I always wanted to use a Soyinka play as the title of my Thursday junk, thanks to the bees in Abuja, I finally have the chance. The Beatification of an Area Boy was inspired by the struggles of the poor people of Maroko, and how they were brutally displaced from their homes, their land shared by a greedy ruling class. Soyinka created two parallel societies; the larger society led by the military, and a smaller of one Area Boys led by Sanda, one of the play’s main characters. Throughout the play, Soyinka’s satirical prowess is obvious. He constantly compares the military to area boys, and suggests the only difference is the uniforms worn by the army. In describing area boys, Miseyi, another character says “They break your windscreens if you don’t pay up, rip off your necklace in a traffic holdup or snatch your watch. They are robbers, daylight robbers, no better than armed robbers.” The summary is clear for all to see; the military controlling the affairs of the state are merely glorified area boys in uniforms.
I suspect if the much venerated Nobel laureate had waited 17 years to write that play, the comparison between the area boys and the ruling political class would have been the same. The exchange between the “future” Kano State Governor, Farouk Lawan and the accidental billionaire, Femi Otedola, certainly provides a timely reminder of the crudity of this political class. In a circus that continues to distract Nigerians, the embattled legislator is alleged to have received $620,000 to doctor a report on the fuel subsidy probe, and ensure the billionaire’s companies were well protected.
In a country hopelessly searching for heroes, Farouk Lawan was quickly on his way to becoming one. The way his committee painstakingly investigated the fuel subsidy scam and the bold interrogation of oil marketers on live TV suggested a man who saw at the cusp of history. His ambition to rule Kano State suddenly looked achievable with the force of the people behind him. His current travails should make every public official read Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem, If, before resuming at work. My favourite line, “if you can meet triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same” is a reminder of how easily (and quickly) circumstances change. There is a reason that line is inscribed at the entrance of the centre court at Wimbledon.
It seems Honourable Lawan might go the way of other “honourable” gentlemen, transformed from predator to prey in the National Assembly. Ndudi Elumelu was the arrowhead of a probe of the Power and Steel sector, especially the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP); a few months later, the same man was first accused of receiving bribes, and later of being involved in a N5.2 billion rural electricity contract scam. Recently, Herman Hembe, the Chairman of the House Committee on Capital Markets decided to probe the activities of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Last month, he and his deputy Azubogu Emeka Ifeanyi, were charged for converting $4,095 given to them by SEC as travelling allowance for personal use.
The irony of these events is the identity of the victims. No one loses apart from all of us watching the political subterfuge at play. Farouk Lawan will not go to jail, neither will Femi Otedola. When the political party they both belong to believes we have moved on, they will call a peace meeting where more notes (this time unmarked) might be shared to appease frayed nerves. One suspects that Mohammed Adoke will soon address the press to say the Federal Government cannot be expected to act on a report prepared by a tainted committee.
This morning, some of us will write a letter to the Senator representing our constituency. We will inform her of the decision to collect signatures asking for her recall if she does not move (or support) a motion mandating the Executive to act on the report of the House of Representatives on the fuel subsidy fraud. It is time we admitted that less than 10,000 people cannot continue to drive 160 million Nigerians into abyss.