By Ikechukwu Amaechi
IT was the legendary Afrobeat maestro, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, who, in one of his smash hits “Beasts of No Nation”, told us about “animal talk”. The song was the first Fela wrote to critical acclaim after serving 20 months of a five-year prison sentence on dubious foreign currency smuggling charges during the military regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari. Though he regained his freedom in 1986 after Buhari had been overthrown in a palace coup on August 27, 1985, Fela did not release the album until 1989. It was a major work of art.
The music virtuoso referenced Buhari’s comment in 1984 that Nigerians lacked discipline, hence the imposition of War Against Indiscipline, WAI. Fela took very strong exception to what he perceived to be the central message of WAI – “My people are useless, my people are senseless, my people are indisciplined” – and concluded in Pidgin English thus: Na Nigerian government, ee-oh. Dem dey talk ee-oh. My people are us-e-less, My people are sens-i-less, My people lack discipline. Na animal talk be dat ee-oh.
Simply put: Fela was lamenting, in his iconic way, the penchant of Nigerian leaders to make comments that induce head scratching. Fela died on August 2, 1997, more than 23 years ago. These days, I wonder what he will be singing about were he to still be alive today considering the incredulous statements that are impetuous, incautious, reckless and downright irresponsible, which Nigerian leaders make every day without a care in the world.
Fela would have scoffed to no end when the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (retd) called Nigerians cowards for not standing up to heavily armed bandits with bare hands. “At times, the bandits will only come with about three rounds of ammunition, when they fire shots everybody runs …. I don’t know why people are running from minor things like that. They should stand and let these people know that even the villagers have the competency and capabilities to defend themselves.” Animal talk!
Fela would have laughed his head off hearing Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, say that not all bandits are criminals, all in an attempt to rationalise banditry. The governor, whose state has become the melting pot of banditry in the country, said in February that bandits take up arms due to the injustice meted on them by some members of the society. “Not all of them (bandits) are criminals. If you investigate what is happening, and what made them to take the laws into their hands, some of them, sometimes were cheated by the so-called vigilante group,” Matawalle said after a meeting with President Buhari on February 18. Animal talk!
On March 1, the self-appointed emissary of Fulani bandits, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, said on the BBC that kidnapping school students is a lesser evil, in an attempt to claim that his meetings with bandits was yielding positive results. He said his clients, the bandits, are now more careful about human lives, hence their resort to mass abduction of students for ransom.
According to Gumi: “Kidnapping children from school is a lesser evil because in the end, you can negotiate and now bandits are very careful about human lives. Before, the mission of bandits was to go into a town, ransack it and kill people. By this, I can say our preaching is working and hopefully, we are coming to an end of banditry in Zamfara and other states.” Animal talk!
Never mind that the bandits are still killing scores of people every day in the North West, particularly Southern Kaduna. Last week, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said government cannot afford to destroy forests where bandits use as their hideouts because doing so will affect the eco-system. Speaking on Channels Television penultimate Monday, the minister said government was conscious of changes in the climate and would rather dialogue with the bandits than destroying the forests trying to dislodge and smoke them out. “The better approach is not to destroy the forests because it would affect the eco-system, but what we need is better consultation with sub national governments and security agencies on how to secure the forests to make them safe for everybody,” Mohammed said. Animal talk!
But such talks are not reserved for those in the executive arm of government alone. Last week, Smart Adeyemi, an All Progressives Congress, APC, senator representing Kogi West proved that lawmakers can also hold their own when it comes to animal talk. Contributing to a motion sponsored by Stephen Odey, a senator representing Cross River North on the urgent need for the restoration and revalidation of the Safe School Initiative in Nigeria, Adeyemi tragically digressed to the surprise of his colleagues, and, indeed, Nigerians, to say that Abia State is governed by drunkards. Adeyemi specifically called out the incumbent governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, who he described as a ‘champagne drinking man’.
Senator Odey had used the absurd levels of insecurity in the country, particularly the raid on schools and mass abduction of hapless students and the criminal neglect of public schools and their subsequent dilapidation as evidenced in the unimaginable decay at the Government Science College, Kagara in Niger State, as the plank for his motion. Instead of using the motion to shine a light on Nigeria’s inexorable slide to a failed state if nothing is done urgently to pull it back from the brink, Adeyemi saw it as an opportunity to score cheap political point, heap praises on his state governor, Yahaya Bello, and wage a proxy war on his behalf. He resorted to animal talk. “Kogi State is lucky to have a governor who has taken the issue of security as a serious priority,” he pontificated.
“Some governors are committed to the protection of their people; in my state the governor awarded contracts for the renovation of schools and provides security services to them. In some states of Nigeria today, where we have highly intelligent people, highly educated people, very enterprising people like Abia, they are governed by drunkards. The governor of Abia is a champagne drinking man. Abia people are impoverished more than ever before. Abia people are unfortunate.”
His colleagues, not minding the party affiliation, were ashamed. It was unbecoming for a senator of the Federal Republic to be base in his contribution to a motion on the floor of the Senate.
If Fela was alive today, even as inscrutable as he usually was, Adeyemi’s outburst on the floor of the hallowed chamber would have flummoxed him. More bizarre was the reason he gave for his infantile outburst. He was paying his colleague, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, in kind for an alleged disparaging remark the Senate Minority Leader who represents Abia South made in the social media against Bello, an allegation a flabbergasted Abaribe promptly denied.
Rather than upbraiding Adeyemi for wilfully abusing parliamentary privilege by resorting to “animal talk”, and insisting that he apologises to Abians whom he disparaged by his reckless comment, Senate President Ahmad Lawan simply noted that Abaribe’s denial meant that the “air has now been cleared”.
Had Adeyemi taken the simple measure of asking Abaribe if, indeed, he made the comment, he would have avoided that embarrasing gaffe. Without holding brief for Abia State governor who can speak for himself, and has indeed responded to Adeyemi, I am worried about the quality of discourse in the Ninth Assembly.
Not only was Adeyemi’s language un-parliamentary, insulting and impertinent, the fact that a senator would rather settle a petty political quarrel on the floor of the Senate than proffer solution to the existential threat we all face in the bourgeoning insecurity that envelops the land speaks volume.
Ironically, Adeyemi may be happy that he has succeeded in further ingratiating himself with his political benefactor, Bello, by this ungracious act of transferred aggression, but it takes a different level of inebriation to be so reckless in parliamentary conduct. He owes not only Ikpeazu but the entire Abia people an unreserved public apology.