By Tony Momoh
I was in Edo State for most of last week. I had read a lot about what Governor Adams Oshiomhole was supposed to be doing in the state; also the many write-ups of the erstwhile ruling PDP that the man has been planting flowers, digging up streets and abandoning them and borrowing money that was not being accounted for. Seeing, they say, is believing.
And, when I was invited to witness the report of the governor’s second year in office, I decided I would go. And, I did. I am not going to sing the praises of Adams Oshiomhole, but anyone who doubts that he has moved Edo State from a dying place to a work in progress state has either not been to Benin City and other parts of the state or must be looking for what to say to sustain an ideological viewpoint.
If our governors knew how loved they can be if they centred their operations on people by attending to their basic needs – roads, water, health, schools, et al—they would agree that the near-total acceptance of Adams Oshiomhole in Edo State is not an exaggeration. Governor Oshiomhole is working and the proof of that pudding can only be in the eating through a visit to Edo State.
I wondered what that state would have been like today if it had had the resources of states like Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Rivers.
But, as you can see, the title of this piece does not show that we are out to sing the praises of Edo State or blame Oshiomhole for what is wrong there. I want to tell you about a friend and a mentor and the reunion we had; and tie it to our country and the disturbing fact that many are giving up on it. That friend and mentor is AGS Momodu.
He inspired me to try my hand at writing short stories, and if I could have 24 shorts published in a year while at university, then you can have an idea of the impact AGS ( we call him Tony) had on me. He, at more than 75, remains one of the country’s foremost short story writers. After attending the Oshiomhole outing in Benin and was on my way to Auchi, I collected a copy of The Guardian and discovered that AGS Momodu had a story there.
The title was ‘The Crash of an Eagle.’ The eagle was a village champion called Maria. She was a school teacher. But, being literate, she did not see the sense in dancing naked around the village as girls of her age group did. Her mother said that was the custom and being literate made no difference. When the other girls danced to her house and expected her to join them, she refused to do so.
Her mother rushed for a stick and hit her with all the anger she could muster. Maria cried and cried, and decided the village was not her beat. She left for the city and secured a teaching job. The proprietor of the private school left the management of the school and children to her because she did prove she could manage affairs. She later met a young man, Odion, from her village.
They had dated once upon a time. They fell in love once more in the city and things were going well for them when Maria lost her job. She had secretly been dating the husband of the proprietor of the school. She later secured another job, rejoined Odion.
They were planning to take further steps to cement their relationship when Odion discovered that a young man with a luxury car had been dating Maria!
On a tip, he traced them to a bar, saw them at a dark corner in a world of their own, and asked what was going on. Maria and the young man were drunk! They parted ways after Maria had denied knowing Odion. Much later, Odion made it much bigger in his company, got married to another girl and had three children. One day, a distress call came from Maria, and Odion, for old time sake, went to answer it.
Maria was in a dimly-lit room, and in there were two visibly undernourished children. Maria looked more like a scarecrow than the village champion men had fought to possess. She told her story of woe, how the young man had used and dumped her. She wanted to go back to the village and needed help. Odion provided the money and made some allowance for her to start something doing when she got home.
I have told you the story because of my discussion with AGS Momodu. I discovered that he has one mindset and I another. It is not the parting of ways between a mentor and his ward. It is perception pure and simple. He has always called me Udo, meaning stone. He thinks I am hard-hearted, without feelings that normal human beings growing up should have, especially towards the opposite sex.
He asked me what I have been doing, with the worsening conditions in the country. I said things will be better, and referred to the story he had written and which I have summarised for you. I said I see Maria, the fallen eagle, as Nigeria; and that what Odion did to make her start a more meaningful life of discipline was an opportunity for the Eagle to rise again. He said he gave up on Nigeria 20 years ago. This country is finished, has been eaten up by those who have undermined it over the years.
They won’t give up. I told him I had a vague picture of what Nigeria would be some 20 years ago, but now I know that Nigeria would be a world power anchored on spiritual recognitions within the next 25 years. He said even spirits cannot save Nigeria. I told him that he, like every other human being, is a spirit, and that those to save Nigeria and grow Nigeria are being downloaded into here at this time.
I told him that I was in Benin and that the people who attended the Oshiomhole outing to mark his second year in office were progressives and seemed more people-centred than lots of other political groups we have encountered since the return to civil rule in 1999.
At that venue where Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi gave a lecture on ‘An Insider’s View of a Broken Electoral System and Proposals for Reform,’ I saw many who have helped to maintain sanity in Nigeria because they did not give up on Nigeria for evil to swallow it up.
Among them were the civil society groups, the legal teams that had fought the electoral frauds in the courts, chieftains of Action Congress of Nigeria, including Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; party chairman, Bisi Akande; Lagos Governor Babatunde Fashola; Audu Ogbe, Chief Tom Ikimi who chaired the occasion; Nuhu Ribadu; Kano State Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, representatives of the Ondo, Rivers and Anambra State governors, ANPP chieftain John Odigie-Oyegun, and former AD governors Osoba and Adebayo. Many spoke at that forum.
I did too and the summary of what I said was that Oshiomhole is allergic to injustice and he is uncomfortable when he sees suffering where others are enjoying. Evil has a life span and the days of evil have always been numbered. We must, therefore, make sense of what we are planning for next year, and that is to ensure that we do not only conduct free and fair elections, we must be seen to have done so. Maria, in AGS’s short story, for me, is Nigeria. For 50 years, we were derailed.
Experience is said to be the best teacher. We have started a new lease of life and we must learn from our past mistakes. Maria, a fallen Eagle, will rise again. AGS agrees in the case of Maria rising again in the village, but he hopes he can be alive to see Nigeria rise from the depths it has been sunk, and which made him give up on it. Let’s help him change his mind.