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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Wednesday, December 13, 2006
I spent the morning going through my old articles written for TEMPO magazine. What quickly became clear is how far l have evolved as a person and how far we have come as a nation. Our problems are myriad and sometimes seemingly intractable but please let no one suggest ever a return to the military era. Thankfully, Babangida withdrew from the presidential race yesterday. His motive? I don’t care. I am willing to let sleeping dogs lie; any dogs that threaten me shall become pepper soul for my Akwa Ibom brothers. Talking about Akwa Ibom brothers l used to be driven (I don’t believe in the concept of servants) by a nutcase called Moses and l wrote this article at the cusp of transition to democracy in 1999 involving Moses. I hope you enjoy it……..

Holy Moses et al
I am surrounded by very interesting people, the real people, people whom one may not necessarily pay much attention to, believing their opinions to be puerile and immaterial. I never ignore anybody, I listen to all, especially these “real” people. Taxi drivers, market women, mechanics, the groundnut seller by the corner, the bus conductor and so on. I find that a lot of times these people express startling, accurate opinions about people, events and issues, they can also be crucial to daily survival.

One of such persons is Olu-Epo, the mechanic-turned black market petrol dealer. His name is Olu but since he found his new vocation, we have modified his name somewhat to Olu-Epo, which is Yoruba for “Lord of fuel”.

Olu was just an ordinary even insignificant mechanic, (in fact, he was an apprentice mechanic) until the beginning of the crisis. Now, Olu is an important member of our office family. He can procure precious fuel out of rock in the height of these perennial, phantom fuel scarcities. In fact, he is a honorary staff with the job description of crisis management/utility officer.

Olu-Epo is normally subservient, almost like a child afflicted with the Downs syndrome, that is, until fuel suddenly disappears from the filling stations, then he becomes surprisingly authoritative. Milking us for every kobo he can, giving false guarantees (fuel has knocked the engines of two vehicles) and holding us to ransom at will. At these times, I just hate Olu-Epo but dare not to tell him off for fear of being stranded. The other day he said something that took me aback. The simplicity of the truth in it was a masterpiece of wisdom. According to Olu, the problems with AD is that, the AD people speak plenty of grammar whilst the PDP people say very little, but work hard in the background, perfecting their strategies for victory, by any means necessary. In short, the supporters of PDP put their money (and wiles) where their mouth is, whilst the AD and its supporters pontificates, very few willing to do whatever was necessary financially and otherwise to succeed. My initial reaction was annoyance, but on second thought, I considered the difficulties someone like Bola Tinubu was said to have initially had with raising funds for his campaign, even with those wealthy ‘friends’ and supporters standing by to see if he would win before hopping on the bandwagon.

My other ‘real’ friend is Bro. Sunday, the taxi driver. He is my standby chauffeur for those times when the car is down (which is often) or when there is no fuel or when I am on espionage missions. Bro Sunday talks non-stop, plays loud fuji music and curses every other person on the road. He never pays police and other such tax collectors a dime, being well-known on his usual routes, the rest he dodges with a unique mixture of bravado and plain fibbing. I love Bro Sunday. He, it was who, informed me that Obasanjo is the best choice of president for Nigeria now. According to him, Obasanjo is so stingy (he claims to have worked for him at his Otta farm) nobody will steal a dime. He said Obasanjo used to deal decisively with anyone who so much as stole an egg in the farm like a capital offender. You no dey see that him khaki’s knickers, the tin no dey tear for at least three years. Na him good jare, everybody go sit up. I wish you could hear him say these things in his funny corrupted Ibadan accent whilst singing along to Pasuma Wonder, Kwam1 or Ayinde Barrister’s music. The last and most interesting of these ‘real’ characters I know is Moses, our mad driver. Everybody calls him Holy Moses because he is so unholy. This guy is certifiable, a taciturn, quick-tempered, suicidal driver. Moses knows all the nooks and crannies of Lagos, respects no one, fears no one, is unmarried, may never marry (who will marry a mad man) and is one of the hardest working people there can be (when he feels like it). He loves Obesere’s music, (he can’t and does not understand Yoruba), he is Fela’s eternal slave, (has most of his old albums) in fact, he truly believes Fela is still alive in another country. He was thoroughly devastated by the transition (for he will not accept death) of the Abami Eda. He does an incredible imitation of the owambe-loving-big buttocked-woman’s dance. Its is impossible to describe Holy Moses accurately, one has to know him to believe him. Funny enough, Holy Moses has deep compassion for children and old people, is very disciplined about money, does not steal and is proud in his own way. Above all, Moses studies every newspaper and has native intelligence. His views are usually extreme, funny and sometimes, surprisingly wise.

I had a recent conversation with him about the elections. Holy Moses is from Akwa-Ibom, so I had accused him and his people of supporting the conservatives yet again. As he began to answer me, I just had to bring out my jotter to take down notes, knowing I had to write about it. Moses talks monologue, so I will try to recreate all he said. Funmi, una no dey know anything. God don tell me say anybody we go be Nigeria president must go to prison. He must be like Mandela, no be say make he go ordinary prison o. he must go for death penalty wey paper go write up and down everybody go shout say wetin dis man do o. The person go dey fear, then angel of God go appear, tell am say no worry, you go be president.

You go see, mark my word for calendar, Diya go be president after Obasanjo, Dat’s why IBB no fit be president. He dey call himself president when he be head of state but God no gree am. Abacha, dat’s why God kill am because he for be president when him no go jail.

If Falae won be president make he go commit offence o, big one wey paper go shout, wey dem go say na die. Then angel go appear to him say make he no worry. Na so Abiola, if to say he no die before he commot prison he for be godd president but na so life be, he go take am like that. See Awolowo, as he do also reach…..at this point, I interrupted him to say Awo did go to jail. He answered, that one was jail? Wey he dey go drink tea, no be for Calabar wey dem even am chieftaincy title, me wey I be pikin of the place dem no give me. I beg that one no be better. What about Gani I asked (knowing how he admires Gani). Gani fit be president, he don go jail so many times, he don reach like penalty so him fit be. Woman no fit be president, dem fit go prison?
I reminded him about Chris Anyanwu. She go death penalty?He asked. I said yes, so grudgingly he says okay she fit.

He continues: As I talk about Awo so, you know say him carry 27 lawyers to court but Shagari carry only one no be him suppose win? But so far say him no go jail.I informed him that Shagari never went to jail and he say: That’s why army fit commot am. See Obasanjo dem no go fit because all na him boys and him don go jail.He continues.

Ekwueme wey don do vice-president before, him wan do president when he no go jail. Instead make he import plenty spare parts make we for get plenty motor, he dey won do president, who send am? He go reach there dey go speak Nwane. My people dey say God dey give bad animal horns make he for no too wicked na so be the case of that one wey dem put for carton for London before, wetin be him name? Umaru Dikko. God no go fit let dat one even if he go prison because he for don sell Nigeria.

Nwobodo, de one wey he cry wen dem put am for prison never do am, he won be president, no be that kin jail I dey talk, he cry, him mama self cry say make dem relase am before she die, the mama never he never die o. him no fit be president. I asked, can I be president if I go to jail. He laughs derisively: You, as I see you so wey no get body, you fit take koboko so? Mustapha and co na crocodile tears dem dey cry, Bible say penalty is death, dem too kill people, see Abiola wife, woman blood, God no go forgive them. But you see Diya, na patient dog go get that bone, him don know suffer now, him don know hungry so he fit be president.

And so on and on Holy Moses went in his element whilst I laughed and contemplated his ramblings, is there a shred of truth? Whatever else I did get an insight into the workings of the mind of ‘real’ people and some of the things that inform their decisions. Next time you will see a slim wiry man in Abacha glasses, driving a Molue-like caravan painted blue and white, trying to run everybody off the road that could be Holy Moses going about his unholy business.


cleo.kelvin said...

well dont agree cos dat gives rise to crime and thou it maks dem hardened it just dont feel right u know ders a difference betweengoing to jail for heroic activities and being an activist and commiting a crime lik laundering den he will surely carry nigeria. for de females beinjg president we hav to attain dat standara thou i wonder how long cos if sierrleone cud, why not us simply cos our county aremade up of pessimistic and one sided people cos de think its only guys dat rule but in de bible a woman ruled u know deborah. but i feel if all de women who hold key posts inour county should make use of der office and tak care of it properly den we are on de right track and forget ur hatred for somebody feminine or masculine and grant der request properly den everythjing wud be good cosu don know if it wud be depersons vote dat wud determne ur tommorows position or prayers.and who kniows tommorrow

Anonymous said...

Holy Moses is too much :)) but he does have a point - in a rather roundabout way. Perhaps only the criminal minded can rule our great country?
On another tack, Funmi, you should consider co-authoring a novel with Aig Imokhuede. Just like yours, his columns are funny yet thoughtful and conscientious with a writing style reminiscent of Peter Enahoro...
Wishing you a great weekend.

cleo.kelvin said...

talking about crimuinal minded wat is ur president dont seem to know wat his doing cos if u rememberwat i said once here dat is young and nice frustrated so its wats happening now. how can one who came out last 2 weeks win his primaries wit such and points all dat frustration for compensation for his father and goodluck for his burnt goverment house well lets see how it goes imagine bush being president and his party loosing can it happen in naija were one persons controlls everything including efcc tekll me