sundry marauders?
SCENE THREE: When the bank robbers returned home with the loot, the youngest of them (graduate of a local university) asked the leader of the gang, who did not complete primary education, “Big brother, can we begin to count the money so as to ascertain how much we got from the operation?” He got an instant response: “You no sabi anything! There is so much money in the bags that it will take us several hours to count. Just put on the television. It will not be long before we know from the news how much we took from the bank!”
That is called “experience” which, as they say, is the best teacher.
I am sure that is the message President Muhammadu Buhari took with him to The Gambia where he led the ECOWAS delegation to plead with the eccentric dictator, Yahya Jammeh not to take down his country with him. In the bid for an amicable settlement, the delegation must also have had some quiet words with the victorious opposition leaders that it is foolish of them to begin to count chickens that were not yet hatched. In Africa, you don’t tell a defeated incumbent who still holds the lever of power that you are going to jail him.
In his intervention on BBC website on Tuesday, veteran Gambian journalist, Ebrima Sillah blamed the “opposition coalition’s political naivety” for the logjam despite admitting that there are many unanswered questions regarding secret killings and unexplained disappearances perpetrated under Jammeh. “The Gambia will heal faster if we muster the courage to forgive each other, even if we do not forget. Living in a country where people nurture hatred for each other is a dangerous recipe for further conflict. We cannot afford to focus on the past,” wrote Sillah who himself was nearly killed by Jammeh before fleeing into exile with his family more than a decade ago.
There is a lesson in there for so many people, including in our country!
SCENE FOUR: After the robbers had left the bank, the manager directed the supervisor to call the police quickly. But the supervisor said to him: “Not yet time for that! Let us take $1 million from the vault for ourselves and add it to the $7 million that we previously embezzled”.
That is called “thinking outside the box” or to put it in the proper Nigerian lexicon, “applying wisdom”!
I am sure those who have read the report of what transpired before the Senate ad-hoc committee on the north-east humanitarian crisis last week must have been aghast at how some fat cats in the Presidential Initiative for the North East, (PINE) spent N625.5 million to clear non-existent grass in Yobe State and another N422.5 million to provide temporary shelter (tents) to displaced families. At least that is what is in their statement of accounts that also documents a donation of N50 million to an unnamed NGO. Some people in high positions in this government have been “applying wisdom” to corner to themselves and cronies money that was meant to take care of the most vulnerable of our society.
If we dig deep, and we are already hearing stories, it is this same disposition that must have led to the tragedy last weekend at a church in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State where no fewer than 29 persons met their untimely death with scores of other worshippers injured. Without rainfall or breeze, that a building would collapse the way the church did points to some criminal negligence and it is a familiar story. On 12 September 2014, a guesthouse being constructed inside the Synagogue Church of Pastor TB Joshua collapsed in Lagos, killing no fewer than 115 people, 84 of them South Africans. No consequences!
SCENE FIVE: That night, there were media reports that $10 million was taken from the bank. Meanwhile, the robbers counted and counted and counted, but they could only find $2 million. Immediately sensing what must have happened, the near-illiterate leader of the robbery gang told his boys: “We risked our lives and only took $2 million. The bank manager took $8 million with a snap of his fingers. It seems it is more lucrative to be educated than to be a thief!”
This is called “knowledge is worth as much as gold!”
If you doubt that, you have evidently not been paying attention to the activities of the new “sogun dogoji” (money doublers) that Nigerians now troop to as they look for solution to their economic challenge. Even while the promoters claim to “produce nothing” and their customers know “that there are no investments at all”, they are still in business of “taking from those who are richer to poorer ones, in this way restoring social justice.”
That is the explanation put out by the MMM promoters in newspaper adverts at the weekend. The problem now is that neither the rich nor the poor customers of the wonder banks can get any justice. On Tuesday, participants of the MMM Ponzi scheme were informed of a one month “Freezing’’ on all accounts, the implication being that it is going to be a bleak Christmas for those who are due to withdraw both their capital and the promised 30 percent interest.
According to a letter displayed on their website page by its founder, Sergey Marvodi, the reason for the measure was to ensure the sustainability of the scheme in the New Year and make it even better. If you believe that, to borrow from James Hadley Chase, you can believe anything! The Yoruba people have a way of putting this: “Eni nwa ifa; onwa ofo”. I don’t even know how to translate that but take this: be careful of financial promises that are too good to be true!
Meanwhile, I may have “improved” on that online bank robbery joke broken down into the foregoing “five scenes” but the copyright does not belong to me. What I have done, for want of what to write this week, was to use it to draw some embedded lessons, even if in a perverse sense, about contemporary events in our country.
Wherever you turn in Nigeria today, what you find is a flight of common sense. That is what pushes some voters in Rivers State into allowing themselves to be used as cannon fodders for politicians who don’t care about their interests and that is why their counterparts in Ondo would sell their votes for a pot of soup that would last them at best only for a few days. It is the same lack of common sense that is responsible for the situation in Zamfara State where government is practically on holiday. The less said about the naivety of the opposition in The Gambia the better just as I will leave the Senate to conclude their investigations into how some people are feeding fat on the tragedy of our traumatized citizens in the North-east. As for the subscribers of the Ponzi scheme, I will join them in prayers over their trapped money.
However, even in this season when sanity seems to have left our shores, there are still some edifying stories. On Monday, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, ordered the immediate release of a mother and child, who had been detained for three days at a police station for allegedly stealing plantain. In discharging and acquitting the lady of the crime to which she confessed, citing hunger, Owoseni gave her a sum of N10,000 after warning her not to commit such crime again.
That is leadership. The kind of application of common sense we need very badly if this society is to advance but which we hardly see today. That then explains why when we send our young girls to a sporting competition within the continent; we make no allowances for their upkeep and welfare because we don’t expect them to win. Despite all the noise we make about agriculture and the investment of the last five years in the sector, we also do not expect to have bumper harvest. And for that reason, Nigerians are told to expect famine in January because the “unexpected” harvest has engendered “grain drain” to neighbouring countries.
Therefore, and most unfortunately, progress is measured in Nigeria today by the things we do not expect!