APRIL Fool got shoved off the calendar here a long time ago. A Londoner called me on Monday to confirm a story he had heard. I reminded him that it was the All Fools’ Day. He burst into laughter.
But I remained impassive to the hysteria of that moment. He lives in a society where spoofery is an exciting art in which even the most serious of newspapers indulge at least once in a year – on April 1. Here, the line between fiction and reality is so thin there is no point trying to find the point of departure between the two. Nothing is new.
In equal measures, the bizarre mixes with the blissful, the mad contests with the mardy and all is upside down.
We have seen a generation of brilliant military officers perish in a strange air crash. We have seen illiterate vote grabbers and flagrant impostors occupy government houses. We have seen confirmed thieves get a slap on the wrist. We have seen members of a family, including babies, murdered in cold blood. We have seen innocent bus passengers bombed. A governor was kidnapped by those who insisted that to them he must surrender the treasury key. What can shock Nigerians? Nothing.
The April Fool fell on Easter Monday. But the sobriety – and revelry, for some – of our Lord’s victory over death was no bulwark against the absurdities of our often scorned life. Consider this: The President was speaking on Sunday at a church service – his first in Lagos, Nigeria’s business and financial engine-room, since coming to office in 2011. He was talking about fixing the roads and the terrible power supply. All of a sudden, there was a power outage . His voice was muffled. Thankfully, the public address system came alive again. Dr Goodluck Jonathan resumed his sanctimonious talk about keeping the country united amid the deadly security situation.
His face wreathed in sardonic smiles, he said: “I believe they (those behind power supply) know that I am here. That is why they took light, at least to remind me that I must not sleep, until we stabilise power. God willing, next year, they will not take light again.” Can you beat that?
On Monday, at the dedication of a church in Aninnri Local Government, Enugu State, the Anglican Primate, the Most Revd. Nicholas Okoh, was praying for the President. He said: “He came to this position through your grace; may he not be disgraced out. There may be people who are not happy with him; may you protect him from their powers. Give him the grace as the man who transformed this country. May he not go home empty handed.”
Honestly, this is our prayer for the President – that his may not go down in history as an ever pugnacious presidency overwhelmed by its many battles, some of them its own creation, such as the January 1, last year fuel price increase and the fatuous attempt to wreck the Governors Forum. There are others, the origin of which may not have been the government’s making. Boko Haram. Kidnappings – remember the seven foreigners who the President believes may still be alive? Pipeline vandalism. Communal clashes and the savagery of mass murders in villages.
As for people who may not be happy with President Jonathan, they are many – for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, they do not seem to have the powers to deal with him. The only power they have is their vote. But, do votes count here?
Among the army of the aggrieved are old pensioners who worked all their lives to have a restful old age. Now they go hungry, their pensions stolen by wicked civil servants. There are university graduates who have been duped in desperate attempts to buy jobs that are actually not available. There are those who have lost loved ones to robbers. They feel the government has betrayed their trust.
It was a bloody Easter Day in Kano. Security agents raided a Boko Haram hideout and engaged the sect’s fighters in a gun duel. A soldier and 14 others died in the encounter. The building housing the sect’s fighters was razed and 14 AK 47 assault rifles were recovered. Besides, many explosives were seized.
The Kano clash followed the motor park bombing in which scores died and many were injured. Who would have thought a few years ago that some demented youths would kit themselves up with explosives and then head for a motor park to ignite the place with a deadly fire that left so much blood, broken heads and battered limbs? Who? In those days, it would have been another April Fool spoof. Not anymore.
On Easter Day in Festac Town, on the outskirts of Lagos, some suspected vandals were arrested by the police. They were said to be carrying fuel stolen from a pipeline in 270 bags – ever heard of fuel in bags? The ingenuity of the thieves here is clearly beyond the comprehension of many in the advanced world – each containing 120 litres of petrol. The chief suspect confessed to the crime, saying he was shocked that security operatives were at work during the Easter break.
Komuko Ayekede said: “We thought that on a day like Easter, security operatives would go and rest with their families. Please, forgive us, at least, for the sake of Christ that rose from death because of you and me.”
He had initially lied that he was a palm wine tapper who only saw the sacks of petrol while atop a palm tree, but he confessed when an accomplice decided to spill the beans. As far as Ayekede is concerned, he should be allowed to go home – in the spirit of Easter. Is there a more shocking absurdity?
Four Kaduna State communities are yet to recover from the hangover of the two-day killing spree unleashed on them by some unknown gunmen on Saturday and Sunday. The police said 19 people were killed. The villagers said 20 died. Among the victims were women and children. They were asleep in the dead of the night when they were woken up by gunshots. They rushed out to find out that their homes had been set on fire by the invaders, who shot them as they rushed out.
The cause of the bloodletting was not immediately clear. The local government chairman, Kumai L.J. Badun, said the invasion was a reprisal for the poisoning of two cows, allegedly by a 21-year-old man, Aboi Stephen, who was complaining that grazing cows destroyed part of his drying season farm. Days after his complaint, two cows were found dead. The owner, said to be a Fulani, warned that Aboi would pay dearly for the death of the cows. One day, Aboi was declared missing. His body was later found by a search party. His throat was slit.
An army of villagers stormed the palace of the chief of Atakar in protest. They accused him of inviting the Fulani into the community. A few days after, the invaders came, vengeance on their minds and anger on their faces, burning and shooting. The body count – 20 dead, including women and children.
Now, consider the price of two dead cows in Nigeria – 20 persons. What can be more ridiculous?
We thought terrorists had been sent packing from Abuja. They sent a warning during the Easter break when an explosive went off at an eatery. Thankfully, there was no casualty.
In Warri, Delta State, three kids were detained by the police for allegedly stealing a bicycle. The children, aged between six and nine, were detained because their parents could not raise the N10,000 per head allegedly demanded by the investigating officer. One was released; his mother paid N6,000. The father of another was said to be on his way to the police station, armed with N6,000 and prayers. Another was wondering why the police would detain the minors with hardened criminals for yet an unproven allegation.
Is April Fool still here?