By Ugoji Egbujo
Cerebrospinal meningitis is now footloose. The poor and hungry in overcrowded houses in many parts of Northern Nigeria are dying in careless numbers. A smart governor is concerned about this epidemic which is ravaging his state. He is particularly distraught because he foresaw the scourge. The debauchery of his people has ultimately kindled the wrath of the gods. And in his words “you behave anyhow, you see anyhow.” The poor are poor because they are dumb. That’s the assumption . That is why our leaders can own impunity. But that the poor are suffering from rampant stiff necks and wanton deaths now because they have taken to too much fornication is, even by their standards, ridiculous.
The governor has announced the displeasure of the gods. Zamfara governors have had a long history of familiarity with the supernatural. He said that he knew all along that no god worth his salt would keep quiet while mere mortals helped themselves to so much sexual pleasure. Sinful sex must be the apotheosis of corruption, not theft of communal resources. The gods, who were even slow in anger, have found something incurable for a people “doing anyhow”
Who would blame anyone who has come after Ahmed Yerima for thinking like ISIS. You know Zamfara, don’t you? That was once Ahmed Yerima’s own caliphate. Before Boko haram came to teach us true religious fundamentalism, Ahmed Yerima and his acolytes had pretended to zealotry. Yerima had the limbs of petty thieves amputated. It was his former deputy that got so infected with so much fanaticism that he once issued an outrageous fatwa. In broad daylight, he ordered the execution of a female Nigerian journalist whom he accused of blasphemy.
Snakes ,Nigerians say, would invariably birth ‘long things’. After Yerima, we now have Yari. The Pharisees of the old were less dissembling than these modern day ones. When Ahmed Yerima was charged for embezzling funds that belonged to the poor, including those petty thieves he had turned into amputees, he sought refuge ,not in sharia law, but in the lasciviousness of western legal technicalities.
Since Christianity and Islam occupied Nigeria the gods that once policed the public space and people’s minds, have gone on sabbatical. Had they been around, a biological weapon of mass annihilation would have contained impunity. If some Yoruba husbands can police the sanctuaries of their wives with the fabled ‘magun’, why can’t the gods guard our treasuries. Or hasn’t the level of corruption in Nigeria reached the extent that will trigger the wrath of the gods?
If the gods are truly offended by poor men’s recourse to sinful sex , they should temper justice with mercy. But before we even get to the making of pleas for mitigation of sanctions , are the gods not aware that we now hate selective justice more than corruption itself? Why send a disease that afflicts mainly hungry people in overcrowded homes for a sin that is committed more impiously in airconditioned homes and hotel rooms? If the gods haven’t lost touch with reality, why wouldn’t they know that once selective justice is sniffed or imagined here , all sins are forgotten and sinners automatically become victims of persecution.
But if these gods are responsible for this meningitis outbreak one must then ask, where have they been? Why give poor people stiff necks and seizures and deaths when thieves display Bentleys and taunt the heavens and the earth with ill-gotten wealth? The poor have always bowed to kings, real kings. But what about this humiliating reign of pretenders. A professional student staggers around the wilderness of the university, punch-drunk with carry overs. After so many knockdowns, a tired referee puts a third class degree in his pocket and sends him away. He buldozes his way through the Nigerian political field of thuggery and chicanery into a senate replete with mediocrity. The poor looks on with forlornness. The gods that can disseminate meningitis, watch with their hands akimbo? How do people, pushed out of the production lines without proper finishing, who find themselves mistaken as leaders, not show self restraint?
If the gods have abandoned their duties or have become manifestly biased, they must let us know. How could they let the Paris club refund be looted in states where workers are owed mountains of salaries and there are no outbreaks of bubonic plagues in government houses? They say , those the gods want to kill, they first make mad. We haven’t seen any take off their dresses in the market square. What are the gods of meningitis waiting for? A friend once joked that the gods have been settled by corrupt politicians.
I am tempted to believe so. Otherwise how can one who has come of the order of the breed that has a special taste for nubile Egyptians moralize about fornication? The gods are now negligent or corrupt. And the people are utterly naïve. This recourse to puritanism by the smart governor was aimed at deflecting political blames for mismanaging the meningitis outbreak. Well you can always tell a people what they like to hear.
But there is a sense in which the governor’s interpretation is particularly dangerous. It was Professor Soyinka who said that Zamfara was the precursor for Boko haram, and I agree. When a governor dismisses what is in the books and embraces the superstitions and sentiments of the Taliban and Boko haram for political reasons , we must be particularly worried.
Hopefully, the EFCC will crosscheck that righteousness as they did for Ahmed Yerima. But if they won’t , just in case they wouldn’t want to be accused of hounding governors, as they have been accused of tormenting senators, then we could call on Sahara Reporters. A sex history and his certificates, will do. Those who flaunt Bentleys and seize the microphone at every opportunity in the senate now know that we know that they know nothing.
And just in case the gods are still active. And just in case it’s true that the plague of an unending stream of thieving but religious politicians that has blighted the country since 1960 is because of the slaves our ancestors sold, then we plead for mercy. The scourge of bad leadership is worse than the worst bubonic plague.