BURNING POT BY PRINCE CHARLES DICKSON
The Tortoise in corruption, folktales and us
Folktales are without doubt some of Nigeria’s richest cultural exports, up there with the likes of Germany’s Hansel and Gretel and France’s Beauty and the Beast. Perhaps you remember hearing folktales from your grandparents or maybe you want to pass on some stories to your children. Either way, you will know that Nigerian folktales are filled with dark, thought-provoking narratives packed with animals, kings, queens, princes and princesses and much more.
One common feature of most folktales in Nigeria is that the main character is more often than not a tortoise! Elphinstone Dayrell made use of the humble tortoise in her folktales publishing “the Affair of the Hippopotamus and the Tortoise”. In 1911, Margaret Baumann published an entire book featuring one tortoise called “Ajapa the Tortoise, a Book of Nigerian Folk Tales”.
So why is it that the tortoise has such a prominent role in Nigerian folktales? Some say that the long life span of tortoises is symbolic of the folktales themselves, which are meant to transcend and be passed down the generations. Others prefer a more simple explanation and point to the high number of African spurred tortoises living in the wild in Nigeria.
But the truth is that, really, no character beats the irrepressible tortoise--Whether it was how his back cracked or his many magical sojourns, or how he is outsmarting the hippopotamus, elephant, horse and rabbit. He is simply the don--go ask the fox, wolf, lion or fish.
Today, many parents do not tell these tales, to our kids for fear of sounding like some clown. Besides documentaries by the National Geography World Television channel tell better stories.
I am sure, many of us, are almost loosing patience with me, and my tortoise tales...However kindly bare with me, as we are guilty as charged of the next few paragraphs, that I will share with us.
So, let me start with this tale, how much money was with former first Lady and Dame, Patience, when she was apprehended at the airport, who apprehended, and how did it all end?
How about Halliburton and all that money sharing, from Abdulsalami, down to Obasanjo. And on Obasanjo, remember that folktale, that surrounded the comatose state of his Ota farm, and then suddenly it was responsible for producing all the eggs in Africa. And...Yes, how about those blind trust shares of "Transcorp" that he bought. Are they still blind?
How about our evil genius, the enigmatic Maradona, did IBB really pocket all the Gulf Oil Windfall, and does the man own the best hotels in Israel, and Palestine, in South Sudan, and Kabul too. Was his Hilltop mansion a gift from Julius and Berger?
How much did Odili really steal, more than Amaechi or less than Wike (all of Rivers State) or is it that Daniel Gbenga of Ogun state that out-stole Joshua Dariye of Plateau state? Remember that Inspector General that had a Jeep Farm, or that debate of how much did late General Abacha really loot, and come on, did Mr. Buhari really say that Abacha did not steal?
Did you hear that folktale about how Maryam Abacha, said that Dangote's wealth was something like one tenth of what they would have if they were poor or so? How corrupt is my friend Atiku, is he really wanted in United States, and still runs the American University franchise in Nigeria, and like Tinubu too, the Jagaban, and Burdollion strongman. Is he the owner of half of Lagos, and collector of the Lagos collective wealth?
Is it true on sighting cars in Tinubu's house, Mr. Buhari, asked if he was a car dealer, or is it false that on visiting the residence of Imo state's Rochas, Mr. Buhari asked him if the place was the government house?
So Ibori is guilty because a UK government found him so, but Lucky Igbinedion, pays small fine and is let go, and Alamiesaye, the Ijaw General that once was alleged to have been dressed as a woman forgiven by Jonathan, just like Obasanjo forgave Salisu Buhari for lying about his certificate and compensated him with the governing council chair of a university--So all these are true?
Corruption Folktales Incorporated with branches and subsidiaries everywhere, so my partner-in-mischief Rufai of Kaduna, sold half of Abuja to himself as FCT Minister, but he worked--Yes indeed he worked and stole like Markafi did in Kaduna, Muazu in Bauchi, Jang in Plateau, and Fashola in Lagos states.
Did we forget that the Sharia kingpin of Zamfara--Sani Yerima, according to Ribadu, on the floor of the National Assembly said it was so bad that the dude stole raw cash, and put in the house (as against 'cooked' cash)?
Or was it the story of several billions spent by Danjuma Goje to print Oxford Dictionary in Gombe state, and who still remembers Don Fayose of Ekiti and that imaginary poultry?
How about Suswan of Benue, he took all of the state's money to Gambia...The best hospital, best hotel, best school, even refineries in Zuma-Mobuto-land belongs to Nigerian politicians: all proceeds of black money?
The list is exhaustive; it is almost a case of one sizzling folktale of corruption per state, per geographical area, per faith. Like the tortoise many are tales, not just by moonlight but even daylight.
Let me quickly add as a caveat that all the names mentioned herein this admonition are not real, and bear no resemblance to anyone dead or alive. Any such would be a mere coincidence and simply folktale.
In conclusion, there are so many tales, we cannot even decide which to tell, which is true, how it should be told, who we should even tell. However whether it is a tale or not, Mr. Buhari, the Nigerian President has told us that he owns two “mud" houses, a few millions and if this is hope, or its just another tortoise tale—Only time will tell