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Ndichie or Oyomesi: Humour and the Vaudeville State

January 9, 2010

Image removed.I saw Rachel Maddow on MSNBC yesterday discussing Nigeria. What grated most was not what she had to say about our current political impasse but her mode of address and style of delivery. Everything, including her facial expressions, pointed to humour. She was struggling not to burst out laughing on camera. She even poked some good old fun at Goodluck Jonathan. As I watched and squirmed in pain and embarrassment, taking a mental note of how the buffoons running – or not running our lives – in Abuja and Jeddah have turned us into the butt of depraved jokes at the international level, the telephone rang.

It was an Igbo friend of mine calling from the US. He was also watching Rachael Maddow and decided to call me for a joint firsthand assessment of the situation. We spoke – screamed and argued is more like it – for nearly two hours. Nigeria has a way of eating up the hours of your life whether you are at home or abroad. Abusing our rulers alone in various spheres of participation in public discourse could easily eat up two hours of your life a day; grumbling about the myriad consequences of their misrule could gulp another two hours daily depending on the Nigeriana networks you belong to online and in real life. Sadly, the only thing that eats up the hours of the lives of the people we curse and curse and curse in the political establishment are the hours they spend loading looted cash into Ghana must go. But I digress.

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It didn’t take long for us to realize that Rachael Maddow is not the only one that the fiendish characters in the Nigerian political establishment have turned into an emergency comedian. While we, the Nigerian people, are the tragic losers in this situation, our oppressors in the status quo are not the winners as many would imagine. Humour is! Humour is winning big time because Nigeria has globally become such a huge joke – funny or not funny depending on your nationality and degree of emotional investment in project Nigeria.

There seems to be a national recourse to humour as the only path to collective catharsis in the face of so much humiliation, so much traducing of our humanity by folks we did not elect. Or could the Yoruba proverb be at work – a situation beyond tears is better greeted with laughter? Are Nigerians running instinctively and gesturally to humour because being ruled supposedly from Jeddah by a supposed living-dead is beyond tears? Have we all become Basketmouth or Jay Leno because we are citizens of the world’s only Vaudeville state?

In the dictionary of political nomenclatures, I have heard of failed, collapsed, criminal, narco, or terrorist states. We even had the hooligan state, epitomized by the United States and Great Britain under George W. Bush and Tony Blair respectively. And there is the stateless state as is the case with Somalia. But a state whose ontological essence – the only reason for its existence – is to provide endless entertainment for her own citizens and the international community – hence vaudeville state? That’s a new one.  I am not even sure that calling Nigeria a Vaudeville state is not decorating the said state with too much undeserved grammar. Jester state, alawada state or Zebrudaya state may be more like it.

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Hence as Rachel Maddow laughed her head off on TV, my friend at the end of the line in the US told me in a very serious tone that he has been celebrating the current political impasse because his people, the Igbos, are now ruling Nigeria indirectly at long last! Naturally, I asked for clarification before dismissing his yeye talk. Well, since you guys insist on marginalizing us and have denied us the Presidency since the end of the civil war, our chi has imposed the Igbo political system on Nigeria! We may not have an Igbo President any time soon but we own the patent of the political system that our friends are now running in Abuja!

He wasn’t making things any clearer and I told him. Well, is Nigeria not being ruled more or less by a loony conclave of characters like Turai Yar’Adua, Michael Aondoakaa, Tanimu Yakubu, James Ibori, and Abba Ruma – with Ojo Maduekwe and Dora Akunyili tagging along as confused mouthpieces? I agreed with my friend that that is, indeed, the case. Well, he continued, that is the “Ndichie” now! Before nko? What do you think? We have used Igbo juju to impose the Ndichie system on Nigeria. The aforementioned clowns now ruling us are Yar’Adua’s Ndichie – his red cap chiefs and administrators of his policies who are now trying to govern us by conspiratorial consensus!

Not so fast, I cut in as soon as I saw where his riotous and humorous imagination was going. I then told him that the Igbo juju he was waxing so triumphant about is evidently not as strong as the ‘ogun abenu gongo’ that they have now used in Oyo town to impose their own political organization on Nigeria and guarantee an indirect third term for the Yoruba – since the lazy Obasanjo could not do it. It was my friend’s turn to be puzzled. He quickly sought clarification.

Well, you listed seven people who are now ruling us on behalf of a President who happens to be their hostage in Jeddah, Mecca, or Medina – we don’t know his exact location. If there are seven of them, that means that we are actually operating the Oyomesi system and not the Ndichie system like you imagined. Those seven characters you listed are the Oyomesi and we are now all collective victims of their intrigues.

My friend has always been a master of the unexpected killer of a comeback. I should have known that his initial concession to my viewpoint came too easy – too easy to be true. Well, if we are running the Yoruba Oyomesi system as you claim, it is safe to assume that Michael Aondoakaa is the Bashorun of that system, right? I thought about that for a second, wondering if the quieter but deadlier Tanimu Yakubu isn’t in fact the Bashorun. I then settled for Ashipa – Yakubu as Ashipa – and agreed with my friend.

Ok, you’re right. Aondoakaa is indeed the Bashorun among the Oyomesi. My friend continued: well, just like Obasanjo failed us while exercising the so-called turn of the Yoruba for eight years in our rotational Presidency arrangement – the PDP’s arrangement, I corrected him -  the Oyomesi are again failing us in what you have called the wuruwuru third term of the Yoruba. How? I asked, sensing trouble. Well, why hasn’t Bashorun Aondoakaa presented someone with an empty calabash or parrot’s egg? Why hasn’t Bashorun Aondoakaa proclaimed to that someone: “the gods reject you, the people reject you, the earth rejects you”.

That was my friend’s triumphant clincher. He is obviously not ignorant of Yoruba history and lore. I gave him an off-the-cuff answer that got both of us cracking as we concluded our interesting conversation: well, Bashorun Aondoakaa cannot present the sick and ineffective  Alafin in Jeddah with an empty calabash or parrot’s egg, he cannot pronounce the protocols of rejection because those procedures of removal of an incapable Alafin from office also require that at least the king’s first son and a member of the Oyomesi commit suicide along with the Alafin. Remember Soyinka’s use of that motif in Death and the King’s Horseman? That was an observance that placed death at the source of societal rebirth and renewal. The Alafin and those obligated to die along with him are ensconced in that matricial process to guarantee the survival and renewal of society.

If our friends in the Oyomesi took an empty calabash or parrot’s egg to Jeddah, who among them would be prepared to be Elesin and die for Nigeria in a situation where we have a national consensus that the Mutallab complex – willingness to die for something – is totally alien to the Nigerian gene? Is Michael Aondoakaa ready to die for Michael Aondoakaa, let alone Nigeria?



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