THE SCARECROW METAPHOR: . . . . & Bandits’ Ingratitude to a Magnanimous President
By ‘Tunji Ajayi
In his SALPS 35 - Àjòò (1983) the music mogulKing Sunny Ade preaches gratitude: “Eni t’ó rántí eni nílé, t’ó f’isu ránsé sí ni, Ó ye ká fi’yò ránsé síi lóko.” This literally translates to mean that the person who remembers you back home and sends gifts of yam tubers, equally deserves to have salt sent to him on the farm. Yes! Life thrives on “quid pro quo” principle; viz; if you scratch my back, I will be freely disposed to help scratch yours in return, when it hitches. Even our God says he loves cheerful givers. Yes. But he detests ingratitude. That perhaps explains why King David says it is good to give thanks and make melody to Jehovah God in his book of Psalms 92 v 1. It is charitable to be grateful to every giver of good things.
This is a good lesson that our bandits have refused to learn. On July 5, 2022 our genial president was again literally attacked and viciously assaulted when his advance convoy, made up of high wired security personnel, was attacked on their way to Daura - the President’s home in Katsina State, preparatory to His Excellency’s grand visit for Sallah celebrations. It is a bad story of our audacious, over-pampered bandits who turned round to abuse the magnanimity of an affable president and a good benefactor, who needed protection in his hometown. It is an irony that the President’s top level security men also suffered the pang of insecurity, in spite of the government’s repeated claim that Nigeria’s crass insecurity was almost gone into the final abyss. We have a very kind president who doesn’t want any criminal’s death but to turn around and repent. Subsequently, many hitherto impenitent bandits and terrorists urgently “repented” one after the other and were restored back into the same society on which they had unleashed sorrow, tears and blood; and had turned countless of children into orphans, making thousands of widows and widowers for the nation through the barrels of their AK-47 rifles. Many have wondered; since the President has been so magnanimous, why should they pay back good with evil? This is uncharitable of our bandits and terrorists who perhaps need to read the Holy Book more and learn useful lessons on how not to pay back one’s benefactor with evil deeds. Why should a pious bandit bite the fingers that feeds him?.It is quite uncharitable!
In “Aso Rock Robbery & The Bravado of the Scarecrow” (Ohio Wesleyan University Press, May 16, 2021) the story of my grandfather’s farm being ravaged and destroyed by ungrateful birds was told. As a youth, I watched him each time he was putting together the contraption which often turned out to be a scary object, often with two legs and two eyes, two hands and the nose etc. Though inanimate, it was usually painstakingly made by my grandfather. It seemed he had so much confidence in this queer inanimate object which had a mouth but didn’t talk. It had eyes but couldn’t see. My grandfather would place each of his scarecrows at a vantage and high altitude in the middle of his farm, often during the planting season of grains when impious birds had field days ravaging and scavenging his farm; not only eating up but destroying his precious grains, on which he had labored to plant, before harvest.
All my junior brother and I needed to do was move around each section of the farm at short intervals and throw stones into the middle of the plantation, while simultaneously making weird noises to scare away the ravenous, destructive birds. Thereafter, we then gave feedback on the conditions of the farm to the disciplinarian grandfather who didn’t spare the rod whenever we failed to move round three times daily. He administered punishment for every failure, exuberance or childish misdemeanor; often with his trademarked heavy head knock which often felt like the impact of a 1kg bag of cement dropped on our heads from a storey building!
At the initial stage, we had good report to the effect that the ravenous birds were truly scared of our Baba Agba’s grotesque-looking scarecrow, thus making them avoid our grandfather’s vast farms like a plague. Thus, the old workaholic and resourceful man kept his peace. The euphoria of his conquest over the ravaging birds didn’t last long, until one day we had bad news for him. The birds had become wiser to know that the scarecrow’s frightening pose was a mere bravado! They had understood my grandfather’s antics and trickery. The ravenous birds soon became perceptive, perhaps intuitively, to know that his scarecrow was a mere decorative - a hand-made, make-belief contraption to scare them away from the goodies on the farm. Rather than be scared, the birds were actually in a convivial mood, while feasting more excitedly, perching on the contraption. Having gained confidence, they became bold and more daring; defecated on the scarecrow, and launched more ferocious assault. Worse still, with their sharp beaks, the impudent birds plucked the scarecrow’s eyes, nose, etc, tearing Baba Agba’s hitherto scary contraption into shreds and an object of pity and ridicule!
What is the kernel of my story? You cannot fool the people forever. If you are given a responsibility to perform, please play your part and act decisively, lest you become an indolent laughingstock and a pawn on the chess board. There the honour lies. Otherwise, dishonour comes. If you act likea scarecrow or toothless bulldog you eventually become a victim of your slothfulness. In the days of “if you miss the ball, don’t miss the leg” we were told in football by our coach that attack is the best form of defense. Whether the cliché still holds till today, I don’t know, since I am neither a football buff nor a player any longer having been hated, discouraged and not fielded for long by my wicked coach just for having the reputation of kicking the ball “over the bar” at most crucial times of our matches in the 18-meter box!
After the Aso Rock robbery on May 9, 2022, in a display of crass ingratitude, criminals on field day again ferociously attacked the convoy of a kind president under whose government Nigeria took the delivery from the US of the final batch of her A-29 Super Tucano Aircrafts in October 2021 to make a total number of 12 jets. The Nigerian Air Force was said to have a whopping 38 new aircrafts in her fleet now to tackle insecurity. But the super impact of our super jets is yet to be felt. Though, the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard, was quoted to have said at the induction of the latest set of the fighter jets that the A-29 Super Tucano jets which cost almost $500,000,000 makes it “the largest FMS program in sub-Saharan Africa.” According to Leonard, the A-29 can perform intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and precision air-to-ground strikes, strengthening Nigeria’s ability to fight terrorism.” Leonard added: “A total of 64 pilots and maintainers from the Nigerian Air Force were trained to US standards with the US Air Force’s 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Base in Georgia, USA.”
Oh! Very Good! . . . Trained to US standard! Such standard might work elsewhere. But Leonard must have forgotten that this is Nigeria where the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces communicates in coded body language to give orders. Almost a year after the Super Tucano fighter jets were procured, stemming the tide of terrorism remains a mirage. Since the jets have the capacity to perform “intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and precision air-to-ground strikes” as claimed, are the jets truly being used to attack? By our traditional reactionary stance, will equipment designed to attack achieve expected results if being used to defend after criminals had already unleashed terror?
Harping on his party’s seemingly impressive manifesto, President Buhari repeatedly boasted ab initio of his capacity to stem the tide of insecurity under his leadership. Nigerians all had enough reason to believe a former military Head of State, and still a Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces under this dispensation. He got into office after four successive elections in which he took part and lost three successive times, before he won the coveted presidency seat and assumed power in 2015. Interestingly, the first key item in his party’s manifesto was ensuring national security. But exactly like the proverbial scarecrow that could merely drive away preying birds only for a fleeting moment, President Buhari cannot act more decisively to protect his citizens who elected him into office, while insecurity worsens more than any time in Nigeria’s checkered history under his watch. This is largely due to his ambivalent position on the subject. Till today, citizens continue to die, get displaced, abducted or maimed from the onslaught of bandits, kidnappers, terrorists, and many criminal elements in hundreds. President Buhari could merely commiserate and boast of being on top of the matter, while looking the other way thereafter, for reasons only known to His Excellency. He jets out, mostly at odd periods of time, to attend world leaders’ summits where he preaches about good leadership and making the world a better and safer place. But there is no state in the entire Nigeria that is safe to live in as there is a scourge of kidnapping, banditry and all manner of criminality which are on the increase on daily basis.
Even Kaduna, Niger and Nasarawa States, which are the most proximal states to Abuja, Federal capital territory, where Aso Rock, the seat of power, is situated are all in insecurity turmoil on daily basis. Nowhere is safe! Between January and March of 2022 alone, bandits have reportedly killed 360 citizens and kidnapped a whopping 1,380 in Kaduna State alone, which is about 120 minutes drive from Aso Rock. Earlier in 2021, it was reported that 1,192 people were killed in the same State, while 3,348 persons were kidnapped. This is just the data captured in one state alone! There are 36 states in the Federation, none of where lives are safe. The North Eastern states of Yobe, Borno, Adamawa are equally hotbeds of kidnapping and banditry. While death looms on citizens on a daily basis, the bandits, kidnappers are celebrating successful onslaughts on innocent Nigerians and survivors are left mourning. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) confirmed in a 2021 report that “conflict has directly resulted in the deaths of 35,000 people in the states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe as a result of battle or one-sided violence since 2009″.
There is nothing absurd, odious and horrendous that has not been witnessed under this government. While these go on across the nation nonetheless, one of the Presidential spokespersons, Femi Adesina, in a ballyhoo once told Nigerians reeling in excruciating pain and anguish in 2021 “why Nigerians are more attracted to Buhari than Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe and Aminu Kano”, buttressing his viewpoint that the Vice President Osinbajo too had confirmed that “Buhari is possibly Nigeria’s most popular politician that we have had in this generation.” Perhaps, Nigerians need not argue but agree. Truly, President Buhari is popular. Very popular! This is especially so, being the only president under whose oversight the most dastardly and horrendous killings have been committed by criminal elements. What with endless gory stories of jail breaks, attack on military formations (including the prestigious Nigerian Defense Academy), military barracks and other institutions including churches, mosques, rail lines, secondary schools, universities, airports, etc. Nigerians are crying in anguish daily, and wishing criminals were duly tried, punished and seen clearly to have been brought to book. They are yet to see the perpetrators of all these gory killings. But on the contrary, many have been re-absorbed back into the society on which they had unleashed mayhem for decades, “having repented”, according to the government’s claim.
Like I said in “Buhari: The Non-histrionics of History: A reticent President Working Hard too Late” (Ohio Wesleyan University Press, USA, February 27, 2022), he is the only President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces in Nigeria’s chequered history whose thoughts and mindset are so obscure and hardly known either by the citizens or the military on which he has constitutional oversight as the Commander in Chief. He trades on body language, subterfuge and contradictions. Unfortunately, communication is ineffective unless the decoder understands the encoder’s message. We know that wars are won with clear and unambiguous directives from war commanders. His government has repeatedly claimed to know those who sponsor terrorism and criminality. Yet, he neither mentioned them, nor brought them to book! A renowned agent has often met to negotiate with terrorists on behalf of kidnapped victims. Yet, our celebrated Super Tucano fighter jets have never been deployed to wipe off the criminals! No wonder there is confusion on daily basis. At a time, the government claimed to have won the war against banditry, and thus advised citizens to “go about their normal duties.” At another time, citizens were being slaughtered on a daily basis after which the president expressed shock and commiserated. Later it took the Minister of Defense to go tough with the “coward citizens” of Nigeria. Thus, he preached eloquently to us all that we should rise up to defend ourselves. According to Bashir Salihu Magashi, a retired army General in Abuja on February 17, 2021 after the abduction of about 300 students in Kankara village of Katsina State by the bandits, he enthused: “Is it the responsibility of the military alone? . . . It is the responsibility of everybody to be alert and ensure safety when necessary. We shouldn’t be cowards.” . . . He revealed hitherto unknown bandits’ secrets to us all - the ordinary bloody civilians: “Sometimes the bandits come with about three rounds of ammunition and when they fire shots everybody will run.” Thus, we all got to know that it was too cowardly of us to run from bandits with merely three bullets inside their AK-47 rifles! But even military barracks have often been subdued with their “about three rounds of ammunition”.
After many of the bandits and terrorists’ colleagues had been reabsorbed into the society on which they had unleashed mayhem having “repented”, all they could do to pay back a kind man is to conspire in their “outside wall” with their colleagues in the “inside wall” like Fela would say, and broke 15 jails and rattled a kind Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. After Ondo State jail break in May 2022, he expressed shock. On Edo jail break in October 2020, he expressed shock. On Lagos foiled jail break in Oct 2020, he expressed shock. On Abia jail break, he expressed shock. On Delta jail break, he expressed shock. On Ilorin jail break, the president also expressed shock. In Imo; shock! In Bauchi; shock! In Kano, shock! In Kogi, shock! In Oyo, shock! In Plataeu, shock! And lately on Kuje prison, he expressed deep shock! At least in all fairness, they should have left Abuja, the administrative seat of the government alone to avoid this flurry of health-damaging shocks on our president. So far, 15 jail breaks have been carried out with thousands of prisoners escaping to join hands with their colleagues outside. According to This Day report, “prison breaks have so far resulted in the escape of over 7,000 prisoners from Nigerian prisons since 2015.” Apparently the incessant shock is too much to bear by a benevolent President whose Aso Rock official place of abode was also attacked on May 9, 2021. Apparently the criminals, who perhaps in cahoots with their cohorts attacked our President’s convoy during which deaths were recorded,have not been fair enough to our compassionate President.
To you ungrateful bandits, one wonders why the safety of lives of your colleagues and the desire to free them from prison made you become so daring as to break the jails and attack security personnel, thus making our kind president to keep being shocked endlessly. After all, Nigerians too have countless number of citizens in your captivities. Yet, no single shot was aimed at your camp by the compassionate President who does not want the death of criminals with genocidal instincts and nation destroyers to die, but for them to repent, be saved, and reabsorbed. How many of you bandits, terrorists and kidnappers have been tried or summarily executed in the past seven years? Learn to be appreciative!
Let it be known that whatever a man sows he reaps. And to those who take pleasure and pride in riding on the back of the tiger, let them know that they are often the “first-course” meal when the tiger goes hungry and angry. An unprovoked attack on the Presidential Convoy is an attack on his esteemed person. To the Association of Bandits & Terrorists of Nigeria (ABTN), let them know that they owe our kind president a letter of apology for that unprovoked attack on his revered convoy. It is an indiscreet and ungrateful man that throws punches at his own protector. For it is sacrilegious to repay a protective benefactor with evil deeds. After all one good turn deserves another. Verbum Satis Sapienti.
*Tunji Ajayi, a creative writer, author and documentary producer writes from LC-Studios, Nigeria.
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