… Just before this very crude interruption and an equally rude but serious interlude by the current wave of the moment, COVID-19 (CoronaVirus) pandemic jolted me up, the main thrust on my mind was how far a huge budget of some 35 billion US Dollars or so, could go in transforming the lives of an average Nigerian?
Taking into cognizance the peculiar infrastructural deficit in our country, the deficient patriotic spirit in many Nigerians. In my deep trance, I had envisaged a fully functional railway system that will link Lagos and Abuja to all other zones of the country. Light rail to connect East, west, south, north, central, everywhere. I was thinking of a university in each of the zones that will rival Harvard. The thoughts of specialized hospitals that can deliver first-class Medicare in all the six zones, the type that will stop the medical pilgrimage of our leaders abroad.
But Esu, (the devil) the much-dreaded spoiler, destroyer, manipulator, or what other adjectives you have, would not allow this. It decided to play a fast one in the country.
I will not dwell on the academic exercise of whether the Esu that some section of the Yoruba nation worship is the one whose throne is said to be in an indescribably uncomfortable place of eternal habitation for so-called sinners, called Hell. Nor will I attempt to look at them benevolently, but mischievous character presented by the worshippers.
Rather I will look at the allegorical Esu, be it the one English people called the Lucifer, Devil, Satan, or the Arabic Iblis. Esu is the Yoruba mythical author of confusion and misdeeds. Some people venerate it and still worship it. It owns Orita Meta (T-junction) and feeds on sacrifices. It is however said to loathe palm kernel oil.
Esu the one said to loath peace, order, and development. He enjoys seeing people languish and wail. This aspect of Yoruba’s mythology has occupied my thoughts for quite a long time, particularly, whenever the stagnation of Nigeria as a country comes under the microscope.
The thoughts of Esu’s interference in our national thought process and how it has jarred our development as a nation, as a people, were utterly agitating my mind before the sudden rude interruption by the cacophonous COVID-19 invasion. Ever since the first whimpers of the infectious disease in the country, every signal seems to be pointing towards the total shut down of the economic and social life of the country. This was however proclaimed by the President on Sunday, March 30. Now schools are shut, religious worships restricted, the social gathering also limited. These are just the beginning. If proactive measures are not taken in time, more facilitates will still collapse. But how does a country like Nigeria cope with total shut down? One does not dare to ask this question at this point. Majority feed on daily hustling and toiling. Few have reserves. The proverbial fetching of water for the thirsty days are no longer applicable.
The country craves for development. The people lounge for growth. But, year-in, year-out, little, or nothing is seen or given. There is stagnation everywhere. Between 2009 when the Boko Haram audacious proclamations took a violent turn and 2019, over 35 billion US Dollars is said to have been spent by the country. During this decade, developmental issues have been pushed to the back burner, the welfare of the citizens has suffered greatly.
We have allowed Esu to play one of his mischief games on the country. It moves in, taking a cloak of religion, it manifested in the formation of an Islamic sect, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad. At the initial stage of the formation of the sect, the liberal meaning was given as: ’People committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad’. But sooner the Hausa name ‘Boko Haram’ surfaced, and not too long, became the defining meaning. ‘Boko Haram’ simply means ‘Anything Western is a sin’. Esu was still not done, it went ahead, with a combination of manipulatory manifestations, even, among top government and security officials, the group was militarized and from the insurgency war. Unfortunately, the nation allowed Esu to fully achieve its goal.
But we must trudge on. Willy-nilly, we march on. Either in fear or faith. The federal government can be reasonably said to have responded to the COVID-19 threats. Certain proactive measures have been taken. All these steps may end up helping limit the spread. But in other areas, why is it that the government never make the stitch in time to save nine? It could be because we are never ready for anything except preparing for another election immediately after an election.
Now since the Boko Haram insurgency fully turned sour in the North East, no less than 35 billion US Dollars has been expended by the government at all levels, fighting, containing, pushing out the insurgents, we must also factor in the ransoms paid for the release of the kidnapped citizens. Esu has mischievously helped the country frittered away her wealth. The nation’s growth and development stagnated.
The Boko Haram in the North East is a paradox of nation at war with herself. The billions of dollars wasted so far can turn many cities across the country into Mecca cities. Yet in the name of religion, they ignited a senseless insurgency war that had crippled, not only the areas they occupy but to a large extent, the whole country.
Esu can wreak havoc if the environment is made conducive and tolerable for it. The entire country generally is one hell of a vast environment for Esu or its agents to strike. The social and economic disequilibrium in the country is scary. And there seems to be no solution in sight, either from the sitting government or from any of those eyeing power.
The mantra is monotonously stereotyped. Disgusting most time. Each time the devil incarnates strike, killing innocent people, the response of the government is almost a pre-prepared statement. ‘This government shall flush the insurgents’. If we are to believe our Military top brass, the maverick leader of the group, Ibrahim Shekau has been killed more than a half a dozen times. Yet would continuously pop his head up in a recorded video, mocking the government and the people of Nigeria.
What Esu has planted is rather difficult to supplant. It has turned the insurgency war into a big gold mine for the stakeholders. Now fighting Boko Haram is a very big lucrative business or project. The government officials have become fabulously rich in the trade. The politicians have made hay while its sun shines. The ones facing trials in regular courts cannot refund anything. They have spent their portions of the loots on frivolities. The Military chiefs also joined the looting gang. They were fed until some of them developed obesity. The office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) became a bazaar of sorts, where all of them were collecting their own part of the loots. Yet the country bleeds. The country weeps. No one, yes, no one cares. Today, the country is on her knees with an incurable pandemic that is no respecter of anyone, no matter how highly placed.
It is sad, that over 35 billion US Dollars were long gone in the chase of Esu’s shadows. Yet Esu is unseen. But the Chief Priest remains in Elegbara enclave. No one ever thought of approaching any of the mediums of Esu to appease it. No propitiatory sacrifices at any of the T-Junctions in the country. No attempt to manacle the hands of Esu with a propitiation. We slacked. We let it loose recklessly, roaming freely, causing all manner of confusion and wreaking havoc.
Let’s look around the four corners of our country today. While the North is under the severe attack of Boko Haram and Almajiris consuming all manners of drugs, the West is under severe ‘Yahoo Plus’ ritualists and drug-addicted miscreants. The East is badly afflicted with blood-sucking ritualists and kidnapping gangsters.
While the South is populated more with an army of untrainable and ungovernable militants. The effects of the over 35 US billion Dollars wasted so far fighting a nebulous war against Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, would have been massive enough to help temperate the wasted generation amidst a suffering population.
Esu has deviously created Boko Haram as an institutional distraction used to stifle the nation’s growth and stagnate her for the past 20 years. All, may not have been lost still. We can still bounce back. We can still throw the senseless war back to the original owners, which is the Northern leadership and the oligarchy.
Time to re-strategise, perhaps is now. The 1967-70 Civil War was adjudged as the bloodiest and internecine in Africa. The Military could not end it until a ‘bloody civilian’ came in and helped with a simple intellectually driven strategy. At this point, the efforts of the Chadian Government should be noted. The recent routing of the insurgents from the Chadian territories and total decimation of its base is commendable. But the Chadian and Nigerien governments were tardy for far too long before this intervention. The insurgents used the Chadian and Nigerien territories as a base to launch intermittent attacks on Nigeria.
We need to go back to history and find a way of ending the nonsense as soon as we probably can. Only we, the populace can save the nation ourselves, by our actions and attitude to one another, by re-energizing the patriotic spirit in all of us and make it better for the coming generation. God can only assist with his might.
Afolayan Adebiyi writes from Lagos, Nigeria.