The land of Samaria was once under intense hunger. There was hunger in the land, occasioned by a serious famine. The famine was caused by the siege laid on the city by another king, Beh-hadad, the king of Syria. The situation was such that cannibalism became the order of the day. Two women agreed to eat their sons. The first one, in her fidelity to the agreement, killed and boiled her son for supper. The duo ate the meal. When the time came for the second woman to also offer her son, she reneged. King Jehoram was passing by. He heard the wailing of the first mother and inquired what afflicted her. The woman narrated her sordid story. Of course, the king was troubled. He rented his clothes, and put on a sackcloth in mourning. He took a personal oath and promised to have the head of Elisha the prophet, blaming him and his prophesies for the trouble in the land. This account is rendered in 2 Kings: 6 25-31. Every bad leader blames someone else but himself, for the failure of his government. Something similar is already happening in Nigeria. Parents have started selling their children to buy food for others! Samaria is already here. Is President Bola Ahmed Tinubu aware?
In a situation akin to what my people call: omo ina laa ra si’na (you send the child of fire to fire), the Emir of kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, sent the First Lady, Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu, to her husband, President Tinubu. The emir told Mrs. Tinubu thus: “Tell your husband to address hunger and insecurity in Nigeria”. The emir admitted that the two issues of hunger and starvation “did not start with this government but the situation has become more alarming and needs urgent attention.” Again, the Kano foremost traditional ruler admitted that “although we have several means of communicating to the government on our needs and requests, but your way and means is the surest way to tell the president the actual happenings in the country.” Alhaji Bayero spoke through an interpreter to the wife of the president, who was in his domain to perform a formal duty. Check the emir’s background, you will find him a well lettered individual. But he chose to speak in Hausa to a non-Hausa-speaking guest. There are ways with emirs, when they address ‘aliens’. But I will not delve into that here.
It is rather unfortunate that the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, who lost his tongue for the complete eight ruinous year that the Bayyajida II, General Muhammadu Buhari, ruled this country would suddenly find his voice in the eight months of Tinubu’s administration. It is true that once one is down because of a big problem, the inconsequential ones would seize the opportunity to trample on one’s tummy, and the balls to toys. Where was the Emir of kano when Buhari brought this country to its knees? For eight solid years, where and when did Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero send any message of “urgent attention” to Buhari to address the insecurity and hunger in the land? Do we blame the emir, or the man, Tinubu, whose masquerade has refused to dance very well in the arena to give one courage to point out and say: “here comes my masquerade? One can only hope that Tinubu will understand that more insults would come his ways from very underserving quarters unless he sits up and act. If there are people in his government putting ‘sand in his gaari’, the president should get rid of them unless he is a ‘sand-sand’ man himself. Nigerians are tired of excuses. Tinubu is the one elected president and not all these guys that are running all over the place, doing nothing like Sisyphus in Hades. So much for emir Ado Bayero and his bad-belle message.
Now, how does one defend president Tinubu in this matter? On what ground should one stand to say what the emir said was, and remains, unbecoming of a man of his stature, given the calamities that have been the lot of Nigerians in the last eight months. However, one must point out the anomalies in the emir of Kano’s message to Tinubu. Our elders say that only a madman will say this is where my brother was disgraced yesterday without doing anything about it. So, I will impose on myself, and briefly too, the role of a devil’s advocate, here, if only to set the record straight.
A lot has been written about the level of hunger in Nigeria today. The last eight months of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s government have been horrible for Nigerians and Nigeria. The streets are not smiling. But our new husband, President Tinubu, is behaving like he doesn’t know our situation. Ikún, the deaf squirrel itself, ought to have heard the agony in the land by now; how much more the president. But, if President Tinubu has the tendency of the deaf, we as diviners also have the duty to repeat his divination several times (korokoro laa ró’fá adití). The messages from the divination boards are not good. They are very ominous. Hunger has joined our legion of afflictions. President Tinubu can no longer pretend not to know what is happening. And it doesn’t matter what his hangers-on are telling him. Nobody is happy in Nigeria anymore. That is the bitter truth. The lamentations from those who broke limbs and heads to put Tinubu in Aso Rock Villa are louder. They wail, nowadays, more than those of us they labelled ‘Tinubu’s enemies’. Like I told a very close friend; I have passed the stage of being labelled ‘Tinubu’s enemy’. Why should anyone befriend failure in the first instance? Who romances sheer ineptitude, if not a hypocrite?
Every king has an inner caucus he listens to at critical moments. I witnessed that several times when Kabiyesi Òjó Àmúpìtàn Olúyeyè Òjoyèbugiòtèwó (he who gets to the throne and uproots the tree of conspiracy), was the Onise of Odo Oro Ekiti; the oba of my town. Whenever there was a knotty issue, Kabiyesi would listen to all the people; he would allow them to talk. Then turning to his chiefs, he would ask (depending on the matter), a particular one among them this: “Ngbó Obadòfin, Kú a ti wí? (Listen Obadòfin, what do you say to this?). Once Kabiyesi asked any of his chiefs that question, the one so asked would know that the oba was looking for the truth and nothing less. And he got more than enough pieces of quality advice. Who is that inner man who can tell President Tinubu the whole truth and nothing but the truth about our condition? Who has that capacity? Who has the boldness, the courage and goodwill to tell the president that Nigerians are dying of hunger in instalments? Or, better still; do we ask, what truth does Tinubu tell himself when he is alone? I read a disturbing piece on Sunday. The author, Taiwo Adisa, Nigerian Tribune’s General Editor, wrote that some close associates of the president could no longer reach him to give him the feedback from the streets. Is that true? Is that why the president has been unfeeling in the past eight months? Who are the ones who see the president as they wish? What do those few privileged ones tell President Tinubu?
I am not a prophet of doom. And I am not afraid to be labelled, also. Disaster looms at the rate we are going. Hunger is already in the land. Unfortunately, there is no market in Nigeria from Nasarawa to Ògún, Gombe to Anambra and everywhere else, where there are no foodstuffs on display. What is lacking is the purchasing power. The quality of our Naira has depreciated so much that a huge amount of money buys nothing from the market. A senior colleague buys a particular brand of milk regularly. He says it has a low cholesterol level. The last time I drove him to the store, a tin was sold for N650! He refused to buy it. I refused to persuade him to buy it. The following day, I asked him how he managed to have his cereal without the milk. He told me that he resorted to taking Cocoa beverages. What a life! That is the situation across the country. The Tinubu government responded by saying it would release millions of tonnes of grains to the market. I shook my head in pity. Is that the solution? When the stocks from the national silos are exhausted, what will the people resort to? Or, are the stocks from the exalted silos inexhaustible? Besides, how much will it cost a trader in New Benin Market to travel to the silos in Auchi to buy the grains and bring the same back to Benin to sell? In Benin City and adjourning towns and villages, a litre of fuel goes for an average of N660. Due to the bad roads between Benin and Auchi, commuters spend an average of seven hours for a journey of less than two hours before. They are at the same time at the mercy of kidnappers and other felons on the highway. So, Mr. President, if a trader succeeds in making the journey to Auchi and back to Benin after 14 hours, how much will she sell a mudu (measurement) of beans? This is the problem confronting the people all over.
I decided to write this piece at home yesterday. Staying at home afforded me the opportunity to know another level of suffering in the land. Intermittently, I heard people knocking at my gate. Each time I tried to check, I discovered they were people I had never seen in the neighbourhood before. They were carrying all manner of containers, looking for water. I realised that there are boreholes around but no water. Why? In the last one month, there has been no electricity supply in the neighbourhood. One of them told me that they were just approaching any home with overhead water tanks to ask if they could fetch water. I had no choice than to open the outside tap for them to fetch water. That would be at a huge cost of N660/litre fuel to pump the water. It then dawned on me why I saw some fellas who came to the Edo State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), secretariat with jerry cans in the booths of the cars to fetch water. The implication here is that once there is power failure and electricity is cut off, the people suffer. This is another area that this government should look into. It is not just about releasing the never-sufficient grains; it is also about providing the means of cooking the grains for the people – water, gas and the ingredients to make the meal palatable.
I am worried for President Tinubu. I am worried that he is the one demystifying himself. Where are the attributes of his ‘Lagos Magic’? They told us he is the sole architect of modern Lagos. Where is the magic wand? In under eight months, everything has collapsed under the watch of the ‘chief strategist’ himself! They boasted that the president would come to government with the best of brains? The last of Thomas Erikson’s tetralogy is titled: “Surrounded by bad bosses and lazy employees”. The first chapter of the 2021 book has this sub-title: “Really Bad Leadership-and Its Appalling Consequences”. In it, the Swedish behavioural expert says: “Good leadership is dependent on the boss and the staff understanding the symbiosis they are working in and both parties realizing that they are dependent upon each other to get the system work”. He goes further: “…Every one of us, at some time or another, has had an incompetent boss and wondered why he or she doesn’t do their job better. Some bosses don’t exercise any leadership at all, which makes them unnecessary. And that raises the question: a boss who doesn’t actually lead – what’s the point? (Page 11). This is exactly the question Nigerians have been asking in the last eight months. Who is leading this government – the same super magician we were sold in February 2023? Nigerians have also been asking: where are the technocrats, the best brains they told us were coming? Who in this government can match our Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala? Who among the Tinubu boys is in the same league with Oby Ezekwesili? Who among the present lot can compete with Akinwumi Adesina, Frank Iweke Jnr. and the powerful host of technocrats that were in the previous Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s governments that these present lords termed ‘clueless’ and accused of ruining the nation? What sort of leadership is Tinubu providing? My people said when the lead giant ant misses the road, its followers become a flock without a shepherd. What exactly is the economic drift of this administration? What is its focus? And how long does the government think the people will endure its voodoo monetary policy of “ways and means”, which, in street parlance, is printing of money to pay federal government workers’ salaries every month, before something would snap?
“Is Hangry Real? The Connection Between Anger and Hunger (Why Hunger Sometimes Erupts as Anger)”, is a June 24, 2023 publication in the “Verywellhealth” platform, written by one of their contributing writers, Mark Gurarie. In the piece, the author says: “To feel hangry is to feel anger and irritability due to having an empty stomach. Though it emerged as a pop-culture term, ” being hangry” is real. Researchers have linked feelings of irritability and anger to low levels of blood sugar and the hormones released as a result.” Underneath the piece is this piece that elaborates on the risks of hunger by asking the hypothetical question: “Can hunger cause anger?”, which it answers thus: “A study says there may be risks. The data showed hunger was associated with 37% of changes in irritability, 34% in anger and 38% in pleasure, which suggested the emotions were caused by fluctuations in hunger. “Hangry” here, is a neologism, a combination of hungry and angry. It is defined as “bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger” (Oxford English Dictionary, 2018). Experts in the field assert that being hungry can make one to be “irritable”. Our streets are filled with countless people with irritable behaviours. They have started acting in groups. That accounts for last week’s protest across some cities of the country. Banning the movement of food items from one state to another, or from one region to another, is not the solution. Every state or region has its own advantage and no part of the country can hold the other to ransom over food supply anymore. If the situation is not immediately addressed by the government, it will snowball into something unpalatable. We can no longer pretend that all is well with us as a people. If nobody wants to tell the president this, let us on this page tell him: Mr. President, Nigerians are hangry.