Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Whispering Drums With Maigani

by Musa Ibrahim

Buhari's metamorphosis

Before the fiasco at Stansted airport in London a fortnight ago, the usually sombre mood in Dodan Barracks, the seat of military power, was mysteriously ecstatic. Buhari suddenly emerged from his cocoon and hosted a "familiarity" reception for his Dodan Barracks staff.

For the first time in a very long time, the General was jovial and very much at ease. He cracked jokes and shook the hands of his employees, every one of them from the cleaner to his ADC. He told them that he envied them because at the end of each day's work, they had the liberty of going into the larger whole and minding their own business while he remained a prisoner. At one point, he cracked that Dodan Barracks is a senior Kirikiri maximum prison!

But rather than show joy (some would say gratitude) at the unexpectedly sudden benevolence of their boss towards them, the entire members of staff were bewildered. Knowing the kind of person their boss has been ever since he seized power, they felt there was something sinister in the offing that they knew nothing about which was responsible for the man's happy mood.

Down at Alagbon Close, the dreaded police station, which is allied with the sacred cow, the NSO, and notorious for the kind of torture it often metes out to suspected criminals, people spoke in muffled voices for fear of being overheard, for in this building nobody trusts another and your best friend can easily accuse you of "Doublethink". The muffled voices notwithstanding, the anxious faces, the darting eyes, and the strained ears gave the impression that something important was amiss.

In the Kirikiri proper, it was difficult to guess the next person to be whisked out to stand before the Idiagbon Legal Assembly. But on this particular week, the talk among the guards and inmates was that it was going to be a V.I.P. (Very Important Prisoner).

A little explanation is needed here. Like it happened in George Orwell's 'Animal Kingdom' where some animals were considered more equal than the others, the same holds true for humanity as well. Thus it is that in Nigeria's Kiri Kiri prison human laws still prevail, made possible by the common and unwritten consent and agreement of the prisoners themselves. For instance, before their present predicament, they knew that they were not equal, so why now? Not that there is any remarkable or conspicuous difference there.

But the making of beds and pillows and sheets available by some prisoners for use by other prisoners is in keeping with the laws of nature and common sense. Anyway, it was one of these VIPs that was being whispered will be whisked out soon.

Ever since he was created by the almighty, the human species has always been a constant source of amazement. Difficult to predict his every move and growing from strength to strength, intent on conquering the universe, philosophers and scientists alike have had a major preoccupation with trying to examine those principles that underlie the human existence. Using mathematical as well as verbal symbols, the search for an under- standing of human nature is far from complete. Thus it is that for every human action there is always the inevit- able question, "why"?

Until recently, not much was seen or heard of Nigeria's Head of State, General Buhari. Overshadowing him completely was Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon, whose image in the eyes of the Nigerian populace had become more or less larger than life. Typical of the ever alert Nigerian mentality, it was becoming trite to say it is Idiagbon that is in command not Buhari. Realising both the positive and negative backlash this might have for him, Buhari has now taken the command. It is him to be seen on the NTA screen and on the newspapers, pleading, cajoling and craving for understanding from Nigerians and foreigners alike. Said he recently: "We had to intervene to save the country... we suffer from a lack of understanding by America and other countries about the real situation here... we need the (IMF) loan very badly…”

As it is, the General's metamorphosis is welcomed, but this can be fully meaningful and appreciated if it is geared towards the provision of bread and butter for those often referred to as the wretched of the earth - they are the society's voice and conscience and they abound in large numbers in Nigeria. On this one count, I am inclined to wish the General well.

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