Promise Adiele – Convener, Third Force Movement
The mind of a well informed, objective Nigerian in the current era is a beehive of activities. Never mind those who frolic in self-denial and sophistry on their way to perdition while excusing the current national nightmare overseen by an equally nightmarish government. Different issues compete – or more succinctly – struggle for critical attention in the mental process of the enlightened person. It becomes a matter of choice. For a writer, the choice is difficult. From the felonious jettisoning of electronic transmission of election results by Nigeria’s legislators to increasing insecurity in Nigeria to the resurgence of the dreaded, intractable covid-19, the government’s proposed gagging of the press by banning reports about the activities of bandits in the country, and the ostentatious burial ceremony in Oba, Anambra State, too many issues, yet one mind. Nobi small thing o!
Many issues bang at the door of creativity and social commentary. What gets admitted into the fecund platform? That is the big question. One issue loses turgidity before it achieves penetration, becoming flaccid and withdrawn, then another issue replaces it, threatening to tear through fragile sensibilities with ferocious intensity. Before the new issue reaches orgasm, it is yet again replaced by another disconcerting issue. It goes on and on and the mind is rattled endlessly. The situation is made worse by the avalanche of emails from fans and admirers who demand an opinion on every issue. At the last count, I had one hundred and eleven emails. They were in two categories – those querying why I didn’t write last week and those suggesting topics for me to write about. Now, I appreciate the mood of the late Afrobeat legend when he sang- Fela, wetin you go sing about, dem go worry me!
With different issues on my mind clamouring for attention, the body becomes a mass of tired flesh during bedtime. At such times, crossing the threshold between two different realms becomes unconscious but inevitable activity. Immediately the threshold is crossed, all the suppressed emotions which unconsciously dominated the conscious mind come alive. Boom, the disconnection took place and I was there, I crossed over. I got a call from Oba reminding me of the interview with Obi Cubana himself. And so, I headed to the airport. The journey was smooth. But I didn’t understand why the air hostess insisted to hand over a bag filled with US dollars to me. Curiously I didn’t understand why I refused the bag of money…me, Mbaise pikin, Igbo man refuse a bag of dollars? Upbringing played a part – never accept gifts from strangers. It happened almost immediately and I arrived at Oba safe and anxious. Amid all the heavy security, I found my way to the Cubana haven, a sprawling mansion that oozed of earthly paradise. I saw familiar faces, musicians, politicians both dead and alive, senior police officers, actors and actresses, pastors and various personalities in different professions. I saw Ras Kimono, singing and entertaining the crowd. Shuo! Nobi Kimono wey them say e don die? Well, I was ushered into the inner recesses of the Cubana haven by three beautiful ladies of mermaid physiognomy. The opulence around the room where I sat was beyond description. After waiting for what seemed like an hour, Obi Cubana appeared in all his majesty and towering glory. His face was sapphire coloured and his hands were made of gold. He looked distant, yet near.
OBI: Ah Doc, you are here. Sorry to have kept you waiting. (We shook hands.)
ME: It’s OK, I didn’t wait for too long.
OBI: How is Lagos?
ME: Lagos is great, always great.
OBI: I understand you now lecture at Mountain Top University. Why did you leave Unilag?
ME: Change is the only permanent thing in life. It is a long story but let’s leave it for another day.
OBI: Maybe I will come to Mountain Top University for my Master’s Degree, that is if you have a postgraduate school. I understand the university is excellent.
ME: Surely, we have a vibrant postgraduate school. You are welcome any day.
OBI: But my school fees will be reduced. You know I don’t have money… (general laughter).
ME: No shaking, just let me know when you are ready. We will discuss the rebate for your fees. (More laughter). But let’s start the interview so you can return to attend to your numerous guests.
OBI: Yes, no problem. Be sure I will answer all the questions you ask.
ME: Now tell me, tell Nigerians. The recent burial of your mother has generated so much controversy…many people have condemned your naked show of wealth and affluence during the burial and…(cuts in)
OBI: I am aware of what is going on and all the rumour and propaganda in town. The truth is, I proposed to spend good money on my mother’s 80th birthday and have a carnival but unfortunately, she didn’t make it to 80 years. So what you are seeing now is what would have happened if she made it to 80 years. Another truth is that I proposed to spend good money for my mother’s burial but I ended up not spending any dime. E shock you? Let me repeat it – I have not spent one dime during my mother’s burial. Friends and associates raised all the money spent during the burial. People I have empowered, those I influenced their lives positively have seized the opportunity of this grand burial to show appreciation for what I did in their lives. When they give me money or gifts for my mother’s burial, should I reject such gifts? People who knew my mother when she was alive agree that she deserves a carnival-like burial and I agree with them completely. So those who are talking and expending negative energies on my mother’s burial are unconsciously betraying latent poverty emotions which have defined their scrabbled existence. My brother, envy is a dangerous thing. Listen Doc, I owe no one any apologies how I bury my mother. Everyone has the right to bury his mother anyway he wants. But for me, Obi Cubana, I have buried my mother in the way I want and which she deserves.
ME: OK, there are also concerns that you and your friends made nonsense of Nigerian currency, displaying it in a very vulgar manner.
OBI: (Laughs). Too much grammar. I don’t understand the import of the word ‘vulgar’ in the context you have used it. You literary people have a way with words. But seriously speaking, Nigerians never fail to amaze me. Is there any law anywhere in Nigeria that spells out how people should spend their money? What is this madness about making nonsense of the Nigerian currency? When poverty makes nonsense of you, does anybody take notice? A particular businessman in Nigeria bought three very expensive cars for his three daughters and the heavens didn’t fall. Mind you, those cars were bought in USD which runs into several millions of Nigerian currency. That was not making nonsense of the naira abi. A politician carried billions of naira in a bullion van, what was that? Celebrating naira abi? What about the millions of naira, in some cases dollars, that exchange hands during party primaries in Nigeria. What is that? Glorifying naira abi? When bandits are paid millions of naira in cash, that is not making nonsense of the naira abi? Look, some people are very irrational in the way they talk. Nobody in this world is going to prescribe to me how to spend my money. I have seen poverty, I have conquered poverty too. I stole nobody’s money. I have never served the government in any capacity. Mine has been a dogged and determined journey through life. So I choose to live my life anyhow I want and spend my money anyhow I deem fit as long as I don’t get in anybody’s way. Or will people prefer that I pay kidnappers 500 million naira to release my mother if she was kidnapped? No, I am using that money to bury her and I am happy to do it. My father died fifteen years ago, did anybody ask me how he was buried? How many people know that I started by selling food by the roadside in Abuja after my youth service? Then I opened a beer parlour which was destroyed by El Rufai when he was trying to achieve the Abuja master plan. How many people are aware that I lived in one room in Abuja with friends and after my beer parlour was demolished, I wrote over 500 applications seeking employment? How many people saw me suffer? How many people saw me in rags, with bent, worn-out shoes? If people didn’t see me in those conditions or appreciate my journey through life, then nobody has any moral justification to pass comment on me now that the situation has changed.
ME: There is this talk in town that a certain young Nigerian billionaire called Hushpuppy started glamorously without any visible means of income and people admired him. But he was eventually arrested by the FBI for multiple fraud cases. Some people are comparing you to Hushpuppy…do you think that (cuts in)
OBI: (Laughs) Well, I don’t like to compare myself with anybody. I am Obi Cubana, a bona fide citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Anybody waiting for me to be arrested or disgraced will wait forever. Anybody sending negative thought forms towards me will inherit negativity. My record as a successful businessman is there in the open for everyone to see. I hide nothing and will hide nothing. Doc, you see, when you surpass the very limited heights people set for you, they are so shocked and embarrassed that they quickly point accusing fingers at you. The truth is that not many people gave me a chance to succeed in life. And another truth is that I have not even started. This is the morning of my life and I pray that God will keep my traducers alive to see me arrive at the evening and night of my life. It is for times like this that the holy book assures – thou prepareth a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Thou anointed my head with oil and my cup runneth over. Do you know what it means for your cup to run over? Living in extra surplus – but legitimately. The holy book cannot be faulted.
ME: Some people from your ethnicity have blamed you for patronizing Fulani herders by buying so many cows from them seeing that the Fulani herders have been accused of —-(cuts in)
OBI: Well, let me say this…Fulani herders are not the only ones selling cows. Igbo, Yoruba, Efik, Urhobo, and many other ethnicities sell cows too. But as a business man, I don’t discriminate in my business. I have businesses scattered all over the country and people from different ethnicities patronize me. So, I don’t understand the language of discrimination. You may have heard that I buried my mother with a casket worth thirty million naira, do you know who bought it. An Hausa man gave me fifteen cows. A Fulani man gave me millions of naira. A Yoruba man gave me millions of naira. An Urhobo man gave me millions of naira too. People from different ethnicities gave me money. Of course my Igbo brothers all celebrated the burial as if their own mother died. Do you know how much I have received in cash donations? (Laughs) I am a happy man because I invest in people and the investment is yielding fruits.
ME: Some people have compared you to a certain bank chief executive who also buried his mother the same day you did but in a quiet way…what is your response to that?
OBI: As I stated earlier, people are free to bury their mothers the way they want. I chose to bury my mother the way I want and I don’t see how I have committed a crime by so doing. I know what my mother means to me. I saw her pains in raising us and I decided to celebrate her. Is that a crime biko? Let people go ahead and compare, that is not my business.
ME: What do you think of Nnamdi Kanu’s arrest and detention by the Nigerian government?
OBI: No comment for now.
ME: Nigerian legislators just voted against the transmission of election results electronically. As a Political Scientists, what do you think is the implication for Nigeria’s democracy?
PRIEST: Well, no comment too. Doc, please leave me out of politics for now, I will speak at the right time.
ME: Will you one day vie for a political office now that your popularity has soared?
PRIEST: I will not go into politics for selfish reasons. I will go into politics for the people, to change their lives. I am already doing that on a personal level. I am empowering youths and investing into their lives. So if at any point the people feel that I will serve them better and ask me to take a political office, of course I will serve my people willingly. I doubt if I have the temperament for politics. Even if I join politics in the future, it will be to serve the people. For now, I am concentrating on my business. Remember I told you earlier that this is just the morning of my life.
ME: OK, let us talk about money ritual…
At this point, there is a nudge on my shoulder…then an indistinct, yet sonorous voice sounding far away… “wake up, wake up, wont you go to work today? It is 5:30am”. The spirit gradually disembarks from the reverie and the body slowly slumbers to life. It is a new day.
Promise Adiele PhD