The story you are about to read was published by the Nigerian Tribune 38 years ago. It was the main story of its June 5, 1984 issue. Written by Joe Aladesohun, it was titled: “Man Commits Suicide” with one word: “Frustration in the Bank.”
A middle-aged man killed himself in Ibadan last Wednesday following what sources described as ‘a series of desperate visits to his bank for money’.
The partly decomposed body of Mr. KO (name withheld), a 48-year-old civil servant in the Accounts Department of the Ministry of Information, Youth, Sports and Culture in Oyo State, was found hanging under the ceiling fan in one of his apartments three days after his death.
A suicide note left on a stool in the room showed he had decided to end his life out of frustration.
The deceased is said to have collapsed twice in the premises of a bank and was taken home each time without cash.
Last Monday, May 28, two days before he committed suicide, someone gave him N2 (two naira) after telling about his ordeal.
Suffering from an ulcer, the deceased would have complained of only taking porridge, his usual meal, for lack of being able to withdraw money from his bank.
His remains were laid to rest Monday at Sango Public Cemetery, Ibadan.
Reached by telephone on Monday, the state police commissioner, Mr. Archibong Nkana, simply said: “I think there was something like that.”
The suicide note left by the deceased reads: “Remember that I insisted that the receipt for the purchased stationery be in the steel cabinet. I’m sorry to have to end like this, but I think it’s the only way open to me.
“Find the check and the checkbook in the closet. I did everything I could to maintain a pretty good standard.
“The closet keys are in my drawer. Payment vouchers are in the steel cabinet.
“My funeral should be simple, no mourning, no lamentations, no reason for that.
“Goodbye, comrades, I beat the gun.” (End of the story).
I work in a place with a library that houses almost every edition of every newspaper ever published in Nigeria. JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter fantasy series, said “when in doubt, go to the library”. I consult the library for the same reason that the diviner goes to his crystal ball. “Journalism is runaway history…history written in time to be acted upon,” said Thomas Griffith in the January 1959 issue of Nieman Reports. There is always an answer in history – and in journalism – and in the library. Glimpses of questions on everything are there, always, if you dig deep enough. I did so after listening to President Muhammadu Buhari’s laments in Owerri, Imo State last week that he was not appreciated for the great work he did ( and done) in our lives. “This administration has behaved extremely well. I have to say it because those who are supposed to say it don’t say it. I don’t know why,” he said. I listened to him and felt he was in too much of a rush. He was here from December 1983 to August 1985. When he first came he did so many things with the Nigerians, one of which was the April/May 1984 exchange exercise which killed the man in the story above.
Buhari, as a military head of state, did so many things that made children of that era suddenly age. It was not enough that you had money in your bank accounts. Access to what you had was at the pleasure of the potentate at Dodan Barracks, Lagos, then seat of government. People queued for days to get money from their bank and went home empty-handed. Some were completely whipped by soldiers during a corrective mission. Young people today cannot believe this was possible. But they have arrived. He made a law that makes it a crime for journalists to publish the truth if it embarrasses members of the government. He used this law to jail two Guardian journalists for reporting the truth. Everything was missing, including basic freedoms and basic foods. Nigerians cried out for justice and rights and lined up for sugar and rice. Buhari has done much more for groups and individuals from the sea to the desert. Then, he was dismissed by his comrades on August 27, 1985. Ibrahim Babangida, who replaced him, summarized his regime in these terms: “The last 20 months have not seen any significant changes in the national economy. Contrary to expectations, we have so far suffered a steady deterioration in the general standard of living; and the intolerable suffering of ordinary Nigerians has increased; the scarcity of raw materials has increased…. Unemployment has reached critical dimensions. Buhari was removed and substituted and there were wild jubilations. He must have felt terribly disappointed by this attitude of ingratitude – just as he feels now.
In 1985, Buhari thought he had done very well; in 2022, he is confident of his excellent passing mark in his current tour of duty. He built roads and railways; he builds roads and railways. But he also accumulated debts to gnaw on for ten centuries. And that’s precisely where I’m coming from. For his “excellent” service as a military leader, appreciation did not come for General Buhari in 1985 but it came thirty years later. Everyone who was his victim in his first life went looking for him to come back in 2015. Even Babangida supported him. Few humans are so blessed. He is blessed. All of his victims formed an armada of excuses to bring him back to power. They perfumed the septic tank in its tank and served it to the street as àmàlà and gbègìrì. He became a hurricane, the type that tore through woods and rocks. At least one of the jailed journalists, Tunde Thompson, openly campaigned for his election in 2015. do you think? They asked me if I would vote for such a man. I want to say categorically that Buhari, as Head of State at the time, did not order the detention of Mr. Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor. He never did. Even Idiagbon didn’t. It was the head of the NSO who ordered our arrest,” the reporter said, adding that he would vote for Buhari because he thought “a person like Buhari at the present time can recall anyone in the order and some people are afraid of it”.
I’m sure the man who committed suicide in the above story, if he reincarnated and was there in 2015 as an àkúdàáyà, he would probably be one of the 15 million Nigerians who brought Buhari back. If it was a spell, it worked just fine. It can still work again.
Thus, the President should not be angry in 2022 that we are hostile to the pangs and pains of his benevolence towards us. We will rent it tomorrow. He should ignore those who are supposed to sing the song of His Excellency in Power but don’t say it. The naira can be exchanged at one million for one US dollar; ASUU can be on strike for a year and universities shut down forever; bandits and terrorists can keep stopping and shooting moving trains; kidnappers can kidnap kings, governments and governors; the road to the farm may be closed to farmers; the path to the stream may be closed to water drawers; life can be generally brutal, mean and short. Buhari should just calm down, eat and pick his teeth. All of this won’t matter in the long run – which isn’t far off. We are used to doing what the abusive snail does in Òrìsà; it always comes back, shell and radula, with a squeaky excuse. If the world doesn’t end soon, any of us who abuse this president today can still beg him to stay here forever – or come back after his final turn.
Don’t just read the president; look at him. Only by looking at Buhari can you read enough of his impenetrably opaque mind. Look for his Imo State video and watch what he looks like saying this: “This administration has done extremely well. I have to say it because those who are supposed to say it don’t say it. I do not know why. Who do you think he is referring to as “they” who “don’t say it”? Lai Mohammed? No. Femi Adesina? No. Garba Shehu? No. Buhari does not have the character of a leader who throws his loyal lieutenants under the bus. No way. Those “who are supposed to say it but don’t say it” are the men of the president’s party; those who plot with his fingers to pull their chestnuts out of the fire of electoral politics without being seen with him. These are the ACN/ANPP people within the APC; the people èmi l’ó kàn. Bola Tinubu is ACN; his running mate, Kashim Shettima, is the ANPP. Shettima campaigns with its Borno achievements; Tinubu flaunts his claims in Lagos as proof of his leadership ingenuity. Neither hit Buhari and his government with a long pole.
Is that how they started in 2015? No. Even in 2019, the current champions haven’t erected a Berlin Wall between their ‘ingenuity’ and Buhari’s ‘integrity’. So I am with Buhari. That the ACN/ANPP people stop running away from promoting his legacy. The people of Ibadan say that those who have dined with Salami must call him Bàbá l’Áyéyé. “Truth always wins out in the end,” Lord Acton wrote, “but only when it has ceased to be in someone’s interest to prevent him from doing so.” What we have in the ruling party is divorce without physical separation. It’s as if the APC candidates (top to bottom) want the party no problem. The government is that problem; it’s a floundering ship that no one outside the cockpit is prepared to save. They are campaigning as the opposition with conflicting promises that should irritate Buhari and his loyalists.
How is this likely to end? I tried to search in literature and history. I read the story of Ali Baba and the forty thieves. The thugs lost everything, Ali Baba survived. I read Treasure Finders – another story of a gang of thieves who kidnapped a charming man and rained down the seven prized things on him: gold, silver, pearl, coral, cat’s eye, ruby and diamond.
The thieves here got their prize but also lost it; they killed each other; none survived, not even the innocent kidnapped man who rained the treasure down on them. Those who drafted Buhari and made him their nominee in 2015 did not do so because they liked him or wished the best in Nigeria. He was retired and tired of losing repeatedly. But because they saw in him a shortcut to their lifetime ambition to rule Nigeria, they went to Kaduna and told him, “come back and challenge again, we will support you and you will win”. They saw in his hand the magic wand to command 12 million votes in the North. He surrendered to them and contested and won and the heavens came down and collided with the earth. From top to bottom, the world has gone wrong. Those who brought him in now seek to keep quiet about his regime. Good or bad, they can no longer run away from the well of the Buhari years. They should be marketed in the plateau of Buhari.