Now that we are done with crocodile tears (genuine grief is never done with so fast), it is time for some brutality. We are like the ancients who said: De mortuis nil nisi bonum⎯Only say good things of the dead. I see no bonum in that advice. I only see bunkum. What manner of man, knowing full well he was grievously and terminally ill, would have accepted the burden of being the flag bearer of the PDP in 2007, leaving his campaign to be launched and executed by a discredited incumbent who told all sorts of lies concerning the mortal illness of the said flag bearer? What manner of man would have agreed to continue with the charade, even beyond that crucial juncture when the clownish incumbent had crowed on the campaign trail: Umoru, Umoru, are you dead? Umoru not only kept up the deceitful game but maintained an eloquently affirmative silence when OBJ claimed on his behalf that he was as fit as a fiddle, nay, a squash racquet, and challenged all disbelievers to a duel to the death (at which country club?—memory fails me here!) with the PDP champion. And then the elections were grossly rigged, the will of the electorate multiply gang-raped by the PDP and the opposition parties, but our man didn’t see why he shouldn’t enjoy the stolen mandate. Instead he packed his cabinet with the likes of Aondoakaa (Minister of Injustice), Egwu (Minister of Miseducation), Lukman (Minister of Oil Spillage, Siphoning aka ‘Bunkering’, and Petro-dollar Misappropriation), etc., etc., and looked the other way, no harrumph, no haba, when the machinery of state began to persecute people like Ribadu and El-Rufai who had both been used and dumped. There was the sop offered to widespread electoral disenchantment with the inauguration of a commission on electoral reforms, but what happened with the commission’s report at the end of the day? Under Yar’Adua, Nigeria was at war effectively in the Niger Delta, and finally came to realise that the militants had the upper hand not only because they understood the terrain better, were mobilised for a fight to the finish, and were ready and capable of extending the theatre of war beyond the creeks of the Niger Delta to places like Lagos and even beyond, but also because the JTF was busy cutting deals on oil piracy and massacring innocents on the wholesale. Thusly was the ‘amnesty’ earned, nay, won by the militants in the Niger Delta. It was not granted by the Nigerian state. The Nigerian state and its backers had come to see that short of turning the Niger Delta into a Hiroshima, there was no way they could dislodge the militants from the creeks and safeguard oil installations. Let us face that truth, and this other one. The personalisation of power in Nigeria attained new, dizzying heights under Yar’Adua. He once left for Saudi double-, triple-, quadruple-quick without properly handing over leadership of the executive. Government was in disarray as nobody seemed to know what to do. Then that veteran politico, Kingibe, a man not new to the wiles and means of how to take over even when the reins of power have not been handed over to you, stepped in and brought some measure of stability to the feckless FEC. When Yar’Adua resurrected, he kicked Kingibe out as Secretary to the Federal Government, sending a clear warning to his cabinet that whenever he was not around to do things they should leave things undone. This was the prelude to his November sojourn of no return. Please and please, who among us felt that Yar’Adua was ever going to recover from the severe damage and failure of his vital organs? But even when the mechanism of his life had ground to a halt, the man remained in power because he had carefully gathered together an inner clique who knew what to do in the event of his being incapacitated beyond the possibility of making any sort of public appearance (note: I have not mentioned death here, but that can be safely assumed as one possibility being remotely alluded to). Under Yar’Adua it became clear that among Nigerian politicos power resides in the very body of the person occupying office, and not in the office per se, definitely not in the institution. Turai and co. flouted the writ that says: Habeas corpus ad subjiciendum; in simple English, submit the body. They knew the location of power in Nigeria—it is an epiphenomenon, an emanation or exhalation from the body, the corpus. Once you submit the corpus at the altar of the institution or the constitution everything is lost. They took charge of and monopolised access to the corpus in Jeddah, turning another Saudi city into a place of frequent pilgrimage from Nigeria; and eventually they sneaked in the corpus back to Abuja in the dead of night, under heavily armed security, and ensconced it in Aso Rock. For endless months Nigerians paid billions for the preservation of the corpus but their requests were rebuffed whenever they asked to see whether it was in a state of wholesomeness. Instead they were told to believe that they had a President in a corpus that could not be submitted to inspection. Several times public outings of the corpus were promised, only to be jettisoned at the last minute. The more you look, the less you see. Very spooky, very ghostly. Thusly we became citizens of the Nigerian necropolis, suffering vicissitudes and witnessing wonders as troubling and interesting as those suffered and witnessed by the pilgrim in Tutuola’s Deads’ Town (cf. the unseen, unseeable corpus was reduced to a ghastly head in many a newspaper photo)—until the late hours of Wednesday, May 5, 2010 when we were suddenly informed that the corpus had become a corpse, and that nobody, from Imams and Bishops to the doctors in Jeddah and members of ‘the cabal’, can see Yar’Adua again or ask him stupid questions like: Umoru are you dead? Thusly we returned from the Deads’ Town, but was it with the succour of instructive experience and renewed will? I think not. And now, in splendid irreverence and terrible curiosity, I ask this question. What happened in the end to the preservation of the corpus? Was there a sudden and long power outage, did Mr Nobody or, in true Nigerian parlance, the Unknown Soldier, pull the plug, or was something getting too ‘rotten in the state of Denmark’? One should strive as much as possible to quote one’s Shakespeare accurately; otherwise I would have substituted Naija or, more precisely, Aso Rock for Denmark in that last question. Maybe I should just go on surmising as to what went wrong with the preservation of the corpus until my mind gets bored with that monomania and moves on to another matter. Meanwhile I shed no tears for bunkum. I enjoyed the sudden holiday somewhat, but wished the government had given us one or two days for preparation—e.g. to get enough money from the bank or borrow from friends or usurers, stock foods and drinks, plan fun things to do and fun places to go, arrange trysts, schedule debates at beer parlours, etc., etc.—and had declared a weeklong period of recovery from the moribund state. For that sudden holiday on a Thursday in the midst of nowhere has to be reckoned as one monumental waste of time; frankly, many people did not know what to do with it. I for one couldn’t cram it full with my usual no-good. And I shed no tears for bunkum unless it is my own.
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