It’s an unusually chilly January afternoon in California and I’m coasting down the Pacific Coast Highway, feeling like a felon on the run as the speedometer inches twenty miles above the speed limit. Fela is waxing prophetic on the stereo:
Many Leaders As You See Them
Plenty Disguise Na dem dey O
Animal Dey Human Skin
Animal Dey Wear Agbada
Animal Dey put Suit O
I do this when I’m homesick. And, I’m feeling very homesick today. At times like this, you want to be in Nigeria. Once that “aluta” strain has been injected into your DNA in the university, it never leaves you. And, this was the week for the mother of all protests
This particular stretch of the California highway reminds me of home. The Pacific Coast Highway stretch between Santa Monica and Malibu could have been the coastal stretch between Vitoria Island and Lekki if the government had cared to develop Nigeria.
I am homesick because for the first time in history, Nigerians are pouring out on the streets day after day, defying a history of protests that peter out after hours and surprising a government that is living in the 21st century with advisers and ministers still wired to 20th century.
It’s like a fever. Even the rich and powerful are joining in, an irony because it does seem they are protesting against themselves. I hear of protest strolls in Ikoyi and Victoria Island by multi-millionaires who celebrate their identification with the masses with post-protest champagnes.
Not to be outdone, an ex-minister who flaunts pictures of his fleet of cars, dozens of household staff and opulent home in juvenile displays on facebook has become so pro-people he’s camped out in the Wuse district of Abuja, occupying Nigeria with his Rolex watch glimmering in the sun.
You gotta feel bad for President Goodluck Jonathan. It would be inhuman not to. The poor man was a Nigerian darling only nine months ago. According to INEC, PDP and some opposition leaders, Nigerians voted for Jonathan the way people vote when they feel a candidate has God’s e-mail address.
Now, he must be feeling like a dude who got left at the altar.
And, what did the benevolent president do wrong to deserve such angst and tire burning? Adding a measly seventy-six kobo to each liter of petroleum! How is a president supposed to know 76kobo will cause so much angst? Nigerians need to be more understanding. If the president or his ministers run across loose kobos in their houses or offices, someone is getting fired for desecration.
Seriously, what is a don supposed to do? Jonathan must wish he was back in his elements in the zoo where the animals always wag their tails in delight every time they see him.
How does a man handle such a wave of protests? Does he go to his wife and bury himself in a giant hug? Does he run to mommy and cry, “they hate me, mama”? Or, does he just take a seat in the kitchen and eat all his troubles away?
I mean, seriously, all Jonathan wanted was to better the lives of his subjects, sorry fellow citizens, and somehow, they didn’t only grow a voice, they stopped working and gathered in hundreds of thousands to protest.
I feel bad for the man. It must be hard for a man to go to bed one night hearing that he’s the almighty’s precious gift to Nigeria, with multi-millionaires singing him a lullaby of “ranka dede” then he wakes up the next day and the country is on fire!
The president must be stewing when he sees his fellow politicians, including the seediest and dirtiest, acting like born-again politicians at the Occupy Nigeria rallies. Jonathan must wish he can occupy something right now.
I think he can and he should.
He should gather his ministers and take them on a short walk to the National Assembly. He should bring the governor along too. The more the merrier. When he gets there, he should request the opportunity to address both chambers of the National Assembly.
He should mount the podium and tell his ministers some of them are now jobless. He’s going back to Second republic cabinet levels. And, just so they know he’s not all about animals and the zoo, he’ll show off his knowledge of history. He’ll tell them that twenty years ago, there was a single ministry for information, youth, sports and culture for instance. He’s going back to that. With one sentence, he would have slashed off a chunk of the expenditure.
He knows the ministers will run to the media and scream unconstitutionalities. So, he will turn to the legislators and ask them to amend the constitution so ministers will come not one per state but three or four for each of the six geo-political zones.
As soon as the legislators applaud him, he will tell them he is slashing their allowances by 50%. As the legislators frown and wonder if the speech is an impeachable offense, he’ll turn to the cameras and yell, “Occupy baby!”
A man can dream, can’t he?