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The 82 Chibok Girls and Other Stories - By Reuben Abati

Reuben Abati

Goodluck Jonathan's former Special Adviser on Media and Publicity who is a writer and columnist, has written yet another interesting piece over the recent happenings in the polity. It's a must read. 
“E ku amojuba awon 82 Chibok girls, o”
“What is that supposed to mean in plain English? You better watch your tongue. It will be politically incorrect and suicidal to start making a joke out of something that serious.”

“Where is the joke?”
“In your tone. I know you when you want to start your mischief.”
“I am a born-again Christian”
“I know. Like Stephanie Otobo telling Apostle Suleiman that she is born-again after maligning the man’s reputation. Don’t just say anything until you have confessed your sins. Confess. Confess, now.”
“I am not a politician. I am neutral. And I won’t reach conclusions based on circumstantial evidence.”
“It’s me you are talking to. Try another mischief.”
“But I say, e ku amojuba”
“Thank you. Politics 101: anybody that says anything other than to commend the Federal Government for rescuing the 82 Chibok girls should be condemned. Don’t forget that the Red Cross is part of this, and UNICEF is also offering help. Everything should not be partisan.”
“I am not saying anything anti-government. As a father myself, whatever the game is, if there is any, whatever political marketing is involved, I actually believe that those young ladies need support, and this may well be their opportunity in life. They have been showcased. I may have my reservations.”
“You see? What reservations?”
“I am just surprised that the whole drama appears to be professionally stage-managed. The girls even looked as if some of them were wearing costumes, I mean aso ebi.”
“Only the enemies of progress will look for things like that.”
“The girls looked as if they were actresses in a script they did not understand.”
“But they are back. So? What are you actually complaining about? The rescue, or the management of the optics?”
“Some people are saying that by 2019, just before the elections, the last batch of the Chibok girls will emerge from wherever they are.”
“Obviously, some people are weaving a conspiracy theory. I think the next time government wants to swap the girls for terrorists they should just swap supporters of the Jonathan government for the Chibok girls. That will settle this matter once and for all.”
“Why Jonathan’s people? I think they should swap Nigerian Senators who have refused to pass the 2017 budget.”
“What?  Saraki’s Senators?  Whoever tries that, ajekun iya ni o je, ajekun iya ni o je….”
“You dey craze. People, and these are Nigerians, are saying they have a feeling the girls have become pawns in a grand political strategy and game.”
“Can you prove that?”
“I don’t need to prove anything. In politics and political science, there is something called game theory and it is real.”
“Billy Dudley. I remember what Professor Dudley said, but you can’t reduce everything to textbook thinking. Get real.  We should join government to thank God.”
“Whatever it is, whatever the truth is, and whatever the post-truth is, I want the best for those girls. And it is not a job for government alone. Take the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for example. When the girls were first abducted, CAN and the Western world did not allow us to rest. They packaged the Chibok girls’ abduction as an assault on Christianity. They maligned Moslems.”
“I remember that”
“We Christians often theatricalize our religion, posturing that we epitomize what Christ lived and died for. For me there is a metaphorical correlation between the situation of these girls, “dead” as it were for three years, resurrecting now, shortly after Easter. We love to take swipes at the other religion. Now that we have some of the girls back, what plans do the money-spinning, faith-based universities have for them?”
“How? This is not about religion.”
“These churches run educational institutions from crèche to the university. Go and look at the full list of the rescued Chibok girls. They are mostly Christians. Instead of blaming Moslems, can Covenant, Babcock, Redeemed, Salem, Benson Idahosa, Joseph Ayo Babalola, Caritas and similar institutions adopt these ladies, support government, and begin the process of healing the wounds of the past three years?”
“I am confused. I don’t really know where you stand. You talk this way. You talk that way. Can we talk about something else?”
“My stand is clear. What else, if I may ask?”
“Like #BAAD 2017. Banky W getting engaged to Adesua Etomi, and how the best way to get a wife in this digital age is to slide into DMs. Very soon, churches will start organizing seminars on the value of the DM on twitter as a tool for defeating the demon of being single.  I am sure there are Bible passages that will illuminate that.”
“Congratulations to Banky W and Adesua, then. They may just have started a revolution in the marriage theatre.”
“Or we can talk about Davido and the baby shower with his Baby Mama in Atlanta.”
“How is that an important subject when we are talking about game theory and Nigerian politics?”
“It is a very hot subject among the Nigerian youth”
“Really? Okay, then, let us discuss it when Davido beats Tu Baba’s record, or when he  finally decides to move from friend zone to husband zone.”
“Agba ya ni wo egbon yin ke. Wetin? Je ki awon boys je aye ori won. Okay let’s talk about the Demuren baby bump.”
“No. Can we go back and talk about Nigeria?  How for example, Nigeria can produce its own Emmanuel Macron in 2019? And in case you don’t know, Macron is the 39-year old young man who has just won the Presidential election in France, the youngest since Napoleon.”
“We can do the same thing here.  How old was Gowon when he became Head of State? It is nothing new.  All those people who laid the foundation for modern Nigeria were all young men in their 20s and 30s. In recent times, we have also had young men becoming Speakers of Nigerian legislatures at different levels or even Governors.”
“And what happened? Did the young men perform? What happened to the foundation and the building?”
“The law does not allow anyone below 40 to aspire to become President of Nigeria, but some people have started a Not-Too-Young-To-Run-Movement. We should be optimistic.”
“When you look at the on-going game in the country, do you see the possibility of any age-based revolution in Nigerian politics?”
“Yes. Macron started a movement of his own and the entire country bought into it.”
“So, what are you waiting for? You too can start a movement here as an independent candidate and tell Nigerians to queue up behind you.”
“I am thinking about it, why not?”
“My friend, wake up!  Macron is 39. He is married to a woman who is 64 years old, his mother’s age mate. You think Nigerians will accept that?  He didn’t have to share money to be accepted. He has no known Godfather. Even his opponent, Marine Le Pen does not have a Godfather. Her own father actually gave a pass mark to Macron after their last debate when he said Macron sounded more serious and more assertive.”
“Those are Oyinbo things”
“Say that to those who are saying Macron has won in France. Tell them, they can also have a French Revolution in Nigeria. But tell them to note the cultural differences, and how politics is a game in one country and how it is about the people and their future in another country. When will politics ever be about the people in Nigeria?”
“We can do it.”
“Don’t just mouth slogans. This is how you people always get Nigeria into trouble.  Tell me what you intend to do about the dinosaurs who are the game makers in Nigerian politics. Nobody made an issue out of Macron’s ethnicity, religion, or age. It was all about issues.  In those countries that we like to use as reference points, democracy has become a science, a social science, but in Africa – democracy is witchcraft. The more you see, the less you understand.”
“What I know is that Nigeria has a Macron out there”
“And a sick Donald Trump out there too, who will get to power because of all the games we play in this country”
“Don’t get worked up.  You know for me, the most beautiful thing about the French Presidential election is that after the battle was won and lost, Marine Le Pen conceded to Macron and she went to a club to dance.  A few hours after losing, she was in a club singing Hip and Hop Karaoke: “I Love Rock N Roll” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and she spinned around to YMCA by the Village People.  
She just lost an election. For her, France is more important. Her life does not depend on political office. When we get to that level, we can start comparing our democracy with others.”
“When people lose election in Nigeria, it is a kind of bereavement.  Now that suicide is a popular response in Nigeria, don’t also be surprised if our politicians start committing suicide after elections.”
“I am an optimist. We will get there.”
“I am a pragmatist.  In Nigeria, when something goes up, it never goes down. Take Uber taxi charges. Uber has tried to reduce its charges all over the world due to competition with its key rival, Taxify. It is only in Nigeria that Uber drivers have organized protests. They say they don’t want the 40% reduction in tariffs.  
They want Uber to reduce its own returns. That is Nigeria for you. The Buhari government promised to fight corruption, but Professor Tam David-West, a die-hard Buharist is now suddenly a whistle-blower. He is now lamenting that President Buhari is surrounded by corrupt persons. Aso Villa demons at work, certainly, I think.”
“God will intervene”
“Yes. God. We end up leaving everything to God and prayers…”
AIG Taiwo Lakanu: Friend, officer and gentleman
I am not a fan of police officers. Over the past 32 years, I have done enough character sketches, caricatures and acerbic commentaries about the Nigeria police to fill a whole book. But in the process, I have also come in contact with and made friends with many police officers who have proven to be true professionals. Taiwo Lakanu, who has just been promoted from his post as commissioner of police in Imo state to assistant inspector-general of police in Abuja is one of such.
Lakanu is essentially an operations man. From DPO to anti-armed robbery squad, to IGP aide, to commissioner of police, and now AIG, he has managed over the years, to build a network of contacts at all levels of the Nigerian society. He is the archetypal police as your friend, he reaches out to the community, he has a forever listening ear and he is fiercely loyal to his bosses. When it comes to his job, he is extremely stubborn and unyielding.  A lawyer and a trained officer, he does not joke with his job.
He once told me the story of how a certain notorious herbalist-armed robber taken into custody became a chief informant to the station, and who helped the special anti-armed robbery squad in Lagos to nail many armed robbers. When the fellow suddenly died as he had himself predicted, Lakanu said he wept. The man had become an asset to the Nigerian state. When Lakanu told me other stories of face-to-face encounters with hoodlums during operations, I often wondered how he has managed to survive. Police work is tough work.
Lakanu’s elevation is certainly a reward for hard work, diligence and professionalism. I congratulate him on his achievement. He has not served as police PRO but he is probably the most influential police officer of his grade among Nigerian journalists.
I am not surprised that he recently excelled as CP, Imo state where he proved to be an asset to all and sundry by ridding the communities of established crime. Upon his departure, dances were organised to celebrate him.
The governor named a street in his honour. He was also offered a plot of land which he was told he could choose as his retirement base in the future, in addition to a sum of N5 million as “fuel money.” He may have rejected the land and the fuel money, but in truth, it is not always that Nigerian police officers are so honoured. Oftentimes, they are chased away by the same people they are asked to protect. Lakanu’s example is instructive. The Akogun of Lagos, thank you for living true to your traditional title. Hearty congratulations.
About the Author:
Reuben Abati is a columnist in The Guardian and former Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to former President Goodluck Jonathan.


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