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Herbert Macaulay

*At what point does one arrest the national scene that seems to be moving on the wings of a typhoon, when mayhem has erupted once again in a section of the country not unknown to widespread violence, at a time when the not unusual comprehensive shortage of fuel supply has all but prostrated the country, and that in the protracted, though not surprising absence of the Head of State, while the nation is still mourning the passing of a former First Lady who was, “Truly The First” – to borrow a phrase. These are definitely not the best of times.

*Professor Eskor Tokyo, a Marxist of considerable repute, considered the absence of Alhaji Umar Yar’Adua for some eight weeks from the country in which he is the elected President, a matter of grave concern indeed. He thus went ahead to highlight the point succinctly by demonstrating his concern, seated on the grave of Herbert Seelas Macaulay, which now seems to be receiving the attention it deserves. Do you really know who Macaulay was? His biography, and that of many an illustrious Nigerian, should be taught in school, or we shall soon be fresh out of  heroes.

Herbert Macaulay was a front-line nationalist who is acknowledged to be the first among the founding fathers of the nation. He tackled the British government at every turn in the early days of the struggle for our freedom, and became the leader and role model for younger nationalists in his day. Among those he inspired was Nnamdi Azikiwe who rose to become the first name in the three-man concert of the leadership that won independence for the country – the others being Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto. Of course, some of us still remember Zik, Awo and the Sarduana, to give their respective popular names.

But you may be surprised that even some secondary school students will be hard put to tell you who Herbert Macaulay is.

It may happen to any of the three men accepted as the cream of “the founding fathers” also, and that in a future nearer than you think, since it could happen to Herbert Macaulay in that fashion. He was definitely the most celebrated politician of his time. Among his own people in Lagos, he was a veritable legend. They called him, “Ejo n’gboro” – meaning a serpent at large in the streets, which depicts a dangerous situation. Herbert Macaulay was indeed the personification of a state of affairs that should be handled with care. Songs were composed about his exploits and supernatural powers were credited to him.

His lineage was of a high calibre. He was the grandson of the first black Bishop, Ajayi Crowther, and the son of  Thomas Babington Macaulay, founder of the oldest secondary school in the country, the CMS Grammar School, Lagos. He did not rest on the laurels (or wreaths) of his forebears, being himself  Nigeria’s first civil engineer. And beyond all that, he was an accomplished musician, a violinist, and a compelling orator. He died in his eighties, but was lucid till the end.

The first time I saw him, he was already eighty years old, clad in his white suit and black bow tie, and he was walking down Macaulay Street, a small street in which I lived, and which was named after his father. He has not been denied some measure of honour himself. A much longer and more prominent street would later be named for him in Lagos, his hometown, and another in the national capital, Abuja. He even has his image on a coin, which hardly anyone is able to spend – but that is another matter.

There are also statues of  him, bow tie and all, on at least two locations in Lagos.
One is a stone’s throw from where his house, Kirsten Hall, used to be on Balbina Street, off Broad Street. I was among a group of young boys who were privileged to visit the house in the company of his grandson, Dehinde, who was our contemporary at the CMS Grammar School, less than a hundred metres away. The old man would receive us with great kindness and give us some cake, bits of which we took back to school like a trophy.

Well, Kirsten Hall was demolished a long time ago. If only it had been preserved! It was even at that time like a museum, with various kinds of memorabilia in shelves, and fixed on walls and filed in shelves. It is all gone. So soon too will a coin that can’t be spent. The statues say nothing to hurrying passers-by. And history too will soon be silent, unless a system is evolved by which we can sustain the glory of “the labours of our heroes past”.

We have for too long been too casual about our history. We pay too little respect and attention to our heroes, to say nothing of their labours. And all too soon, we may have a new generation to whom Azikiwe, Awolowo and the Sarduana may be little more than mere figures in our folk lore tales. Yes, Eskor Toyo sat on the tomb of  Herbert Macaulay. Do you remember who Eskor Toyo is? That is a name with which you could cast a spell on capitalism! I wonder if anybody would ever sit on his grave to denounce free enterprise.

*There is so much to be embarrassed about in our nation today. In Jos, an argument arose about the rebuilding of some of the houses which were destroyed in the last riot there – or so it has been alleged. A disagreement about how to achieve a good effort led to all that mayhem? I don’t think so. So many houses have again been destroyed. The death toll has been assessed at some hundreds of souls.

The rioters have shown the zeal and passion that must go deeper than preferences over the construction of new houses. But there has been little mention of any element of socio-religious differences which may not be far from the cause of the unrest.

As usual, we have had a round of condemnations and recriminations from all directions including that of those who should feel responsible for the welfare of the citizens of the State. Such sanctimonious expressions will achieve nothing now, just as they did not in the past. And setting up panels of enquiry into the cause of the regrettable incident and the identity of those involved in it, is indeed desirable for obvious reasons, but it is time we realised that the more important measures that need to be taken are those that will prevent such horrendous occurrences permanently.

From the measures already taken, it would appear that the security officials were caught unawares and could not respond as rapidly as the situation required. That detail once again brought the position of the Governor as the “Chief Security Officer” of the State to the fore.

Operationally, the executive control of security lies in the hands of the Commissioner of Police who takes orders directly from Abuja. Until he acts, all the Governor can do is a declaration of intents and priorities as time goes by. But the Governor should be able to do more than that, and in good time. At the moment, let’s face it, the Governors are nominal “Chief Security Officers”, and several of them deserve commendation for their sterling contributions to the security of their States, all the same.

*Someone has attempted to lump the fuel shortage once again ravaging the country with the absence of President Umar Yar’Adua from Aso Rock. Others also believe that he should be around at the time when a misguided young Nigerian attempted to k ill himself and hundreds of other human beings in a plane crash on American soil, an incident that did not find the Americans in any way amused. In fact, any one who could treat that matter with the slightest levity should be recommended for intensive psychiatric care.

Well, there is hardly anything that the President should do about the situation of fuel shortage that is not being done, really. Government and the petrol dealers are agreed on the point that the pump price must be increased. The populace is opposed to that. But government must govern, and the President is the head of government. He is not likely to order a presidential fiat against an officially processed scarcity, no matter where he is. We all knew that it would come to this.

So, all we are saying is, please let them increase the fuel price and let us have some peace.
As for poor Farouk Muttalab, the idea of mentioning President Yar’Adua’s absence in connection with his case hinges on the notion that perhaps the President’s office would have been able to mitigate the ferocity of the American reaction, were he at home. That, anyway, is unlikely. The Americans really went berserk – and understandably so, perhaps. This aspect of over-reaction has been mentioned here, and it would appear to have led to a shift in the sympathy of several people over this matter. For instance, according to Patricia A.

‘My position shifted from indignation against the boy and his family to the USA. I now understand why they have so many enemies. “Bibe ori ko ni ogun ori fifo.” (Decapitation is hardly the remedy for a headache). In the history of terrorism against the USA, has ANY father ever alerted them of the probable odious character of his son? As a mother, I salute and commend the courage of Alhaji Mutallab.’

*I was flying a kite, so to say, some time ago when I expressed the intention of visiting the Synagogue of All Nations, which thrives under the inimitable direction of Prophet T.B. Joshua. The reactions have come as a surprise both in volume and variety. Many were of the opinion that I should go right ahead, and I really still do not see why not.

However, several other views were negative in the extreme. A.S. Layode was insistent:
‘Go, go, go! I wonder what’s been keeping you back until now. At least, the Man of God might be able to add you to his list of dignitaries by which he boasts of his powers to know the thoughts of men. I can’t wait to hear you intone the famous. “It is true, Man of God. What you said is true…” Don’t make me sick.”
Who is a dignitary? Anyway, from the pejorative to the ominous:

‘Hope your worms have left you alone. I think you are better off with them than a visit to T.B. Joshua. You will be cooked..’ (07041315535).

Now, that sounds a bit unpleasant. But it only encourages me to find out more. I have never been cooked before. It might even turn out to be a pleasant experience.
Time out.


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