Reno Omokri, one of the most virulent and partisan – even if forthright – critics of President Muhammadu Buhari, his administration and party, the All Progressives Congress, took the president to the cleaners on his just-concluded trip to Japan (“A tale of Buhari, Nana Akufo-Addo and Toyota). That is vintage Omokri – expectedly (and justifiably?) so. Reno was one of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s aides; in fact one of his spin-doctors and social media gurus. He has, since Jonathan’s exit in 2015, proved an unrepentant and incorrigible defender of the ex-president, his administration, and party. Reno has not jumped ship like many others, defecting or crossing the carpet from PDP to APC to enjoy the now famous, even if notorious, soft-landing, a euphemism for an escape from EFCC persecution. It is obvious Reno is not one of those desiring an “invite” – as social media language has now corrupted the word – to “come and eat” on Buhari and APC’s table. “Come and eat” was how the late Chief Sunday Afolabi, an Obasanjo Minister, described the ministerial invitation to his former boss, ex-governor of old Oyo State, Chief Bola Ige (later assassinated as sitting Minister of Justice and Federal A-G). We thank God that of all the issues with Buhari – cluelessness, incompetence, indifference, diffidence, colourless, lifeless, ruination of the economy, destruction of the nation itself, playing King Nero, nepotism, sectionalism, religious fundamentalism, name it – he has not added wilful assassination of political opponents. So we do not yet have to cast suspicious glances over our shoulders to see whether or not a Sergeant Rogers Jabilla is trailing. Except for the irritants called DSS and EFCC, critics are still free to go, as they say. So we can still enjoy the vibrant, virile, and delectable community of critics who light up our spirit and give us hope of a better (post-Buhari/APC) tomorrow. But I digress!
It interests me to hear from Reno that I have something in common with Mr. President: That Buhari reads newspapers – well, not newspapers, really, but cartoons! That is something! Many would wager a bet he never – or ever can – read anything, including memos brought before him but that, at best, aides summarise everything in a few words and then brief him about the decisions arrived at and actions taken. And Mr. President – Yes, Mr. President! – would simply nod and say with a voice full of gratitude, “tooo mad’Allah!” and continue to mind his own business! Many of the cartoons Buhari reads are critical of him –that he does not call for the head of the “errant” cartoonists is very instructive. Remember: Cartoons critical of Muhammed has lead to terrorist attacks in France and elsewhere. I think Buhari once joked that his nose is not as long as the cartoons portray it! Compare this with the fact that mere criticism of some State governors has landed some journalists in jail; there is one journalist who is being charged with treason right now just for being critical of a governor! Petulant tyrants! Impetuous tin-gods! Imagine if such pig-headed local champions were President/Commander-in-Chief! I remember a story about Gen. Raji Rasaki – of the “who build this gada (bridge)” fame! – that Dele Oguntayo told me: As Lagos State governor, Rasaki’s press secretary had come with “prayers” – that is what request for money is called in official, bureaucratic parlance – to take care of “press boys”. Rajaki jocularly quipped: Ki lo n pressi? Apo re lo n pressi! Ojojumo l’ori n tobi t’ese n tirin ninu paper”; meaning, “What are you pressing; it is your pocket you are pressing. It is every day they cartoon me in the papers with big head and tiny legs” How many of our so-called democratic leaders will laugh off such as inanities?
I, too, read cartoons. Yes, I not only read cartoons, I really, really love cartoons; especially cartoons that are political and didactic. Without mentioning names, I dare to say that some of the most profound political commentators and critics of our time have been cartoonists. It is not love for cartoons that has made Buhari the flop that he is; the reasons for his abject performance are glaring for all to see, many of which Reno brilliantly highlighted in his piece under review. I love cartoons that make me laugh. These days, you must laugh to kill sorrow that daily mounts in Buhari/APC’s Nigeria. I feel sad and cheated when cartoons are repeated. I mark out silly errors on cartoons. It pains that few editors pay good attention to their cartoon pages. I start to read my newspaper from the back page – after having taken a glance at the front page. I read the columnist, then the Sports pages. I love Sports, especially foreign sports. Sadly, local sports have lost its allure. It is evidence of how the generally-pervasive decadence has spread to all hitherto vibrant sectors of our national life. I read obituaries – religiously. That may surprise many. In fact, I study and analyse the wordings on obituaries. If you devote some time to obituaries, you will marvel at the advancement our people have made in communicating with the dead. It is like the dead are listening to, reading and hearing what their loved ones and those they have left behind have to say about them. I imagine what my own children and other loved ones will say of me when my own time is up. I calculate the age of the departed and wonder at what age I, too, will depart this plane. I consider what killed who and who and wish such would not be my portion. I shudder when parents announce the death or paste the obituary of their children and say “Lord, I reject this in Jesus mighty name” In my many years of reading obituary pages, I have not come across one where expletives were poured on the departed or where their evil deeds were brought into remembrance. “Say no evil of the dead” rules the waves on obituary pages. Here, William Shakespeare is turned on his head: The evil that men do, do not live after them but are interred with their bones; only the good is remembered and adumbrated. Being the deeply religious people that we are, we leave judgment unto Baba God, as they say. I also love reading foreign news. This could not have been otherwise since I was a foreign affairs correspondent and travelled far and wide, meeting with foreign dignitaries like Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Sam Nujoma, Nicephore Soglo, Gnassingbe Eyadema, POLISARIO president Abdulaziz, Gaddaffi’s number two, Major Jalloud, to mention but a few. I feel cheated anytime adverts take over any of the pages mentioned above – even though I can understand why. These are some of the pages where newspapers still manage to be different these days. The news pages are practically the same. Once you have read the news in a newspaper, you can take it for granted that you have read the news in all the other newspapers. I was aghast years back when I learnt that press secretaries write the news, together with headlines, for correspondents – and that is how the silly thing will come out the next day! No urge to be different. Critical angles are neglected. Industry is lost. It was not like that during my days – but I must hasten to add that mine was the analogue age, today is the digital! But I wonder if they do not understand that, this way, they are killing the newspaper, making it irrelevant day after day.
Reno, thanks! As far as cartoons go, I should henceforth be able to exchange notes with Buhari through my brother, Femi Adesina or my brother, Louis Odion, if issues to be discussed are technical in nature! Despite my unyielding criticism of Buhari, Femi has not failed, not even once, to respond to my SMS. I know this is grace. Michael Awe, a better friend of Femi, has not been that lucky. I thank Reno also for his lucid expose, as usual, on Buhari’s jamboree to Japan where the “Oyinbos” preferred small Ghana to giant Nigeria, making no pretence of the fact that Nigeria, under Buhari – just like it was under vile dictator Sani Abacha – has once again relapsed into a pariah in the comity of nations. They say once bitten, twice shy: How many times will Nigeria get bitten before it learns a lesson?
Buhari, if he is sincere in his fight against corruption, should also look at the sanity aspect, which was what mostly played out in the nasty judgment by the London court. He should summon all CBN governors, Finance ministers, and Attorneys-General when this debt was initially $40m till it became $850m, which Buhari inherited. The question Buhari should ask himself and his economic team is: How come this claim skyrocketed to $9.6b within four years of his regime? Does that not show how irresponsible, careless, and insincere his government and its anti-corruption fight have been? – Frank, Aba.