Nigerian politics, economics, social, culture and every facet of national life naturally should follow Ecclesiastes: nothing is terribly new under the sun.
The book of Exodus 7:9-12 said, Then God spoke to Moses and Aaron. He said: “When Pharaoh speaks to you and says, ‘Prove yourselves. Perform a miracle,’ then tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down in front of Pharaoh: it will turn into a snake.’”
Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did what God commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his servants, and it turned into a snake.
Pharaoh called in his wise men and sorcerers. The magicians of Egypt did the same thing by their incantations: each man threw down his staff and they all turned into snakes. But then Aaron’s staff SWALLOWED their staffs.
The operational word there is swallow. So it was that on the 9th and 10th day of the second month of the year 2018 after the death AD, Nigerians woke up to the story that a sales clerk had been suspended after she told auditors that a snake had swallowed the equivalent of more than £70,000.
The woman, Philomena Chieshe, was working at the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), which collects examination fees. After N36 million (£72,050) went missing from the exam board, Ms Chieshe blamed the reptile.
But the government organisation dismissed her claim and has started disciplinary proceedings, according to reports. Local reports said that the clerk claimed her housemaid and a work colleague had confessed to using the mysterious snake to “spiritually” steal the cash from the accounts office.
And in the year 2004, it also happened that in the ninth month and the 21st day, Nigeria admitted a “national embarrassment” after a Russian tanker laden with 30,000 barrels of oil disappeared without trace from the custody of its navy. The vessel, African Pride, was seized in Nigerian territorial waters a year earlier on suspicion of oil smuggling. The navy impounded it and detained its crew of 13 Russians. The African Pride was last seen in August. The navy admits that the ship has since disappeared with its cargo and crew.
A Nigerian daily newspaper described the whereabouts of the African Pride as the “one billion naira question.” The waters in the ocean SWALLOWED the ship. It never was and never will be found, like the snake and the money.
In the ninth month also in the year 2017, in the ancient city of Ibadan, the Oyo State Assembly investigated 320 missing tractors in 20 local government areas. The tractors that were distributed to 20 of Oyo State’s 33 local government areas in 2013 might have developed wings. And to know whether or not the 320 tractors were deployed for the purpose they were bought, the Oyo State House of Assembly has mandated the House Committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters to investigate.
The committee is expected to questionpresent and former chairmen and members of transition committees in order to retrieve the tractors from beneficiaries who have reneged or neglected to fulfill their responsibilities on the tractors leased to them. To be unravelled also are the amounts of money gained or recovered from the lease of the tractors and whether the four meant for hiring are at local governments.
The committee, led by Hon. Bolaji Badmos, was mandated by the Assembly to submit the report of its investigation in the next three weeks.
The tractors till date remain SWALLOWED!
We have always had a penchant for swallowing things as a nation, from Plateau State, where a fake commissioner was created and he was swallowing all the enumerations and pay of one, to the years of yore when the wind blew away tractors purchased by the Bauchi State government. The wind just SWALLOWED!
Mysteries are a way of life. We SWALLOW all sorts of lies, contortions and deceit from leadership. Do you remember Veronica Onyegbula of the Police Pension scam? During interrogation in 2012, when arrested, she said she made $544,000 from the sale of sachet water.
With each passing day we SWALLOW all sorts of things, from teachers that cannot pass the exams they set for their students, to the fact that budgets have been known to be padded or simply go missing so that they can conveniently keep swallowed monies.
Once upon a time, it was that woman hairdresser, beauty therapist and politician and House Speaker SWALLOW-ing monies for house renovation, the next man in white followed suit, SWALLOW-ing, and then there was that integrity man, the short one that allowed his CAP to equally SWALLOW. From the local government to the federal level, at ministries and MDAs, parastatals, various staffs or rods simply turn to snakes and swallow our national patrimony.
The truth remains that, as a people, we are religious. We don’t joke with our Fridays and Sundays. We don’t joke with our “juju” either. We swallow all sorts of black powder. We love music. We are intelligent and, yes, we excel in many a thing we put our hands to do as a people. We are resilient. While people talk about the American dream, we as Nigerians are not dreamers, we are simply a swallowing nation.
Among us are the ethnic jingoist and nepotistic parapoist. We have those that do not see beyond faith, creed and clan. We are divided on many fronts, united in soccer and corruption. However, we are equally a dramatic nation, one full of drama, with so much suspense.
Lives have been SWALLOWED in various conflagration points, from Zamfara to Benue, Adamawa to Kaduna, Taraba to Nasarawa. No one state is really spared in the ethnocentric, faith-based and conquest-like killings. We see them swallow but no one is held responsible for the SWALLOW-ing. Someone appears on the scene, picks a target, commences the swallowing and we suffer the tragicomedy of it and case closed.
And as with many things Nigerian, this too shall come to pass, that we would soon have forgotten, and move along and ahead to the next SWALLOW-ing. Are we tired of the bizarre, the laughable, the oddly magically and mysteriously sickening? No, methinks, and would we ever be tired? Only time will tell.
•Dr. Dickson is a development media practitioner.