A single thread links the duo of Dino Melaye, the former senator representing Kogi West in the federal parliament and the Shakespearean tragic character, Cinna the Poet – their individual resort to metaphysics to explain their predicaments and where they stood. While Cinna never lived to tell the story, Melaye, dubbed an infantile-mind-trapped-in-an-adult-body by several – apologies to Farooq Kperogi – may by now have gone into the studio to wax yet another of his sickening paediatric comic skits.
Rome had been enveloped in violent disorder and utter chaos in the thick of the assassination of Julius Caesar, its fallen emperor. It was also a time in which nobody was safe. It was then that Cinna the Poet chose to pay his final obeisance to Caesar by attending his funeral. On his way to the venue, a riotous audience of Roman plebeians had accosted him, demanding to know what he was about and why he dared to go out at such a time of national emergency.
Last week, like Cinna the Poet, Melaye also chose to pay his own obeisance to the serial presidential contestant, Atiku Abubakar. Similar to Rome after the murder of Caesar, Melaye’s Nigeria has fallen into political disorder, uncertainty and utter chaos. According to Melaye at a press conference last week, he and his God-knows-who god were engaged in a rapturous telephone exchange on the presidential candidacy of Abubakar. Amidst banters between him and his god, he said, this god revealed to him that Abubakar would be Nigeria’s next president.
“I want to state unequivocally that many of us, when we call on God, God doesn’t give us missed calls. When we call Him, He picks up our call. And He called me and he said, ‘Dino,’ I said, ‘yes my Lord.’ He called the second time again, I said, ‘yes my Lord.’ He called the third time, and he said: ‘Atiku would be the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’”, said the ex-senator known more for his fawning infantilism on social media than any serious mental rigour.
Like Melaye, upon being accosted by the blood-lusting crowd, Cinna fled into the inaccessible world of metaphysics to explain his predicament: “I dreamt tonight that I did feast with Caesar, And things unluckily charge my fantasy. I have no will to wander forth of doors, Yet something leads me forth,” he had said.
Then the angry plebeians asked for his name. “Truly, my name is Cinna,” he said, to which one of them, taking the poet to be one of the similarly named conspirators who killed Caesar, and like one who had just discovered an odd object fallen from Uranus, charged at the others, “Tear him to pieces! He’s a conspirator!” Even when Cinna sought to make a clarification by feebly shouting, “I am Cinna the poet! I am Cinna the poet!”, it was futile to rescue him from hot death as the mob shouted, “Tear him for his bad verses! It is no matter. His name is Cinna. Pluck but his name out of his heart, and turn him going.”
By the way, give it to him, Melaye’s reply to Ayo Fayose’s vacuous claim that by knowing the geography of amala joints in Nigeria, he is fit to be Nigeria’s president, is so very apt. How can a man be as empty as to reduce Nigeria’s leadership, the burdens of security and the economy that assail the country, to the understanding of the contours of the stomach?
The conspiracy theory then continues. Who is the Northerner who has some appeal to the Southern electorate today, whose political charisma can confer legitimacy on the massive votes that the North would cast at the 2023 polls? Atiku Abubakar fits the bill. His huge baggage of corruption notwithstanding, Abubakar has a pan-Nigerian appeal and doesn’t look like one who would enfold Nigeria into the North, as Muhammadu Buhari has done.
Conspiracy theories surrounding the 2023 elections are becoming as luscious as the tree planted by the rivers of water. They are complex and complicated. When broken to their granular form, however, the theories suggest that Melaye’s god is supervising a clandestine machination, to wit, involving the collapsing of political party affiliations for a larger regional interest, all in the bid to foist an Atiku Abubakar presidency on the rest of Nigeria. A caveat, though: Conspiracy theories are allegations of conspiracy that may or may not be true.
Today, what remains of Northern Nigeria is a mere shell, sucked of its oyster. Yesterday, it was reported that the United Nations said that people now eat grass to survive in the North-East. In a 2020 event marking the 60th birthday of Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, former Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, had said that nine states in the North were responsible for 50 per cent of the entire malnutrition burden in Nigeria. This is outside the burdens of drugs, the Almajiri and Boko Haram afflictions that have become an albatross in the region. Eighty seven per cent of Nigeria’s total poverty index, said the former CBN governor, is in the North, while millions of northern children are out of school. The distressing statistics must have since skyrocketed as the putrid sore of Buhari reaches for the tip of its decadence.
Apart from building a billionaire cabal, members of which daily survive by sucking the nectar of national contracts and insider trading of forex, with Godwin Emefiele providing a convenient abetment for them, Buhari’s presidency has rendered the North a hopelessly defoliated territory, deforested of any human habitational excitement. Today, many of those Northern big-men with flowing babanriga are totally empty and lean on inner joy as they cannot go to their home states or towns. Indiscriminate violence, banditry and kidnapping have taken the shine off the once flourishing North, making it one of the most volatile regions of the world to inhabit. Kaduna, a once flourishing city, has lost its innocence as well. Today, it is home to unconscionable bloodshed by terrorists. All these leave the Federal Capital City, Abuja, as well as its succulence and sweet juice as the only goldmine left for the North. It is also the only geographical environment left where an average Northerner can strut in, with a potentate-like, territorial air of ownership. All these will, however, be threatened by a Southern presidency, according to a conspiracy theory bandied by some Northern elements.
More importantly, the injustice and gross nepotism that Muhammadu Buhari has inflicted on Nigeria in his seven years of macabre rule is such that a North out of power, post-2023, is one akin to a man with a suicide rope fastened to his neck. With a Southern president, will Abuja now become an ngbati ngbati or yanminrin enclave? So where does the Northerner lay claim to? If you go to virtually all government offices in Abuja today, you would think you were in a Hausa Republic, or right inside a market in Tsafe, Zamfara State. The cacophonic speaking of Hausa as the lingua franca of officialdom in those offices will make you sniff the reek of Northern dominance of Nigerian federal offices. Buhari has filled virtually all federal offices with Northern Nigerians, so much that all other regions have become bystanders in their own country.
Bearing in mind the above equation, consenting to be out of power post-2023 will appear like self-immolation to the North. Buhari’s bigotry and nepotism having totally and successfully destroyed the fabric of Nigeria’s pretence to federal character, and no Southern successor of his can ever administer Nigeria as a Nigerian president any longer. In the worst case, such a president would clean the Augean stable and return Nigeria to its tabula rasa state. Head or tail, a Northern Nigeria that has become a frightening spectacle of gross underdevelopment can never compete in a reset mode Nigeria. The North thus needs a Northern Nigerian continuation in power to detoxify the toxins and pollutants that Buhari is leaving in the national space.
The conspiracy theory then continues. Who is the Northerner who has some appeal to the Southern electorate today, whose political charisma can confer legitimacy on the massive votes that the North would cast at the 2023 polls? Atiku Abubakar fits the bill. His huge baggage of corruption notwithstanding, Abubakar has a pan-Nigerian appeal and doesn’t look like one who would enfold Nigeria into the North, as Muhammadu Buhari has done. In the bid to perpetuate the North in power for another eight years, Buhari, with a robust pedigree of ethnic bigotry, would only be too glad to walk his renowned route. His only allotted role in this drama is simple: Frustrate worthy APC Southern candidates from the political fray and emboss presidential imprimatur on a Southern lackey as the party’s flag-bearer, so goes the conspiracy theory.
A Yemi Osinbajo or Bola Tinubu on the ballot will upset the Northern apple cart, thereby disassembling a carefully arranged, seemingly foolproof Northern political chicanery. Already, Tinubu must have realised that with Buhari, the waters of bigotry run deeper than any allegiance or fidelity to gratitude of how he helped him become president. No one should need to tell Tinubu that Buhari’s train of bigotry has taken the wind off the sail of his presidential ambition in the APC. Now, there are rumours that the Landlord of Lagos is pitching his tent with the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the old, abandoned warhorse. Adamu Abdullahi, a known Northern irredentist in possession of a more incendiary bigotry than Buhari, was carefully recruited as a worthy undertaker for this Northern cause, so says this conspiracy theory.
Iyorchia Ayu, PDP’s National Chairman, disdaining the temerity of Nyesom Wike to seek to be Nigerian president, will deliver a man to whom he is a dotting sidekick, Atiku Abubakar, as PDP’s flag-bearer, without batting an eyelid. With either of two renowned Northern lickspittles, Godwin Emefiele and Rotimi Amaechi, who just declared for the presidency yesterday – both with arguable Igbo ancestry – on the ballot, the South would be too cross and indescribably riled at the Buhari insolence that its excessively miffed electorates would think they were shooting Buhari in the foot by casting their votes for Abubakar. What can cause a deviation from this conspiracy theory permutation will be a Buhari’s support for a stronger Southerner, a Kayode Fayemi, for instance. A Fayemi, with no baggage or national scandal, can rearrange the equation.
When the Osinbajo group fools fellow travelers in their doomed presidential boat that Buhari has picked him as successor, they evoke a guffaw from pundits. The only analogy that can defeat this robust lie is that of a houseboy who, for seven years, the master had denied the opportunity of sleeping in the main house. Once when the master travelled and handed the home key to him, on his return the master complained bitterly that the houseboy had soiled his bedspread, and since then he cast him further away from his vicinity. Now, the master is leaving for another home and the houseboy grandstands that the master has promised to hand over the house key to him!
Osinbajo, perhaps the most brilliant person in the Buhari government and a natural successor to him in a clime where excellence is wired into the architecture and requirements of leadership, has been a stranger in the Buhari government. He has also been uncannily profiled within the Villa by Buharists, as possessing an insatiable appetite. His dirt-embossed dossier is alleged to have been kept jealously in the cabal’s closet as an arsenal, even as the cabal withdrew from him the juice accruable to his presidential portfolio. It is thus laughable when Osinbajo apologists spin the incorrigible yarn that a vindictive Buhari, with active connivance of his Fulani advisors, would willingly incense the god of power by handing over power to an Osinbajo who still nurses the aching sore emanating from his Buhari stab.
In 2014, ex-Osun State governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, made an allegorical construct descriptive of the colour of injustice and cheating. He called it iyanje obinde – the injustice against Obinde. While explaining the Osun People Democratic Party (PDP)’s injustice of allotting political positions only to alumni of the Bola Ige murder school, chief of whom was Iyiola Omisore, Oyinlola had propounded this Obinde injustice thesis. It runs thus: Mrs Obinde’s husband had died suddenly and his family decided to pawn her, to be able to generate enough money for his burial. What ultimate marginalisation and cheating could rival this!
What the South does not know is that, when it comes to power, the North coalesces its fractious contours within the twinkle of an eye. When it does this, immediately, ancient internal recriminations and earlier political disaffections no longer matter. Religion is the only index it cannot compromise. The North did this in 2015 by massively queuing behind a Buhari it had hitherto serially rejected at the polls.
Apart from Obinde, another allegory which synchronises with the fate of the South, according to that conspiracy theory, is the societal injustice meted on the African pied hornbill bird called atiala or atioro. In the words of a Yoruba aphorism, which frowns at systemic cheating, it wonders why elders of a village would shave the head of the vulture (igun), and that of the ground horn bill bird which Yoruba call akalamagbo, but when it comes to the turn of the atiala/atioro to be shaved, the same elders will now claim that the razor with which it was to weed off the bushy scalp had lost its grits. This is a cunning that the conspiracy theory alleges that the North is flaunting against the South in the months leading to the 2023 elections. According to the theorists, by the time the South wakes up, it will be morning yet on creation day. By then, the only alternative left for the progenies of Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Eyo Ita will be barren gripes against another Northern iyanje obinde.
By then, the small god of Dino Melaye would have become our God.
Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.