Nigerians and Tinubu’s‘malicious embellishments’

By Busuyi Mekusi


Nigeria remains a large theatrical space, where the absurdity and tragic-comedy exist to shock and relieve the people of pains, at the same time. Confronted with the most troubling socio-political and economic realities, Nigerians have, over the years, mastered their sorrows and deprivation by taking solace in religions, social engagements, alcohol, drugs, sex, and gambling. With the sustained misrule of the country, the deplumation of the natural resources, and devaluation of the majority of the citizens, the middle class egregiously disappeared, leaving a wide gap between the ostentatious oppressive ruling class and the impoverished mass of the people. 

Evident of a great paradox, poverty and happiness coexist within the Nigeria spatio-temporal order, with the country, at different times, earning the reputations of being the poverty capital of the world, and the citizens being the happiest set of people in the world. Nigerians are not psycho-social derelicts, but they must have responded to the Yoruba axiomatic irony that when a matter surpasses shedding of tears, the best response would be to smile. Fela’s ‘suffering and smiling’ is a message for all seasons!

Nigerians are good at manufacturing words to relate to specific situations. From political impasse, imbroglio, doctrine of necessity, ‘Ghana-Must-Go’ to budget padding, etc., it is not for fun that the country produced a Nobel Prize Winner in Wole Soyinka, who himself is a wordsmith that produces big verbal bellows when required to pass commentaries about the embattled nation that Nigeria is still. On the political turf, Tinubu is one of the enigmas that have coloured Nigeria politics, as he remains one of the many few people that successfully built bridges across the geographically-inclined but symbolic gulfs that have tendentiously impaired the togetherness that was procured through the amalgamation project of the British.

 Tinubu is not just good at throwing political tantrums but his communicative ability, both in Yoruba and English, is not in doubt. The ‘Emi Lokan’ signature he used to turn the table against his political detractors is a cliché that has found its way into the ongoing political conversations in Ondo State, while the “Let the poor breathe” peroration, to identify with the poor, amidst their suspicious deliberate annihilation by the rich, continues to tickle the air waves.

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Tinubu’s uncommon conversational prowess was brought to the fore recently when he openly responded to the allegation of budget padding that Abdul Ningi leveled against the Senate. Ningi, reminiscent of such controversy in the past, alleged that, of the N287 trillion passed as the 2024 budget, N3 trillion worth of projects were smuggled into the budget, and that the country was operating two budgets concurrently.

In an apparent defense of the Senators against the claims of Ningi, who has been suspended for three months by his colleagues, Tinubu remarked that he understood the arithmetic of the budget while those who did not redundantly called it ‘malicious embellishment’. Embellishment, which simply is decoration, is not just a literary instrument to make a narrative grow from historical account to fiction, but a venture used by human beings to gain values that they do not have, ordinarily.

As critical as the issue of budget is, and the huge sum of money that is involved in the alleged padding, Nigeria is a country where arithmetic is not as simple as 1, 2 and 3. Recalling the arithmetic of the rain that I wrote on sometimes ago, accountability in matters that relate to public investments is usually made blurry, and subjected to needless politics. For instance, Godwin Emefiele, the immediate past Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, lived larger-than-life under the regime of Buhari, parading the precinct of the Aso Villa as if he was there to brief Buhari and obtain approvals for some of his policies.

In demonstration of the proclivity of Nigerians to trivialise very serious things, we have been told, after the expiration of Buhari’s government, that Emefiele did not get Buhari’s nod for so many of his policies, and that his signature was allegedly forged by Emefiele and his cohorts in accessing millions of dollars. For a very long time, Nigeria could not account for the number of barrels of crude oil it was producing daily. Ships trawl Nigeria water ways to steal crude oil, as if they are match boxes. Little wonder that the naira became comatose.

Characteristic of malicious embellishment, policemen at critical Nigeria roads, mostly the one between Akure and Akungba in Ondo State, would use logs of woods to block the road at their checkpoints, and open road-part that is riddled with potholes. Vehicles with low frame would have to hit the lower part of their vehicles’ bomber on the sharp edge of the cliffs. Even though an engagement with one of the police personnel showed that they were trying to limit the speed of non-cooperating motorists, the attitude is nothing short of malicious embellishment. Analogous to the enslaving and manipulative strategy of the French in Oyono’s Houseboy, where material gifts are used to bait disempowered Africans, palliatives in a distressed economy have become malicious embellished traps to emasculate impoverished Nigerians. Whereas the deaths recorded in the sales of palliative rice by the Nigerian Customs Service were decried and considered to be a lesson, going forward, the deaths of students of Nasarawa State University, Grace Danladi and Rose Michael, during the stampede that occurred after palliative materials were looted simply showed that the poor have been captured, made malleable, and twisted to dance macabre dance.

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Reflective of malicious contradictions, the seven people that died from the stampede during an alms-giving exercise, annual Zakat, at Shafa Holdings Company in Bauchi State recently was merely suggestive that poverty is a disgraceful marker that makes one patently vulnerable, while the haves are players of the piper, whose intentions would always produce the sounds and music desired. The sudden death of one of the APC gubernatorial aspirants in the coming primary in Ondo State, Paul Akintelule, was subjected to malicious embellishment when it was rumoured that his death was not natural.

Even though innuendos were used to suggest those considered to be guilty, no scientific proof was presented to support the claim that Akintelure was a victim of someone’s evil machinations. It is, however, preposterous to think that humans, as physical beings, do not have spiritual dimensions to existence, death and transition between different worlds. Akintelure, either way, was a victim of human frailty and fallibility and vendibility. My condolences to his family and admirers!

In a mostly acted tragic-comedy, the escape of a detained Binance executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla, from custody was a malicious embellishment to the pariah reputation that Nigeria has managed for some years now. Anjarwalla was a suspect in the criminal probe into the activities of Binance in Nigeria, and was said to have escaped from guest-house custody by using a smuggled passport. Apart from the description of this development by Nigerians as an avoidable embarrassment to the country, the security personnel responsible for his custody were believed to have venerated the malicious embellishment of their purses over a patriotic duty to salvage the economy of the country from saboteurs.

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 In the face of festering criminality and insecurity, there are myths that influential culprits do leave their prison cells for the comfort of their houses, while some embark on prisoner-exchange to circumvent the subjugating effects of incarceration, and avert justice. With the prevalence of corruption in Nigeria, it is not outlandish to argue that malicious material embellishment is the cause of Nigeria’s backwardness. The wife of a popular Nigerian once had a baby while the husband was serving a jail-term. 

It is heartwarming that the economic negotiations, engagements and interventions made by the Tinubu government is yielding some good results, with the magical decrease in the price of cement and the appreciation of the naira against the dollar, but it is disheartening that commodity pricing has continued to challenge the Yoruba proverbial aphorism that, musing the principle of the law of gravity, (Lálá tó ròkè, Ilè lón bò) what goes up must come down. It is expected that so many things would come to the table very soon; new minimum wage, stimulus for agricultural production and re-inflation of SMEs, systematic agro-industrialisation, massive skills development, shrinking of luxurious pay to the political class, taming of legalised corruption, transparent accountability of the administration of public resources, active civil societies and engaging citizens, etc.

As Tinubu assures us that he is knowledgeable about the arithmetic of budget, and decried the antics of people given to malicious embellishment, he must ensure that Ningi and his compatriots do not get justified at the end of the day. This is more so given the inclination of Nigerians for malicious embellishments at different levels of life. By the way, the west remains an example that easily reveals the many contradictions that encumber us, as a people, nation and individuals. Hope you are not guilty of malicious embellishment, while you simply blame others! 

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