If there is one thing I remember vividly about my childhood, it is the numerous African folktales my late grandma often spice up our nights with after dinner. In the midst of these numerous stories was one which has remained evergreen in my mind. The story of Oluronbi and the Iroko tree shed lights on the desperation of human, the power in the tongue, the sanctity of promise and above all the consequence of deceit.
Oluronbi and the Iroko tree have over the years been coined into various dimensions to fit different lessons on morals and uprightness. The version I was told was that of Olunrobi, a market woman who was having difficulties with sales and in a desperate move to make ends meet visited the Iroko tree, a sort of deity in the village widely acknowledged for its ability to bring good fortunes to any individual willing to worship it. Worshippers were expected to make a pledge before the Iroko tree in exchange for blessings and fortune but while other worshippers pledged Goats, Sheep among others, Oluronbi vowed before the Iroko tree to give her only beautiful child to the deity in exchange for boost in sales.
Soon enough she was blessed beyond words, she witnessed boost in sales far above her contemporaries but when the time to fulfill her vow came, she couldn’t let go. She pleaded to give something else other than her child but the Iroko would have none of that! Eventually Oluronbi lost her only child to the Iroko tree. The story will not be complete without the song that adds vibe to it; it stamped the lessons of the story in our consciousness for decades.
Onikaluku jeje ewure (Ewure,ewure)
(Others offered goats, just goats)
Onikaluku jeje agutan, (Agutan bolojo)
(Others offered sheep, white sheep)
Oluronbi jeje omo re (Omo re apon bi epo)
(Oluronbi offered her Child, her beautiful child)
Oluronbi o jan jan
Iroko jan jan
(Iroko must have it compulsorily)
Beyond the rhythmical interjection in the folktale lies a correlation between the moonlight story and the Nigeria political realm. The lessons on morality, sincerity, keeping promise(s) coupled with the search for the audacity of truth and the despicable act of desperation gives a chilling description of the Lord Voldermort playing out in our polity. An ugly beast of betrayal, deception and unkept promises known to us all but one which the dole of naira notes shared during elections have forcefully tucked down our throat making it a demon whose name we dare not mention.
In the realms of this folktale is our great country Nigeria, taking the place of the village, we the electorates represents the Iroko tree and the politicians and our elected officeholders the Oluronbis of our world.
Nearly four years ago, in the midst of drumbeats, flutes and trumpets capsulated with blasting echoes of the Disc Jockey’s turn table were men and women pledging before heaven, earth and hell to make good governance, transparency (and every other honeycoated adjectives ever used on earth), a watchword and core value if we are so kind enough to elect them. These Oluronbis in their desperation for public offices made promises and vow they, deep down in their consciousness were aware they lack capacity of fulfilling.
Ineptness, graft, nepotism, greed and corruption have become the signature notes of our country and states far and wide. Public offices have been turned into Lebensraum with projects that demands technical professionalism doled out to friends as birthday gifts, families to settle scores and concubines for pecks and massages.
The Oluronbi occupying the seat of power in Abuja is yet to make good his vow to put an end to the epileptic power supply in the country, his pledge to create jobs, provide peace and security with a robust economy which will reflect in the prices of gari, tuwo, palm oil and beans but has now been substituted with unending terror and disregard for humanity, raised electricity tariff which still remains elusive, a rebased economy evident in the account balances of cabinet members and associates whereas turning round to ban on Ponmo for the masses while the few jobs available to Nigerians are been filtered through ‘quota system’ to kinsmen.
Power according to Late Pa Awolowo, is a thing held in trust, to treat it otherwise is fraud. The sudden turnaround by politicians in disposition after winning election should be a point of reasoning to every Irokos who have been magnanimous enough to vote them into power in exchange for selfless services and distinctive leadership. Good governance has been replaced with vindictiveness, maladministration and megalomaniasm.
Ogun state as a case in reference is a reflection of the absurdity, shame and highhandedness our democratic system has been reduced to. The continuous tetrising of people’s sentiment by the demagogue in power against focusing attention on creating a people centered government devoid of corruption and bogus ill-thought air-conditioned pedestrian bridges is pathetic. Government has been reduced to ‘about to’, ‘plan to’ and ‘prepared to’ where economy policies and derivatives are only seen on television and read in tabloids.
The deceit of school fees reduction scripted to take effect after next election but hurriedly announced to create a delusional sense of performance, the total disregard for freedom of speech and expression where liberty has now been replaced with victimization and arrest of critics on social media and the total alienation of the health sector from the touch of governance are sorry tales that leaves the mind shivering.
Abia state has become nothing short of cacophony, where good governance has been replaced with shenanigans and misrule crowned ferociously. The state with vast economic potentials and seat of industrialization has become a colony to dirt and flirt. Attention which ordinarily should be directed into creating a business friendly environment with sound economic policies capable of creating a semi-Hong Kong has been focused on self glorification, glamour and chieftaincy titles. Insecurity rules supreme as people now get kidnapped for mere recharge cards!
The sorry tales are not limited to these ones alone as the cry for redemption in Zamfara, Nassarawa, Gombe among numerous others are loud and deafening.
2015 is in space of months and the Oluronbis have started their usual parade and charade of deceit, pledging and pleading for another chance. The onus lies on us all, the Irokos to think twice before being carried away by these pretentious fellows. If you ask me, I will damn the deceitful tears and take a stand with proven integrity.