The triumph of touts – Tribune Online
On the eve of a gubernatorial election in a certain mythical state, members of a campaign team got the shock of their lives when they played with a professor’s electoral card. It was Friday. Everyone else had been mobilized (meaning they had received election money) and the professor had remained silent, tolerating the slight in the hope that his own parcel would soon be delivered. But the procedure ended and no bag was received. “And where is my own package?” the scholar asked wickedly.
“But you are a teacher sir. Usually you don’t do these things…” a thug offered.
” WHAT ! the professor yelled, grabbing a bottle of beer to shake his yansh with. (i.e. stab him in the butt). “Is this one crazy? Is your mother crazy? He broke a bottle of beer and charged the son with a goat. The atmosphere quickly changed and the professor’s file was quickly completed. Amid a barrage of insults, he asked where those impudent nothings were when he alone held such-and-such a polling station the last time. He said emphatically, “I will take over the professorship on Monday but for the purposes of this election, I am a hooligan!”
It reminds me of two incidents, one of which happened when I was a corper in Dokan Kasuwa village, Qua’an Pan local government area, Plateau state. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard a corper leave singing during a church service: “Can cikin sama, babu yunwa…” (Up in heaven, no hunger), telling the congregation how we would all meet in heaven even if we lost each other’s company now. He was a con man who had been with a girl all night before that Sunday charade. The other incident happened in Ibadan, specifically in Dugbe, and also on a Sunday. I saw a dark-skinned man resplendent in a white garment smoking a joint. Finished, he revved the engine of his okada and sped off to the church. In the Dokan Kasuwa incident, a student of mine who had performed a play in the church and whom I discovered was in an increasingly advanced stage of burukutu intoxication explained the reason of his act: “This thing (performing a play) is not easy! “And so I guessed that the man in the white robe was a church worker for whom church work was not easy. A joint on a Sunday, and on the way to church. What a mirror of Nigeria!
In her novel The Triumph of the Water Lily, neo-feminist writer Ify Osammor celebrates femininity, painting a picture of hope after a marital, emotional and social storm. Effua, the single narrator, tells a passionate story of trials and tribulations: her friend Nkem dies after a turbulent marriage in which she had to leave her marital home for a rival. And Effua, despite herself, is finally conquered by Norman, a journalist, after years of pressure. The novel recalls the motto of the Royal Air Force: Per adua ad astra (through difficulty to the stars). In Nigeria, however, I see no smiles after the current difficulties: all I see is the triumph of touts.
Motorpark touts or agberos as the Yoruba call them are realists who live in and for the moment and have no qualms about tomorrow. Often dressed in vests proclaiming their sponsors, they are defined solely by their association with marijuana and their union with gin. They tolerate no dissent and seek no lasting friendship: timing is their god. Bus drivers dare not play with their ticket: either you pay or they throw you into space in a moment of gidigbo (struggle). And when they merge their work with political brutality, the agberos become true monarchs! As big as Lagos is, an agbero leads the boat, ready to feed the criticism against sharks. Moviegoers sing his praises. I have a doctorate: he has a throne.
In 2022, seeing the enormous powers the agberos wield, our men of power have fully embraced the spirit of boastfulness. This was quite evident in the masquerade called primaries across political parties. We are witnessing a festival of daggers, bullets and broken bottles. Well, didn’t a gubernatorial aspirant visit the hotel where his rivals’ delegates were staying and drive them to his own hotel on the promise of dollars? He won. His rival came to the hotel in the evening (it was the day before the primaries) to find mortuary calm everywhere. The delegates had eaten, smoked and drunk and left a big bill. This is called mugunization.
By eating, as the Yoruba say, in the house of oro and his rival engungun, the delegates drain many aspirants and then give them a heart attack. In a certain state, a US-based don made a ruckus despite only getting 5 votes. How can a man come from the United States to win five votes? Delegates are bound to hell. But they haven’t always had their way. The son of a former vice president claimed his money after losing. And others have opted for war. According to former Kaduna Central Senator Shehu Sani, a House of Representatives aspirant has awakened his inner demons in Kaduna State and attacked the delegates. Deploying hunters and vigilantes, he recovered the bribe of over 100 million naira he had given to the vote dealers. He had lost the ticket in the Forest of the Heartless but would not lose his money.
At all levels, we are in a season of solicitation, the era of the agberos. Presidential agberos run through stadiums, detain political opponents and curse entire ethnic groups while asking for support. They denounce statements condemning murder because of votes, and call for carbohydrate diets for entire armies. Peter Obi, handicapped in the battle for dollars, withdrew from the PDP this week. You can’t dude a dude. Obi is no stranger to this game. The useless delegates wanted to cut his money and clean his mouth. Obi quickly flees. The next president will be a criminal.
Even homes are not spared from agaberoism, as I discovered last week when a distribution company enforcer stormed my domain. In response to my question, “We haven’t had a light for weeks, so what is this N5,200 bill about?” he replied, “Sir, there is no lie in what you said.” No lie, yet I have to pay this agbero company, lest we be the last. The state has legitimized the robbery of the Nigerian masses by power companies that only dispense thick darkness. Agberos are everywhere, even in Sokoto where the self-proclaimed spiritual police immolate apostates while browsing other people’s wives and drinking whiskey as if saying no dey tomorrow. They don’t condemn murder. They don’t care about tomorrow.