PENDULUM BY DELE MOMODU
Fellow Nigerians, let me say how much I enjoyed reading as a young boy while growing up in the ancient town of Ile-Ife. Life was so much fun in those good old days. As a university town, Ile-Ife paraded some of the best bookshops in the old Western Region. The University of Ife Bookshop was top on the list. This bookshop was ably managed at different times by very cerebral and highly influential men like Chief Wunmi Adegbonmire and Chief Oyeniyi Osundina. Next door was the Hezekiah Oluwasanmi Library, where I worked as a Library Assistant, from 1977-78. We also had the CSS Bookshops, managed by the Anglican Church, where I also served as a shop assistant in 1976, after my West African School Certificate examination. We had Surulere Bookshop, owned by Chief Ezekiel Oluwafemi Adegbola, Olusanu Bookshop (later changed to Omo Arewa Bookshop), owned by my first Headmaster, Chief Isaac Olagbaju. There was Adura Lere Bookshop, owned by my Mum’s best friend, Mama Adura Lere, as we fondly called her, the mother of Mr Erastus Bankole Akingbola, the former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank. My Mum’s beer parlour was next door at Number 2A Atiba Square, opposite The Ooni’s Palace and the Ife Museum.
My early years were soaked in books and voracious reading. I soon fell in love with thrillers. I enjoyed James Bond novels, written by the British novelist, Ian Fleming. I thoroughly devoured the novels of James Hadley Chase, a master of suspense. I massacred the spy adventures of Nick Carter who wrote about 648 novels. I later graduated to Robert Ludlum, Sidney Sheldon, James Clavel, Joan Collins, Leslie Charteris, and so many others. I feel so nostalgic about those amazing days as I write this piece right now. I got so addicted to thrillers and was happy to discover detective novels written in Yoruba by two major authors, Baba Oladejo Okediji (the author of Aja Lo Leru, Agbalagba Akan, Rere Run and others), and Alagba Kola Akinlade (the author of Ta Lole Ajomogbe and others)…
Historical works and biographies attracted me endlessly. I loved the historical play of Efunsetan Aniwura, as captured by my teacher and supervisor, Professor Akinwumi Isola.
I followed the lives of African writers through the works of Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Mongo Beti, Ferdinand Oyono, Ayi Kwei Ahmah, Kofi Awoonor, Jomo Kenyatta, Alex La Guma, Nawal El Sa’adawi, Mariama Ba, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Camara Laye, Cyprian Ekwensi, T.M Aluko, Elechi Amadi, Kenneth Kaunda, Oginga Odinga, D.O Fagunwa, Kole Omotoso, Amos Tutuola, Okot p’Bitek, David Rubadiri, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Christopher Okigbo and so many others. But one man stood out for me, not just as the greatest user and “manipulator” of the English language but as a fearless activist. Whatever little radicalism and activism buried in me today was planted in me by Wole Soyinka, who I met early in life as a teenager on the campus of University of Ife.
The book that did the magic is no other than THE MAN DIED. If you’ve not read it, please find one, possibly at The Booksellers in Jericho, Ibadan. It contains a riveting account of Soyinka’s prison memoirs. After reading it, you will realise and appreciate how much Nigeria has lost most of its ability to fight injustice.
After Wole Soyinka, I was privileged to meet and get close to Chief Gani Fawehinmi. His Chambers nearly became my home at a time and I marveled at his collection of radical books plus his neatly bound collection of newspapers and magazines.
I have deliberately taken you through this long preamble in order to demonstrate my fascination with knowledge. My dream was to be a scholar and end up as a university lecturer. But man proposes and God disposes. As much as I tried to get employed as a teacher, I couldn’t secure a job. It was out of joblessness that I started writing. That’s a tale for another day.
Growing up on the University of Ife campus really helped my formative years. Meeting Wole Soyinka was a major inspiration and the icing on the cake. Many young boys of those days wished to get arrested in order to acquire the “Soyinkean” experience and fame.
The meat of my epistle today, you can guess, is easily about the recent elections in Nigeria, which has surpassed others before it in all its negative ramifications. The matter is not about who won or who did not win. Not at all. It is about the brazen impunity of how a winner emerged without the umpire, INEC, following its own rules. Had INEC obeyed its own rules, I would have been the first to congratulate whosoever won.
It is shockingly embarrassing to see how we are being told to just adjust, accept the charade and move on, as if this is now our new normal, or just go to court despite the well known booby traps usually along the ways to the court of justice. Not even the usual members of the privilentsia, otherwise known as the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, have the confidence to determine good or bad cases any longer. Opposition voices are systematically being bullied, suppressed and discouraged. This could not have been the democracy we fought for, and certainly not that which we envisaged as compensation for those epic battles against the military juntas.
What I find most baffling is the attitude of many of our former comrades who no longer see nothing wrong in bold faced election rigging. Nothing insults me than those telling us it is an act of disloyalty to speak against our friends who may have been heavily involved in this gargantuan mess.
So I’m now thinking that what they are saying is that it was good to criticise those who were not our friends but we can keep silent and pretend that all is well once our friends can grab power by foul or fair means.
I weep for my country. Some of the people I used to respect so much have now revealed to me that hypocrisy is a virtue. I sincerely do not care if they refuse to speak up for justice, for varying reasons, but I do not expect them to discourage those who are willing and ready to travel the slippery roads.
A man I love so much called my wife aside recently and told her to tell me to support Chief Bola Tinubu because of our past relationships. I simply told my wife that the man should try and be fair to me for the following reasons.
I hold Tinubu in high esteem but we’ve not been in the same political parties since we returned from exile in 1998. I had chosen to be in opposition as my humble and modest contributions to nation-building. Two, I preferred to support individual candidates based on my personal experience and conviction and if I fail or feel disappointed, like in the case of Major General Muhammadu Buhari, I will seek other candidates, thereafter. This is the reason I supported the Atiku/Obi ticket in 2019, at a time I was not yet a member of PDP.
Three, I already tried to seek the PDP Presidential ticket last year and no matter the degree of disappointment, I won’t jump ship just because my friends are contesting in other parties. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
Four. I will not do anti-party like some senior members did remorselessly under flimsy and pretentious excuses. I insist that it is the height of chicanery to set fire to a home under which you still hope to sleep. Better to quit than being the Judas within. You may still come back later, if you wish.
Six. I prefer to give priority to the image and betterment of my country above that of my friends or pecuniary consideration. Anyone who does not appreciate that level of personal sacrifice is certainly an enemy of progress.
7. There are those who have come to attack me on the basis of ethnicity, saying power should come to the South, no matter who fills that space. I beg to disagree, by rising above such pettiness. At nearly 63 years old, I have lived long in Nigeria to understand the fallacy of thinking that bringing a President from your zone will guarantee the progress and advancement of your people. As educated as most people pretend to be, I expect them to place premium on experience, exposure, capacity, stability, and so on, and not on some primordial sentiments. While I do not expect the President to be a Saint, there must be some minimum standards to meet.
It is my right to then choose my preferred candidate just like I never begrudge your own choices.
And finally, throughout my assignment as Director of Strategic Communications for the PDP ATIKU/OKOWA Presidential Campaign Council, I reflected the wishes of my Bosses by keeping to the message, and focus, of our cardinal programmes. If we lost within due process, there would have been no controversy. But I wish to put on record that what happened was a garrison operation and I do not care if every other Nigerian do not to see it that way and so decides to move on as usual. I choose to exercise my right of recording this dissenting voice for posterity.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria…