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Nigeria’s Pyramids of Lies and Lice

Pyramids of rice

What pyramids of lies

Soar high in the sky

Promise much, give scant

Pyramids of lice

Swarm in seismic rot.

Hunger in our bellies

Testimony of common mysteries

Volcanic rumble in our bellies

Lies and lice bagged as  rice

Pyramids won’t fill bellies

Safe Sufficient food.

Above lines are the best my truant  poetic muse would allow. If I were a real poet, I would have deployed more iconic metaphors to depict the deceit that the President Muhammadu Buhari government personifies. The problem with the administration is that it has lied so much to itself that it now  believes  its own lies. Liars, we are told, must have good memories. That wisdom is lost on the present rulers. The government thinks that memory is also an encumbrance to Nigerians. That is why the government keeps on telling us one lie after the other and most of the time, regurgitates old lies and re-presents them as new facts. I gave up long ago on this chi-chi  government and its strategies. A columnist once asked to know which type of weeds Buhari’s speech writers smoke. Like they say in street lingo:”na the answer we still dey find”!

It is not today that the Nigerian government started to deceive the people. Some years ago in the old Ondo State, a Military Governor was scheduled to commission a water project at Ayede axis in the present Ekiti State. The locals got to know about the event. They also knew that there was no functional borehole to be commissioned. What the LGA chairman and the contractor did was to use water tankers to fill up the overhead tanks. At night, some boys went and drained the overhead tanks of every drop of water in them. They opened the taps and drained every drop of water in the pipes too. The governor came. The ceremony was over. He stepped forward to take the symbolic drink. In his white Naval uniform, the Military Governor turned the tap. He was greeted by a hollow sound associated with drained pipes. End of story for the LGA chairman and the contractor. The Military Governor did not wait for the closing National Anthem.

Sadly enough, nothing has changed. Rather, Nigeria has moved from the very bad situation to the very worse and gradually moving to the worst of  all. Last Tuesday, the Federal Government took the act of governance from the ridiculous to the despicable. In a bold step at communication eyeballing, President Buhari and the top echelons of his government introduced to Nigeria’s communication experts a new level of rebranding. The government went iconic. Before  our very eyes (that sounds like a pure transliteration of the Yoruba cliché: oju korokoro”), the Federal Government “unveiled” 13 pyramids of bags of rice. The government told us that the bags of rice were produced locally; that is, every grain in those bags were gotten from our farms. I saw images of the ‘unveiling’ and literally fell in a fit of laughter ( mo r’erin arintakiti)). For sure, Buhari and his gang of inveiglers wanted to hypnotise us to believe that what they stacked  and called rice pyramids were all produced by Nigerian farmers. Yes, the government wished that we would keep on shouting “heat” during harmattan!

Buhari and those who gathered at the Abuja ‘unveiling are archetypal Alli, the mischievous character in our New Oxford English Course, NOEC book of yore. Alli, the trickster, told the villagers that an angel visited him and asked the locals to come and see the heavenly guest. He added a caveat. “Only those who are without sins will see the angel”, he said. On the appointed day, Alli set up a chair and put a pair of footwear in front of it. Everybody who entered came out in a somber manner, pretending to have seen the angel. Like all scammers, Alli made a kill from the spectacle of deceit. What happened in Abuja last Tuesday is a rehash of the Alli and the Angel” tale. But thankfully enough, some of us are “Ifabonmi” whose philosophy I espoused on this platform some weeks ago. It simply means: “the Oracle does not deceive me, neither will I deceive myself” – Ifaboneminabonrami. If the government does not know the truth, an average Nigerian knows. I belong to the community of average Nigerians. Let us get this straight. That last Tuesday exercise in the FCT remains a pointer to the fact that the Buhari government, apparently dazed by its abysmal performances in all sectors of the nation’s economy, will claim anything under the sun as an achievement. Only a government that is bereft of tangible achievements does that.

The government took that line of action because it fails to embrace the reality that this nation is populated by far more intelligent people than the pummelled and hopeless few who unwittingly sell their franchise for a paltry  N2,000 and vote cretins into power. That is why the Commander-in-Chief left serious state matters like insecurity, banditry, killer herdsmen and Boko Haram to go for a show of lies like the ‘unveiling’ of rice pyramids in the midst of ravaging hunger and wanton lack in the land. Like a common louse which fetes on human blood, the government, in the last six and half years, has been wriggling to the rhythms  of lies played on the graves of hapless Nigerian peasants, who are daily killed on their farms in their aspiration  to ensure food sufficiency  in the country. We have cried, mourned, wailed and shouted ourselves hoarse for the government to come to the aid of these farmers and others from all walks of life who are daily felled by bullets fired by  social misfits and sons of sulphuric Hades who spill the blood of the innocent without repercussions. All entreaties  have fallen on the deaf ears of the C-in-C who bears rule by the benevolence of our thumbs. Just when our situation is getting to the boiling point and with the general elections around the corner, the government curiously  just realised that its “Anchor Borrowers’ Programme has so far supported over 4.8 million smallholder farmers across Nigeria for the production of 23 agricultural commodities including maize, rice, oil palm, cocoa, cotton, cassava, tomato and livestock”. One of the results of the elusive programme, Buhari told us, was last Tuesday’s 13 pyramids of unprocessed rice on display.

The Nigerian Tribune did a very beautiful editorial on the matter  on Monday. The paper interrogated the rationale behind the pyramids and suggested that the ‘unveiling’ is “a move reminiscent of the groundnut pyramids that once symbolised the era of abundant agricultural produce, especially of staple food in the country”. The editorial opined that “The unveiling was ostensibly to demonstrate to Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration’s efforts to improve  food production in the country had begun to yield results”. The piece told Buhari the home truth. Nigerians “merely feasted their eyes on the mountainous bags of paddy rice stacked before them without any improvement on their badly degraded welfare arising from relatively unavailable, and more significantly unaffordable, staple food in the market”, it said and dismissed the event as mere “photo-op”.

For me, the “unveiling” gave  a clear idea of the level of reasoning in the government circle. How on earth did the government expect Nigerians to believe the bags of rice were produced on our farms? Which farms? The ones ravaged by the killer herdsmen and their cousins- kidnappers and bandits?  Take for instance, Benue State, which is called “The Food Basket of the Nation”. How many farmers are on their farms in the state as we speak? Governor Sam Ortom answered that correctly. He described the Abuja rice pyramids as “artificial”. “The 419 rice pyramids in Abuja are fake and aimed at mocking hungry Nigerians. The government should chase out terrorist foreign Fulani herdsmen harassing farmers for them to carry out farming activities in the country”, the distraught governor said. Pray, why would a government which has genuine intentions for the people display stacks of unprocessed rice which, by that very  reason, are susceptible to lice infestations only to remove the same stacks for processing before flooding the market? What point was this government driving at? Why not process the rice and ensure it is ready for the market before the picturesque display which brings to mind the  old and jocular ‘oju lo fi rii, ete e o baa (you merely beheld it with your eyes, your tongue will never taste it) taunt?

Why showcase  a food item, whose price is as high as Olosunta Rock in Ikere Ekiti? Granted that the government is terribly alienated from the people, is there not a single individual in this administration who has the gumption to tell the president exactly what the people are going through? Did any of Buhari’s fawning aides tell him that millions of families could not afford to buy rice this past  Yuletide? Is it the same commodity that Buhari was talking about when he enthused that  “more people were showing interest in investing in our agribusiness” because of the “large (profit) margins in this business”?  Are Nigerians showing interest in agribusiness so that they could be kidnapped, or murdered by herdsmen, or have their wives raped in their presence and their daughters  openly defiled?

The mere fact that the government took the “unveiling” of their imaginary rice pyramids to Abuja gave out the government. Some three years ago, they told us about LAKE Rice (Lagos/Kebbi Rice). In June 2018, President Buhari also commissioned a “multi-million Naira automated rice seeds and seedling factory”, described as “Africa’s first-ever”, in Cross River State. Governor Ben Ayade, also, a week ago, announced that “an ultra-modern vitamised rice mill”, in Ogoja area of the state was ready and awaiting President Buhari’s commissioning. Pray, why were the rice pyramids not erected in Kebbi or Cross Rivers State? What happened to the elementary economics theory of “proximity to raw materials” as a factor in localisation of industry? How can the government be penny wise and pound foolish by spending extra funds to move “the bags of paddy straight from here to rice milling plants across Nigeria”, as Buhari announced? Simple answer. Nigeria is like that self-delusional farmer who called his 100-heap yam farm a 200-heap farm. At the fullness of time, he will harvest 100 true tubers of yam and another 100 imaginary tubers of yam. Nigerians know that there is no rice sufficiency anywhere in the country and that this efulefu government has no willpower to securely keep farmers on the farms in order to aid food sufficiency in the country.  Let the President be told in clear terms: Except  those ensconced in the rocky mansion in the Federal Capital Territory and their close acolytes, Nigerians are hungry.  Chikena!

-Suyi Ayodele

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