“Egungun be careful, na express you de go” is perhaps the most confounding entertainment rebound of our generation in Nigeria today. In almost magical fashion, a subtle but firm warning against indiscretion in conduct occasioned by wealth, ability, privilege or opportunity has sipped into our sociosphere and raving. Fuji Musician, Abass Akande, had loosely but energetically deployed creative imagery of an Egungun (an elaborately dressed masquerade in this case) whose stock in trade is amusement from a cheering crowd and perhaps tokens earned from performances to depict men and women in places of social recognition and attention.
Extendable to any phenomenon that is cynosure of all eyes, caution and moderation is preached by this popular musician of Yoruba extraction in that musical stretch. Obesere as the musician is popularly called, laced warning for the ‘Egungun’ with proverbial insight of the consequences of discarding restraint and caution during performances. 20 years after, and basking in the emerging euphoria of this rather strange comeback, I am quite certain that Obsesere held little or no premonition of the relevance of his musical satire in the class duel that would envelope power junctions in Kano State as observable over the last 3 years.
In dramatic format, and with military-like precision, the Kano State Government was in the news for most of yesterday. Erstwhile Emir, and former Central Bank Governor of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido was dethroned for what was described as ‘a record of insubordination’ against him. The correctness or otherwise of that charge has been subject of unpaid debates across different WhatsApp and Facebook discussions. And while, there will be no significant impact of that action in the immediate, local experience points to a bubble of retributions lurking. This is Nigeria, a country where leaders never learn, and where masses of followers never act. The undisputed geographical Headquarters of Anyhowness, I wager, will have a comeback for this story.
Many Nigerians fanatically oscillate between bipolar suasions – they are either Christian or Muslim, PDP or APC, good or bad, corrupt or incorruptible, etc. We find it hard to hold positions that recognise indifference or opinionated hybrids as acceptable. The large scale, ‘all-or-none’ predisposition however unwittingly strips us of collective value. Some despise Sanusi today and find in order, the rather hurried proceedings of dethronement by the Kano State Government. In this set, are those who register contentment with the ‘justifiable outcomes’ of actions against the then Emir given his opposition to the Goodluck Jonathan administration. Some are against him for his role as CBN Governor when thousands lost jobs in sweeping reforms of the banking sector which be supervised.
On the other hand, others feel emotionally battered at the indescribable failure of the state government to extract value from a man who has an enviable CV, of respected candour, intellect and charisma. Could the Kano State Government have been more measured in the manner with which the dethronement was done? Perhaps Yes. As at today however, the deed is done and many think that this Egungun was not careful. This Egungun faced the Express head-on and has now been jammed by “motor”.
In my assessment, SLS was an Egungun, a soft-spoken one, garbed in resplendent fabric, rich in intellect and a full blown royal. He drew attention at local and international engagements in the manner that only an Egungun could. He was warned, silently and openly. This Egungun however, in obvious neglect of these warnings headed to the Express – there was more attention there and a bigger audience he thought. He was doing this for the cultural pride of his people and so damned the consequences that the warning bore.
The Emir approached the express called Arewa E1 with a great announcement of mesmerising performance and thereafter began his show there. Warned that the express was not for performances, he danced on, he could see beyond the present that many were fixated on. He did not only ruffle a few feathers, he made strong assertions which vibrated and caused quakes in the foundations of Northern hegemony with his deep seated, foreward theatrics. He maneuvered through oxbow lakes, potholes and the dangers of being a lone ranger and danced on. He was after all the Emir, and was not going to “be careful when it didn’t matter. He was bold assertive about women empowerment, educational renaissance, redistribution of social power, amongst other gaping needs of northern Nigeria. The dance was strange to drivers on the highway, and while some slowed down their vehicles, sunk in the dance of this Egungun, others sped off, with a hiss, some adding a “waka” (insulting finger gesture) to the mix.
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (SLS) enjoyed his new found love of the highway. His audience was growing and when he had a chance at Nasir El Rufai’s recent shindig, he did not fail to show his dance skills. He reminded the North that dependence on an outdated quota system was an unsustainable path for socio-cultural, socio-economic and even socio-political growth and advancement. SLS made a case for women empowerment while dishing out chastising strokes to Governors bent on maintaining the status quo. It is the considered opinion of yours sincerely that plots for the unmasking of this Egungun was finalised after that 60th birthday party of the Kaduna State Governor. His primary audience was irked by the audacity of the monarch and would not condone it any further. While his secondary, and less influential audience cheered him on, the clock started to tick. This Egungun was now marked. His message, was unsolicited and a threat to tradition it seemed.
Yesterday, he woke up as Emir of Kano, but today as a gentleman exiled in Nasarawa State, returned to forced humility and a subdued life. In an ironic subjugation of order, we find the passing, tenured holders of power successfully upstaging the lifetime, non-tenured reign of royalty, and the heavens have not fallen. They do not look like they will. There is a new Emir in Kano today, a new Egungun that comes decidedly unable to dance, disinterested in dance and one who will see no walking paths, not to mention expressways. This Emir will be safe for some time. Nobody needs tell me that but that brings me to the message of this post which is that Nigeria has actively commenced payback for leaders who built its systems. Today, the Coronavirus stifles travel plans and needs and only absolutely needed trips will now be made by political leaders. Impact: our local hospitals will now be receiving more VIPs who hitherto had no interest in building our medical institutiona because of the ease of travel. Today, we will all get treatment, here as no hospital in Italy will receive any Africa leader for treatment. I am sure that my digression is understood.
The Nigeria that we build and nurture will be the Nigeria that we own. No other nation. The Nigerian system thrives on many incompetent values and anyone in position of privilege who does not actively pursue a fix of the issues will find himself grappling sooner than later with the failures of the rigged system. He/she will be stunned by how quickly an Egungun is forgotten. SLS will soon be forgotten o predict. Sooner than we think. A rigged system pays nobody – not even an Egungun. A rigged system is riddled with motors with no other purpose of manifestation than jamming bystanders, passengers and Egungus. The system jams our youths with scorching poverty as jobs remain scarce. The system jams our sick, with run-down health facilities. A motor jammed the respected Emir yesterday and the driver of the motor has since sped off. The future will not be so silent on the subject matter but for now, it is all calm and SLS will live in Nasarawa, in a little less opulence than he is used to but content when he accesses social media that he made some impact. Let us pray that Nasarawa is nice to him. He has done his bit, what we think matters little now as a new Emir has started counting his own days.
I hate to agree with the now world famous Obesere that every Egungun that leaves the market square to the express, will get jammed ultimately