Loud Whispers by JOSEPH EDGAR 

Bola Tinubu as the New Zacchaeus in Town

Please, which one is the cybersecurity levy again o? This was my first reaction when I saw the report. Not sure if it is .005% or .5%. The levy has hit Nigerians with a thud that has made them just give up.

For me, immediately I saw the report. I rushed to the bible to see the physical description of Zacchaeus, the famous tax collector, to see if there was any resemblance between him and our Commander-in-Chief, President Bola Tinubu. Apart from the description that puts Zacchaeus as short, I do not see any other real striking resemblance since there has been no report that President Tinubu knows how to climb trees or has climbed any tree in his life. Remember that Zacchaeus, who was so disliked, had to climb a tree to see Jesus.

Anyways, amid the hoopla that has heralded this one too many levies, let us look at it from this angle. Oya everybody put yourself in Tinubu’s shoes- you have just been sworn in and they have just given you the handover report. The first thing you do is to scream “egbami oooo.” The treasury is empty, looted. No money. Kai, the next thing you see is debt. The zeroes behind the debt are amazing, by this time, your mouth is wide open with spittle dribbling down from it. Wait o, it has not finished o, then they show you, your financial obligations on capital projects, wages and the rest and while you are at it, the Naira is dropping, inflation is skyrocketing, multinationals are declaring humongous losses and everything is becoming chaotic and just as you are about to knock your head on the table, Gbaja reminds you that “Oga, that your statement at your swearing in – Subsidy is gone- has just been rated the worst ever inaugural speech in the history of inaugural speeches.” You will just run to Remi in the bedroom and say, “Ahhhh Mummy, who send us oooooo!”

Well, the next morning you wake up, take your bath, eat your agbado and move to the office. We have to reflate the economy and since FDI’s are not quick to come- taxes!!!

My people, me in Tinubu’s shoes, will do the same as a short-term fix. I will ramp up taxes and levies strategically, in a bid to stabilise government revenues and then plough back the funds as they come into strategic sectors of the economy and welfare in such a way that it will serve like fuel going into a car that the tank was just emptied.

My people, the cry should not be on the levies but on how the funds are being managed. Is Zacchaeus going to tax our blood only to be spending billions on pilgrimage or some white elephant projects or worse still, to be pillaged by his officials, like that Humanitarian Ministry damsel?

I have no problem with the levies and taxes, they are needed, but what we should now be looking at is their utilisation. Simple. So, for now, Ribadu the NSA honcho should be the most watched Nigerian. Let’s watch and see how the funds would be expended. Simple.

Bimbo Ashiru: A Renaissance Man

You know in real life, I am an investment banker, so economic issues and company performances interest me. So, you will forgive me if I decide to blow this baba’s trumpet small. When he was appointed Chairman of the huge indigenous conglomerate – Odu’a, we had a small discussion. The issue was between his role as Chairman of this major institution or a commissionership in his state of origin which I believe was being dangled at him and which would put him in better stead to contribute meaningfully to the people.

I suggested he takes the Chairman role because if for nothing else, his activities will crisscross economically the whole South-west, he will create jobs, and impact very positively on the people without the red tape and “boysim” that will come with a commissioner role.

Today, I take pleasure in announcing that Odu’a Group has just reported — wait for it o — revenues in excess of N3.9 billion and is paying a dividend of N428 million. The revenue figures represent a 7% growth YOY.

The PBT also increased by 62% and the dividends were paid to its shareholders who are the South-west states according to my egbon Mr. Raji, the outgoing Managing Director.

Now if you juxtapose this with the humongous losses our other firms in the FMCG and telcos space have been announcing then you will understand the context with which I am offering Otunba and Mr. Raji plates of Afang this morning – that is if they will not purge.

Well done to the great team at Odu’a and I sincerely do wish that this performance is not only sustained but replicated nationwide. This na real oasis in an economic desert. Kai.

Magnus Onyibe ‘Leading from the Street’ Still on My Mind

Mr. Magnus Onyibe is a public intellectual at least, as alluded to by Dr. Rueben Abati who was given the task of making some remarks during the last launch of his book, ‘Leading from the Street.’

The way Onyibe sold this particular book, you will think it was his first book. I tell you, from radio chats, radio jingles, letters, calls, broadcasts, press releases etc. Onyibe did not leave any stone unturned in ensuring a very successful book launch.

To God be the glory, the hall was filled to the brim. From former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, to His Excellencies, Chief James Ibori, Segun Osoba, Donald Duke up to the glamorous icons of our screen, Sienne Allwell Brown and Ruth Benamaisia were all in attendance. He capped it for me by bringing out Patrick Oke of the now-rested Newsline as anchor.

If I talk now, Onyibe will vex. I had written here last week that I thought the book was a “lazy approach towards public commentary,” seeing that he had compiled his old articles into book form and got “yesterday’s” people to review it chapter by chapter, giving the book a dusty old feel.

I had said that I would have loved a fresh outlook towards the book. A contemporary minute-by-minute look at the contending issues in modern-day Nigeria while getting fresher minds to look at the issues as against getting people of the 70s to write. I would have preferred historians to write this kind of book instead of Onyibe who I really feel is one of the most cerebral public commentators you will find.

Anyways, as I walked into the hall, Onyibe jumped at me: “Did you hear what Prof. Osaghae said?”

Prof. Osaghae is the DG at the NIIA and my former lecturer at the University of Ibadan who gave a brilliant review of the book… “Oh sorry, I missed it, I was in the toilet sir,” I replied.

I, however, listened to Dr Abati who took a break from causing commotion on national TV to come to the book launch. Dr Abati was brilliant in his review and engaging in the way he took on some issues like cyberbullying amongst others.

Anyways, as I walked into the hall, I felt myself transported to the ‘80s. My people, it was as if I was on the set of Newsline or some very old NTA current affairs programme. They were all there o, people of the past. From their clothes to the way they sat, and the way they spoke, it was truly a blast from the past and I enjoyed myself.

Well done my brother, I will send my objective review of the book when I am safely out of the country, just in case you have a tiny urge to give me a knock after reading it. Don’t mind me jare, my brother. Kai. Shout out to the ever-beautiful Mrs. Onyibe. Long time.

Sim Fubara: A Stormy Weather

When you are faced with consistent bullying, it gets to a point where you will stand back and say – oya let’s fight. I think that my brother Sim has just reloaded his SIM card. He is now beginning to sound like a man, unlike those early days when he was wimpish and almost cowardly.

These people that “put” him there have been all so irritatingly annoying in the way and manner they have been going about their relationship with their “boy.” The arrogant approach to whatever is their agenda reeks of a lack of regard for our intuitions and laws as a people. So you can imagine my joy when Sim announced that these people were no longer legislators and as such he would not recognise them. He was even reported to have withheld allocations to the local government chairmen who seem to be part of the charade that is going on in that state.

Every right-thinking Nigerian should be behind Sim in this fight because this is a fight that if lost would have dire consequences on the rule of law. You can’t just wake up in the morning, and decide that you no longer want a sitting governor just like that.

When you were pushing his candidacy against the will of the people, he was good now for whatever reason, you no longer find favour in him, and you want to remove him just like that, na lie, we will not agree. Leave him alone, let him serve his four years and after that let the people decide who or what they want.

We cannot continue to be slaves and serve under a foul breath, dancing dictator who has only his interest at heart. Tufiakwa.

Godswill Akpabio: A Senator of All Time

He has always said he was uncommon and as such uncommon things must continue to be his lot. This our very uncommon Senate President has just been reported to be the very first anywhere in the world since Socrates discovered democracy to be the first senatorial aspirant -three years from elections, and wait for it o, the first to be unanimously supported by all parties as their only choice for the position.

Let me explain it better. Barring any unforeseen circumstances or any natural occurrence – which we don’t, every political party in his senatorial district irrespective of ideology, manifesto and outlook will support his candidacy for the Senate.

This declaration, I hear, was made at a huge stadium event which I am also made to believe had the Executive Governor of the state who is of a different party attend.

My people of Akwa Ibom are not only known for our afang but are now becoming better known for uncommon things since this Akpabio emerged on the national stage.

My own in all of these, is that why is he thinking small, why go through all that stress only to be Senator? He for kukuma use his uncommon touch to get all parties, all Nigerians push for his Presidency in 2027, abi he dey fear?

This one is not looking like an uncommon man o, but looking more like an uncommon periwinkle- go for presidency mbok, and leave the Senate for your guys. Thank you.

Wofai Fada: Mixed Blessings

This very beautiful actress recently released a very beautiful video showcasing her new beau. In the video, she announced to the world that she was engaged to this gorgeous Yoruba man and was even reported to be a “baby” for him.

Oh, the video was beautiful, she looked so happy and fulfilled. The man who must have felt blessed also looked so happy. So, so happy, that he rode a bicycle from Isale Eko to Calabar to go and collect palm wine served by this bewitchingly beautiful Calabar damsel.

Kai, I sighed. You know I am a romantic. Ohhhhh, I swooned. They looked so happy together and I vowed to attend the wedding ceremonies. You know Wofai is my friend and I met her through my in-law Ohimai who took me to her Just Afang restaurant in Ikoyi where I ate free afang pretending to be a reporter.

Anyways, someone has now poured “sand sand” as they say on my sister’s parade. The Coker family have reportedly in an open letter as seen on social media not to be too happy at the liaison. In a released tape, one “amebo” aunty was heard taunting a voice purportedly being that of the man’s father making that one proclaim very clearly, “We are not aware oooooo. The girl is 38 and our boy is 30,” he continued. “They have only met for six months and I hear she is pregnant,” he continued. The safety of the girl should be paramount, he proclaimed in a very strong Yoruba-accented English.

Mbok, what all of these reminded me of, was when I took Duchess to my Ibibio parents. My mother almost fainted. She took me aside and said, “So in all of this Lagos, you cannot find a beautiful girl from Akwa Ibom to marry? Even if you cannot find one, what of Igbo or even Delta, what are you doing with an “atoro uduang ku ufik” girl?”

I was livid. I thought it was a joke. Is this not the same mama who fought the civil war so Nigeria could be one, why is she now saying this? I looked at my father and he too said the same thing in our language so that Duchess would not hear. Mbok, I was shocked because all of my life and up till that time, I did not know I was living with racist o. Real ku klux klan in Shomolu.

When Duchess left, I looked at my parents and asked one last time: “Are you guys really serious about this? Tell me you are joking. Tell me she is short, not beautiful enough, did not go to school but don’t tell me she is Yoruba, abeg make I no break my head for this una wall.”

My father looked at me very sternly and said in a conspiratorial voice, “Joe, we don’t marry Yoruba people. Look around you, who has married a Yoruba that you know. Mbok, let your mother find a nice young Ibibio girl for you.”

I just stood up, went to Duchess who was then a 22-year-old lass and asked her clearly. Are you ready and she said yes. I asked her again, are you ready and she said yes. I went straight to Shomolu local government and had a secret wedding. I told them that I no get Papa and I no get Mama, make them let me sign abeg.

Today, I have Olusola, Boluwatife and Zara – chai I don forget Zara Yoruba name and the sky has not fallen. My sister and brother, if you love yourself, abeg ignore those people. You have kuku given the girl bele, come and I will advise you on how to do a secret wedding for Shomolu local government. That mama that did my own 26 years ago is still there, abeg. Just ignore those people. God bless you.

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