Something about the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, reminds me of Janus, that god in Roman mythology who had two faces looking in opposite directions. One face could see into the future, the other, at the back of the god’s head, saw into the past. That’s why Janus is the god of doorways, pathways, and the threshold. Some of Janus’s qualities remind one of Esu, his much older and wiser African counterpart the realm of deities. Unlike the Roman god, however, fate did not smile on Mr. Bankole during the distribution of ethereal gifts. He got only one of Janus’s two faces – the one looking backwards from the back of the head – and thus became the strange half Janus of Abuja, with a remarkable ability to prophesy the past.
Mr. Bankole’s talent in predicting the past came to national attention when he accurately predicted that, contrary to the modest figures going around, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had judiciously spent $16 billion to supply NAFDAC-approved darkness to the nation in the course of his two – and very nearly three - terms in office. There was a noisy, showy probe by the Federal House of Representatives, and a report that went the predictable way of every official report of corruption probes in Nigeria: more government-subsidized wrapping paper for boli, epa, and guguru sellers in the streets of Lagos and Abuja.
Last week, the half Janus of Abuja was at it again. His sharp vision of the past revealed that three former members of the Federal Executive Council once bungled a fantastic opportunity for Nigeria to make $14 billion in Foreign Direct Investment. Apparently, the foreign investors had insisted on retaining control of disbursement and spending of the funds earmarked for their projects in Nigeria. The thankfully nameless former Federal Ministers, who wanted their hands in the till, asked the investors to take a hike and Nigeria lost $14 billion. First $16 billion, now $14 billion: Mr. Bankole’s gift of envisioning the past has taken us to a dizzying total $30 billion in lost funds and wasted opportunities. By the time he exercises his talent in the direction of the Peugeot automobile contract scam in which he is currently embroiled, the figure may come dangerously close to $40 billion.
In sane societies where allegations – or even the mere suspicion – of corruption move through constitutional processes of investigation, indictment, litigation, and consequences in the event of established guilt, Mr. Bankole’s talents would be an incredible national asset. Imagine the uses to which the IRS in America or Canada Revenue would put the Nigerian Speaker’s extraordinary gifts. They wouldn’t need to do all those random re-evaluations and reassessments to catch past tax dodgers. Mr. Bankole would reveal things and save government the staggering costs of periodic reassessments.
This, however, is Nigeria. Nigeria being Nigeria, I am not exactly sure that we can afford Mr. Bankole’s extraordinary talents. Here, only market women and children who hawk snacks in our streets could potentially benefit from the Speaker’s accurate prophesies of the past: more revelations equal more theatrical probes; more theatrical probes equal more reports; more reports equal more paper to wrap akara. I hereby appeal to Mr. Bankole to return to ancient Rome and look for the missing part of his ethereal entitlement: that vital second face that can see into and adequately predict the future. We need his missing other face. Desperately.
Once Mr. Bankole is able to deploy the newly acquired second face, things will change for the better. We need to know the little details of the big truths we already know about our lives. For instance, thanks to Mr. Vincent Ogbulafor, Chairman of “Africa’s largest party”, we already know that the PDP will rule Nigeria for the next sixty years. How much will the current leaders, their children and grandchildren who will succeed them in the top echelons of the PDP – access to the highest circles of loot is tight and hereditary - have stolen by 2069? Only Mr. Bankole’s badly-needed second face can tell us the truth.