By BISIÂ Lawrence
One has to be quite circumspect about how he comments on the on-going saga ofÂ President Umar Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s illness, now that he is reported back in the country.
Several commentators have passed beyond the sensitive juncture at which speculations were made with a thick layer of perceived sympathy. Remarks about this incident, in the past few days, are becoming stark and to the point, in consideration of all that is at stake in the governance and prestige of this nation.
Events may overtake any opinion expressed at this stage, one way or the other, to the discomfiture of the source. However, there is a feeling that much might be resolved over this week-end. We join millions of Nigerians in wishing both the President, and Nigeria, a swift recovery.
Someone who needs that too is Tiger Woods, the golf icon who also wants to be considered a good husband.
That may be important, but it hardly has a high place in the topsy-turvy world of a star sportsman or entertainer. Why canâ€™t he just continue to play magical golf and leave the rest to moralists like us who canâ€™t stand the lewdness to which television has descended these days?
There is so much nonsense going on. Yes, we are talking about President Yarâ€™Adua. Or what sense does it make that the President of a nation is flown into the country under a shroud of secrecy, especially after he has been away for health reasons over several weeks? During that period, correct information about his condition had acquired a high premium. Official sources had become polluted by incredible statements.
The Federal Executive Council had become reduced to the state of an authority in bondage, unsure of itself and far removed from the peopleâ€™s weal. The House ofÂ Representatives has thrown itself out of serious reckoning by waffling at every step. Only the Senate has given the nation a sense of direction; though some of us disagree with the action but we are all at one with regard to the intention.
We are talking about President Yarâ€™Adua. In this state of affairs, rumour reigns behind a veil of whispers and sealed lips. Tottering reputations have been re-branded, flaring arrogance has suffered a fall, and the nation is about to faint away in the arms of anguish, and the stranglehold of pervasive angst.
We are still talking about the President. It has all taken on a surreal coloration, the bizarre elements of a story drawn from daydreams and nightmares, shimmering out of a darkness so intense that it hurts the approach of contemplation. We were at a point where we knew where the President was, then we heard that he had been moved somewhere else, and now we are informed that he had arrived in Nigeria in such a manner that he was not seen, because it was intended that he should not be seen.
One thing is clear. This nonsense has got to end somewhere, sometime, and it had better be soon. Nigeria is too important a proposition to be left adrift in this manner. And there can be no gradualism about this matter any more. Something has got to give, and that right soon, for the sake of 140 million souls.
When we are talking about the President, the welfare ofÂ these people is what we are really talking about.
Among the nonsense that one has had to put up with in recent days is the affair of a man called Tiger, who indeed played the game of golf like a big cat, but now stands revealed as no more than a kitten.
Tiger Woods invaded my soccer-loving consciousness some five six years ago when he kept me awake all night with his magnificent capture of the Masters. That night he no doubt inflicted various degrees of insomnia around the world, on millions of sports lovers who were captivated by his competitive spirit and immaculate golf.
I began to find that the game, as personified by Tiger Woods, running a tight second behind football in my consideration of what to watch on television. His boyish grin allied with his consummate confidence was worth the price of admission. It was no wonder that women fell for him like ninepins. That is to be expected.
But Tiger got himself into a situation he couldnâ€™t handle, through a series of relationships he could not control. Now that was the first error of judgment. In such matters, one simply doesnâ€™t permit oneself any extravagant latitude.
If youâ€™ve marked yourself down as a docile hubby â€“ you know, like a lapdog â€“ then you remained on the leash. But Tiger, clearly boasting of no balls except those he plays with on the golf course â€“ not only stepped out of bounds but then ran foul of the â€œEleventh Commandmentâ€, which is â€œThou shalt not be caughtâ€.
The fellow allowed himself to be caught. It started with the revelation with one woman and then quickly multiplied to several others. Of course, a host of female admirers embraced the opportunity to let everyone know that they too had had a taste of the tiger.
However, it gets juicier. For what else does this â€œPaladinâ€ of the links then do? He breaks down. Yes, he begins to virtually grovel and crawl, apologising to his wife and family, staying away from golf and absolutely making a mockery of vibrant manhood. This man has not been guilty of any capital offense, mark you.
He only committed an â€œinappropriateâ€ act of an adult nature, to which someone who is in line of becoming the Head of the Church of England once confessed, and despite of even which a former President of the United States was returned to the White House.
In Africa, even among Presidents, it excites an acclaimed glorification ofÂ being a man. I mean, all these carryings-on ofÂ Tiger Woods is enough to put a man off a three-foot putt. The man is a wimp.
Oh, to be young again! Those wonderful days when everything was the â€œfirstâ€ for you â€“ the first date, the first apartment of your own, your very first car! The car made you feel complete. Then you could get around, and take other people around.
And you did that too, maybe a bit excessively. That, of course, was no trouble at all because there was always fuel at the station to fill up your car. The attendants even checked your tyres free, and you could obtain all the fuel you wanted on credit. Here was the way it went.
You got appointed into the senior cadre of the Civil Service, that is the â€œSenior Serviceâ€, and so landed a car. It came with the appointment.
So you started buying all your fuel at a certain gas station. Pretty soon, you were accepted as a regular customer, a reliable sort with a regular monthly salary. All that qualifies you, without any further recommendation, or the status of a gentleman who could run up an account on credit until the end of the month when the salary came in and you settled your bill.
And you did settle your bill, of course, or else…
That phase would seem to have disappeared from our motoring life, however, by developments of all sorts, mostly to do with the prompt settling of bills, or otherwise. And, in any case, I donâ€™t believe that the â€œyouth of now-a-daysâ€, as my late dad would categorise anyone below the age of thirty in his days, are of the same mettle as those in our time. And I am speaking of anyone not above the age of twenty.
Theyâ€™ve got too much hip-hop dripping down their spines! And the spirit of sheer adventure has left them far behind.
I remember I met my friend, Wellington, for the first time, in Chelmsford, not far from London, at the wedding of a dear friend, a Muslim who took a Christian maiden to wife â€“ and they have lived merrily ever after.
Anyway, Wellington gave me a lift back to London in his car. I learnt that he was studying automobile engineering, while working in the Ford factory. He airily referred to himself as a â€œmechanicâ€, and that was exactly what he became when he got back home.
He acquired a petrol station with a servicing section where you would always find him in his overalls with his hands dripping with oil and greasy with carbon. He specialized in the servicing and repair ofÂ Ford vehicles and had no time to even take a breath. The gas sales he left to his hired hands who, of course, â€œbooked us downâ€ till month-end because we always had our tanks full.
On a Sunday morning, I would take off for Ijebu-Ode to have breakfast with Pratt, who taught at the Grammar School there. Then after some gentle stimulants, I would take a spin round a Girlsâ€™ Secondary School to lean over the wall and â€œshow the flagâ€, and then head for Abeokuta.
There I would have lunch with a nurse who had a kind heart for young motorists on Sunday afternoons. And so back to Lagos in time for the cinema show at Royal, or Capitol cinema-house. It was all in a Sundayâ€™s round of being young.
We never had to queue for petrol, or any kind of fuel. The attendants cleaned your windscreen and checked your tyres with a smile. We did not even have to use generators in those days. That was before we became a name in the oil market of the world. Yes sir, life was good!
It was just around that time that I became involved in politics. And it really wasnâ€™t the only time although, as a civil servant, my activities were muted to some extent. Now, I must mention some names, for they dragged me into this.
When the split came right down the middle of the Yoruba front with one side solidly behind Obafemi Awolowo and the other in defiant support ofÂ Samuel Ladoke Akintola, new groups began to emerge to reflect the mood and direction of the times, especially in the Akintola camp. For instance, the cultural base of the Action Group, the Egbe Omo Oduduwa, needed a counterpart. Thus emerged the Egbe Omo Olofin, which went a step further. It formed a youth wing.
The youth Olofin comprised young people who were really not mature enough to enter the main arena of politics as actors but felt a need to contribute positively to the on-going developments among the Yoruba, howbeit, in favour of their own stripe. Yomi Akintola, the eldest son of S.L. Akintola, was the force behind the youth group.
I became a member, I guess, because I was proposed as the Publicity Officer, or something, and I felt flattered. The only politics I had in my head was my friendship with several of the members including the late Funso Adeolu, the celebrated actor of â€œThe Village Headmasterâ€ fame. He practically dragged me into it. And, of course, Yomi Akintola himself, whose quiet, winsome ways could be quite overwhelming.
We held meetings both in Lagos and Ibadan, traversing the distance between both cities at all hours of the day and night, and holding discussions sometimes till the small hours of the morning. We were very serious with our purpose, which, if I recall correctly, was to rally young Yoruba men, and women round the banner of the Olofin. I cannot remember much of what we achieved.
That is no longer of any great account. But we know that a youth wing was being proposed on the other side and would probably have materialised if the military had not stepped in to take over the government of the country.
I wonder what an election would have been like, if it had caught up with us at that time. I am not sure we would have been involved with any kind of malpractice. We really wanted a good, clean society.
I recount this because the spirit that invokes this kind of involvement seems to have been fazed by all the teem-teem bang, teem-teem bang and fake Americanisms that one can only hear on the landscape around the youth these days.
The really serious ones are occupied with JAMB and its woes, until they secure the admission to a university, and others are sunk in the riotous depths of one kind of depravity or the other. But yet others exist, howbeit almost in obscurity, who are groping, it would seem, through an ardent desire to make some contributions to the improvement of their environment and the lot of their age.
I met with one of such groups recently. I was very impressed by their enthusiasm but apparent lack of clear direction about how to achieve their purpose. They need a hero to whose aprons they can cling, someone from whom they can imbibe meaningful inspiration â€“ someone like Festus Keyamo. He tells it like it is always, and he is simply irrepressible.
His passion for truth and justice evokes memories of Gani, and Beko. His distance from the public rallies these days makes us cringe with anxiety any time we see those grey hairs of Femi Falana and Wole Soyinka â€“ the profâ€™s luxuriant ones are virtually white now â€“ and one wonders who will replace these real-life heroes when their labours end.