Glossary of a Murky Season (2), By Louis Odion
Early in the day, President Buhari hinted that those who did not vote for him in the March 28, 2015 polls should not expect to be feted like those who did. This is now cited as perhaps the philosophical basis of the appointments he has made so far, tilting heavily in favour of the section of the country where he hails from. So, “lopsided” now refers to being provincial.
Back in January, this column had taken time off the regular “hard stuff” to compile a list of new words, phrases and terminologies which had treacherously crept into the national conversation following the outbreak of Dasukigate, to help the uninitiated get along. Judging by feedback, it was obviously well received as one’s modest contribution to national understanding, thereby helping in no small way to foster peaceful co-existence.
Pursuant to that same aspiration, we have decided to set today aside to respond to now persistent and choking pressure from all and sundry that the diary be updated in fact bi-monthly. We begin by apologising profusely for coming way behind schedule. It certainly could not be our prayers that the “arrears” accumulate the way workers’ salaries have been mounting in most states of the federation.
While pledging our own “backlog” would be cleared in a record time hence, here we go.
Padding: Pad is unquestionably one of the few English words garnished over the years in Nigerian-speak to convey different meanings. Womenfolk will certainly not forget the fashion accessory either sewed or worn as add-on under their garment to create a facade of broad shoulders. However, when “dy” is added to form “paddy-paddy” in public transaction, then utmost vigilance is expected of the non-initiates. It is a synonym for insider abuse or deal.
Now, thanks to the embattled Rep from Kano, Jibrin Abdulmumin, another derivative, “padding”, has gained currency. It refers to the smuggling into or sexing up or inflation of the appropriation bill submitted by the executive arm with selfish provisions by the legislative arm. A clear example cited by the erstwhile chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation is the N40 billion worth constituency projects allegedly smuggled into the current budget by Speaker Yakubu Dogora and co. to benefit only themselves, on top of an initial N60 billion provided by the Presidency.
In practical terms, padding offers a buffer to accommodate lawmakers’ pecuniary interests. As payback for passing the bill, they expect to nominate the contractors (often proxies) for the said constituency projects or, if possible, directly draw down the funds allocated by themselves to “execute” same. In the event that the presiding legislator is scrupulous enough to do anything at all, such is later presented to his or her constituency as a personal donation.
Matters became complicated last week when Dogara, the man at the centre of what many would ordinarily classify as a monumental treason, cheekily told news-hounds in Abuja that “padding” does not constitute an offence in response to mounting calls that he step down. Exactly the same way Goodluck Jonathan once infamously argued – albeit futilely – that stealing is not corruption.
Restructure: It is the new battle-cry against the Buhari administration. In truth, the agitation quietly began after the military handed over power in 1979 and people felt the federalism bequeathed had a unitarist soul. But what makes its resurgence at this point a bit ironic, if not curious, is that those who seem most fierce in the advocacy today were the most insolent saboteurs of the very idea until yesterday. Once they could no longer preside over the monthly sharing of oil money in Abuja, they too started carrying placards.
Mad dog: Back in the late 80s, this phrase had grabbed headlines after a band of airmen rough-handled MKO Abiola along Airport road in Lagos. In consoling him, the then Chief of Air Staff under the Babangida administration reportedly described his unruly lads as “mad dogs” who sometimes would not even recognise the owner. To that, the inimitable MKO wittily retorted that what remained for such mad dog was execution.
Three decades later and under a different circumstance, the wife of President Buhari, Aisha, exhumed the phrase from the dead in describing Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State after linking her to the multi-million dollar Halliburton bribery scandal. Following the expiration of the ultimatum she gave the governor to retract the “libel”, she concluded that the voluble governor “is an unchained mad dog”. She was however quiet on two grounds: whether she buys MKO’s thesis on how to respond once the pet had become deranged, and which breed is the one so diagnosed in Ekiti – Alsatian or one of the local species (called “Ibile” in Yorubaland).
Missing soup pot: “Stomach infrastructure” crept in in 2014 to describe the electoral paradox in Ekiti State, where people voted into office an opposition party after apparently falling for instant gratification in the form of edible things and other material inducement against the less mouth-watering appeal of a transformed physical landscape showcased by the incumbent governor then.
Not one to fall for cliches patronised by the “plebeians”, flamboyant politician, Tom Ikimi, would create another metaphor a few months later to justify his exit from the All Progressives Party (APC) following his failure to emerge as its new national chairman.
Claiming to have been instrumental to the design and building of the party, Ikimi, a fine architect by the way, lamented that just when he thought the buffet was ready, his soup and the pot were snatched away. Of course, he migrated to the PDP, the party already laying claims to the patent of “stomach infrastructure”, and is presently one of those leading the PDP campaign in Edo State.
A new interpretation has however been given to the parable of the “missing soup pot” by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as the September 10 governorship poll in Edo State draws closer. During a stop in Ikimi’s native Esanland, the inimitable comrade governor squealed that the architect is actually a “food-is-ready” politician only interested in self, with little or no electoral value at home. This, according to him, explains why once Ikimi calculated his “pot of soup” was missing in APC, he quickly jumped to PDP where he thought “stomach infrastructure” was guaranteed. The reason why he was soon linked to Dasukigate, for which he has since been reporting to EFCC, in Oshiomhole’s words, probably explains which building he might have helped design as an architect to justify the hundreds of millions of naira paid to him from the $15b arms loot. Surely, “pot of soup” is the elite variant of “stomach infrastructure”.
Lopsided: Ordinarily, it describes a situation in gravitation or physics. When a scale is light on the one hand, the side overloaded weighs down. Early in the day, President Buhari hinted that those who did not vote for him in the March 28, 2015 polls should not expect to be feted like those who did. This is now cited as perhaps the philosophical basis of the appointments he has made so far, tilting heavily in favour of the section of the country where he hails from. So, “lopsided” now refers to being provincial.
Fantastically: This is obviously David Cameron’s legacy. The man who dramatically crashed out as British Prime Minister last month following the failed Brexit referendum had, a glass of wine in hand, said “Nigerians are fantastically corrupt” on the sidelines of an international confab on corruption in London. And the comment went viral. Thereafter, it became a ubiquitous phrase by Nigerians themselves at home and everywhere in their everyday conversation. But deep down, it is a bitter sarcasm that speaks partly to the shame of being openly derided before the whole world, and partly anger at the generations of political leaders who helped create that seedy distinction.
Madam’s property: In a deeply patrilineal society like Nigeria’s, property ownership is often vested in the male gender as the recognised authority figure in the family setting. Reason why not a few eyebrows were raised after two stately castles in Dubai costing millions of US dollars were traced to the spouses of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai. Before now, that would not have caused any stir. But not at a time Buhari has made anti-corruption a fetish, with state officials not expected to flaunt possessions that do not reflect their legitimate earnings.
On a jovial note, when Buratai was named head of Army last year, part of his appeal to teetotaler Buhari was thought to be his “lean” frame, a rarity among a generation of generals who grow and nurse potbellies like ornaments.
Initially, Buratai’s publicists defended his Dubai acquisitions as being from “personal savings”. But when busybodies persisted, with some in fact coming up with rough estimates of all the general could have earned right from the day he enlisted in Army till date, Buratai’s people deftly clarified that the two mansions actually belonged to his wives and were so indicated in the claims submitted to the Assets Bureau.
So, to top public officials, whatever cannot be defended simply or logically now is to be conveniently explained away as “Madam’s property”.
Corruption fighting back: The phrase was originally used by Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka. While no one can understate or underestimate the power of those who got filthily rich through corrupt means to seek to cover their tracks or flanks, authorities themselves spoil things by their own acts of indiscretion. When security agents are, for instance, accused of acting in a manner that breaches civil liberties these days, the standard response is “Oh, corruption is fighting back”. So, the notion itself now seems corrupted to convey a mixed message.
Inconclusive: Professor Attahiru Jega’s finest moment as the nation’s chief electoral umpire was at the conclusion of the 2015 general elections in April 2015. Not only were the polls generally adjudged relatively free and fair, their outcome across the country would go down as perhaps the least contested in history. At that point, only a few would hesitate to acknowledge the electoral body as truly an Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). But same can hardly be said of INEC today. Most of the elections held since have been trailed by controversies bordering on tardiness, often resulting in their being officially declared inconclusive midway. This has led to the body being rechristened “Inconclusive National Electoral Commission”.
Sheriff: In ancient Greece, the creature was originally called Nemesis. She earned fame as the goddess of retributive justice. Elsewhere in Asia among adherents of Hinduism and Buddhism, Karma is regarded as an associate. In contemporary Nigeria, she would seem to have reincarnated as a male in the image of stocky Ali Modu Sheriff (SAS) and is now on rampage in Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In its heyday, PDP prided itself on being the “largest party in Africa” destined to rule for sixty uninterrupted years “in the first instance”. Part of its success secret was to subvert other parties by planting moles in their ranks. Victims included ANPP and AD. Now, PDP is getting a dose of its own old bitter medicine, with the old Leviathan looking helpless and pathetic. With SAS literally let loose, the iconic big umbrella is now torn between two factions.
The result is that barely four weeks to the governorship election in Edo State, there is confusion on who is its legitimate flag-bearer. INEC earlier accepted Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the Markafi faction at the close of nomination last month. But with an Abuja High Court reaffirming him as the authentic national chairman, SAS few days ago restated that Mathew Iduoriyekemwen is it. Hear him: “If Pastor Ize-Iyamu likes, let him campaign from now to a thousand years to come, the governorship candidate for Edo State is Mathew Iduoriyekemwen; nothing can stand on nothing.”
In Ondo State, similar drama is unfolding as two of Governor Segun Mimiko’s commissioners resigned and obtained nomination form from Sheriff’s faction even though their erstwhile boss belongs to the Markafi faction.
The air of uncertainty also hangs over the “national convention” being planned by the Markafi faction to hold in Port Harcourt next Wednesday. Given the latest ruling by the Abuja Court favouring SAS, it is being whispered that the Markafi group might approach a “friendly” court early next week to obtain another ruling to vacate that order and clear the legal encumbrance to their show in Port Harcourt.
But who says SAS will not return to the Abuja court to obtain another counter-order?
Dalung: In this stern season of recession, Solomon Dalung is increasingly emerging Buhari administration’s perfect comic relief to the nation. As Sports Minister, his has been a rich harvest of gaffes and missteps all the way. On a good day, he would probably be mistaken for a Nigerien gendarme in his gaudy costume of red beret and khaki camouflage. He prefers to humour himself by claiming to be a comrade.
His exotic sartorial preference mirrors a quixotic approach to official duty as well. Boxer Bash Ali first gave a hint early in the year when he ranted in an open letter to President Buhari over his ordeal at the Sports Ministry vis-a-vis his stalled novelty boxing bout, that the Sports minister “looks like an hungry man”. Maybe that was why he recently chose to abandon his primary assignment to embark on a trip, uninvited, to the dangerous creeks of Delta State to “persuade” the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) to quit their bombing activities.
While encroaching other’s territory, the Sports minister forgot his own core duties. He neither attended nor sent a representative to the burial of Stephen Keshi, one of Nigeria’s most accomplished soccer stars, in Delta State last month. The other day, he did not consider it inappropriate to post a selfie from the European Championship in France revealing he was sponsored by Multichoice, a private cable TV company.
Under Dalung’s watch, the nation’s football envoys to the Rio Olympics were stranded in Atlanta for three days last week as funds were not made available to buy their flight tickets to Brazil. It took the mercy of American airliner, Delta Airline, to finally evacuate them to Rio a few hours to the commencement of their opening match against Japan. Of course, the minister had already landed ahead in the land of samba dance and fine girls. Obviously carried away by such distractions in his new environment, the bungling minister was soon quoted as falsely describing the nation as “United States of Nigeria”.
The comedy of errors reached a head during the opening ceremony of the games. While other nations paraded in colourful iconic attires, Nigeria’s contingent came out in drab track suits. As usual, the consignment of national dress for which a fat contract must have been awarded could not make it to Rio!
Herder: The euphemism for member of a tribe of mass killers increasingly incentivised by the government. There is a little confusion on his root. Victims, mostly in the North-Central and the entire South, swear he is Fulani. But top government functionaries like Agriculture minister, Audu Ogbeh believe he is a migrant who took advantage of ECOWAS protocols to enter the country without let.
He is the new-age cattle rearer armed with AK-47 in the place of a bow and arrow carried by his forebear. Curiously, his new audacity began after the inauguration last year of President Buhari, an accomplished cattle farmer himself.
On the surface, he is a herder. But unlike other mortals, when he destroys other people’s farms, kills, maims or rapes, he rarely gets apprehended, let alone prosecuted. Instead, he is placated with the promise that public fund would be spent to import special grass for his herd and grazing reserve built for his comfort.
Rio Olympics and Political Undercurrents
With the shadow of trigger-happy Kim Jong-un still looming across Pyoyang, no one is sure yet if he is amused by that selfie. The reason why Un-Jong needs your prayers.
The ratcheting up of rhetoric between Washington and Moscow over the Syrian conflict lately is surely a chilling reminder of the Cold War between the West and the East last century. While missiles may not be flying directly today between Washington and Moscow out of shared commitment to world peace, the ongoing Rio Olympics would however seem to provide a cover to clobber each all the same.
The seething animosity was very much on display whenever Americans were pitted against Russians since the games opened last weekend. When Kansas-born light flyweight boxer Nico Hernandez climbed the rope square against Vasilii Egorov of Russia Monday night, it was a fistic explosion. With the sheer flood of blows, hooks and uppercuts in the first and second rounds, you would think the much dreaded nuclear button was about to be activated simultaneously in Washington and Moscow.
Sensing he was trailing behind on the score-card at the opening of the third round, the shorter Egorov brought more aggression against Hernandez whose confidence grew as the seconds ticked away so much that he could afford some fanciful feints to the admiration of the delirious spectators on the pavilion. Eventually, the latter was declared winner, booking a space in the quarterfinal.
The following day, the triumph of American swimmer Lily King in a grudge match against her Russian arch rival, Yulia Efimova, was no less dramatic. What seemed to sweeten the victory of the nineteen-year-old in the women’s 100m breaststroke was that her quarry was among the Russia’s contingent earlier accused of doping but only unbanned shortly before the games started.
When Efimova won the semi-final on Sunday and made a gloating “No. 1” sign, her American rival was shown on the live television wagging her finger disapprovingly. When she won her own semi, she in turn flashed her own “No. 1” sign.
At victory, to rub it in, King quipped: “It just proves that you can compete clean and still come out on top with all the work you put it.”
Someone must have nodded in malicious excitement at the Oval Office in Washington.
Not surprising, defeated Efimova could not conceal her anguish; she burst into tears openly. How will she face usually stone-faced Vladimir Putin on return?
However, she is not alone. Many are inclined to fear worst fate could be awaiting a female athlete from North Korea back home after the games. Gymnast Hong Un-Jong, who won the gold in the women’s vault and world champion in 2014 event, apparently got carried away on Monday and helped herself to a selfie with her counterpart from South Korea, Lee Eun-Ju.
But the political leaders of South Korea and North Korea rarely see eye to eye on the global stage since 1945 when Korea was decided along ideological lines with the North leaning towards communist Soviets while the South befriends the West. Till date, both countries are like cat and mouse with periodic clashes at their borders.
With the shadow of trigger-happy Kim Jong-un still looming across Pyoyang, no one is sure yet if he is amused by that selfie. The reason why Un-Jong needs your prayers.
Louis Odion is a Fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (FNGE).