Ahoy! Off to Treasure Island, I set sail. The sea is turbulent, the wind is violent; but go I must on this dangerous odyssey to Pirates’ underworld, where good and evil fruits grow on the same tree, where virtue and vice sleep in the same bed, where life is short and brutish and worthless.
Treasure Island is an 1881 fictional haven of treasure, pleasure and torture created in book pages by Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish novelist, essayist and travel writer, depicting the adventures of Pirates at sea.
Seventy-one years later, some seven students of the University College, Ibadan, inspired by Stevenson’s novel, sought to reinvent the nasty lifestyles of the fortune-seeking Pirates on Treasure Island.
This was long before Bob Marley, the prophet, labelled Pirates as robbers and slave merchants in his 1980 evergreen hit, Redemption Song.
So, instead of idolising the greedy and individualistic Pirates that people Treasure Island, the seven idealistic youths, invited fellow undergraduates, who possess humanistic, selfless, courageous, honest and resourceful traits, to come on board and join in their fight for the attainment of a good society.
Thus, the students – Wole Soyinka, Ralph Chukwuemeka Okpara, Ikpehare Aig-Imoukhuede, Sylvanus U. Egbuche, Nathaniel Oyelola, Pius Oleghe, and Olumuyiwa Awe – formed the Pyrates Confraternity, which is also known as the National Association of Seadogs. They are popularly called the Original Seven.
To distinguish their movement from the rough lifestyle of Pirates, the Original Seven called themselves Pyrates. As Stevenson used the imagery and slogans of Pirates to make Treasure Island come alive, Pyrates also use the slogans associated with sailors in their conversation.
Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight! Apologies to Pyrates for burrowing into their slogan. Eight has become a nightmarish number in Nigeria lately. The lives of many Nigerians have been permanently damaged by the eight-year misrule of the immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari. President Bola Tinubu is about to enter the eighth week of his administration. And, in the height of an unreasonable decision, Tinubu’s government proposed to pay poor Nigerians N8,000 each, drawing a backlash as Nigerians pointed accusing fingers at his cap, saying the sleeping (∞) image of (8) on it has woken up to its feet to torment Nigerians.
Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight is a silver coin also known as the Spanish dollar. Minted in the Spanish Empire, and used in Europe, America and the Far East, pieces of eight was the first world currency by the 16th Century. Pieces of eight in Treasure Island is a shrill call for eternal vigilance and a reminder of pirates’ treasure. Pieces of eight calls attention to an announcement.
The shocking announcement of N8,000 palliative to Nigerians by the Tinubu government calls attention to the disturbing similarity between the woeful Buhari government and the incumbent administration. Though the intelligence-lacking N8,000 initiative has been put on hold, the announcement, in itself, reveals the underbelly of a government in a hurry for legitimacy.
After his emergence as President, I had expressed my fears to a friend that the Tinubu administration might be loud on PR and quiet on achievements. It’s worrisome that quite too early, the nascent government is excelling on cosmetics and failing on restoration.
Going by the resounding failure of Buhari’s N5,000 palliative to poor Nigerians, the blind doesn’t need ‘Jigi Bola’ (Bola’s glasses) to see that the N8,000 initiative was going to be another economic misadventure like the N10,000 Trader Moni intervention spearheaded by former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on behalf of the wreckage called Buhari government.
I think a self-acclaimed financial wizard of Tinubu’s stature should have seen, at first glance, the idiocy in spending billions of naira pyramids on palliatives when common sense would’ve embarked on fixing the problem of electricity and ensuring local refining of fuel. I think the country should’ve been saved from the needless uproar that greeted the announcement.
Is President Tinubu a messiah, mess-iah or mess-higher? Yes, you’re right, that’s what he is! If N8,000 each had gone into half of the proposed 12 million homes, and the other half, predictably, went to fill party long-throats, poor Nigerian families would’ve been fed disappearing fish, instead of being taught how to fish. ‘At all, at all na im bad’. Disappearing fish is what the proposed N8,000 palliative would give Nigerian households in these hyperinflation times. President Tinubu, N8,000 is not enough to buy a presidential packet of cigarettes.
Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight! President Tinubu, you’re far removed from the harsh economic reality whacking Nigerians. I know the presidential barn is brimming with exotic foods and choice drinks, so you and your beautiful wife, Remi, and children are definitely not feeling the starvation wracking Nigerians.
Need I remind you, Your Excellency, that the naira is no longer what it used to be in the 1970s when a brand-new car sold for N3,000? Your disconnection from the Nigerian reality would be the only reason why you could propose N8,000 as family palliative when the sum cannot feed a presidential dog.
The father and mother of a family living in Abule Egba and working in Lagos Island will return home on foot despite having N8,000 for transport. With the cost of fuel standing at N700/litre, a 10-litre fuel costing N7,000 would take them nowhere.
Your Excellency, permit me to avail you with the current prices of foodstuffs if all your aides do is sloganeer your nicknames, “Jagaban,” “Asiwaju,” “Oju yobo,” “Akanbi Olodo Ide,” and not tell you the truth.
Baba Folasade, the smallest size of Bournvita, now costs N2,499 while the smallest Milo costs N2,750 and Ovaltine refill costs N3,200. Baba Seyi, a tin of Peak milk, now costs N710, a pack of cornflakes costs N1,800, 1kg of semovita costs N1,800 and the smallest poundo yam costs N2,200, five-litre Made-in-Nigeria vegetable oil costs N10,000 while a tin of Titus sardine costs N750.
Even if the poor eight-member Nigerian family wants to live by bread alone, baring other necessities of life, N8,000 cannot give them a decent meal of bread, eggs and tea.
While the noose continues to tighten round the neck of the populace, the Tinubu government, like a drunken Pirate, has earmarked N70 billion of the N819.5 billion supplementary budget to cater for National Assembly members just as another N40bn has been earmarked to provide 465 Sport Utility Vehicles for the lawmakers, while a whole family is being expected to share N8,000 palliative monthly.
They populate the Senate, many sleeping senators, who don’t propose a bill in four years, yet they receive humongous monthly pensions having served as governors in their respective states, and currently collect outrageous salaries and perks for doing nothing at the Senate. Of the 13 former governors in the Senate, only former Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, has declined to receive pensions and allowances from his state.
Military service chiefs recently relieved of their duties by President Tinubu each received bulletproof SUVs, personal aides, guards, allowances for overseas medical treatment and other outrageous retirement benefits. Yet, 54 percent of the country’s youth are jobless even as 133 million Nigerians are multidimensionally poor.
Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight! Eighteen state governors, who left power on May 29, 2023, also carted home bulletproof vehicles and fat bags of pensions and allowances, even though many of the 18 states are languishing in debt.
The more Nigeria’s pieces of eight is flipped up and lands on the ground, the more the Buhari and Tinubu sides of the coin look the same.
May lightning not strike Nigeria the second time.
. Published in The PUNCH, on Friday, July 21, 2023.