ASO ROCK ROBBERY & BRAVADO OF THE SCARECROW:
When Bandits Pushed A President
By Tunji Ajayi
In the article “Of Presidential Assets Declaration” (The Nation, July 1, 2012) I related a story of my antics in my grandfather’s farm, the anecdote which I find very useful for this piece, and the permission for which I seek to re-echo here. My workaholic grandfather would set traps early in the morning and come back to the hut in the evening with varieties of entrapped bush-meat which he subsequently hanged precariously above the heated furnace. I had my own regular assignment. As I fanned the embers of fire to get the meat well roasted, the tempting aroma and the urge to taste the meat was always irresistible. It would take a highly disciplined angel to overcome the temptation of having a bite of the bush-meat being heated on the fire. Except my grandfather who always had a taste of it while being roasted, nobody dared taste the meat, until the meal time when he gave my brother and I whatever he felt was our portion; usually a too small chunk of the meat, but which again we would still cut into two halves to relish with the sumptuous meal of pounded yam and egusi soup at dinner time. It was a taboo for young children to eat large chunk of meat in those days; so the elders told us. But as I grew older, I realized it was a subterfuge by them ostensibly to cheat the young, or perhaps a subtle lesson in perseverance and self deprivation.
However, on an unforgettable day in my life, the ubiquitous Mr. Devil tempted me after my rigid disciplinarian granddaddy went into the far bush to work. Like a learned Justice averred: “the state of a man’s mind is as good or as bad as his actions.” Evil thoughts often precede ignoble actions. I rationalized and reasoned within myself: “What stops me from cutting off this tail and having a taste like my Grandpa often did?” Justifying my intended dangerous action, I “unanimously” agreed with myself that it was wise to have a small bite. So, I “mistakenly” severed the tail and ate. I went further. I also mistakenly severed the liver which I ate so voraciously in succession. Oh, God! It was so tasty! Thus, in addition I also “mistakenly” cut off the head and ate. Consequently, what remained was so little and stumpy to give rise to suspicion of “petty taste.” Or do I say petty theft (?)
Let me spare my audience the horror of recalling what happened to me when the rod-wielding man returned to the hut; suffice to state that I suffered body laceration from thorough whipping by the disciplinarian man. It was an unforgettable day of my life. Nobody was in the hut to intercede on my behalf. But I never understood why he had to beat an “innocent” boy who was not yet of school age so mercilessly for mere “petty taste”. After all, he too often fed on his bush-meat tail while being roasted. Perhaps my grandfather had forgotten Jesus entreaties: “Let the young children come to me . . . for the kingdom of God belongs to them.”
My grandfather was not done. He added more punishment. I must go to his almost two- acre maize plantation farm every morning thereafter, and drive away preying birds in the maize plantation. Oh! Good days are gone. The farm provided a haven of peace and serenity. No kidnappers. No banditry. It was a safe place for a farmer and his family members. But his supposed punishment soon metamorphosed into huge fun for me. There I first came across a strange human-like grotesque object which got me startled. A contraption made of wood on which a hat was placed. He was dressed in human cloth with the feeble hands dangling hither and thither in response to the severity of windstorm. The grotesque appearance created a medley of consternation and amusement. I rushed back to the hut in feverish fear to report my strange observation. “Go back! But stay far away from it.” The tough-looking rod-wielding grandpa hollered at me. “I put it there to frighten and drive away preying birds. But pelt stones and other objects to drive away any impervious preying birds that have the effrontery to feed on the maize plantation.”
“But why asking me to go and do the job of his grotesque-looking contraption otherwise called the scarecrow”. I reasoned within myself. Nonetheless, every day after breakfast I would sit afar off my grandpa’s scarecrow and watch the reaction of birds who must have mistaken the object for a human on keen watch; and poised to catch them should they perch. In droves they would come into the maize plantation; but ostensibly scared, they would fly away no sooner than they perched to feed on the large arable of maize. My cunning grandpa had hoodwinked the preying birds into thinking that the objects watching so keenly was Mr. Farmer and his children standing with legs akimbo. They hardly perched let alone moving close to the 8 or 10 scarecrows strategically placed at the four corners and the middle of the maize plantation. But barely two weeks after my watch alongside my grand-pa’s deceptive and lifeless scarecrows, the scenario and narrative changed!
Though man was given more power over and above every creature, our awesome Jehovah God also gives every living creature their intuitive powers. The impious ravenous preying birds no longer had fear for my grand-father’s deceptive scarecrows but were even perching on them, ostensibly to pre-assess the more sumptuous maize to feed on. Oh! I had another strange observation! Unlike humans with selfish and egocentric inclinations, the birds must have alerted other colleagues back home on their nests of an existing maize plantation around. But humans, with his greedy instinct, would have kept such knowledge to himself. Thus, in hundreds and thousands they all came to feed. And thereafter my task of driving them away physically, while shouting and throwing objects in their midst to scare them away began.
But what is the kernel of my story above? It is perhaps unheard in human history that bandits or thieves or armed robbers would have the effrontery to enter into a hallowed presidential yard to commit any horrendous act. In the past, woe betided any group of arsonists, robbers, or brigands who ventured moving near a police station, an army barrack facility; needless talking of a presidential lodge or office. It was abominable. A sacrilege! Even civilians houses built at the precinct of military barracks were safe from armed robbery and other vicious attacks. But like I literally tasted the mere tail of my grandfather’s bush meat and suffered no punishment, thus leading to tasting the liver and then the head, the bandits, kidnappers, brigands etc. having figuratively “tasted” the benefit of their dastardly and horrendous acts and seemed to have enjoyed it unhindered, due to government’s laxity, needless politicking and permissiveness, consequently, crass and unfettered criminalities have taken over our political and social space! When law fails, tyranny rules! Rather than act decisively, all we see the presidency doing through its loquacious spokespersons was descending into grandstanding, ambivalence and subterfuge. Masses’ loud cries and groaning were branded “wailing” and “hatred from the opposition”. The bush meat metaphoric “tail”, the “liver’ and the “head” had been tasted without being meted with stiff punishments. The “stump” is now being devoured with utter recklessness and impunity. Thus, criminals now moved further into attacking government facilities including police stations, army barracks, and now the hitherto sacred and impregnable presidential lodge!
The Minister of Information & Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed recently confessed to the government knowing the locations of the bandits, adding that the government had enough wherewithals to subdue them; but they are only being careful to avoid human collateral damages. Good! But many years of negotiations with bandits have rolled by without attacking their “known” base, while lives are lost daily due to daily kidnappings and genocidal calamities. The world keeps laughing scornfully at government’s insensitivity. While our leaders preach peace, many studying presidency’s body language are timid to demand for justice. The world cannot be surprised about our dismal and precarious situation; after all like Marcus Tullius Cicero, a roman statesman would say, “the greatest incitement to crime is the hope of escaping punishment.” What deters potential serial killers when their mentors are not seen duly tried and punished?
Many parents, children and citizens across the nation, unsure of their safety are under the pang of stress and strain daily, occasioned by palpable fear, while kidnapped victims’ family members are developing high blood pressure, often leading to sudden death. Many are praying daily that their children already kidnapped from schools be freed as kidnappers were killing and threatening to kill more unless prohibitive ransoms were paid. Policemen are scared of wearing their uniforms on the street for fear of being viciously attacked either by bandits, kidnappers or gun-totting herders. Yet we are told daily by the government spokespersons that our military and security agencies were not overwhelmed. If Nigeria is not already a failed state, what is it? A “passed” state?
In “Rescue of Jessica In Texas & Nigeria’s Kankara Disaster: How much does Human Life worth now”? (see Ohio Wesleyan University Press, May 8, 2021), I told a story herein revisited: “The Cock used to have honour. He was so impregnable and being dreaded by the Fox due to the glittering red cockscomb (ogbe) on his head, often mistaken for blazing fire by the ravenous Fox. The fear was so much until one day when the Cock allayed the Fox’s fears, adding that the dreaded cockscomb was mere meat-like divine adornment, and does no harm to anyone. Moving closer to the Fox, the Cock beckoned the sly Fox to touch his hitherto dreaded cockscomb and discovered surprisingly that his hand was not scorched! Thus, since then the Cock lost his invincibility and honour before the Fox and thus became vulnerable to be preyed on by the ravenous Fox till this day.” Where lies the government’s honour before bandits?
The “scarecrow” culture and lack-luster attitude of the presidency on security issue can only continue to exacerbate the dismal situation of national security; while tinkering with issues that affect citizens lives by failing to deal decisively with the criminals once and for all time is like a hitherto dreaded Cock allowing a ravenous Fox to fiddle with his cockscomb of honour. The scarecrow, though often used to dispel intruders, is an inanimate object of pseudo activity and crass deception. It has frightening look with mouth, eyes and ears and limbs but lacks capacity to reason and act decisively. Like the ravenous birds perching on the scarecrows, government insensitivity and timidity to apply the rod, rather than endless negotiation can only encourage bandits, kidnappers and other criminal elements to defecate on the governments’ sacred alter of power, and rubbish its constitutionally enshrined power to effect discipline and stop malfeasance to ensure peace in the country.
Truth, we know ever remains constant, while falsehood, like the chameleon, keeps changing its toga and posture. Every untrue message aimed cunningly at winning the sympathy of the citizens amounts to fake news peddling. Our Government spokespersons should start to peddle truth at all times, as unblemished truth vindicates the just and exalts a nation. I don’t know any nation in the whole world that would waste so many years and energy debating a puerile issue of open cattle grazing, while killing and maiming on that subject continues, when the rest of the world are developing the existing modern technologies in agriculture, medicine, aeronautics, etc and breaking new grounds to better their lots in other spheres. Yet, the President and many of the advocates of open cattle grazing have travelled round the world, including where they seek medical tourism, without giving us the good examples of countries where cattle graze brazenly on their airport tarmacs, defecating on their roads, government offices, tourism and other public facilities. Worse still, reasonable and forward looking citizens are compulsorily bound to coast along backwardation by the now hackneyed cliché of one Nigeria.
Even in the face of heightening tension and daily reports of crises, the same presidency that repeatedly boasted, through its spokespersons that Boko Haram and her menace had been decimated many years back, while bandits brigandage stemmed; the President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces just lamented that he was being “pushed” by criminals and therefore warned that he would subsequently act decisively. It is then safe to submit that either the employment euphemism or utter falsehood, instead of blunt truth is at play.However, when the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces would make good his threat by breaking the ranks of criminals remains a conundrum.
Yet, as this paragraph was being rounded off the President was promising huge assistance to help Chad Republic overcome her political and economic problems. Charity begins at home. Not from outside. The days are long gone when Nigeria’s African Giant toga and big brother appellation seemed fitting. Both the robe and appellation have long become fade and turned jaded. Who will honour a man who stays outside but turning round to in his own sitting room? He has no honour and respect. But like the great leader and erstwhile President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela once said: “The world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The black people of the world need Nigeria to be great as a source of pride and confidence.” Unfortunately despicable leadership has brought us into this cesspit of dishonor, while the country dangerously moves close to a brink of precipice each passing day. But for government spokespersons who always doublespeak let them learn from a foremost motivational speaker F. Emmanuel: “Truth is never outdated, but gimmicks keep changing. Nothing endures like truth.” Emmanuel added his didactic homily: “If you desire to successfully manage the many bends of life unhurt, build your life on the truth. Truth never contradicts, it is falsehood that does. If you tell a lie, you need several other lies to sustain the first lie.” The government had pampered small crisis, ab initio, far too long until it festered into great disaster now consuming the nation. But lamentations of being pushed by bandits and bravado to act hardly solve monumental national problems that threaten nationhood. The only cure for grief is action, so says George Henry Lewes, an English writer. May God lengthen the life of the President & Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. May His Excellency also benefit from the aphoristic thought of a legend. Hear him: “It is better a thousand times to die with glory, than live without honour.” It was King Louis VI the Fat of France who said so. Not me. Verbum Satis Sapienti
*Tunji Ajayi, a creative writer, author, biographer and audiovisual documentary producer writes from LC-Studio Communications, Nigeria (+2348033203115; +2348162124412) >facebook.com/tunji.ajayi.946< (firstname.lastname@example.org)