Monthly Archives: June 2009

I WOKE UP IN IRAN



The alarm was ringing and I woke up with a start…just as I was approaching that threshold of full consciousness, I heard what turned out to be the sound from impact of that world famous Pre-Palestinian times missile on my window. Incoherent sounds followed, then my eyes began to slowly take my surroundings in: the building, the jingle from the radio, the poster with some Arabic stuff on the wall, the Hijra Calendar, the Billboard I could see through the window with TEHRAN written on it… it then dawned on me: I WOKE UP IN IRAN!



Now apart from the Arabic numerals that we seem to all know, I’d have sworn I could not speak anything Arab except by some gift of tongues.



Then some youths, playing what sounded like Hiphop with heavy Asian influence barged into my room…my bad! I must have been so tired I forgot to lock my door.



Something very weird happened…very weird! I began to understand them (perhaps they were actually speaking English, I can’t tell, I am not sure of anything anymore) and they were screaming ‘JUNE 12, JUNE 12!!!’ Before I had time to comprehend fully, I was whisked into the middle of a rally and I began to wonder if I had not only traveled in space, but had also traveled in time.



To the protests post-dating the annulment of the June-12 presidential election on the 23rd of June 1993…exactly how far did I travel? When I went to bed last night, it was June 15, 2009, was it?



Then something dramatic happened. I was blindfolded and hauled into what I felt was a truck. For the first time since the turn of events, I panicked. I have seen clips of executions by extremists…I wanted desperately to scream ‘I am not American! I am Nigerian!’ but then, I had been gagged.



The gag and the blindfold were removed as I was locked in a dark and dank cell, and I was given thirty minutes to feel the pulse of a man locked in the same cell I was in and write about it. They said his name was, Iran! Are you freaking kidding me? Since when did human beings start bearing the names of a Country/Place? Then in what turned out an expensive joke, I heard one of my captors say ‘Aminu Kano, Shehu Shagari, Kaduna Nzeogwu…’ he mentioned other names I could not pick as the sound from his boots faded away from me.



I walked closer to Iran, an old man, wizened through years of war and I saw a tattoo on his arm. I moved closer, grabbed his wrists as if my life depended on it, to feel his pulse.



What felt like Megavolts of electricity coursed through my spine and I convulsed, ‘Hossein Mousavi-MKO Abiola-Babangida-Ahmadinejad-The Quick and the Dead’ was all I heard amidst harsh wailings, bloodshed, smoldering tyres….I saw what I would call a vision of Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and …I was about to name the others when I heard a voice behind me that caused me to quake ‘THE OTHER NAMES ARE FOR YOU ONLY’ I obeyed instantly.



I saw them at a table; discussing Global Domination, how to get people to believe everything they hear and see, and then I saw Saddam Hussein! Apart from the hole in his neck, he looked just as he did in the days of his reign, I dared to look at his eyes and I saw the pain of betrayal, the same machinery that sponsored him as a despot sponsored his end…okay, I broke the rules. I forgot to tell you I was given the waiver to mention two more names. I saw …Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO)Abiola ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?’ I blurted out. I saw sadness in his eyes, he wanted to speak, but his characteristic eloquence (in spite of the fact that he stuttered) was gone. I wanted to know what happened on July 9, 1998; I said ‘Chief, were you actually beaten to death as Al-Mustapha (the Chief Security Officer under the late dictator, General Sanni Abacha) alleged?’ No answer. ‘What was in the Tea served by Susan Rice? Were you poisoned?’



…..I heard nothing…All I heard was silence.



Then I saw him pointing in one direction. He pointed to two video screens. The screens were labeled: NigeriaIran respectively……Two elections were held on a June 12, one 1993, the other 2009. One was an election adjudged the ‘Freest and Fairest’ in the history of the Country, the other…well, there were two opinions, The Western media reports that the Results were severely manipulated with impunity, the Arab media and was saying something I just couldn’t figure. I tried hard…I just couldn’t. Would I be locked up forever in this cell if I failed to figure it out? Would my throat be spared or…I shuddered; this is not the right time to entertain such grisly images.



What I saw next baffled me. The Nigerian screen was split in two, showing the THEN and the NOW. The then showed students being tear-gassed as they protested; I smiled as I saw myself on the screen. I saw demonstrators burning tires. I saw Frank Kokori, Beko Ransome Kuti, Pa Rewane, and Chief Gani Fawehinmi among many other faces..I saw those that fought to their deaths, I saw those that fought till they were too frail, having expended their energies over the years…then I saw, at the forefront of the fight, those that shifted ground and crossed to the ‘Dark Side’ I saw Chief’s running mate preferring years later to serve as Secretary to someone who would have called him Uncle than persevere and hold to his mandate as Vice-President…I saw the then Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, under which MKO was the Flag-bearer become one of the most dreaded Godfathers of the party that has kept perhaps the longest and most frequent track record of electoral fraud in Nigeria, nay Africa’s history. I saw Charlattans paying lip service to Democracy….and I wept. While I couldn’t feel the pulse of Iran, on the credibility of the elections that Ahmadinejad ‘won by a landslide’, I saw protesters, I saw people who actually took to the Streets to cry foul….



At this time, I was completely overwhelmed with tears, it no longer mattered to me HOW MKO died but WHYWHAT he died for. Chief was not asking me to see him as a Saint, he only wanted me to see that at the least he LIVED and DIED for SOMETHING.



I saw Nigeria in my mind’s eye, I saw a Numb Media. I saw a file on the table. It was labeled ‘Mass Hypnosis’ I need not say it contained confidential documents. Then I saw it all, why the Press has surrendered their pages for wham-bam-slap-palm journalism, why the entertainment industry is centered totally on the mundane…I saw it all…I wanted to see more, but I just couldn’t. ‘Why bother when the others won’t see it anyway?’ I told myself.



Then I heard the Cell Door open. ‘Time Up’ and I looked around me and everything was swirling again. I closed my eyes as the footsteps approached and my ‘abductor’ took up my sheet from my hand. ‘You failed to obey simple instructions again, Plumbtifex’. I opened my eyes, I was in an examination hall, the invigilator was holding my script with a frown on his face….



My bad! I was actually meant to write a short story themed: I WOKE UP AND I RAN. Cruel Joke!



Ps: The Iranian Run-Off Elections were held on…guess? June 12….Ahmadinejad, O Ahmadinejad!!! is that a code for only Nigerians to decipher?

OUT OF KEN’S SHELL



I repeat that we all stand before history. I and my colleagues are not the only ones on trial. Shell is on trial here, and it is as well that it is represented by counsel said to be holding a watching brief. The company has, indeed, ducked this particular trial, but its day will surely come and the lessons learned here may prove useful to it, for there is no doubt in my mind that the ecological war the company has waged in the delta will be called to question sooner than later and the crimes of that war be duly punished. The crime of the company’s dirty wars against the Ogoni people will also be punished. Ken Saro-Wiwa before the Ogoni Civil Disturbances Trial in 1995

I honestly do not know if I should laugh or cry.

For the uninitiated, let me tell you a thing or two about the man called Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa.

I never knew who he was until the rested Basi and Company sitcom debuted in 1985. I was a kid then but I will never forget the catchphrases ‘To be a millionaire, think like a millionaire’ ‘Madam the Madam’ (which drew the ‘It’s a matter of cash’ response from the flamboyant landlady Mr B (Basi) was always owing rent arrears) ‘Brandy for Dandy’…ohhh I am getting nostalgic and nostalgia is taboo in a generation suffering from induced amnesia.

Fast forward to 1993, and I read he was arrested and detained for mobilizing the Ogoni people in Nigeria to boycott the June 12 Presidential election. At a time there was mass hysteria for millionaire turned politician, the late Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, to be elected President, I wondered why my childhood hero went against the grain.

That would begin my initiation rites to the travails of the Niger Delta and the complicity of the ‘Oil Giants’ in the power play. I would later read his account of that detention under the Ibrahim Babangida administration in A Month and a Day, a Detention Diary much later in 2004, long after I had become so enmeshed in the pains and travails of the GusuTalakawa (The Proletariat from the South-South).

I take it back to 1994, Abacha was in Power, he had just granted some reprieve to Zamani Lekwot who was sentenced to death by hanging for ‘aiding and abetting’ the Zangon-Kataf communal unrest under the Ibrahim Babangida regime. The death sentence was commutted to a short prison term, and Abacha released him 18th March 1994.

Then Ken Saro Wiwa got arrested May 22, same year. Four prominent Ogoni had been killed and Ken was arrested with 8 others, his offence? He allegedly had incited the mob to kill those four by saying in his dialect ‘Go to Giokoo and deal with the Vultures’ and according to Justice Ibrahim Auta, calling someone a vulture in Ogoniland is equivalent to sentencing the person to death. I still wonder how Ibrahim Auta got so schooled in the ways of the Ogoni and honestly, I wish I had a means to save the electronic copy back then because I have searched fruitlessly for a copy of his ‘explanation’ which was published in the wake of Ken’s brutal hanging. I feared for Ken back then for a very unlikely reason. Zamani Lekwot had just been spared; to ‘spare’ Ken would be a ‘show of weakness’ tyrants can go on ‘pardoning’ everybody…

November 10, days after the then Provisional Ruling Council (I wonder why it is only Abacha’s name that kept popping up?) approved the execution; I was listening to the radio at 11am when my worst fears were confirmed: Ken and the others had been hung! His last words? “Lord, take my soul but (let) the struggle continue(s)!”

Fingers were pointed in Shell’s direction, I recall reading some pamphlet by Shell claiming that the allegations of environmental degradation in Ogoni were exaggerated and they were going to conduct an independent Environmental Impact Assessment to prove it (I am still waiting, 14 years after).

I eerily term Ken’s last words as The Hang(ed)man’s Curse (To take liberties from Frank Peretti) because the struggle did indeed continue, however with a grisly dimension. The spate of kidnaps, the blowing up of Oil installations, further wrecking the environment, the Odi massacre…..the Spectre of Ken’s hasty hanging just keeps looming over Nigeria like an ominous portent. Why was he treated so bad, that even in death, his body had to be desecrated with acid and dumped in a shallow prison grave, the grave diggers allegedly threatened that the burial site be a secret they would take to their own graves;wherever that will be? (thanks to DNA sampling, the Obasanjo administration approved that the remains of the Ogoni Nine be exhumed for a ‘proper’ burial)

Fourteen years of legal tussle with Shell will follow, with Ken Saro Wiwa junior burdened with the legacy of his father. After years of brick walls, a US District court in Manhattan, New York decided to give the case a hearing. That was when I heard the news that made me so undecided if I should laugh or cry. Shell was settling out of court to the tune of $ 15.5 million! For once, I was hoping Shell was finally admitting guilt even though I felt the amount was a paltry sum compared to the gains of Shell exploiting oil from this region. Then, in characteristic arrogance, they would have us believe it is just a humanitarian gesture. After years of fighting valiantly to be heard, did Ken Jnr. Lose his steam just at the time someone finally decided to grant a hearing?

Why is Shell’s ‘humanitarian gesture’ just getting in about the time the trial was to commence? The excerpts from the plaintiff stole whatever rant I had on this issue: I, Plumbtifex Rantimus, Priest of the Proles, hit a psychospiritual (add that to the dictionary) crossroad!

The larger disputes between Shell and Ogoni remain and are beyond the scope of our

settlement.

The decision to accept Shell’s offer came after lengthy and exhaustive deliberations

by ten individual plaintiffs in consultation with our attorneys, but today we, Lucky

Doobee, Monday Gbokoo, David Kiobel, Karalolo Kogbara, Blessing Kpuinen, James

N-nah, Friday Nuate, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Jr., Michael Vizor, and Owens Wiwa, have

collectively agreed that it is time to move on with our lives and we have decided to

put this sad chapter behind us. -PLAINTIFFS,WIWA V. ROYAL DUTCH/SHELL,

WIWA V. ANDERSON, AND WIWA V. SPDC


I do understand the families’ need for closure. Fourteen traumatic years is a whole lot, what I fear is the image of Ken Saro Wiwa in my mind’s eye, waving his pipe furiously, telling Shell, “This is just a prequel, your day, foretold by me almost fourteen years ago, HAS NOT COME!”

TRANCE COP





Believe me, I didn’t misspell this either.

So you let them fool you, Prole? Well that is one of the major attributes of the Talakawa. You believe everything! There used to be this bad joke that if you want to hide anything from the Blackman, write it in a book! And you probably have quoted that in a desperate bid to encourage your ‘fellow blacks’ to read…YOU HAVE BEEN HAD!!!



Wake up and smell the coffee if you are black and you’re reading this because you just proved that –ism wrong! Check out the average African Summa cum Laude graduate of Economics and you will see obvious re-programming and miseducation! You’d hear someone claiming the economy has improved quoting some ‘indices’ which has no bearing on market realities!

And so, I rephrase: If you want to dupe a Blackman, write it in a book! He believes anything he sees in the Newspaper, he even believes what he sees on TV and just apes everything he sees portrayed as ‘Western’.

So much for intro, now let’s move on. (Recall I said in the last post that you should never expect a rant to be coordinated).

Check out the line-up: Transcorp (Trance COP) was incorporated by some of Nigeria’s foremost business tycoons namely: Alhaji Aliko Dangote of Dangote Group, Chief Femi Otedola of African Petroleum (AP), Dr.Ndi Okereke-Onyuike, Director General of Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, Jim Ovia, Managing Director, Zenith Bank, Tony Elumelu of UBA, Fola Adeola of Guaranty Trust Bank, Jacob Ajekigbe of First Bank and former CEO of Nigerian Breweries Ltd, Festus Odimegwu amongst others and of course, the (then) Federal government.



Then they threw an Initial Public Offering and in a voice reminiscent of Achilles when he was urging his soldiers to the certainty of their death, they all said “It is yours, Take It” (okay, Bradd Pitt (Achilles) added ‘Immortality’ before his.

Sadly, a good number of Talakawa including the ‘Paratalakawa’ rushed in. The result? Just at the time the Share Value hit 54 Kobo all the way down from N 7:50 Kobo, they close in on you all, suspending trade on the Stock Exchange to “prevent panic sales which may further compound Transcorp’s distress” As usual, the Conglomerate gets protected from the Commoner, Transcorp is shielded from the Talakawa, the Powers-that-be get shielded from the Proletariat!

The first thing that will shred your heart is to learn that the N22 billion realized from the IPO was squandered; plain and simple! The Proles pull their resources to finance someone/select-few’s Klepto-orgies and dump their bastard (for want of better euphemism) at your doorstep, and that is exactly how the game is played.

How come a lot of people fell for this hogwash? How on earth could such a ‘strong’ corporation owe some staff up to Twelve months in arrears?

True to type, the Talakawa must be entertained, therefore a Gladiator must kiss the sands of the Coliseum, and who else could that be, other than Mr. Tom Iseghohi, the Group Managing Director of TRANCE COP . Someone tell Tom that not every Tom, Dick and Harry can afford this Trance! I read the family is threatening to reveal many more dark secrets down to Aso Rock (Presidential Villa) should the ‘victimization’ of their breadwinner ‘for what he knows nothing about’ persist and I laugh (very rare these days) Okay, for the sake of argument, Tom DID NOT PARTAKE IN THE FRAUD. Please! But he knows enough for the family to know some ‘dark secrets’, he must either be too dumb for his own good or just plain negligent and stupid.

That is the dilemma of the Pseudotalakawa.


Now, let me not risk losing you. I earlier mentioned the Paratalakawa they are the middle-class between the Al-majiri (Destitute) and the actual Talakawa , the mechanic, the barber, the motorbike riders who hang on every word the actual Talakawa passes down from the lies he read from the media run by the Masu Sarauta (Aristocrats). Most of them only aspire for the ‘good life’ the Talakawa is ‘enjoying’, and that is why they, also, were hapless victims of the Trance Cop.



The Pseudotalakawa is the Middle Man between the Talakawa and the Masu Sarauta. He is the courier of every fraud, the self-styled scapegoat, the fall man and fodder for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). He is the one likely to rot in jail on behalf of his Masu Sarauta. He is the brilliant technocrat who is the King of the Stupid, the Court Jester, the butt (not the Eminem-Sacha Baron Cohen type) of every financial joke.


Back to you and I, the audience that paid to watch the show, not knowing the joke is on us; did we buy ‘Shares’? Yes a good number of us did, simply because we liked what the papers were showing, only to learn some particular share values were ‘doctored’.

Perhaps my role as the Priest of the Proles came with the gift of prophecy; politically charged investments are extremely risky. And I was not willing to palpitate my heart with such risks, hence my resolve from Day-1 NEVER to fall into a TRANCE COP. My brilliant economist friend was so convinced Transcorp was the best thing after HIV (excuse my manners) for the mere fact that he heard the beautiful oratory of one Pseudotalakawa whose mouth is far bigger than his dreams, and He believed. Only it was not ‘counted as righteousness’. It was counted as Mr-MuguDobosi-Yessir! (That’s a street terminology for The Gullible).

I had always believed a Broker’s duty is to keep you Broke, so, never let him/her do the thinking for you; it will be your loss!

By the way, I just sold off a particular stock that reeks of politics…At a loss? DO YOU REALLY THINK I AM STUPID?