The best way to contextualize the growth and transformation of Lagos is by looking at the same southeastern view of the Marina towards the Lagos Yacht Club across the strait separating Lagos and Victoria Islands centuries apart up to Wilmot Point and beyond.
I am surprised and disappointed that Lagosians have also been caught up in the crossfire of identity politics in Nigeria. I have always assumed the “Center of Excellence” was immune to the kind of xenophobic indigenes-settler dichotomy that has bedeviled the rest of our nation, Nigeria. This post is therefore inspired by the recent intervention of Omo Eko Pataki, a forum for “Original Lagosians” entitled; Lagos – The Imperative of Cultural Renaissance. I thankfully became aware of it courtesy of the esteemed Taiwo Ogunbote of Center for Human Capital and Democratic Development, an old Gregorian of Obalende and former officer of the New York Police Department (NYPD).
Anybody who is familiar with the history of Lagos would admit that the entrepôt has always been a culmination of external factors revolving around trade and commerce from its obscure days as an Awori fishing settlement to its hostile takeover by the forces of Oba of Benin that named it Eko (which means war camp), which the Portuguese seafarer renamed Lago de Curamo in 1472.
However, it was not until Royal Navy officer, John Beecroft in 1849 who became the British consul to the Bights of Benin and Biafra based in what was now anglicanized to Lagos; which became a major hub for the present South West hinterland, which had to bombarded to military submission by Her Majesty’s warships in 1851.
For Lagos to stabilize itself amidst the incessant crisis between the Akitoye and Kosoko ruling houses and transform the strategically located “swamps and lakes” port to the Atlantic into a commercial hub order had to be restored and a semblance of authority must be established. Simply put the Union Jack had to be hoisted. To pull that off 2 persons were crucial – Samuel Ajayi Crowther, who took up the matter at the British parliament through his fellow Anglican bishops and abolitionists at the House of Lords and Madam Tinubu who impressed upon the local elite the need to transit from slave trading to a more lucrative and less hazardous legitimate trade.
Bishop Crowther was from Osoogun in present-day Oyo state and Madam Tinubu actually Efunporoye Osuntinubu, an Egba of Owu ancestry from Ojokodo in present-day Ogun state. Arguably, without their intervention we probably wouldn’t know Lagos as it is today.
What has also been perhaps deliberately neglected in the history of the evolution of Lagos is the role of the amalgam of Hausa speaking people. The Male Revolt was a slave rebellion that took place in January 1835 during Ramadan in the city of Salvador da Bahia in Brazil. In Bahia, the Hausas were primarily identified with practicing Islam because they adopted the religion before coming over to Brazil. Over time however, with the Nago slaves they united to revolt. Some of the key figures important in planning the uprising were: Ahuna, Pacífico, and Manoel Calafate.
“The word Nago derives from the word Anago, a term that the Fon-speaking people used to describe Yoruba-speaking people residing in the kingdom of Ketu now in the present-day Benin Republic.”
The aftermath of the Male Revolt led to emancipation of slaves in Brazil many of which opted to return to Africa. In 1851, a pioneer group of 60 freed slaves chartered a ship for the then equivalent of $4000 to return to Badagry. These returnees became known as Aguda which by the 1880s constituted almost 10% of the population of Lagos. Others eventually joined the return to Lagos; the Amaro from Cuba and Saro from the Caribbean via Sierra Leone.
“On 21 April 1863, John Hawley Glover was appointed administrator of the government of Lagos Colony, he remained there till 1872. Glover formed the nucleus of present-day Nigeria’s Army and Police with 10 Hausa runaway slaves on 1 June 1863. The group was known as Glover’s Hausas or ‘Glover’s Forty Thieves’. Glover went to great lengths to develop bonds of personal loyalty with the Armed Hausas. He personally trained, commanded, and chose his successors, ensuring their loyalty. In return for their loyalty, Glover rewarded his troops with land and dwellings. He raised their pay and provided them with smart uniforms that broadcast their status of free men and agents of the British colonial government.”
Who are then the original Lagosians?
The Aworis or Binis or even the descendants of Glover’s Hausas, Agudas, Amaros or even Saros?
How do we situate the millions of Igbos in Lagos that arguably constitute one third of the population of Lagos? What about the Ago Awusa that were located between Epe and Itokin from where Madam Tinubu’s fifth husband Momoh Bukar hailed from before that Hausa camp was resettled in Alausa in present-day Ikeja?
Anyway the main grouse of Omo Eko Pataki is that; “the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu; his deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, and many top political office holders in the state are not natives of Lagos State”.
They further contend that ”the senators representing the state at the National Assembly – Oluremi Tinubu and Solomon Adeola; Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa; the Secretary to the State Government, Mrs Folasade Jaji; and the Head of Service, Hakeem Muri-Okunola, are also not from the state” also that the “legendary accommodating openness” that Lagos State is known for was becoming a curse, noting however that they would no longer watch the state become “a no-man’s-land” The forum also claims “Lagosians are now reduced to almost “second-class citizens on their native soil”
For me the fundamental issue at stake is; The Tragedy of the Commons which is described by Garrett Hardin in 1968 as “All human relationships involve give and take, all such relationships breakdown when one or more parties do too much taking and not giving” Apologies to the Gbaygi of FCT.
“Isale Eko translates to ‘bottom of Eko’, was so named because of its location south of the area called ‘Eko’ (later called Lagos). Isale Eko started as the home of Aromire, a pepper farmer who was one of the sons of Olofin, an Awori settler, who was the chief of Iddo Island and the first Idejo (landowner) of Lagos Island. Aromire’s farm settlement, which was the first home of the inhabitants of Isale Eko, is today known as ‘Iga Idunganran’ (The Pepper Palace), the palace of the Oba of Lagos.” It was from this palatial surroundings the Oba of Lagos in 2015 threatened to sink the Igbo if they voted contrary to his political preference.
Unfortunately the joke is now on him as the Omo Eko Pataki under his royal nose are today poking their fingers at “the abberation which emerged since 1999”
In conclusion; Who build this Gada (Bridge)? This for me is a fitting metaphor for who built Lagos, a question asked by “Acksion Governor” Brigadier General Raji Alagbe Rasaki, the military administrator in Lagos 1988-1991 while inspecting a poorly constructed culvert over a flood channel. The Omo Eko Pataki needs to understand politics is a numbers game and must therefore skillfully negotiate their relevance even in their own domain by way of an issues based engagement. The 1999 Constitution is clear and unequivocal on the eligibility for public office and the right to residency anywhere in Nigeria. “Indigene-ship” is a colonial legacy for divide and rule.
Come October 1, it will be 60 years after national independence, so we shouldn’t be having this kind of conversation in our nation.
A young, well qualified Nigerian Officer left the job in Lagos and emigrated to Canada for better prospects and applied for a salesman’s job at Vancouver’s premier downtown department store. It was the biggest store in the world: you could get anything there.
The boss asked him, “Have you ever been a salesman before?”
“Yes sir, I was a salesman in Nigeria
The boss liked him and said, “You can start tomorrow. Learn fast and do well.”
The first working day was long and arduous for the young man, but he got through it.
Finally 6 pm came around. The boss duly fronted up and asked, “How many sales did you make today?”
“Sir, I made ONE sale!” said the young salesman rather happily.
“Only one sale?!” shot back the boss. “No! No! You see, most of my staff make 20 or 30 sales a day.
If you want to keep this job, you’d better be doing better than just one sale.
By the way, how much was your sale worth?”
“$933,005.00”, said the man.
“What?! How did you manage that?” asked the flabbergasted boss.
“Well,” said the salesman, “this man came in and I sold him a small fish hook, then a medium hook and finally a really large hook.
Then I sold him a good fishing rod and some fishing gear.
Then I asked him where he was going fishing and he said down the coast.
So I told him he’d be needing a boat, so I took him down to the boat department and sold him that 20-foot schooner with the twin engines.
Then he said his Volkswagen wouldn’t be able to carry it, so I took him to our automotive department and sold him that new Deluxe 4X4 Blazer.
I then asked him where he’ll be staying and since he had not decided, I took him to camping department and sold him a six-sleeper camper tent.
Then he said I should throw in about $200 worth of groceries and two cases of juice.”
The boss took two steps back and asked in astonishment, “You sold all that to a guy who came in for a fish hook?!”
“No, sir,” answered the young man, “he came in to buy sanitary napkins for his wife and I convinced him that since he will be bored with his wife being in periods fishing is the best remedy for boredom.”
Boss: “Where did you work?!”
“Hustled in Maryland Junction Traffic in Lagos sir.”
Still on those upcoming explanations from government officials about their stewardship, this time I reflect on how most African nationals truly view their experience of military rule as against democratic rule. What are the gains or the loses in each regard? Where nations better off under oppressive military junta or under the governance of corrupt politicians?The glory seeking elite in most cases, are still evident whatever the governments. But in which case do the people gained the most? The promises are never fulfilled in most cases, but in which case are the common people actually better off?
Once more I urge you to enjoy the following fictitious interview with an ex-military man, with political interests. Remember Governor Fashola of Lagos State Nigeria once had an ‘incident’ with a military officer on the streets of Lagos? Well, you might want to read this interview for that reason too
(excerpts from The Whore; Chapter 6)
He had come into public limelight as the intelligence Colonel that supposedly slapped the influential executive Governor of the nation’s most economically viable state and prematurely retired from the Army just for popularly infamous insolent act. The Governor had just got nominated as the running mate of the presidential candidate of the ruling party. He brought in tow with him a massively popular following from his regional and tribal section of the country.
As the leading presidential candidate of the third largest party in the nation, he already had a laudable track record as a state Governor. A fishy deal was struck with the largest party in the land producing a joint ticket between his sectionalized party and the ruling party. The ruling party’s presidential candidate was the serving vice president, who was always billed to take over the mantle of leadership after the constitutional expiration of the second of two terms of his boss.
The Governor had accosted the highly decorated full Colonel, aiming to make a publicized unconventional citizen’s arrest. The setting was just perfect to boast the public appeal and dutiful credentials of the politician but it was by pure accident that the senior military intelligence officer had fallen victim of this publicized showmanship. It was purely coincidental.
Kengua had met the once disgraced officer at a private function in the United Kingdom a number of year later. Kengua had been invited there to supposedly meet a group of notable Nigerians in the diaspora. The Colonel was quite aware that he was talking to a high profiled Nigerian journalist and it seemed he felt it was his turn to tell his own side of the story. Kengua was immediately taken to his simplicity and decided he ought to make him look good.
It naturally felt right to start at the incident that had unfairly made Nigerians aware of the military intelligence Colonel’s existence. The now retired highly decorated secret operative officer is Colonel Sylvan Inalegwu Samuel, with the catchy pronounceable initials of SIS.
Kengua had set about telling the story like he initially heard and read it but the retired Colonel’s filling up the gaps sufficed into him telling his side of it. The piece Kengua had in mind wasn’t going to linger on that matter. Not on the injustice or not, of the manner it was handled into making this special officer look bad while making the Governor a near living saint.
It had all started on a very ordinary Saturday morning, the last one in the month. Those Saturdays were set aside but a pronvincial government edict, making it compulsory for the general public in that state to clean up their immediate environment. Movements of vehicles were strictly restricted for the three morning hours of seven to ten. Only vehicles on essential official services were allowed on the street during these official monthly sanitation hours.
Colonel Inalegwu was to be the honoured best man at his colleague’s church wedding, to be held that same morning, in the same commercial city. He had barely made it into the city in the very early hours of that morning, from yet another top secret mission for the Army. It was his fifty-sixth operation in a quite glorious military career spanning twenty very eventful years. That is not including six gruesome African sub-regional wars and nine peace keeping campaigns for the African Union and three for United Nations. He was just forty-three then and the most decorated infantry officer ever in his rank, worldwide. Little did he know that he had just concluded what was destined to be his last mission for that Army, but not his last ever.
Dressed in full Army ceremonial regalia and driving the official staff car of his commanding officer, which the General had borrowed him for the day, it was assumed he had to be on official essential duty and naturally waved through every checkpoint. He had an hour’s drive ahead of him and left his quarters in a rush, hoping to beat the dense city center traffic that would be unleashed as soon as the sanitation hours were over. He kept looking sideways frantically, looking for any sign of a tailoring shop or a hint of a boutique, praying he will find one open.
He had discovered his unused ceremonial sword belt was loose-fitting across his jacket. He hoped he could convince a willing clothes’ merchant to sell him a safety pin to fasten the sword belt with. With the corner of his eye, he saw a tailor’s signpost as he sped by deserted streets, without a single public or private transport on the quiet roads and very few pedestrians.
He stopped and reversed the staff car. Sure enough, there was someone sweeping inside the closed glass doors of a tailor’s shop. So he parked on the paved road side, at the very edge of the curb. He then walked across a wooded single plank bridge, over an open blackish green slime filled gutter, knocked on the shop’s glass door and an elderly lady let him in. She was very helpful and it took a lot of persuading before she accepted any payment for the single safety pin. The Colonel also bought a pack of hair clips for girls, she said her granddaughter makes.
He was about leaving when he heard a commotion in the street behind him, near his parked staff car. Two men of roughly his age, dressed in the official bright lemon-green loose vests tops of the designated municipal sanitation workers, were standing next to the military staff car he had parked on the street, shouting angrily and hitting the car severally with their open palms.
The audacity of the picture is unheard of, the oddity of the scene extraordinarily difficult to fathom at first sight. It is completely unimaginable that a mere city municipal sanitary worker will muster enough courage to hit a clearly identifiable senior Army officer’s staff car. They also had the guts to continue shouting obscenities at the approaching fully dressed Army officer in his highly decorated outfit, with the full accomplishments of his tags and numerous medals.
Colonel Inalegwu was furious and shouted back worded thunder before he got to the car and a brief shouting match ensued. Inalegwu threatened, as also did the two men in sanitary workers’ vest tops. They were incredibly querying the Army officer for parking on the marked out lane designated for public transport only. He pointed out that he was there only briefly and after all, there were no public transport about yet. He didn’t see the need to go on wasting his time with these suicidal maniacs. He made out to get into the borrowed staff car to leave the scene, when suddenly the slightly older and well-spoken one of these unusually bold Nigerian civilians, said he was going to make a citizen’s arrest, insinuating he would detain the Colonel for violating municipal traffic laws. It was so unusual sounding, almost out of a Hollywood comedy.
The military officer smiled at the obvious joke of it and leaned on the parked car good-naturedly, looking subdued and less menacing. He intended to humour these efficient men, who were clearly over enthusiastic about doing their menial work but obviously quite confused about their personal status and his far reaching immunity to certain aspects of state laws. Inalegwu noticed their little heated banter was beginning to attract the attention of bystanders, so he opened the driver’s door and stepped back to enter the car. That is when the less articulated man did the unthinkable. He pushed the well-dressed Colonel back against his borrowed staff car.
The collective sigh of utter amazement from the gathered spectators nearby, was quite audible from where they stood. It was such an unimaginable travesty to behold. The officer turned around in a flash, reacting with the coordinated physiological speed of years of military training and action. The soldier lashed out, swung a swift open right handed venomous slap at the face of the idiotic common civilian that dared to blind side him and shove him against the car. But before the Colonel’s slap had traveled the two feet between him and his retreating target, the other more articulate man had made it halfway into the gap between the slap and its intended target and accidently took in some of the force in the swing, with the back of his head.
The slap had continued to hit home squarely though. Incidentally, both the actual intended vengeful slap and the uncharacteristically siphoned residue force of it, had managed to quite effectively achieve the most impact possible. Both the bashful sanitary officer; the pushing brute that was the intended target, and his articulate arresting colleague; who unfortunately stepped in the way, were instantaneously knocked off their feet and sprawled in undignified postures on the asphalt ground like they were overnight drunks who spent the night on the street.
It turned out that the articulated and slightly older man, who intended to make a citizen’s arrest, was the serving State Governor. He was out on a covert mission to inspect the public’s adherence to the state’s sanitation laws. So the Executive Governor unfortunately got accidently knocked down. He was hit as he came between the angered law breaking military officer and the imprudently rash senior city municipal worker accompanying him on his official escapade.
Kengua loved the detailed description of the incident so much that he decided to print it separately as a different article. It was be the opening piece that ushered readers into the world of Retired Colonel Sylvan Inalegwu Samuel. The way that incident was handled by the Governor’s publicists and the favourable press the Governor ordinarily got as a result of his tagged unselfish dedication to duty, had made Colonel Inalegwu look really bad. Set against the already quite unsympathetic perspective of a majority of the public towards military officers, Inalegwu was always at a huge disadvantage. Nobody really wanted to even hear his own version of the story.
“Did you ever get to that wedding?” Kengua asked.
The retired officer laughed heartily, finding it funny that it is the first time anyone bothered to ask him that question, so many years later.
“I had a full plate already and wasn’t any longer looking forward to the wedding reception as soon as I realized I had just hit the man going to be my next vice-commander-in-chief.”
Kengua laughed along this time. That light-hearted remark simply set the tone for the interview. They progressed into the other areas of life Inalegwu had ventured into later on, following his premature discharge from the Army. But before then, it was only fair to allow the man to vent about how badly he felt he was treated, following that unfortunate incident with the Governor. It had unjustly painted him in bad light and changed the remaining of his life.
“Normally, this sort of thing is not heard of. The soldier is protected by the Army and dealt with within the workings of the military. His identity is not revealed. However, a generality of these cases never involves one of the most favoured political candidates in the history of the country. Even my colleagues were wary not to be seen to be sympathetic to my position.”
“And what was your position.”
“Well, I almost had none. I just waited silently like a good soldier. I obeyed orders and didn’t complain. The little I could do to make immediate amends for what happened, I did. I tried to undo the damage I had done. I did that on the spot, on that day.
“I did what any other soldier would have done; recruit, NCO, junior or senior officer alike. Any other smart officer would do the same. My reaction in the form of instant multiple salutes and repeated apologies to the Governor did me good in the eyes of my mates and superiors by all regards. It seemed good enough initially as the Governor appeared to let it pass and had let me go on my way. Then pictures emerged in the press later and it became such a huge mess.
“So I became the identified pampered senior Army officer who habitually parked a tax payers’ given staff car inside a restricted public transport lane, specifically persevered for the use of only the poor masses, which they weren’t even allowed to use when I parked on it for just five minutes, while breaking a state edict by not staying at home to watch my Army orderly clean up my house, within a federal military barrack where state laws are completely useless.”
Kengua then contributed to Inalegwu’s summary.
“That is as it concerns the law, but then you are the officer who punched the Executive state Governor and slapped a senior member of his staff with one stroke of your deadly lethal, military trained arm. The same arm you had killed thousands of people with while fighting wars all over the world. Then you merely said a casual sorry and drove away like a maniac to a wedding.”
They both laughed again. Then Inalegwu took a brief moment to further expand the humour and sarcasm intended by Kengua with some serious reflection on the whole incident.
“That was the exciting thing about the incident for the media. The possibilities for scandalizing every twist and turn of it were boundless. They hoard bits of truth, told some, altered others and strangely fabricated some other aspects to fit into the easily recognizable picture of the top military guys thinking they are untouchable and can get away with anything.
“They didn’t even point out their own contradictions. I was the highly decorated and very rich killer officer that is above the law versus the celebrated public serving politician.
“To the press I wasn’t the Nigerian civil war orphan, the only child of a killed federal infantry soldier and a subsequently crippled mother, who was as a consequence forced to be a rural dwelling peasant subsistent farmer, until she worked herself to death putting me through school. I wouldn’t have, against all odds, strived to incredibly get into the very prestigious military officers’ academy on pure merit, if I had another choice.
“Without any ready and clear willing sponsorship for a tertiary education; which I was more than adequately qualified for with an exceptional national record equaling college result, the officer training academy was the best option if I wanted to excel. But to the media, the Governor isn’t the ninth son of a very wealthy polygamous traditional high chief, who had conveniently publicized his conversion to Islam from traditional occultism because it served his immediate business interests and political future, for his seven wives and thirty-six children.”
Kengua quickly came to the Governor’s defense because he is not the type to have any one’s public image tarnished for reasons that had nothing to do with the individuals own actions or utterances. Kengua has always felt that it transcended from the fair to sheer irrelevance, when opponents unfairly deploy the strongest criticism, manifesting as mere sprouts out of their targets’ early origins. He takes a steadfast position of complete disregard and disinterest for such defamatory degrading details. He firmly believes that when the later emergence of purely old superficial vials of uncontrollable natural occurrences are encouraged to create an atmosphere of credibility doubts, then the rational assessment of a subject is compromised. Subjective untruths wade in, get a foothold and slow down progressively fair objective logic.
Kengua also abhors blame being apportioned for just unlucky mishaps that are humanly extraordinarily difficult to avoid. He doesn’t query them because they just emerge like hiccups, unplanned and not as a result of conscious deeds or a deliberate neglect of knowledgeable action. The truth prevails when contemporary cliquishness is ignored and the relevant essentials are made more prominent, as it concerns every issue.
“What has the Governor’s father got to do with this?” Kengua fired. “It isn’t his fault his father was the way he was.”
“Indeed. But he is clearly an offspring of the massively influential old money of his family. It ensured he never went hungry for a day in his life and ensured he got the best possible education in prestigious local and European schools. It secured financial security for him above the average comfortable standard and established a good political platform for him. It put at his disposal a huge background of subjective followers to enable him have an almost wondrous rise to political and administrative fame. My critics didn’t see it fit to draw this lopsided parallel?”
“I honestly don’t see why they should either.” Kengua bluntly offered and it must have sent a disconcerting tingle down Inalegwu’s spine but still Inalegwu continued to disagree.
“But I feel that exception wasn’t deliberate. That ought to be evident to a man of your reputation. The media just chose to buttress his advantages over me and ignored mine over his.”
Kengua pondered that Inalegwu just might have a point there, but still it is manipulatively natural that the professionally proactive and very well paid Governor’s political machinery had seized the opportunity that particular incident provided to booster their candidates public image. The Colonel was just doomed from the very moment the mischievous roaming state Governor stumbled into the parked Army staff car on that sanitation Saturday morning.
At the Governor’s incessant prompting, Inalegwu was simply unstrung by the senior military hierarchy. Even they had to be seen to be favourable toward the serving political bigwigs. The Army left Inalegwu all alone, to dry on his own, publicizing his erstwhile top secret activities, without any hesitation. His Generals merely chose to spite their noses to save their faces.
For the sake of their plumb jobs, careers and ambitions, the head of the most decorated professional young senior officer is worth sacrificing, by their reckoning. Military loyalty is not an edifice like most civilians assume, it is ineffectually an invisible ruse. Most top military brasses simply absorb more of the hypocritical civilian characteristics they must function around. Thus they metamorphose into gruff aged men whose years of coy administrative and political meanderings make them a lot more crotchety and brusque than liberal and honourable.
Inalegwu’s recall of his ceremonious betrayal brought a flushed look upon his light brown face, which he momentarily supplemented with what he thought will appear as expressionless. But a slight tremble of confidence still showed through, even as he continued to speak. He was wounded by the way the media had hounded his previously very private life, once the license to do so was insinuated. Everyday a new damning detail emerged about his indiscretion. With time he ceased being shocked by the daily emerging bad news in the press about his incredibly manufactured abusive wryly remarks concerning the state Governor’s sacrificial deed.
He became disillusioned by the incredulity of it all as every side he turned, he felt both berated and humiliated. When he attempts to put right this seemingly inexhaustible barrage of lies, he was so easily misinterpreted. As he was increasingly depicted as woeful, the public barely reacted with any surprise when he was kicked out of the Army with eloquent prejudice.
This conformed to a pattern which had its origin years back, when an equally highly talented and decorated Air force officer was summarily executed by a firing squad for allegedly joining a rogue mutinous band in the armed forces. That renowned fighter pilot had lost his life despite the best attempts of numerous desperate top grade military forces from all over the developed world. Their offers of handsome compensations to the then Nigerian Military Government to secure the condemned man’s services and spare his life were rejected. This time around similar foreign interests just waited to gain from the Nigerian authorities’ conscious wasteful loss. And true to character, the Nigerian Army sought to act in tune with what they considered as locally popular.
The Army bigwigs made their priorities apparent with the rather hasty decision to dispense with the services of the phenomenal Colonel. Then the interview easily veered into the area Kengua wanted it to, because the talented Colonel had gone onto much bigger things.
“So being dumped by the Nigerian Army became a guile blessing in disguise, it turned out.” Kengua fished.
“Like they say; ‘Hasty actions err the most.’ The Nigerian Army made the mistake of not only losing my services but most importantly, my impeccable knowledge of its entire functions”. Inalegwu’s doubts, that were initially almost tangible with caged in expectancy in the booming sound of his voice, abated. He revealed how hurt he was in those long passed days of such pain. That feeling was completely gone and replaced by the supremely wondrous confidence of that euphoria of being the most sought after man in the military world, all of a sudden.
This is a man who thought the unduly imposed fervor of guilt that was crushing his existence was going to kill him. But he ended up being amazed by how well he adjusted and lived with it. It frightened him to learn the potentials he had. This had led him into living a life he had only dreamed of previously. The exuberance of this switch was quite intriguing.
His light complexioned face was flushed as his excited facial expression unscrewed the tensed worry that was pasted on it just minutes before. On a black person’s face, a blush is not registered with a change in the shade of skin colour. The lining of the brows are not quite helpful either, hence the commonly popular deduction that a Negro does not ever blush.
A tingle of anticipation came over Kengua as he readied himself for the real juicy stuff to come as he replaced the almost filled up tiny tape in the mini recorder with an empty one.
“It must have been like a pathetic excuse for an apology when the Nigerian authorities conferred a National award on you, recently. One you are yet to accept or reject.” Kengua had started this phase of the interview with the most recent twist in Inalegwu’s long tale. He merely hinted where he was headed. Colonel Inalegwu’s choice to dispense with instantly answering the question Kengua had just asked him, hinted of more to this interview than met the eye.
Inalegwu’s choice propounded a vista Kengua had not envisaged. The panorama suddenly had dynamism of its very own. Ultimately, the main question to be answered turns out to be that of Kengua to tackle on his own. Was he being used by the Colonel to get back at the current second term Nigerian Vice President? They already had a very well documented history together, when the VP was the highly influential State Governor and the Colonel was at his mercy.
It turned out that the retired Colonel had literally become the most influential intelligence operative on the African continent. He now has all the right intelligence contacts to throw spanners in the political works of the VP, who was paused to commence conversing for the Nigerian presidential seat in a few months. Clearly the VP had gotten the wiser of it and put out his reconciliatory hand, with the government’s suddenly conferring a highly exulted national merit award on a previously disgraced and discharged senior military officer. The ambitious Vice President wasn’t leaving anything to chance as he made his move upwards, yet again.
The VP simply reprioritized his activities once more, trying to make a friendly corner stone out of an old stepping stone. It was now obvious to Kengua that this interview is too timely to be anything but vengeful. It reeked of those Biblical Jewish mothers’ dispute, King Solomon had arbitrated. Just this time, the bereaved mother who killed her child, also embarks on smothering her mate’s to death, rather than steal and claim it. The creative imagination of vengeance almost always appears to fall short, compared to the initial act it is meant to be a reprisal for. But as an intelligence officer, the Colonel was obviously out to show how versed he is in plotting revenge.
Long ago, the opportune boldness of the state governor was met with the instant repentant submission of the erring Army officer. But it didn’t end there and the ambitious governor had sought to score cheap points in his engineered favorable press review of the incident. He also used his strong political connection to get helpful credits in the powerful eyes of the military, thereby influencing the handling of the matter by them. The VP’s actions discredited Inalegwu without any regard for what he is, a senior military officer in the most influential branch of the armed forces in a huge third world country. There are different facets to his experience.
As a full colonel, Inalegwu is like a teacher in the hierarchy of any school, not a pupil certainly. He had the equivalent of an honorary national award to the majority of his fellow citizens’ mere national identity cards. He was directly responsible for loads of vital national security stuff and international secrets that a whooping ninety-nine percent of the rest of the country’s people don’t even know exists. And for such a person to have been embittered by being treated in that way, it is natural that Inalegwu would want his pound of flesh.
Inalegwu naturally felt he shouldn’t have been so casually belittled by persons who haven’t ever risked their lives for their country in the slightest. It may be his poorly paid job to risk his life for his country, but that ought to come with the privilege of some respect. That is why the constitution allows him a separate court, as long as he remains in the military. He has a license to kill identified enemies of his nation as directed by his commander-in-chief without being prosecuted for it, no one else in the whole country does. He belonged to a tiny clique of citizens that can legally be accusers, judges & executioners, all in one instant, with no qualms.
But because society connives to favour some privileged member of its political class rather than him, it becomes his duty to also make this same belligerent quarrelsome and confrontational nation, change its exaggeration of wrong priorities. He has held different viewpoints from a lot of his people for so long. It is time he shows how right he was by making those who wronged him look silly. Kengua readied this preemptive conclusion. He had to be ahead of the game if he wanted to know what this highly experienced intelligence operative was on about.
The question Kengua had asked Inalegwu earlier on would be simple enough to answer, but the Colonel is no ignorant fool. His answers wouldn’t say as much as Kengua will want to hear. Inalegwu knows the industrious journalist is always fishing for more than others are willing to reveal. All press men naturally get to learn a simple fact in due course. They learn that the real important answers never get heard, they have to be deduced like they are insinuated.
“Tell me Colonel, what happened to you and what have you been really doing all these many years since you were forcibly retired from the service of the Nigerian Army?”
Inalegwu just smiled, and then curtly asked, not answer.
“What do retired military men do after being retired?”
“Oh I don’t know, maybe join other ex-service men in the private security sector and start off where they all left off?” Inalegwu chuckled and vaguely answered the next question.
“You were then sought after by the armed forces of the United States, Canada, Great Britain and South Africa. That much wasn’t a secret. But you didn’t join any of them, or did you do so secretly and opted for one of their secret services?” Kengua had asked.
“Yes that’s right; I didn’t join up with any of them,” Inalegwu answered.
“You didn’t join one secretly and just won’t say so because no right thinking intelligence operative says he is one.” Inalegwu laughed briefly but actually tried to explain.
“Offers did come in fast and quick, fat and thick too. But because virtually all of the very lucrative packages these foreign armed forces were offering me were practically for positions in their military training schools, I concluded that I could still do all of that, collect the big pay packages they proposed, and still do my own thing on the side without all the unnecessary pressure of being fastened to the shackles of their military administrative hassles.”
“So you taught in military schools?”
“Yes I did! Virtually all the important military schools in the western world have used and are still using my expertise on sub-Saharan warfare.” Inalegwu said quite proudly.
“And you don’t do anything more than just teach?”
“I did nothing more.”
The two men maintained their stares silently for three more seconds before Inalegwu emphasized his answer more firmly.
Indeed, the real important answers never get heard, they have to be deduced like they are insinuated, Kengua thought to himself.
“Then you started a military consulting firm?”
“That is in partnership with a retired US marine general, an interesting Texan. That is the guy who infamously made a near exact replica of the renowned World War II Nazi wrought iron archway entrance into its Human Extermination Camps; HEC. The infamous Death Camps.
“His own replica of the sign still hangs over the entrance into his huge farm at the edge of the South American Amazonian jungle. It was made as a publicity gimmick and it works rather well too; not only for the farm and its turnover, but for him and his popularity. He had copied the design from an internet printout and included the exact three German words too, in full. Only he had defaced the middle word with a boldly white painted metallic X, crossing out the still legible middle word. It was done in such a way that the original words were still fully readable.
“The original German words were ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’; meaning ‘Work Makes Free’. Thus the defaced replica sign the Texan had made would read in English as; ‘Work — Free’”.
Both men laughed at the seeming idiocy of it.
“It took a while for it to catch on but it caught on soon enough, once the larger local community got the gist of it. They embraced the lopsided morale the unorthodox coinage had advanced with its somewhat cynical but still eye-catching symbolism. It was such a huge hit. It was such that not only was the farm identified as ‘Work-free’, the new phrase in due course aptly became the Texan’s alias. It even attracted tourists and was hugely popular with all who saw it. His friends tried using the initials but abandoned the attempt because W. F. was such a mouthful and did not serve the abridged purpose it was meant to. So they were stuck with Work-free.”
Kengua further learnt the Texan’s Amazonian farm had since served as the official headquarters of their military consulting partnership. All the covert training of Special Forces is done on the farm’s ideal grounds. Then Inalegwu digressed to offer a personal insight.
“You know in a strange sort of way, these multiple tried ‘Work Makes Free’ ideologies suffer very natural deaths at the persistent steps of the belittled ‘Work-Free’ ideologies. When they are handled and borrowed metaphorically, they actually symbolize the ideological struggles of the entire civilized world, over its very long period of regulating economic systems. It is the reoccurring extended victories of the freest minds over the most coerced minds in the world.”
“That is human wisdom set against human intuition; the natural need to dominate versus the spurious compromise of allowing unprivileged people an equal opportunity to empower themselves so that they can in turn not do the same to you.” Kengua offered.
“I couldn’t have put it any better myself. Take the freest nation in the world for instance. It is only natural that the American state should turn out the way it did. It is in every sense of the term primarily; and still considerably for all intent, a migrant state. So its national conscience is still very much that of the typical average migrant; which is excusable for the fundamental reasons that make migrants what they are in the first place.
“These are simply revivification and the ramifications of the opportunist, escapist, rebel and adventurer. Americans thus reveal to be daring, brave, determined, hardworking, patient and tenaciously vengeful. They are all of these sorts and the likes of it, all comprehensively such; in that passively or actively and positive or negative qualities, respectively.”
“You mean when their highly principled thoughts are contrasted, they actually reveal to be more at a continuous state of being at Crossroads, than being on the free highway.”
“It is unfortunately the Double-edge sword of truth most liberals do not even like contemplating more less discoursing. The inoperative logic dimly entertained here being that by empowering the right kind of person with the wrong natural tendency to tenaciously survive by dominating everybody else, they are simply directly being reinforced to do the very same thing they were being reoriented not to do, not to dominate. Consider a perfect example, the dangerous logic behind the rather idiotic ‘Mutual Assured Destruction’. Only the human covetous nature could possibly make it tenable for world peace to be actually balanced on this razor sharp edge.”
“I couldn’t agree more. I guess the acronym says it all, doesn’t it? It is indeed unarguably and quite pointedly MAD!”
They paused for refreshed drinks. It was now clear the rest of the gathering had no intention of disturbing their open side attraction, which was actually the reason for the whole meet. Kengua has been emboldened into steering the interview into those sensitive insinuations concerning the huge amount of international influence Inalegwu now has at his disposal. It must be considerable, if the current Nigerian government would all of a sudden publicly announce it is conferring a big national merit award to the Colonel. It is obvious this is a very pregnant move.
“Before we go any further Colonel, how did you become aware of the conferring of the national award on you?”
“Like you must have, I suppose. I heard it in the news.”
“You mean you weren’t given an advance notice of what was in the offering? One would have thought they would let you know in advance, at least try to win you over to their thinking, get your thoughts about the award, know if you would accept or not?”
“No they didn’t say or do diddly-squat and I don’t think they would be interested in any foreknowledge of what my reaction will be either. The way I see it; it might as well be ramblings in the tabloids, since I’m yet to get official word from the Government.”
“I assure you sir, that you have been listed in the official website of the Nigerian federal government as one of the latest nominated recipients of a National merit award.”
“I don’t dispute that, but I haven’t been invited to accept or decline such a nomination; if that is what it is. I also haven’t been invited to collect such an award. When I am, then I will have a response ready of course; via the very same channels.”
Kengua smiled his comprehension. It was clear that his interview is meant to be Inalegwu’s express response to the current Nigerian government and especially its main candidate for the next presidential elections in a few months. It is Kengua’s duty to see this clearly.
“Feel free to make any deduction you wish from my remarks, just as it is the government’s prerogative to do same.” Colonel Inalegwu quickly added with that wryly grin of his.
“Do you have issues with the way Nigeria is being led presently? I notice you virtually never comment on this topic.”
It was time again to rally round his other sentiments, to make the cagy Colonel slip up into criticizing the current Nigerian leadership. Kengua felt he just might get lucky.
“Leadership is always a difficult thing. People easily get sensitively bias about how they interpret governmental policies. I guess the sort of impact the policies have on the people is the major determinant in this matters.” Kengua was fishing but Inalegwu wasn’t biting.
“Nigerians think their government is totalitarian in it policy making. The way our democracy works, with the dominant class making all the policies being mainly of the same privileged and corrupt sort, nothing that is beneficial to the masses ever comes through and is accepted as law. This is because aside from these people being evidently the dominant influential factor in every political party, they also dominate the civil service, the judiciary and the legislature. Therefore, the so called three arms is indeed just one trunk.” Kengua proffered.
“In Nigeria, there is the all too powerful fourth arm of government my friend; the civil service. This is massive in the structural hierarchy of the totalitarianism we are all querying.”
“You do agree then.” Kengua boosters the momentum of what is likely a glimmer of criticism from the cagy Colonel.
“The totalitarianism of policies actually does make them unsustainable. Capitalism has always made money and wealth supreme, fascism makes the state supreme, Nazism made the race supreme and Communism made an ideology supreme. A measure of most has to be balanced to carry everyone along.” With that bit the brief glimmer of criticism dimmed.
“Your Texan partner is very influential politically in the US, isn’t he? He is quite chummy with the ruling Democrats that there is talk of him being too Democratic to be a Republican.”
Inalegwu laughs at the now quite familiar joke about the retired US marine general he is in business partnership with, a very vocal cowboy rancher with questionable racial favoritism.
“He is a very controversial one, that one. It was he who brokered the deal between the very conservative Republicans and the very liberal Democrats years ago. That deal had successfully ushered in a setting where either a first black president or a first female president is swept into that exulted office in one bold history making move. The outcome is history now.
“The Republicans just had their worst ever presidency prior to that. Popularity and business boasting wars had turned unpopular and economically unsustainable. The world economy was at the brink of complete chaos. A huge change was inevitable and Americans looked elsewhere.
“Democrats represented obvious change. But they had to have an unusual leader in every physical ramification, someone easily identified with by the rest of the world now leaving inside the US. From what I understand, the idea was this; since the US was passionately hated across a huge section of the world, more than it is loved across another shrinking section, it became paramount to position one of these firsts to ease that tension. So the Republicans fielded their worst presidential candidate ever and gladly made a good show of famously losing to change.”
“Would you say it worked?”
“Maybe internationally, but it only brought forth the true nature of the American people and divided the nation along the line of the so-called Conservatives and so-called Liberals.”
“Are you with the Liberals?”
“I’m of the opinion that American Conservatism is just a necessity in the world right now. I’m not a republican, in the sense of full party allegiance. But really, you can’t help but understand that the ideals of the founding fathers of America and the true values of the American state are best represented by the Republicans. So I rather deal with a person that is a lot more true to his ideology than some self-styled ‘Liberal’ who is in essence, just a subtle charlatan in the guise of a Democrat.” It was quite the analytical response.
“This is the ‘Pretentious trading places’ you had termed as Crossroads earlier, I suppose?”
“Not quite so. I had aptly forwarded earlier that their highly principled thoughts are confused when they get compared with those of their founding fathers. Contrasting issues abound, as clearly insinuated in the close allegiance to Christianity for one.
“In ‘God we trust’ they say and not show it. There is the Same-Sex issue and the massive war like nature. When these Liberals try to adhere to these precepts then they actually reveal to be at a continuous Crossroads than actually being decisive.”
“Most liberals will disagree and argue that it is this kind of thinking that made America quite unpopular and hated.”
“It actually made America great. It is the big deviation from it that made America weak and common, note that fact. The Liberals refuse to see it this way. Their logic doesn’t even remotely entertain a simple fact. By empowering the right kind of person with the tendency and communal orientation to tenaciously survive by dominating everybody else, they in fact simply directly reinforce their natural rivals, and I dare say; enemies too. They let them do the very same things they keep reorienting themselves not to, becoming weak and dominated.”
“Maybe that is just the soldier in you talking, Colonel.” Kengua summed up. In response, Inalegwu chuckled and repeatedly shook his head sideways, in disagreement.
“That’s far from it, I assure you. I just understand how the Conservative American thinks. Don’t talk of peace to these Americans. They are after all from very violent stock and so obviously they are of the violent sort. Are you familiar with the words of their national anthem? They probably are amongst a trio or so of modern nations that still clasp their healthy beating well-nourished chest, look up a flag pole and proudly sing of ‘perilous fight; rocket’s red glare; and bombs bursting in the air’ and with very patriotic tears in their beaming eyes.”
Inalegwu meant every single word he said and Kengua wasn’t surprised in the least, surely you will expect no less conviction from a Texan’s business partner.
“But America is changing,” Kengua made a last ditched effort.
“No it is the people inside America that are changing, not America. That wouldn’t happen till hell freezes over.”
“But Americans are America.”
“That may be so in the past, but certainly not the case in the present day USA. In the past, the migrants that constituted the people that created and made the US what it became were driven by different things from those now partaking from their creation today. Economic interests are of course constant, they always are. But the ideological principle has greatly changed. You now have people actually coming into the US or being born in it merely to change and destroy what it represents and not because they admonish and advocate what it signifies.”
The last thing Kengua wanted was to get into a debate with the retired military officer seated across from him. But he had to point out his own convictions, if only to hear Inalegwu’s.
“As the world changes so does the US. Civility has now become synonymous with democracy. The people in the world are coming to terms with true freedom and demanding it.”
“You think?” The Colonel deferred in opinion clearly and he when ahead to expalin.
“Civility is really diminishing steadily. Old democracies would experience a surge of selfish demands on them, demands that will not readily seat over tea and talk things over endlessly. The countless innocent peaceful marches carried out by citizens of the west, to garner support for their diverse courses of interests, will suffer from violent changes as people accept negative outcomes of their popular choices. Majorities will successfully elect democracies and yet electoral victories will not provide succor. Continuous flow of migrants from other systems with democratic defective orientations, sired by bashful ways, will forcibly task the civility in these old democracies. Inevitable chaos is afoot and the only recipe for order is being neglected.”
“It is inevitable that these western societies are losing the way of life they are always defending. But it can’t be helped because the world is now a global village and must feel like it.”
“I always wonder how easily we accept the single merit of that term ‘Global Village’, without actually acknowledging the numerous damning demerits that comes with it also. The world as we once accepted it has been narrowed down to a simple information unit like it is in an ordinary village. It became that single interconnected forum as made by the World Wide Web. The Global village is thus an apt internet expression. But otherwise, the backward rudiments evident in a village like barbaric uncivilized jungle justice, cruel autocratic leadership, clan and clique favouritism, and selfish pettiness all crept into the picture as civility slowly leaves it.”
“That is a humongous misconception and you know it.”
“Is it now?”
“Yes it is!”
Both men’s demeanors paused for an argument. Kengua wasn’t about to let anyone shake his conviction and the man he was interviewing appeared to be on a course to not only sell his archaic and outlandish ideology to Kengua’s readers through him, but also to alter Kengua’s very own believes as well, while he is at it. Kengua set about changing the interview’s direction, determined not to be thrown off course once again. It seems that tiny stumble in temperament had exuded a burst of self-control into him and once more he became thankfully focused.
“Colonel, you talk of the US like the whole nation isn’t constituted of migrants. Every single one of these Americans is an illegal emigrant of sorts. Did the indigenous Indians of the American continent give any original pioneer even a tourist visa?”
“Then we shouldn’t recognize the American state for that reason. It in effect, has a worse case for its legality than the Jewish state because Israel can point to scriptural documents.”
“I’m not saying that.”
“Of course you’re not. Look my friend, let us bring this to a head. Going back in history to justify any action that has now led to an established form, entity or pattern, only digs up dirt of injustice and the most uncivilized behaviour ever. The world has always had and will ever need these big busy-bodies to check the excesses of others like them and those beneath them as well. It has to be so in the bullies’ hierarchy of survival of the fittest or else utter chaos will reign.
“Bully nations are like the large carnivores of prehistoric times. Their effect on the food chain maintains order in that cruel uncivilized harsh but naturally quite necessary manner. If they are unchecked well up on the food chain, there wouldn’t ever be enough to go round, not only for them but also any layer beneath them in due course. It is a fact of nature.”
Kengua went over Inalegwu’s short early civilian past in his head. The young lad’s entire childhood was spent in the sparse bushes surrounding his midland Nigerian village. He had to hunt almost every meat he ate and bush rats consisted of the main game available. There couldn’t be a better orientation for a soldier and a pro-gun trotting buff. He grew up like a pre-American civil war Texan. So his perspective is quite natural to him. Inalegwu also lost the last of his remaining close family members in the brutish civil riots of northern Nigerian. His only aunt’s entire family was murdered in the outskirts of Kaduna, in a particular suburban area called Rigasa. The entire non-Muslim residents there were evicted out of their homes for good.
Inalegwu had tried to look for survivors from amongst his aunt’s family. He searched the entire metropolis and combed all the military barracks, rummaging amongst all the refugees, but found none of them. Finally, he saw his aunt’s names in a compiled list of the dead but he never found any of the others. He was devastated for a long time. He had held the most extreme political views ever since. Life in the military had made him curtail them, but what made him political wasn’t as much that. Driving to work through slums daily, he rationalized that any child growing up in such neglected pig infested suburban area would be politicized too.
In the endlessly developing third world countries, the suburban areas are actually the ghettos. They don’t host posh rich people like in developed countries. It is in these places that the less privileged citizens have learned to live according to their faiths. They have surrendered what remains of their belief in the state protecting them and taken up basic arms to defend themselves. Oddly though, once the entire unsettled metropolis has wholly surrendered to living like this, relative tranquility became more sustainable. It became a way of life in no time.
Life in these cities became like the middle-east setting in Palestine and Israel. The common places were banks, markets and offices, where a kind of respite for foraging a living takes place. Once a riot starts, the rabbit and the ferret comes into play as the scrapple for safety commences. Christians dressed up like Muslims on Fridays and head for the safety of their homes before mid-Muslim prayers. Later, Muslims avoided Christian communities on Sundays too. Those who got caught out in the wrong side of town during civil riots are almost certainly lynched and killed.
After years of holding back his secret thoughts as a loyal soldier, Inalegwu doesn’t need to hide his controversial opinions any longer. He had it all clear in his head now who are is friends and who are his foes. He made his move and it was now his long time enemy’s turn to play his hand. The Nigerian government will have to work out if Inalegwu will accept their offer or not. The Vice president needs to have the influential Colonel to stand down and not secretly work against his aspiration for the ultimate prize of the presidency, even if he would not openly support him. A lot stood in the balance when Matters carried the Inalegwu interview and story.