Friday, August 26, 2016

NOW THAT BUHARI IS DEAD



With gratitude to God, a heavy heart and total submission to the will of the intolerant Nigerian people, I wish to announce the untimely demise of a dog belonging to a certain trader, Joachim Iroko, by the name of Buhari. Buhari died at the hands of unknown assailants. I was not aware of this dog's full name. I think it is unfair that dogs get only first names and although we claim to love them we have no regard for their ancestors or their need for blood lines. We snatch puppies from their mothers and take them to new homes. We separate puppies from their siblings in the most cruel way. And in the end, we erase any connection with their past by giving them only first names.

I do not know if Buhari was survived by siblings or if (I assume it is male) it fathered any children. What is important to know is that, Buhari is dead and it was not a natural death. 

It takes great courage to stand up for the innocent but powerless especially when people around are united against such a powerless individual. But I choose to stand with Buhari, the voiceless, powerless victim of the spiral of hate and intolerance. Now, one may say, (just like we all agreed when our army massacred the Shiites) that Buhari had it coming; that Buhari deserved to be killed because of all of its actions. And I think you have a point: Buhari was after all a dog. It must have peed in public places, bitten someone, mounted and gotten stuck in every female dog it could find or even eaten food that did not belong to it. This is what dogs do. The real question however is, does this mean Buhari deserved to die?

The murder happened when its owner Joachim Iroko, was in jail facing charges relating to the naming of Buhari. They said Iroko breached the peace by giving his dog such a name. I do not know why Mr Iroko named his pet Buhari. I do not know if he was tired of the dog, didn’t know how to dispose of it and so gave his dog a name he was sure would lead to its death. Because you know Nigerians, how fragile we are. You offend us, or insult something we have declared holy and it eats us up so bad that the only natural reaction is to kill the person who insults us or what we deem holy. I do not blame Nigerians. It hurts for someone to insult you or your prophet (or your president whom you worship like a prophet) and really, it is ok to kill when you are hurt. One must however be strategic and precise when killing fellow living things. Why kill Buhari who played no part in this perceived insult? 

Following the news of this untimely killing, I saw comments from people who said it was a provocation for Mr Joachim Iroko to name his dog after someone cherished by a certain group of people. I want to agree, but knowing animals like Buhari, I beg to differ. The only reason those people were upset was that they themselves do not value the life of dogs. They think dogs are worthless, beneath them. So they get upset if you name a dog after them. I think dogs have rights. Buhari has rights. Humans can be arrogant: we think we are the most superior of all the animals. I want to state here that dog lives matter. If you cannot make a dog, then don’t kill one. I realise there are people, like some from my village who eat dogs. I will address that matter another day. Today I am concerned with the taking of innocent life. 

Buhari did not choose his own name. He probably had no choice in whose owner he would become. He was probably chained all his life and treated like a slave, living outdoors or in a dirty cage. Let me say it again: I think that if someone offends you, you should kill them. Even worse if someone offends your God (especially as sometimes God needs us to do his dirty work for him - who else will kill those who insult him?). But Buhari did no such thing. 

Buhari’s killers probably poisoned him and left him to die in some gutter. This brings me to another issue: waste. Some people eat dogs. Now, to be clear, I am totally against the killing or consumption of dogs, but if there is no way of avoiding death, it is best to kill responsibly. At least kill the dog in a way that it would still be useful to those who find it edible. It is like being an organ donor. It is bad for you to die, but if that should happen then it is great if your organs are useful to someone else. They should have arranged with people from my village who eat dogs so that at least if Buhari had no value in life, in death he would please someone. 

I never got to meet Buhari personally, but his death saddens me. And it should sadden every believer in equal rights. I hope that our animal rights NGOs will step in and take up this matter. Buhari did not deserve to die. 

He will be missed.  #JusticeForBuhari #DogLivesMatter 

Ps. I am unsure if Mr Joachim Iroko has planned any funeral rites for Buhari. I will let you all know as soon as I find out about Buhari's funeral arrangements. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A LETTER TO MY FUTURE KIDNAPPERS


Dear Future Kidnappers,

I hope this finds you well. If so, doxology. (I mean praises be to God. Not everyone knows what doxology is these days). I am not mocking you. The very reason you have become so popular in today’s Nigeria is that all is not well. I get that. When I say I hope this finds you well, I mean that in spite of all the problems, some of which have driven you to this profession (forgive me if you have a day job which you prefer to call your profession), I hope you are somehow ok, health wise and all. Because to be ill and be a kidnapper can be a bit problematic. You don't want to have a bladder infection and be managing an abduction at the same time. In short, I am wishing that you are in good health or at least a state of health that will not jeopardise your business. 

You see, unlike many Nigerians, my head is not buried in the sand. I will not express shock when you kidnap me. I will not express anger. I will not break down in tears. I will not pee in my pants (except if you kidnap me just after drinking and refuse to let me use the bathroom and if so, I apologise for soiling your premises or place of business). I will not have any of the reactions which I assume you have become accustomed to. (I am sincerely hoping that you have some experience in this kidnapping business because I would hate to deal with a beginner: beginners panic and do things like shoot the people they have abducted. If you are new, I will advice you to calm down. I am not going to be a problem. We can work through this together. Like they say, with God all things are possible.)

The reason I am calm is simple. I am a Nigerian that has common sense. I also read. I know how hard things are becoming. I also know how ungoverned Nigeria is. So whether it has become easier to kidnap people or life has become harder or both, I understand. Also, we both know the Police is not going to get involved under any circumstances except perhaps to make sure the ransom money is secure so yeah, I am not going to call them. None of my people are going to contact the police either. If we are going to have to spend money, better to give it to you, than pay for “fuel” and paper to write the statement then still end up paying the ransom. My point is, calm down and let us negotiate. 

I want you to be reasonable. Ok. Wait. I see you are getting upset. I am not calling you unreasonable. God forbid. I was raised in a good Christian home and I cannot accuse a brother falsely. (You are my brother, let us not argue, even if you are from Cameroon. We are all brothers. Unless you are white and, not that I am racist but I know you are not white.) I am only saying that I am encouraging you to do what you normally would have done, which is, be reasonable. It is like encouraging a child who is already running: “Run Bubu, run”. Ok, I am also not calling you a child. Arrrgggh! Ok, look let us just continue. I don’t have much time.

I want you to understand that even though you may have read my name or the name of my book in the New York Times or The Guardian UK, it does not mean anything. I have no money. My publishers give me only 10% of the profit per book. And let’s be honest, I can never know how many books my publisher actually sells. If they tell me they sold only 100, I can’t prove they sold thousands. This 10% book business is not much better than hawking Gala and La Casera and pure water and scotch egg in traffic. (Ps. I don't understand people who eat scotch egg in public transport in traffic. They stink up the bus and they look silly opening their mouths wide to bite into it. If not that you can’t get much out of them I would have said those are the kind of people who deserve to be kidnapped. Those ones and the agents of darkness who eat moin-moin in offices and on buses.) Plus, I took more than half of the advance on my book and paid it to my landlord in Abuja. If you had not already gone through the trouble of kidnapping me, I would have suggested that you should have taken my Abuja landlord instead of me. But, still, think about it. For one thing, he increased the rent this year without notice or anything. I just came back home and saw a letter saying I had to pay a hundred thousand naira more than I paid last year. No fear of God or anything like that. That, or you take my publisher. My point is, I am a poor writer. All those countries you see me going to, I don’t pay for it. There are nice people in many countries who have read my book and pay for me to come and read there. They don’t even really pay. They just buy my ticket and give a couple hundred dollars as per diem (if I am lucky) and by the time you have gone out twice abroad, the money is all finished. You can’t even buy a decent perfume at the airport on your way back. And you know how Nigerians are. Once they know you travelled abroad, there will be a queue outside your house of people waiting for gifts. Some will even send you a list (without money). And if you ignore them they will say you are proud. They will remind you of the time nobody knew you and only them cared about you. They will call you ungrateful. But it is the life I have chosen. I can’t complain.

I also do not have a rich family. My father is a retired civil servant and my mother, well, unless you can sell her clothes and weaves there is no money to be made there. (I had heard that my mother had other richer suitors, but why my mother chose to marry a poor man is a story for another day.)So, just ask for a little money and we can all be happy. 

However, while the negotiations are going on, I have a few requests. Notice I didn’t say demands. Your ransom is a demand which, don’t get me wrong, you deserve. I am only begging. As a writer, I want to at least make something out of the kidnapping experience. I need to write about it. You make the ransom money, I make some good writing and fame out it. At-all at-all na im bad pass. If possible, I want a selfie. Because you know how our generation is. If there is no photo or video or link it did not happen. You can die these days and the children of the devil on the internet will ask your family announcing it for photos or links so they can believe you are truly dead. I already said I won’t do anything funny like try to call the police. We both know how useless that is (this is not an American film where their police trace kidnapper calls and show up commando style). And really, I expect that as a professional you would have blindfolded me on the way to your business premises. Or we can just use an actual digital camera. If you don’t have one we can buy one - just take the money from the ransom money when you get it. Or ask, as a preliminary demand before actual negotiations that they send a camera. (If it wasn’t too much to ask, I might asked if you would let me sneak a couple of my own demands into your list of demands. But you alone worked for this kidnapping and I won’t just come and ride on your hustle. That would be opportunistic. You know, like a woman struggled with some rough guy for over a decade, patiently cleaned him up, married and made him decent, and then some random woman sees him on the street corner and thinks he was always this wonderful and tries to snatch him. Or like all those criminals who got elected across the country by affixing Buhari's photo to their campaign posters. That kind of opportunistic. God forbid.)

Can we please play some games while we are waiting? I find that boredom kills. Look at the damage our bored legislators do because there is no real work to be done, padding budgets and all. I suggest Ludo. Or WHOT. Also, talk to me. I want to hear your story. I will tell you mine. That you kidnapped me does not mean we can’t gist a little. You may find that we have more in common than you ever imagined. 

(And please don't worry about food. I am not proud. I have no special dietary requirements. I will eat what you eat.)

This may turn out to be the best kidnapping you have ever done.

Ps. Just to be clear, the “Dear” at the top of this letter is not a mere salutation. You are really dear to me. God bless your hustle, and be with you and your loved ones. And may they never, never be kidnapped. 

Love,


Elnathan.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

THE SINS OF THE BATS


And it came about that in those days, the winged creatures on the farm became agitated and full of rage following the massacre of bats by White’s farm hand Dick-Tai. But not rage about the massacre. Although Dick-Tai had done a great job in the minds of White and some of White’s supporters in and out of the farm, the winged creatures who hated bats felt that it was not enough. It was not enough that the leader of the bats who barely escaped with his life, now injured and going blind, was still in custody and had his wings clipped. It was not enough that hundreds of bats were still in custody with no access to their families or any sort of justice. The winged creatures had a meeting in the crocodile swamps and concluded on what the solution would be: Bats had to be eradicated from the farm. Completely. No more bats. It was hard to completely kill them off. There were almost 5 million bats on the farm. Not too many compared to the general population of animals - almost 200 million. But someone had to do something about the bats that blocked the sun when they were flying out to feed on mangoes or when they had processions. 

This is the story of the bats: 

In the beginning, long, long ago when there were not too many different types of winged creatures on the farm, there were two farms completely dominated by winged creatures, struggling for dominance. And those farms spread their ideologies among winged creatures everywhere. One farm was a farm of bats. The other farm was a farm of hawks. And the hawks promoted the birth of hawks and the bats promoted the birth of bats. And wherever they could, they tried to secure a majority. And everywhere they fought among themselves and killed each other. Where hawks had a majority, they killed and oppressed bats. Where bats had a majority, they killed and oppressed hawks. 

On White’s farm, bats and hawks received money from the farm or bats and the farm of the hawks respectively to boost their numbers and gain control. While bats never outnumbered the hawks, they steadily grew in number. And they were hated by all the different types of winged creatures. But they alienated themselves and did not try to become friends with the different councils of winged creatures. Especially the hawks who did not even think they were animals and who grew to political relevance on White’s farm. The bats thought that there was no use trying because nothing they did would make the other winged creatures hate them less.

The way of life of bats was very different. The other winged creatures swore that bats were not birds like they were and the mammals swore that they would rather die than be classed in the same animal group as the bats.

The bats called themselves flying creatures. But the winged creatures denied this and said the flapping of wings did not qualify to make an animal a flying creature.

"Do you deny us our identity?" The leader of the bats asked the leader of the hawks.

"Most certainly," the leader of the hawks retorted, "you have the face and lips of a mammal, we have beaks, you hang upside down, we stand straight. You have skin and fur, we have feathers.”

"But the relevant quality is not the manner of flight, but the fact of flight. You fly. We fly.  Abi? You are flying creatures. We are flying creatures.”

The leader of the hawks who was also the leader of the winged creatures spat out each time the leader of the bats spoke.

And so it came about that on the day that Dick-Tai decided to wipe out the bats once and for all, there were no winged creatures to protect them. In fact animals, mostly winged creatures, came out and looted the dead bodies of the bats that Dick-Tai killed. They celebrated. Good riddance to bad rubbish they said. And they asked why the bats were so stubborn. Why they looked weird. They said that the bats were asking for it. 

White for his part was angry that anyone would dare disrespect his farm hand. And he was silent even though it was eventually discovered that Dick-Tai actually massacred and secretly buried bats in mass graves. 

And at the end of the special meeting of winged creatures, they issued a communique stating:

We have debated the problems of winged creatures and have come to the unanimous conclusion that the only way of securing a solution is to declare that bats are not winged creatures or birds or flying creatures and that they are not even animals. They are strange beasts that deserved to be killed or banned or both. 

Of course bats were not invited to that meeting. 

Elsewhere on the farm, the leader of the crocodiles continued trying to silently seek support to take over from White as leader of the farm. 

And the worshippers of White continued their loud prayer sessions even though many slowly began to drop out of the worship sessions because of the hardship on the farm, the scarcity of water and the insecurity. 

And some farm hands of White began to harass with weapons anyone who would speak against them or against White. 

And the leader of the bats continued to be in custody with his lost eye without access to proper healthcare. 

And all the animals said it was not their business what happened to the bats.

And there was hunger and thirst and darkness and violence.


And all the while, White walked around the farm, observing, enjoying the worship songs directed at him, hands behind his back, silent.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO NIGERIA


CHAPTER 1
  1. In the beginning the British created the Northern and Southern protectorates. Now, the nation was formless and empty and darkness covered our collective identity. 
  2. And the British said: “Let there be Nigeria.” And there was Nigeria. And the British saw that Nigeria was good (for them) and they separated the ruling class from the serfs. 
  3. And the British said: “Just as we have a vault between us and you, let there be a vault to separate the rulers from the citizens.” 
  4. So the British created Nigeria in their own image, in the image of their colonial rulership they created it; oppressor and oppressed they created them.
  5. And there was independence from the British and there were coups and  counter coups and there were military dictators. 
  6. And the decades passed and the military rulers transformed into civilian ones and stripped their garbs and uniforms and took new ones. And they declared: “Old things have passed away and all things have become new.”

CHAPTER 2
  1. For our military dictators loved the country so much that they gave up their only begotten uniforms and the right to make decrees, that whosoever believed in them and voted them shall be stuck with them until their old age. 

CHAPTER 3
  1. And it came about that a usurper who was not a military dictator found his way to the throne, through natural deaths and impeachments, and he came upon Nigerians like a thief in the night. And he came not to build but to steal and destroy. And he left Nigerians blind and poor. 
  2. And Nigerians looked to a former dictator and said to him: “Lord, we do not know where we are going.” And he answered them and said: “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to good governance except through me.” And he gained followers and drove out the usurper who had left Nigerians blind and poor. 
  3. And his followers said: “Lord show us the way and that will be enough for us. Show us Change.” And he answered them and said: “Do you believe that I am good governance and good governance is me? You may ask for anything in my name and I will do it.” 
  4. And his followers worshipped him and sang his praises day and night. And when his ministers proved incompetent, his followers praised him and denounced the ministers. 
  5. And when the people began to groan under much suffering they looked unto their benevolent dictator. And he said to them: “If you love me, keep my commands. Hate those who hate me and love those who love me. My enemies cannot accept me, because they neither see me nor know me. But you know me, for I live with you and will be in you.”
  6. And some skeptics said, “But, Lord, why do your ministers do silly things like wear silly red berets and have nothing under the berets?” And the benevolent dictator replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.”

CHAPTER 4
  1. For the shameless will inherit the land and they will dwell in it in an abundance of peace. 
  2. For the shameless, instead of shame there shall be a double portion; for the wicked and corrupt instead of dishonour, they shall rejoice in their lot; they shall have everlasting joy and in their old age be called elder statesmen.
  3. And the last shall be the first.

CHAPTER 5
  1. If I fight for human rights of random individuals or of enemies of the Lord but do not have loyalty to the benevolent dictator, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of turning the economy around and can fathom all the mysteries of the parallel market and if I am angry that pilgrims get dollars and not business men and women but do not have loyalty to the dictator and love for him, I am nothing. 
  2. Love is patient (with inefficiency), love is kind (even in the face of massacres).  It does not envy the benevolent dictator, it does not boast that it can do better. It is not proud. 
  3. Love keeps no record of wrongs, whether those wrongs happened in 1984 and are being repeated or those wrongs lead to 347 people being secretly buried. Love does not delight in evil except where that evil happens to people we do not like, from strange ethnic groups or religions or sexualities. 
  4. But love rejoices with the truth: and the truth is what the benevolent dictator says it is. 
  5. Love always protects the interest of the dictator and blames only his ministers for things that go wrong.
  6. Love never fails. 
  7. But where there is common sense, it will cease. Whether there are industries, they will cease. Where there is electricity, it will reduce. And where there is a great football team, it will diminish. Where there are cheap dollars, it will be reserved for pilgrims and billionaires. For we know in part and we pontificate through newspaper articles and blogs in part, but when completeness through our benevolent dictator (and his minions) arrives, what is in part disappears. 

CHAPTER 6
  1. The benevolent dictator is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing. He makes me lies down in darkness, but only because it leads me to quietness. He refreshes my soul. He guides me along his own paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley with no electricity, I will fear no evil, for he is with me. His rod and his staff with which he makes hundreds of Shiites disappear, they comfort me. 
CHAPTER 7
  1. Blessed are [those who steal from] the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of political rebirths.
  2. Blessed are those who [make others like Shiites] mourn, for they will be comforted [by the silence of dead and putrified bodies]
  3. Blessed are [those who despise] the meek for they will inherit the earth.
  4. Blessed are those with good political alliances, for even when they are caught, they will be shown mercy. 
  5. Blessed are [those who hate] the pure in heart, for they will see the inner walls of the Villa. 
  6. Blessed are those who trend political hashtags, for theirs is the kingdom of bank alerts.
  7. Blessed are those with a long career of theft and destruction, for they will be called elder statesmen.

CHAPTER 8

  1. The benevolent dictator gathered all his disciples and taught them a new prayer. He said:
  2. You must pray then this way:
  3. Our father, who art Aliko, hallowed be thy wealth
  4. Thy monopolies come
  5. Thy will be done in this government as it was in the previous
  6. Give us this day, your refinery (as we give you our cheap dollars)
  7. And forgive us our doubts as we have forgiven those who doubt us
  8. And lead us not into temptation to break your monopolies (and empower other entrepreneurs), but deliver us from the evil ones who challenge our government.
  9. For thine is the sugar, the flour and the cement (and rice and spaghetti), forever and ever, amen.