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Rebuilding Nigeria’s Broken Walls: From Emotional Patriotism To Nehemiah Complex



How To Revive Public Schools - Tunji Olaopa


 Tunji Olaopa

I believe in Nigeria. This is an affirmation that I do not need to prove to anyone. It is just a simple affirmation that sums up my professional commitment to the very idea of a Nigeria that would regain her capacity to become great. Greatness, with regard to the Nigerian state, comes with a historical demand. Like most African states, the amalgamation conditioned Nigeria into a plural entity made up of various ethnocultural constituents willfully merged together into a mechanical unity that lacked any organic wholeness. Unfortunately, that mechanical unity seems to have been grafted wholesale into the constitutional framework that holds the Nigerian state together. And this began with the 1914 amalgamation and compounded by the Ironsi’s 1966 unitary illogic. And from 1966 to date, Nigeria has been struggling with the debilitations of that structural albatross. Everything that is wrong with the Nigerian state, from misgovernance to underdevelopment, derives from that historical misstep.

It is this historical misstep that has made a mess of the issue of national integration, what we all call the Nigeria Project. It seems a pretty simple project: Nigeria needs to convert the ethnocultural loyalty of her varied constituents into a civic nationalism that makes Nigeria the center of an energetic patriotism, the type we witness with other nations. Nigeria needs to transform herself from “a mere geographical expression” into a fulsome nation made up of patriotic believers who have infrastructural backstops for their belief in the greatness of Nigeria. Nationhood derives from the conversion of Nigeria’s ethnic capital into national capital. And that conversion rides on the performances of the structures and institutions that undergird Nigeria’s democratic experiment. Without these performances, demonstrated by a high productivity profile and infrastructural development, the possibility of the national integration project manifesting is shaky.

READ ALSO: Tomori’s Tears, Emotional Patriotism And Nigeria’s Future

It is my ardent belief in such a possibility that is driving my institutional reform agenda. For me, leadership recruitment dynamic, values reorientation and institutional reform form the bedrock of Nigeria’s striving for greatness. And I have located this reform imperative within the governance space, and especially within the public administration system. In theory and practice, the public service, constitutional order and a development-rooted national value system are the genuine complements to an effective democratic governance. This means that, in the case of Nigeria, when the state system itself is caught within the grasp of Nigeria’s historical predicament and cultural illogic, the only change management instruments to deploy are reform, governance and institution. I believe in Nigeria because I hold strongly to the possibility of unleashing Nigeria’s greatness through an institutional reform of her governance and policy space in ways that are sufficiently developmental to backstop the efficiency of democratic governance.

In a critical sense, Professor Oyewale Tomori’s emotional deliverance in the last few weeks lamented Nigeria’s institutional capacity that had gone bad. Everything he had to say about his educational maturation within a context of national security and moral dynamics pointed at a time when Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Simeon Adebo had a firm understanding of the relationship between politics and administration as the basis for good governance. It was a time of an acute awareness of the proper roles of the regions as genuine federating units for Nigeria’s emerging federal stature. And then, everything went historically and politically berserk

My belief in Nigeria speaks insistently to the possibility of a providential and institutional rescue of her greatness. My fervent belief dispenses with any form of historical determinism founded on either the amalgamation or the entire colonial narrative and its epochal significance. A firm grasp of the political and socioeconomic dynamics of the present seems to lead inexorably towards pessimism. Gloomy statistics confirm and reinforce the harsh reality of living in Nigeria. It is as if we are tumbling towards a precipice. Even 2023, as the moment for an electoral repositioning of Nigeria’s fate, holds no succor given the level of political scheming that is already going on at the moment to secure or retain power by parties without any ideological clue as to where to direct the ship of state. However, if politicians do not have a clue, intellectuals and well-meaning patriots have the responsibility to provide one.

READ ALSO: A Conspiracy History: Unraveling The Puzzles In Nigeria’s Future

This is where the Nehemiah narrative holds the most theological and political appeal for me. What sets Nehemiah’s patriotic blood boiling? It was just the news that more than half-century after the temple was completed, the walls of Jerusalem still lay in ruins. He just could not bear that news and all it connoted. He broke down and wept. But then as he wept, his mind was already exploring possibilities of remedying the situation. And his plan required theological understanding, leadership forthrightness and political acumen. In other words, he needed to know what God’s will is and, even more important, how God would enable him walk the tight rope of getting the permission of King Artaxerxes. This was crucial because building the wall of Jerusalem was a secular matter (compared to the religious assignment of building the temple, given to Ezra). Rebuilding the walls had a significance for the restoration of the State of Israel, and the possible threat that could connote. But Nehemiah was a pragmatic believer! He did not just sit lamenting the broken walls and waiting for God’s intervention. He acted. And his twelve years serving as the governor of Judah, with the economic and religious reforms that heralded his successes and achievements became significant.

This is what I call the Nehemiah complex for rebuilding the fallen walls of the Nigerian state. The lesson is simple: the walls of the Nigerian nation-state are broken. And we have reasons to weep and lament. But then, after lamentation, what’s next? Like Nehemiah, I hold strongly to a belief about a providential understanding of the place of Nigeria in global order and in the transformation of the lives of Nigerians. But then, the evidence of that providential assistance lies in the reform imperatives for transforming the predicament facing the Nigerian state. The key element of the Nehemiah imperative, as I read it for the Nigerian condition, is two-fold. The first is the need to restructure the Nigerian polity. The second lies in the urgency of building a coalition of patriotic leadership across different sectors and strata of the Nigerian society.

In calling for the restructure of the Nigerian polity, I know I am treading a dangerous path. It is dangerous essentially because of the abuse of the concept of restructuring. There are so many who hear the word and just tune off, not least the present crop of political class in Nigeria. Many members of this class hold the misplaced fear that restructuring is synonymous with the dissolution of the Nigerian polity. Nothing could be more illogical. What is logical is this. There is no one who does not agree that our federal structure is not working because it is lopsided under a unitary framework. No one will also disagree that outside of a functional federal arrangement, Nigeria’s democratic governance is doomed to keep failing. Nigeria’s strange contraption of unitary federalism denies the federating units the capacity for creative governance that regionalism afforded the regions in the first republic. To restructure therefore simply means opening up Nigeria’s plural dynamics to a constitutional arrangement that allows for the sharing of power among, in Nigeria’s case, three tiers of government. This federal arrangement not only allows for the various ethnic nationalities and cultural constituents to enjoy a modicum of self-determination that allows for the expression of their ethnocultural identities, it also facilitates a measure of fiscal autonomy for the federating units. The constitutional situation now, on the contrary, is that only the federal government enjoys constitutional overlordship at the expense of the state and the local government (of course the states also virtually obliterate the presence of the local governments and their autonomy). With this unitary arrangement, no federating unit is motivated to explore its comparative advantages. This is because there is now a bail-out mentality that drives everyone to Abuja to partake of the dividends of Nigeria’s virtually bankrupt mono-economy.

READ ALSO: Speaking Truth To Power: Attahiru Jega, Toye Olorode, And Nigeria’s Future

The promise of fiscal federalism makes it possible to consider the six geopolitical zones as the regional alternative for rethinking federalism. These zones become economic corridors that function on the internal economic and cultural dynamics and advantages of the regions in ways that undermine the illogic of Nigeria’s mono-economy. And second, these zones take the burden of governance away from the federal government which is then allowed to focus on core national issues like currency and international relations. This regional alternative is not new; it is only Nigeria that is decidedly ignoring its possibilities. Or to recast, it is Nigeria’s political elite that has refused to take up the challenge of articulating that regional vision of federalism. And this is where the second leg of the Nehemiah complex becomes significant: if the political class is not seeing the connection between Nigeria’s lopsided federal arrangement and the need to restructure it, there is the urgency of building a broad-based coalition of leadership that has the capacity to see the situation as Nehemiah saw it. In building the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah called on those who saw the walls and what needed to be done the way he saw it. We need leaders across generational divide, from Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Prof. Pat Utomi, Prof. Attahiru Jega, Olisa Agbakoba, Akinwunmi Adesina, Aisha Yesufu, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for instance, to what we can call the EndSARS generation; and from corporate professionals to intellectuals and scholars—people who share the patriotic desire to see Nigeria become truly great and responsible for the well-being of her citizens.

Nigeria needs more than her political class. It needs all those who believe in her greatness—all those who can see the wood for the trees; those who are capable, unlike the political class, of seeing what needed to be done in taking Nigeria out of her predicament.

In concluding, let me utilise some prose from my earlier contribution titled Federalism-Restructuring Fixation: What’s future for Nigeria? And my take is this, to move forward, there are three clear options for Nigeria to pursue. First, her political elites could resolve to put their acts together and get the basics right in the effort to move Nigeria forward on the federal path and achieve success like the United States, Switzerland, India or Australia. Second, the same political class could bury their heads in the sand and watch as everything degenerates  to the point of implosion. This was the terrible fate of the former USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.

READ ALSO: Truth Spoken Before Its Time: Professor Bolaji Akinyemi At 80!

Third, and even worse, Nigeria could just be allowed to keep up its dynamics of motion without movement that will either perpetually keep it as a reference point for academic and practical underdevelopment thesis and hypothesis for developing states (an exemplification of Princeton Lyman’s “greatness to irrelevance thesis”), or we eventually arrive at violent implosion due to lack of attention to what matters in nation building. So, is federalism the ultimate end to Nigeria’s hydra-headed predicament?

As a political scientist and institutional reformer, I am sufficiently aware of the limit of theory especially in a complex political and institutional situation presented by the Nigerian state. Thus, while it is futile to hanker for what is often termed “true federalism,” there is no doubt that federalism serves a critical purpose in Nigeria’s political rehabilitation and restructuring. In other words, federalism is not an end in itself, a panacea to end all national evils. In simple language, one that should be intelligible to expert political scientists with sufficient knowledge of comparative federalism in the democracies around the world. It is this, that the worst thing that could happen to Nigeria’s envisioned future is for her to have gone full-swing, to restructure the federation with a “true” federal constitution to boot, only to discover that her developmental problems have not been resolved by far.

As should be obvious, the whole Nehemiah complex requires committed leadership—a new breed of patriotic individuals and political elites who instinctively understand what is required to make Nigeria great. This new breed of Nigerian leadership will be committed to a pan-Nigerian ideal or dream—a pax Nigeriana—around which a strategic governance framework can be built to rally Nigerians to the urgent imperatives of sound development blueprint, good governance and social justice. It goes without saying that such a leadership will immediately recognize the significance of education and value reorientation as key elements in the restructuring of the mindset and attitudinal behaviour of Nigerians. Education instigates in the citizens a state of mind that is reflective, respectful and ethically aware of the shades of difference—ethnic, sexual gender, cultural—that makes up a plural state.

READ ALSO: Behold! Professor Akinyemi Is 80

This is the ultimate challenge of the Nigerian political class: to dedicate its attention and political capacities and competences to articulating a vision of what Nigeria should be, and how to achieve national integration. And at the very heart of such a vision is the blueprint for building an active citizenship that will be patriotic and willing to contribute to the challenge of national development. Outside of these, Nigeria’s future is very bleak, and all debates about Nigeria’s envisioned greatness are a  sham.

Olaopa is a  former Federal Permanent Secretary , and  a Professor of Public Administration, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS),

Kuru, Jos


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Self-esteem Of The Male Child, A Tool for Peaceful Marriage



The Futility Of A Marital Chase
Dr. Hope Nwawolo

By Hope Nwawolo

Self-esteem determines how much you value yourself and believe in your ability to succeed. If you feel confident in being yourself around others, then you likely have high self-esteem. Having high self-esteem is related to increased happiness, relationship satisfaction, and resilience in the face of adversity. Some men went through bullying in childhood or adolescence, grew into men with deflated self-esteem. 

In more recent times, the society is veering off the mindset of training only the girl child. This is because the disturbing experiences of ladies, who were trained to be submissive to their untrained husbands, have changed the dynamics of child training. Eyes have opened to realize that if you train your girl child to be an angel in marriage, she might end up with a male child who grew into a monster in the same marriage because he was not trained. 

Training has different dimensions and the common one being offered the male child is that of having a caring heart and respect for his wife in future. This is highly commendable but not all encompassing. One aspect of training that is silently being ignored is that of development of self-esteem in the male child.

Nowadays, the girl child is encouraged to look at herself as one who is wonderfully made and should not be trampled by anyone, particularly, the opposite sex. This is helping to build the confidence and self-esteem of many girls who can now stand their ground on who they want to be as they grow older. These girls grow into ladies with confidence, taking on different challenges they come across as they aspire to reach the zenith of their careers. Observably, many successful ladies are able to balance their careers with demands of the home, and succeed. Now, women have their voices and demand to be heard, instead of only being seen as it was the case in the past. 

Unfortunately this new trend seems to be breeding a counter reaction in some men. There is the growing tendency for these men to become uncomfortable in the face of the obvious confidence of their wives. Unknowingly, some of the men sabotage their marriages because they fail to value themselves as persons to match their wives’ self-esteem. This is the crux of the article, and for the need to inculcate high self-esteem in the male child to balance the training of the girl child, if and when they come together for marriage, instead of seeing her as a threat because of her self-esteem. 

Expectedly, a woman with dignity and high self-esteem, will stand out anywhere and anytime. This has nothing to do with pride and does not even give the woman the right to attempt to usurp authority from the man. In fact, such  a woman may go an extra mile to clothe herself with humility, particularly, in the presence of her husband, at home or functions. Unfortunately, many men cannot just manage the success of their wives. They would rather see them as threats. Some expect the women to be seen and not heard, forgetting that silence in dignity can attract attention from those around. Of course, men with high self-esteem, are proud to have such women as their wives.

Furthermore, it is unnecessary, particularly in the present economic hardship where the woman is almost sharing responsibilities with the man. For such a woman with financial independence, the man must be ready to witness some temper flings. And if the general admonition to women is that they should study the men and know when to talk to them, the man should also understand that the woman might be on the wrong side of her temper, due to pressure at home or work, sometimes, rather than seeing her when she is in a bad mood, as insulting him, because of his low self-esteem. 

A man with low-esteem, often finds it hard to believe that he is lovable or worthy of being respected, particularly, if he sees the woman as one who is independent to some extent and capable of taking care of herself, and sometimes, the children . Such mindset can suffocate a relationship, as it may become almost impossible to please him. Understandably, the behaviour may not even be reflective of his character but symptoms of an internal struggle, and can indeed be a cause for concern, if left unaddressed. Unfortunately, there are cases of such marriages that went sour.

However, this can be checked in adolescence or teenage years before it gets full-blown in adulthood, especially in marriage. It takes an intentional stance by parents to ensure regular self-expression by the male child, as a way of building his self-esteem to go through the rigours of life. He needs to understand that marriage should be that of partnership and not absolute subjugation of the woman, no matter her level in career and society. The man remains the head of the woman, and the home!

 Nwawolo, PhD, writes via   

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Mohbad: When Love And Light Are Not Enough



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola

    I did not want to write about Mohbad until a student of the University of Babcock contacted me, asking me to lend my voice to it. The seventeen-year-old student emailed me in sentences that come with anguish and pain. I was moved by them. Nothing I write can restore the damaged emotions of this teenager, but I am glad to run this errand. The purpose of old age is to restore the broken fabric of society.

A sea of shimmering lights dotting the darkness of an evening sky is not a common sight anywhere in the world. In Lagos, Nigeria, it holds even more significance. It seems only a few months since a peaceful demonstration of young Nigerians was interrupted at the Lekki Tollgate in October 2020. As though the tragedy that would follow was scripted, solemn protesters who held out candlelights in their numbers in memory of fallen comrades were dispersed by live rounds and coercive military actions.

This time around, on the evening of September 21, 2023, the collegiate crowd, candle lights, and stars you saw were not to mourn the youths who had fallen to SARS’ brute force. This was the candlelight procession in honour of Ilerioluwa Aloba, popularly known as Mohbad, a young Afrobeat singer in his prime whose death and the events leading up to it have been controversial.

But these two nights have more than one thing in common. Just like in 2020, the concerned fans of the late music artiste had chosen Muri Okunola as their rendezvous, a park along Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, Victoria Island, Lagos, which is only a few minutes from the venue of the 2020 #EndSARS demonstration. Also, the candlelight procession featured youths, some with their placards with the inscription: “JusticeforMohbad,” bringing back memories from that fateful night. Just like three years ago, the candlelight procession for Mohbad ended with police action, the police dispersing “unruly protesters” off the scene. At least, the singular observation that some ill-trained, trigger-happy policemen did not kill Mohbad brings some solace. Nevertheless, murder is murder regardless of who pulls the trigger is an aphorism that admits very few exceptions.

At this point, one would imagine how a solemn event like a candlelight procession could have transformed into a protest that would warrant a dispersal of the “unruly crowd” by men of the Nigeria Police. In the defence of the Police Force, dispersing the procession was in the interest of ensuring the safety of lives and properties. For one thing, an exodus of young people with dread, tattoos, exuding palpable deviance is enough danger to the lives and properties in the surrounding communities; talk more of a rampant exodus of youths bearing weapons of mass destruction like naked fire and placards.

This is why the police had to think up their best initiative to nip the danger in the bud—quench the fire, whether candle lights or flickers of agitation. This is not unusual, especially in a country like ours where the primary security company has an unyielding aversion to demonstrations and an uncanny penchant for forceful responses to demonstrations, no matter how peaceful. Pardon me for this segue; it was necessary.

But will the young, towering late musician ever get justice? Would the enemies, frenemies, and evil conspirators he talked about before his death be brought to book? If anything, Ilerioluwa would take solace in the candlelight procession organized to send his soul home to his maker, as this symbolizes what he stood for. Shortly after announcing his departure from his former record label, Marlian Music, Mohbad announced his label titled “Imolenization.” In the Yoruba language, Imole means light or illumination. So, despite having had his light snuffed out in his prime, his soul would journey to the heavens buoyed on by an array of lights and love.

To many young Nigerians, Mohbad was a leading voice on the street. His songs, K.P.K., Feel Good, Peace, and Ronaldo 

(,vid:wB9Vym8SWmU,st:0), are not merely hits but have become street anthems. For many whose lives revolved around the trenches and suburbs of Lagos, Mohbad was also an emblem of hope. Like most of his contemporaries, Mohbad’s discography showcases deviance, survival, internet fraud, high life, and the never-say-die hustling spirit of the average Nigerian youth.

Mohbad’s music career took a different turn when he joined his former record label, Marlian Music. On the back of the label’s popularity, Mohbad’s stock rose exponentially, even attaining stardom with two successful albums and an E.P. Without dwelling much on what may have gone wrong between the musical art and his label, it was clear that his departure was not well received. In most departures of this kind, bad blood and legal skirmishes are not uncommon.

However, when bad blood brews into assaults and unending threats to life, and parties take laws into their hands rather than ply the legal route, the assailing party would be said to have crossed the line. As the elders would say, a fight is already set in motion when the handshake goes beyond the elbow. Mohbad, upon leaving Marlian Music in 2022, premised his departure on the failure of the label management to remit his music royalties and other entitlements. Months later, the late musician had severally released materials on how his ex-boss, Afeez Fashola, had been after his life. This leads to the question, what more would tilt the suspicion of the police towards a suspect than the declaration of a deceased person before his death?

The events surrounding the death of Mohbad raise many questions. First, could there be any connection between the frenemies he lamented and his death? Why was his burial hurried, even by his kin? Are the police doing a good job of arresting and interrogating prime and remote suspects? Was the government of Lagos right to have exhumed his remains to conduct an autopsy? Going by the Coroner’s System Law of Lagos State, “a report of death shall be made to the office of the Coroner and be subject to post-mortem examination where there is reasonable cause to believe that the cause of death was violent, unnatural, or suspicious”.

Matter-of-factly, even in this cruel world, the death of a 27-year-old is presumably unnatural except where the circumstances reveal otherwise. In Mohbad’s case, the circumstances seem to agree that a post-mortem examination is more than necessary. It becomes even more suspicious when the allegations of hostility, threats to his life, trespass on his person, and unending battles, as lamented by the late musician, are put into context.

Admittedly, the law books teach that suspicion and subjective opinion are not a sufficient basis for proof of facts. Hence, the need for empirical examination will further drive us to the point of certainty, at least for the sake of the deceased, whose life may have been cut short by unnatural forces. Maybe this would also provide context or answers as to why his burial was hurried.

When an unnatural or suspicious death occurs, the police ordinarily conduct a post-mortem examination, interrogate close associates, and scour through correspondence, recent contacts, and perceived enemies. This information becomes even more relevant if the deceased claims to have been bullied, threatened, or attacked.

Mohbad’s death has provoked commentaries and opinions from different quarters. While some have been more cautious in pointing fingers, others have thrown caution to the wind and have demanded the arrest of individuals like Afeez Fashola and Samuel Balogun. One salient issue that must be addressed before this momentum dies down is the need to redefine lost values in light of the infiltration of foreign values. In foreign climes like the United States, it is not unusual for bad blood of this kind to brew into assassinations. A case in mind is that of Tupac Shakur, who was murdered exactly 27 years ago in Nevada, United States 1996. Six months later, Christopher Wallace, Notorious B.I.G., was murdered similarly.

While Mohbad may not have died from gun violence, his death was no less violent, given the circumstances that culminated in his untimely demise. When viewed in light of his industry, we begin to see the impact of foreign elements in the Nigerian music world. A look through the boards shows artists with criminal histories ranging from assault, internet fraud, marijuana abuse, and sexual violence to homicide. It would seem that Nigerian pop artists have not only taken music inspiration from the West but have also taught their dark penchant for vices.

The cause of death might have been speculative, and the range of agitation could also have been built on unsubstantiated emotional outbursts on circumstantial evidence, a little bit shy of mathematical accuracy. Even at that, they have established the undisputed need to chase the issue to the root and also raised a disturbing concern that a lot has been overlooked in our complacency. Unfortunately, the police, in their usual brutes, have dispersed away such voices that would keep them on their toes like in the EndSARS period.

It begs the question that the current continuous show of love and a thousand sessions of candlelight will not fill the societal lacuna that might have occasioned his death or brought about the ugly incidences that built momentum before it. An enabling system has nourished the powers that have pressured Mohbad for months before his death and have continuously caused the demise of many of our fallen heroes, even if they are social stimulators like Mohbad.

To the young Babcock student, let me close as an elder: When someone else dies with similar circumstances, the same love and light will fall along with them. We have seen it continuously in recent history. We have seen brutality on helpless individuals and the government being continuously inconsiderate, but we have not seen an end to the circle. The love and lights are insufficient, but the nation has been too sleepy to fill the void they could not cover. May your fate be different, and may you live past 100 years. Amen. I will come to your campus and speak with you in person, sharing my story of survival as a teenager in the bush.

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Soyinka And The Gbajue Metaphor 



Nigerian Destiny: In The Hands Of The People
Dr. Promise Adiele

By Promise Adiele

Akin Akingbesote was my roommate at Q107 Eni-Njoku Hall, University of Lagos. Akin was in 200 level studying Mass Communication while I was in 100 level studying English. Given the large number of Igbo and Yoruba students on campus then, the general lingo was dominated by code-switching straddling pidgin English, Yoruba, Igbo and other forms of slang. My knowledge of Yoruba was poor, Akin’s knowledge of Igbo was abysmal. So, we struck a deal to teach each other our mother tongue at least, to retain a faint knowledge of all linguistic strategies and slang on campus. Akin, a good-natured guy from Ondo State, suggested that the best method would be for us to come up with expressions in the opposite language and bring them to the table while the other person interpreted and analysed them. I agreed. Every day, I came with different Yoruba expressions and Akin interpreted them. He also came with different Igbo expressions and I interpreted them. Both of us sometimes played pranks and were mischievous with the interpretations. However, we managed the situation and it was fun. 

One day, I returned to campus from town and asked Akin to explain the meaning of lo toju eru e! I had seen the expression boldly written inside a bus. He explained that it means keep your load safe. Also, I asked him to explain the meaning of owo da! He said it means where is your money? I disagreed with Akin’s interpretation of owo da!. I argued that the bus conductors were wrong to use Owo da as where is your money? I told Akin that owo da could mean where is the money which I thought was arrogant and rude. I further argued that Owo da sounded like a thief demanding money from a helpless victim. Pay your transport fair in Yoruba should mean something else, more peaceful and respectful, something like san owo re. Akin laughed at me and said, “When they ask you owo da, don’t give them your money and see what will happen to you”. I told him that in Igbo, pay your money could be translated as kwuo ugwo gi, or nye m ego gi. Although kedu ego gi could be interpreted as pay your money, it didn’t quite capture the accurate linguistic potential of the expression.

One day, I returned to the room and asked Akin, “what is the meaning of gbajue”?  He looked at me intently, smiled and asked, “Why do you want to know the meaning of gbajue , abi you don join them”? His response did not make meaning to me. “Akin, please tell me the meaning of gbajue”, I insisted. Well, it means 419, he laughed as he explained. I noticed that Akin was not serious with the gbajue lecture, so I decided to contact a course mate the next day, concluding that to get the best answer, I would approach an Igbo student who also spoke Yoruba fluently, as well as any Yoruba person. So I went to George Nkwocha, the ever-smiling, peacefully disposed guy in my class. Georgie, as we called him, gave me different meanings of gbajue  depending on the context. At last, I concluded that gbajue means deception, dubiety, and all forms of criminal tendencies that are meant to mislead, confuse, and lead astray. End of story. Armed with my knowledge of gbajue, I moved on. No one would bamboozle me with the word again. 

Having learned and understood the meaning of gbajue in school, I was therefore irked when Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka used it in faraway South Africa as a metaphor to describe the activities of Africa’s most avant-garde political group, Labour Party under the aegis of Obidient movement. According to Soyinka, the Labour Party employed gbajue tactics to befuddle Nigerians, claiming that they won the last presidential elections. The accomplished man of letters avowed that he “can categorically state that Labour Party did not win the election, they came third, not even second”. Let me quickly admit that I am not fit to untie Soyinka’s shoe lace. He is a great man revered and respected across the world. I teach Soyinka’s texts every year. But I am not one of his disciples. I subscribe to Femi Osofisan’s Brecht, Marxist, dialectical leaning more than Soyinka’s ritual cleansing, tragic world view illustrated through his appropriation of Ogun, the Yoruba god of iron and the subterranean agent of self-examination. Soyinka is entitled to his explication of gbajue, although many people think he erred. Many people think he is gradually losing that invincible, iconoclastic portrait of his by consistently aligning with bourgeois, upper-class echelon against the masses. Many people also think that he is gradually eroding all the virtues and principles he stood and fought for as a young man. His “the man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny” has morphed into an ideology with which he is appraised and found wanting because he continues to maintain grave silence in the face of tyranny pro max. Like Soyinka, let me also exercise my intellectual prerogative by offering a personal, surgical dismembering of gbajue, at least within Nigeria’s evanescing, socio-political environment. 

Gbajue means to insidiously submit fake academic credentials to the electoral body, serve eight years in an executive capacity and recruit foot soldiers to drum support for you. It is the indoctrination of school children who grow up knowing and answering that someone was this and that, a position attained through deception and beguiling posturing for gain. Gbajue also includes benefitting from the commonwealth having attained a glorious political position riding at the back of fraudulent academic and genealogical claims. All the wealth amassed in that process, all the people who benefitted from that deception are indebted to the gbajue phenomenon and must be made to pay restitution. 

Gbajue means when the electoral umpire promises to follow a particular pattern in an election and even goes ahead to publish these regulations in national dailies and the internet. Then, suddenly, like real gbajue-seared beings, make a complete turnaround and abandon the patterns and devices already scheduled for the elections. Then the electoral umpire reverts to its invidious, treacherous, double-dealing methods to conclude the election. The real gbajue element is when the people trooped out in millions based on the promises and assurance of the electoral umpire but only to be deceived, cheated, and abused.

Gbajue means when, during an election, the security apparatus in the country assures people to come out and vote, guaranteeing them ultimate protection and safety. Then, when the people came out, a particular ethnic group is harmed, maimed and dehumanized yet, the same security apparatus connives and looks away from these incidents even with incontrovertible video evidence. Gbajue is when some disoriented people make open threats towards an ethnic group and go on to carry out these threats while the government lapses into hypnotic paralysis only to use media outlets, radio, tv and newspaper to release sterile, hackneyed statements, “we are on top of the situation”.

Gbajue means when in a particular state in the South-South of the country, elections were openly rigged and electoral officers glaringly harassed and threatened by the governor. Yet security personnel looked away and the results were finally admitted by the national electoral body, blurred results. Gbajue is when the electoral umpire, while people of good conscience slept, announced the results of the presidential elections in the wee hours of the night. It is when a group of people representing the judiciary set aside loads of electoral malpractice evidence, chide and rebuke election petitioners as if the judiciary is an arm of the electoral body. Yet, gbajue is surely involved when Abuja is ingeniously stripped of its status as the federal capital territory but does not have a governor as a state, therefore, 25% votes there are  inconsequential. Gbajue is big. 

Gbajue is when a new government announces the removal of fuel subsidy upon assumption of office without any corresponding, well-thought-out plans to mitigate the excruciating effects of such a knee-jerk decision. Petrol now sells for N620. Pure horror. Gbajue is when a new government titillates the populace with a spurious student loan scheme which lacks any fundamental base and, therefore, crashes as soon as it is announced. Gbajue could be more. It is when a government inaugurates a falsehood industry primarily to hoodwink the people daily with unsubstantiated, misleading tales – UAE lifts visa ban on Nigeria, Mr President is the first to ring the NASDAQ bell, Mr President is the only African leader Biden accepted to meet after UNGA. Gbajue could also mean distributing five billion naira to the states for palliatives when the people received disgraceful, next-to-nothing food items, when, unexpectedly 1$ exchanges for 1,000 naira. Gbajue could be more. 

The gbajue culture is maintained and desperately sustained by a coterie of desperate felons whose motives are glaringly tied to gain and the protection of the same. Thus, Nigeria is caught in a whirlwind of different gbajue metaphors. The result of the growth of gbajue in the land is the international embarrassment the country is currently facing regarding the inconsistent academic records of the number one chief executive officer in the land. But gbajue’s comeuppance could be summarized in these words by former US president Abraham Lincoln “you can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”. I hope the majestic Kongi agrees with my definitions of gbajue

Adiele, PhD, Mountain Top University.



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