Musiliu Ayinde Ayedaade Akinsanya (a.k.a Mc Oluomo) is a satirist’s delight, always. This is largely because his phenomenal growth and increasing influence in the overall scheme of things in our polity embody the paradox of the Nigerian condition.
Penultimate weekend, he was again in the news as a footnote of a comic material. A congratulatory banner produced by the Lagos Mainland West Branch of the ubiquitous National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) described him as, among other things, a “Menthol”.
Somehow, the banner found its way to Nigeria’s internet battlefield of irreverent “savages”. Apparently, in the hands of Nigeria’s inventive graphic designers, the word “mentor” went through metamorphosis and Twitter Nigeria would not allow that go unnoticed.
To be sure, the obvious infraction (the word “mentor” badly spelt as “menthol”) is just one of the numerous testimonies of Nigerian graphic designers’ linguistic ingenuity. When the late literary icon, Chinua Achebe, wrote that Africans (nay Nigerians) would not just adopt the English language as a vehicle of literary expression but (that) they would indeed do “great” things with it, he was obviously referring to Nigerian graphic designers. And this ingenuity, perhaps a validation of Achebe’s thesis, recognizes no geographical boundary; we have testimonies all across the country, courtesy of these inventive graphic designers.
Every Nigerian must have stumbled upon at least one poster or campaign banner or wall message that screams at the reader and gives comic instructions. There is the one conspicuous inscription on every street in urban Nigeria warning every passerby that “this house is not for sale, beware of 419”, and then it ends with the inventive footnote: “BUY THE OWNER”. There also is the signboard calling on users of a road under construction to “slow down” because there is “bomb ahead”; a restaurant inviting hungry passer-by to come enjoy “rice, plantain and Supagatee” (Spaghetti); or the cautious note to passersby in environment-conscious areas to “stop matching flauwar” (Flowers).
Nigerian designers and graphic artists are inventive like that.
But beneath the linguistic genius of Nigerian graphic designers (which turned the NURTW boss into “menthol”) lies the startling revelation that Mc Oluomo’s, as aptly characterized, is indeed a “menthol”: one duly anointed by the almighty Lagos cabal.
Menthol, according to science, is an organic compound made synthetically or obtained from peppermint or mint oils with flavoring and local anesthetic properties. When added to pharmaceuticals and foods, menthol functions as a fortifier for peppermint flavors. When applied topically to the skin, ingested, or inhaled, menthol produces a cooling sensation.
To be sure, menthol does not lower the temperature of the body or skin, according to some researchers. Instead, it produces a cooling effect by blocking the calcium current along the nerves responsible for detecting temperature. It is said that there are calcium channels in cell walls throughout our bodies, and that is why we can see systemic toxicity after swallowing or inhaling concentrated amounts of menthol.
Now here are perhaps the most important characteristics of menthol: serious effects of menthol include seizures, coma, eye or skin irritation, or death.
From the foregoing, it remains clear now that menthol, just like the NURTW boss, can be beneficial to one’s agency or become dangerously harmful, depending on the side of the spectrum one stands. On the beneficial aspect, Bashiru Dawodu, member representing Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency 1, would be able to explain better.
Immediately Mr Dawodu was declared winner of the seat in the last general election, he quickly jumped to the “palace” of MC Oluomo to show him his certificate of return and thank him for the role he played in his victory. According to Sahara Reporters, Mc Oluomo in his response said he would support Dawodu to become a senator in 2023 by “God’s grace”.
It’s worthy of note that election in the Oshodi/Isolo axis, where Okota is located, was defined by arson and violence. Reports even said that thugs were caught on camera destroying ballot boxes and tearing ballot papers on election day in the area. But right there was a product of that exercise paying homage to the “menthol” who perhaps made things happen. For Dawodu, we can easily guess what kind of “menthol” Mc Oluomo represents.
In the heat of the last Osun governorship election, Mr Oluomo was seen threatening the immediate past Senate President Bukola Saraki and his allies. Pronto, another ally of Mr Saraki too resurrected from obscurity to offer counter threats. In the end, bar the 2007 election, that election eventually turned out one of the most shambolic the good people of that state has ever seen, especially in Orolu. In any case, Mc Oluomo’s preferred candidate/party emerged winner. Clearly, Mr Oluomo never “menthols” losers; he is a winning “menthol”!
Since that election held, Mc Oluomo’s profile has risen and he has continued to set his footprints into mainstream politics. A man destined for greater exploits, he even survived a life-threatening attack on him at a Lagos APC rally during electioneering.
Courtesy of the immeasurable support of the “Oracle of Lagos”, the man has taken his “mentholship” beyond the chaotic walls of the motor park. On one occasion, he later appeared in a viral photo with a celebrated cop and, recently, he became an internet sensation after he was invited as “guest speaker” in one of Nigeria’s most respected universities. “Mentholship”!
Yet, for commuters who pay high fares and many commercial drivers perpetually extorted by his group in Lagos, the man may not be better than a seizure-inducing “menthol”. PREMIUM TIMES earlier in the year published accounts of how many of the drivers complained of the highhandedness of the NURTW, a group for whom he has been a poster boy for more than a decade and now controls as chair.
Again, for many voters who chose not to align with the electoral choice of Mc Oluomo’s godfathers and were literally denied their franchise or violently coerced to align with him, the man remains a coma-inducing “menthol”.
So in the end, the Lagos Mainland West Branch of the NURTW may not be overly wrong with their description of their boss as “menthol”. There is but a thing line between genius and lunacy, you know. And, besides, didn’t Achebe warn that we will do great things with the white man’s language, pray?
The sad reality, however, is that except for a privileged few, the man may have affected the lives of many with the “other” side of his “menthol-ship”, leaving coma, seizure, irritation and all things negative in his trail. And he has done this largely with the support of his own famed mentor, a very influential political god in the state. But because like Fela warned, the people must “Shmile” even when they “shurfer”, they dare not speak ill about this “menthol” or his mentor.
All hail Mc Oluomo, the one and only Lagos anointed “menthol”. May the gods of the land allow him “pepper” them ( his enemies and those of his mentor) the more as we approach the 2023 Battle Royale. Twaleee!
Oladeinde tweets via @Ola_deinde