I find a symbolic similarity between the travails of Dr Chike Akunyili and Reverend Richard Henry Stone (1837–1915), with the latter’s experience narrated in his memoir that contains his missionary activities in Nigeria, entitled, In Africa’s Forest And Jungles. Stone was an American missionary who came to Africa during the nineteenth century to represent the Southern Baptist Convention and spent years among the Yoruba-speaking people of Western Nigeria. He lived in Ijaye, Abeokuta, and Lagos and traveled to “Ibadan, Lahlookpon, Ewo, Ogbomishaw, and Oyo”, in his own words.
For both Stone and Akunyili, I struggled, with scant success, to reconstruct the horror of the grisly movie in which they starred. Akunyili was shot and killed at Nkpor, Idemili Local Government of Anambra State by yet unidentified gunmen. About eight other people were said to have been shot dead or beheaded in that melee. Save for the video circulating on the social media of his huge frame lying on the bare floor, writhing in unimaginable pain, his face a huge gash of ripped open flesh and blood, Akunyili didn’t live to recount the gory horror of his waylay by that band of bloodthirsty hounds in the last minutes of his life. Nor could he tell anyone how these messengers of death fired rude, hot lead at his cerebrum. What transpired between Akunyili and those beasts between that moment of his ambush and his eventual gruesome killing? Did he plead with them to spare his life? Did he identify himself? Did they know he was the widower of Dora, that ecumenical spirit, the angelic Amazon who saved many Nigerian lives from drug fakers? Were the killers that impervious to recognising Angelic spirits that they did not identify one in Chike? Questions. Questions. No answer.
For want of a narrative to fill that void, I dug into the experience of Reverend Stone, who was subjected to a similar waylay, over a century ago. Again, while Akunyili was said to have been driven in a car, Stone was riding a war horse, which he named Bucephalus, sold to him by the legendary warrior of the Yoruba Ijaye kingdom, Kurunmi, who Stone had the opportunity of meeting with; a man he called a despot in the memoir. The Ifa oracle had earlier counseled Kurunmi to dispose off his horse and subsequently ride only white horses. After selling the horse to Stone, Kurunmi then purchased a beautiful Arabian white horse as replacement.
Kurunmi, translated to mean, “death has ruined me,” had the legendary fame of a warlord of the empire of Ijaye, which was just a 20-kilometre distance from present day Mokola in Abeokuta. From the account of the respected Yoruba history authority, Samuel Johnson, Kurunmi was the “greatest soldier of his age”, who possessed huge mystical powers and was highly dreaded. An ally of the Oyo Prince, Atiba, who later became Alaafin, Atiba subsequently installed him as the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland.
The Egba supported the British in their war against King Kosoko and his Portuguese allies in ending the slave trade. This riled “Ogumulla, the military leader of Ebaddan” – according to Stone’s memoir – the friend of, again from the memoir, “the king of Yoruba” – I suppose the Alaafin of Oyo. Ogunmola was an enemy of Kurunmi, who began to be referred to as Aare after his installation by Alaafin Atiba. Ogunmola, in alliance with the Dahomeyans – now the Beniniose of Benin Republic – enemies of the Egba, conspired to wage war against the Egba and the English for their opposition to slavery. Their plan was to destroy Ijaye and Abeokuta and recapture Lagos but Balogun Ibikunle, “Ebekoonleh” to Stone, the civilian governor of Ibadan, being a friend to Kurunmi, was opposed to this plan. Upon receipt of a message from Kurunmi that one of the missionaries stationed in Oyo might be in danger, Stone set out on a journey from Ijaye on his Bucephalus.
Unfortunately for Stone on that journey, like Akunyili, he was ambushed “and quickly surrounded by a body of men armed with guns and cimeters” at “Eedoh,” most likely Ido, a suburb of Ibadan; men he later found out were “Tarkpar (Tapa) and Foolah (Fulani) adventurers under the command of Ebaddan (Ibadan) officers.” Conversely, we are yet to find out, except hold the suspicion that those who attacked Akunyili were execrable murderers of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) or their blood-baiting sympathisers. According to Stone, “The eyes of some of them were greyish and had the cold, merciless gleam of the steel in their hands. They stared up into my face and pressed closer and closer to me like beasts of prey ready to spring upon their victim.” They made to kill the white missionary, with war soldiers gathering round to feast on his flesh. Stone was eventually taken to Ibadan, to Ibikunle, who he called “a remarkably handsome man” and charged with a capital crime of riding on the horse of the enemy of Ibadan, Kurunmi. He was later imprisoned and escaped to meet the Alaafinof Oyo.
Unsuccessful in my bid to reconstruct the horror of the grisly movie wherein Dr. Akunyili starred in the last minutes of his life, I began to look at the symbolism of Nkpor, where he breathed his last; or where his destiny chose his extinguishing. Descendants of a hunter named Okoli Oti, Oti’s sons, Omaliko, Oji and Dimudeke played ancestral roles to Oji people of Umuoji and Dimudeke. Nkpor people, otherwise named Umudim, were relocated to where they are due to incessant wars with their neighbours. Nkpor people, from time immemorial, are known to be warriors, which got them the moniker obodo dike (land of the brave). They are also known to be peace-loving and accommodating. Why then would a peace-loving Akunyili, on a peace-loving soil, be killed by people whose skewed sense of peace is killing their brightest?
I went into this long history to conjure the comparatively agonising travails Akunyili went through in the hands of his own killers. Stone, a man of peace, intent on rescuing a fellow man opposed to slavery, escaped being killed but comparatively, Akunyili, whose friends and acquaintances in Enugu State told me was a man of peace who lived his life saving others as a medical doctor, was killed by men who stood for everything but peace. While Stone’s crime was riding a war horse associated with Aare Kurunmi, enemy of Bashorun Ogunmola and his slavery-disposed allies, Akunyili’s sin was allegedly being found with accoutrements of the enemies of Biafra – a gleaming car suggestive of “Nigerian beasts” and a police orderly that is the metaphor of the injustice his people suffer.
President Muhammadu Buhari came on national television, a few days after the murder of Akunyili, with his ritualistic homilies, which he yearly places at the groove of an almost dead god of One Nigeria. In his October 1 Independence speech, the Hobbesian life that is nasty, brutish and short that Nigerians live under the Buhari presidency merely received an euphemistic treat from him. No remorse from the president on the fact that when Nigerians leave their homes in the morning, there is no guarantee that they will come back in one piece. Even during the Nigerian civil war, life did not regress into this frighteningly Hobbesian state.
Buhari has not been able to answer the question of why and how Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo, a.k.a. Igboho, who terrifyingly shrink the president’s balls today, were disregarded and inconsequential entities in 2015 when he came into power. Who canonized, deified and catapulted them to this level of renown and worth? It was Buhari and his hostility against equity and good governance.
Buhari, in the said speech, in his time-worn characteristic, found the Nigerian media most convenient group to scapegoat. “Our media houses and commentators must move away from just reporting irresponsible remarks to investigating the truth behind all statements and presenting the facts to readers…The seeds of violence are planted in people’s heads through words. Reckless utterances of a few have led to losses of many innocent lives and destruction of properties,” he said.
The president was however dead wrong. He is the one who has led us to where we are today and nobody or nothing else. All other growths from this are mere offshoots. This platitude of imploring us to “take this opportunity, on this special day that symbolises the unity and oneness of our great nation… to embrace peace and dialogue, whatever your grievances,” is mere cant and hypocritical. President Buhari has this conquest and ethnically-driven mentality that is unrivalled in the history of Nigerian leadership. He is unforgiving, self-righteous and persuaded in his own understanding, at the expense of others’.
Added to his skewed understanding of justice and equity and administration of Nigeria, the stage was set for implosion of people who seek other loops to equity and fairness, no matter how foul. This is the logic that makes IPOB’s animalism in the South-East to fester and why characters like the duo, in Buhari’s own narrow admittance, would be funded by a National Assembly member. This government’s disregard for equity has led to the growth of people who carved out allegiance to anything but Nigeria. Buhari is the sole reason why otherwise inconsequential characters like Igboho and Kanu are holding Nigeria to ransom and why Chike Akunyili and so many others have been killed by men who foolishly think killing their kith and kin and burning structures in their locality will remedy this government’s arrogant and inequitable governance.
This administration still harbours a narrow conception of what the media represents. Nigeria is not an Iron Curtain with its barrier. All shades of opinions, including the so-called “irresponsible remarks” that Buhari so much abhors, in the spirit of free speech, must be accommodated and reported to the world. When he, as presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), in May 2012, made the generally considered irresponsible remarks that if the alleged rigging of 2011, when he was voted out, happened again in 2015, “by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood,” in the name of free speech, the press gave him a voice, even though the statement was divisive, outlandish and dripping with a Osama bin Laden-kind of terrorist temperament.
Buhari seems to perceive a thin divide between his despotic decrees of 1984 and legislations, and policies in a democracy. He thus cannot stomach free speech and its appurtenances. Banning Twitter, a major ventilating window of free speech and seeking to formulate, directly or through legislative proxies, stringent regulations, legislations and policies aimed at muzzling the press and controlling the traditional and social media space seem right to him. Rottweilers and Alsatian dogs like the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) are used to enforce this rout of free speech. In the abhorrent October 1 speech under reference, the president felt compelled to mention an unnamed legislator as the financier of Kanu and Igboho but the administration he leads has been tongue-tied and feels not compelled to reveal the sponsors of banditry in Nigeria. What manner of Janus-faced sense of justice is that? Aghast at this double-faced justice, a motion was moved last week by his northern kinsmen in the National Assembly to get bandits declared as terrorists.
I feel compelled to bring into this argument the last days on earth of Obadiah Mailafia, ex-Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, who died recently. Till date, the Buhari government’s unforgiving disposition to contrary opinion and whatever it feels was wrong with Mailafia’s interrogation of the state of the Nigerian state has impeded it from commiserating with the family he left behind. Yes, the government has the freedom to choose who it showers its obsequies on, but the optics of this synchronise with the near-fabulous story of a military Head of State who allegedly divorced and never forgave his first wife till her unfortunate death, her crime being that she sought his freedom from the shackles of his prisoners.
Mailafia’s last days on earth, from accounts published in the media, where he dictated hospitals to be taken to, dreadfully imploring his family against taking him to government hospitals, speak to the apprehension among people opposed to this government that it can speed up the death of those who hold contrary opinions to it. Even Papa and Baby Doc of Haiti were not known by this heinous intolerance.
As we pray for the repose of the souls of Akunyili and Mailafia, it is evident that only Buhari holds the key to Nigeria’s peace and progress. The moment he chooses to administer this country as a national and not Fulani leader; a peace-loving leader and not one who delights in attacking violence with violence, the likes of Akunyili will not die in vain, for, we would have succeeded in steering our beloved nation away from the precipice of hatred, bigotry, divisiveness and despotism.
Inside Nigeria’s huge heist, the COVID-19 IGR
With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic came widespread global misinformation about it. One of this was that there was a deliberate attempt to depopulate the world through the virus’ escape from its epicentre in the Chinese city of Wuhan. From one conspiracy theory to another, so many other theories have been spurned in the process. Right here in Nigeria, the pandemic has also attracted so many. It began from claims that it was a cash cow for so many state governments, which were in a frenzied competition to deploy it as an avenue to funnel illicit cash into their vestries. According to the theory, the more empirical data of the pandemic patients are presented, the more access state governments got to multilateral donor funding and Federal Government assistances. This, thus goes the theory, has provoked all manner of tricks by state governments to falsify figures.
If you travel out of Nigeria, especially in many African countries, the Nigerian variant of the COVID-19 fraud theory will hit you like a tempest. While it is a global protocol that passengers must show evidence of negative results before departing one country for another, many have frequently asked why, in Nigeria, passengers are made to pay the sum of N50,400 for the COVID-19 test when leaving and coming out of the country. Passengers who travel for medical reasons, schooling and other non-productive reasons, go through the excruciating process of having to cough out over a hundred thousand naira, among other expenses, simply because they need to leave the country.
The question to ask then is, why do passengers coming in and out of Nigeria, an average of 2,000 – 3,000 persons per day, pay for ingress and egress testing in Nigeria but travelers in other countries, especially in Africa, don’t? The practice all over the world is the use of Antigen Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT), common in virtually all airports globally. Why is this not done in Lagos and in virtually all international airports in Nigeria?
From data I have come across, the unit cost of the PCR reagents used for the testing is so prohibitive in Nigeria, compared to other countries’, making one to wonder who is making a criminal kill from Nigerian passengers. What makes this even easier for those who are making this heinous money at the people’s expense is that most passengers who pay for the PCR on arrival at Nigerian airports never go for the test, thus making the cabal and government who make billions of naira at the expense of the people to grow heavy laden in their infamy. Methinks that the proper thing to do is for travelers to be tested at the airports, while payments for tests undone should be refunded if the clients can be tracked. Failure to test travelers at the points of entry has led to private laboratories making undue free money at the expense of travelers.
In Lagos, the State government is said to make a profit of N12,000 on every Nigerian that flies into Lagos and with an average of 2,000 – 3,000 passengers per day, the state rakes in a conservative N24 million to N36 million daily. All the monies are alleged to go into the Lagos Biobank Account and not the Ministry of Health’s purse.
Many Nigerians who arrive from foreign countries don’t usually isolate. Examples abound from those who have visited the national leader of APC in recent times. They travel all over the country and for party meetings immediately after arrival and therefore make nonsense of the seven-day post isolation testing after arrival. What therefore is the science of this PCR test after arrival when the returnees are already everywhere, apart from the profits made by the Lagos government, private PCR labs and other members of their cabal?
The Lagos ‘COVID-19 IGR’ has created so many crises in the top management of the ministry and even amongst the State Executive Council Members. Even at that, ordinary Nigerians who have lost their businesses or income to the same virus continue to pay the price.
Come to think of it, the same Lagos health ministry was said to have gotten a grant of $5 million from the Global Fund and N10 billion from the Federal Government over the same COVID-19 matter. Both those who gave the grant and the grantee seem to have moved on while the common people suffer. In furtherance of this, Lagos and the PCR cabal are resisting the use of Antigen RDT in airports in Nigeria, a practice that is common in virtually all airports globally. PCR done outside Lagos costs less and even at that, the cost of inputs is less than N15,000. With this, Lagos and Nigeria are smiling to the banks at the expense of Nigerians. Why are we plagued with leaders who will not take no for an answer until they drain the last pint of blood from the people?
Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.
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