Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Finding a befitting birthday gift for President Buhari

I spent a long time thinking of what I should get the farmer whose livestock, according to his assets declaration forms, had remained the same in the last six years.

• December 23, 2021
President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

It was President Muhammadu Buhari’s 79th birthday the other day. As the day approached, I feared being left out as the only person, out of 200 million Nigerians, who did not get the president a befitting gift. It would be an awkward position to be. I have a storied history of giving befitting birthday gifts to every Nigerian president in my lifetime. Even Buhari’s good friend, General Sani Abacha, who had everything he ever wanted, including Indian prostitutes, got birthday gifts from me. I should not stop now.

I imagined 200 million Nigerians storming the market nearest to them in search of a befitting birthday gift for Buhari, a man who had transformed their lives in humongous ways. Irrespective of age, religion, gender, ethnicity, social status, academic level, Nigerians who still had a non-bandit infested market to go to wanted to get the president something worthy for Buhari, the man from Daura, the last of the recurring crooked decimals in Nigeria’s political life since the beginning of the country. So, I spent a long time thinking of what I should get the farmer whose livestock, according to his assets declaration forms, had remained the same in the last six years.

A few days before, the speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, The Right Honorable Femi Gbajabimila, sent out a public goodwill message to the president telling him that he had done great things for Nigeria and that Nigerians were proud of him. It heightened the level of my adrenaline. 

I imagined that Gbajabimila’s statement must have spurred those Nigerians who were on the sidelines of Tradermoni, N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfer Program, Home Grown School Feeding Program, and those not sure of what the president did for them, to get off their behind to go and get the president something for his birthday. 

Initially, I blamed the Georgia State Supreme Court for suspending Mr Gbajabiamila from practising law for only 36 months. If they had done more to him after finding him guilty on February 26, 2007, of stealing $25,000 from his client, he would not be increasing pressure on me to get a befitting birthday gift for Buhari.

Not to be outdone, Bola Tinubu, the man who hopes to take over from Buhari, issued his own statement from his Bourdillon residence, where his dog ate his Chicago University certificate, his birth certificate got swallowed by the lagoon, and more importantly, the only private home in Nigeria where bullion vans deliver cash. For his fellow citizens still confused about what great things Buhari had done for them, Tinubu told them that Buhari’s accomplishments were unseen and underappreciated. It rattled me, causing a chilling effect on my testosterone. I told myself that that was the problem I was having with a full appreciation of the president. 

The great achievements of Buhari were like dreaded WAEC’s unseen poetry. Tinubu did not vow to make Buhari’s accomplishments seen or start the Buhari appreciation campaign; those are Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu’s jobs. Tinubu, the man who had two biological mothers (one for the parlour and one for the kitchen), however, assured 200 million of us, his soon-to-be inheritance, that Nigeria’s manifest destiny was around the corner. I did not know when I shouted, “hallelujah.”

On his part, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, a pastor in good standing before God and Emir of Daura, issued an impossible prayer for Buhari to say Amen to. He wrote, “As your days, so shall strength, wisdom, and favour be from the Almighty God in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.” To avoid being sued, I must state that I do not understand the subtle message in Osinbajo’s statement very well. But I know that Buhari will have difficulty saying Amen to a prayer that had to come into fruition in the name of Jesus. Even if Buhari doesn’t care, Isa Pantami will scold him for deploying a valuable Amen for Jesus, who, by the way, in Islam is called Isa.

All in all, I agreed with Osinbajo that everyone could do with a little more strength, wisdom, and favour. That is why the pharmaceutical industry made Viagra for strength in the oza room, the technology industry made Google for wisdom for those with memory loss; and the religious industry made churches, mosques, and shrines for a favour to come to those who have run out of ideas on how to lift themselves. At this point, I started getting ideas of a befitting gift for the president.

I reached out to and asked if they could send a castrated smelly He-goat to the president. I wanted it to be a metaphor for the last 2,389 days that he has been the president of Nigeria. I wanted Buhari to think of what the castrated smelly He-goat could accomplish in the remaining 526 days in office before May 29, 2023. Of course, HelpMeWaka people could deliver the goat. But I was afraid that Buhari would slaughter the goat to celebrate his son’s turban as Taliban Daura instead of looking at the goat and pondering as I wanted.

Then, I had an epiphany. Instead of the castrated smelly He-goat, I would send Buhari the biography of Singapore’s legendary leader, Lee Kuan Yew. I found the book, “From Third World to First: Singapore and the Asian Economic Boom,” on Amazon. I ordered it. Prompted to enter a shipping address, I put in Aso Rock Presidential Villa. 

What came up next had never happened to me before in the history of Amazon delivery. It wasn’t the usual problem of finding the mailing address of Aso Rock Villa. It was the spiteful comment that I got from a cheeky 3rd party Internet bot. It popped up on my computer screen and wrote, “Why bother? We have not delivered a book to that address in the last ten years.”

No wonder.

– Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo teaches Post-Colonial African History at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He is also the host of Dr. Damages Show. His latest book is “The Secret Letters of President Donald J. Trump, aged 73.”

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