By Tunde Odesola
Humanity oscillates between extreme opposites; darkness paints the beauty of light; fear skirts the periphery of bravery; ugliness envies beauty; falsehood stalks truth, death ambushes life; good wrestles evil; all in an everlasting tussle. And science cements this eternal truth into reality, combining negative and positive poles to produce light.
The ubiquitous beauty of social media is also its blight. Social media, a nonphysical marketplace of ideas where information is served online among human communes, is a bittersweet leveller. It’s the color-blind arena where the walls of difference separating the rich and the poor; the young and the old; the literate and the illiterate; the weak and the powerful, are pulled down to kindle seamless social interaction.
I trod the online space some few days ago and a roar jangled my eardrums. The rumble shattered the time-worn witty saying, “Egba meji o j’ara won niyan,” meaning: two Egba indigenes don’t quarrel. But last week, the white-mane lion of letters, Oluwole Soyinka, attacked the Ebora Owu (Gnome of Owu), Olusegun Obasanjo. The Nobel laureate advised Obasanjo to desist from struggling to restore Nigeria to the path of sanity, urging the Ota farmer to head for a monastery for purgation, instead.
Though both prominent octogenarians are from the same Egba community of Abeokuta, where they grew up, age hasn’t thawed their icy relationship. Soyinka’s mother, Eniola, was the daughter of Rev. Canon J. J. Ransome-Kuti, and sister in-law to Mrs Olufunmilayo Kuti, the mother of the late Afrobeat great, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Although conjoined to his art, Soyinka’s political activism propelled him in 1965 to seize the Western Nigerian Broadcasting Service studio, Ibadan, and force a broadcast of the demand for a cancellation of the rigged western Nigerian regional election about to be announced. Predictably, the election turned out to be the bloodiest in the country’s history. Both the laureate and the three-time Nigerian ruler, Obasanjo, an Army General, have always been locked in a battle of wits as far back as 1967 when Soyinka described the Nigerian Civil War as a pogrom. At great personal risk, Soyinka secretly visited Enugu in 1967 when the clouds of war were about bursting into flaming rains. Soyinka dialogued with the charismatic Igbo leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, on the need to nip the impending war in the bud. Obasanjo, who fought on the side of Nigeria against the Igbo in the 30-month bloodbath, however, believes that the Biafran agitation for self-rule was treasonable.
Baba Iyabo tops the list of men most favored by Nigeria’s political dynamics. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan ranks second on the list. Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo is also prominent on the list. With military discipline and self-motivation, Obasanjo, whose parents were nobodies, rose from nothingness to excel in the Army and lead Nigeria for 11 years as military head of state and civilian president. By providence, Obasanjo it was, to whom Biafra surrendered on January 12, 1970, ending the Civil War. Religious, Obasanjo is a Baptist, who recently bagged a PhD in Theology. Spiritual, Soyinka sees Ogun, the Yoruba god of Iron, as a pathway to a better understanding of humanity, underlining Ogun’s creative force as an ironsmith, and his destructive force when seeking justice.
If the Ebora Owu and the Eni Ogun meet on top of Olumo Rock, here’s what’s likely to transpire:
Ebora: (Pele, Wole) Hi, Wole! I knew a day like this would come when we shall meet face to face, alone.
Ogun: Aremu, tani egbe e? Clearly, your parasitic happenstance in political leadership has vitiated your sense of respect. You call me Wole? Is 1934 the same as 1937?
Ebora: Ha, sorry o. (Igbawo lo ma ge wigi e yi?) When are you cutting this your wig?
Ogun: When you desist from corruption, deceit, vainglory and distractive powwowing!
Ebora: Ha! Powwowing ke? Wole has come again o, Mr Dictionary!
Ogun: It’s meet I give you a verbal hiding to exorcise the demons torturing your putrid being. You’re the very grief of this country.
Ebora: You nko?
Ogun: Me? Did I oversee the treacherous impeachments of Senate Presidents Evan Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo and Ken Nnamani? I neither sought third term nor enthrone brigandage as state policy which saw the dehumanization of sitting Governor Ngige and the annihilation of Odi. Go and look at my records when I oversaw the FRSC. What light did you provide Nigerians with after guzzling billions of dollars? Did I corral people in government and the private sector to build a personal library for me? Your party was a nest of killers, Bola Ige was killed, and his killers weren’t arrested…
Ebora: Dake jo! Stop all that nonsense! Look at his biabia! I should’ve sent you to jail when I was president! You’re talking big grammar like Zebrudaya, abi? Who’s the great grandfather of cultism in Nigeria? Do you know how many people cultism has killed in this country? In fact, you should be tried for genocide, you killer!
Ogun: (E ma wo were yi!) Look at this madman! Your claim to knowledge through your recently purchased Oshodi PhD is hereby exposed. In your depth of debilitating ignorance, you didn’t know that confraternities are part of university culture? In the dawn of our youth, six other visionary youths and I, at the University College, Ibadan, formed the Pyrates Confraternity in 1952 to fight societal ills. Did you ever hear about cult killing during my years in the university? Why should I be held responsible for the violence in tertiary institutions arising from your misgovernment? When you polluted the education system, and violence became the order of the day, I stopped Pyrates from operating in tertiary institutions. When splinter groups emerge years after and began unleashing terror, should I be held responsible? The National Association of Seadogs is a responsible organization.
Ebora: Shut up there, killer! You didn’t form a football club; it’s a cult that you could form. And you’re here making a noise like a misfiring generator. Even if you had inaugurated a beauty pageant, it would’ve been better. You can’t blame campus violence on me, Oluwole the cultist!
Ogun: I sure can, Aremu the zombie! Weren’t you the one at the helm when Nigerian university students were killed in UNILAG and ABU in 1978 during the Ali-Must-Go riots? Wasn’t that the beginning of campus violence in Nigeria? Ashewo, beauty pageant ko, beauty detergent ni.
Ebora: (Laughing, he bites at his bitter kola, clears his throat) (Wole, o gbadun) Wole, you’re sick. Did you hear me complain when you made all your accusations against me? I gave you just a small teargas, you went berserk. I‘m going to shave your wig today! (Laughs)
Ogun: So, you know?
Ebora: Know what?
Ogun: That if your leprosy hands touch my hair, you’ll be made whole.
Ebora: There he goes again, arrogant Capon Seadog! Black white man!
Ogun: Aloku soja! Useless ex-soldier, if my words can’t penetrate your waxed ears, read my lips: the greatest hallmark of existence is giving your all to humanity and your spiritual essence.
Ebora: Ignorance kills the cat. You can give your all in teaching and among your seadogs, not in Nigerian politics. I was military head of state and civilian president. I know better. The society gets the leaders it deserves. I heard you tore your Green Card. How more stupid can you be, Wole? You’re too impulsive.
Ogun: Impulsiveness is a virtue needed to needle government into action where wastefulness, inaction, corruption and injustice roam.
Ebora: Zebrudaya, tell your friend, Buhari, that he’s going back to Daura in 2019.
Ogun: Were you not in the country when I told him he’s treating herdsmen killings with kid gloves and that he should stop venerating Abacha?
Ebora: Na you sabi, Professor Ahoy!
Ogun: Jazz away, you little-minded lubber or I skin you!