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Michael Afenfia: Thieving Snakes & Magic Maggi Cubes

Michael Afenfia

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If, like me, you grew up watching Tales by Moonlight – that NTA children’s programme very popular in the 80s and 90s, then you would be familiar with the myth of talking animals and spirit beings that shuttle between the land of the living and the dead. However, if Tales by Moonlight isn’t your childhood reality or point of reference for animals doing the impossible then perhaps you were born in a different era or you belong to another social class.

That class would be of those brought up on animation and video games. I’m thinking PS. I’m thinking X-Box. I’m thinking Mickey Mouse. I’m also thinking Tom and Jerry, Scooby Doo, Simba and Mafasa from The Lion King, Cow and Chicken and my personal favourites, the Ninja Turtles because of their unique super abilities.

With all of the animated television series now available to kids and adults that have the heart of children, I believe our minds have now been conditioned to the possibility of the existence of animals that act just like us. In books and television programmes, they come across as almost human. But that is only on TV, in children’s books and the stories Jimmy Solanke told.

That used to be my thinking, but now I think differently.  Events in the last couple of months in Nigeria have turned everything I thought I knew about animals on its head. My childhood fantasies have come true. Lo and behold, animals are just like us!

How do I know this? Let me tell you. First, it was the rats that chased the president of our oil rich country of approximately 200 million people out of his office for more than three whole months! Did they also sign memos, give approvals and hold cabinet meetings (no pun intended)? By the time Mr. President returned to the office after the renovations necessitated by the havoc they had wrecked in the villa, Nigeria went into a recession the Minister of Finance and the non-existent economic team didn’t know what to do.

Not only that, the agitations of the Igbo secessionist group led by Nnamdi Kanu, appropriately called the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), had intensified so much so they had to be branded a terrorist organisation by the government at the centre. In the North of the country – central, east and maybe west, and also in some other states of their choosing outside of the north, herdsmen went on a killing spree that still lingers, unfettered by the security agents till this day.

Speaking of herdsmen brings me to another animal species that has taken over the front pages of newspapers and is now always the lead in morning and evening news broadcast – cows. In other climes, cattle are reared for milk and beef, but in Nigeria, they are deified. Ten human lives mean nothing if one cow is in danger. The nation’s police czar “relocated” to Benue but only stayed for a day before he left. Or was his visit to the people of Benue or to the sacred cows? Perhaps after the cows have been secured, the authorities would then shift their attention to the men, women and children of Benue state.

So, clearly, shutting down the president’s office for three months to repair leaking air conditioning ducts, fix faulty faucets, whitewash stained walls, fumigate the villa perimeter with Tom Ford cologne, set up mouse traps and apply concrete over gaping holes wasn’t enough to reverse the destruction brought upon our beloved nation by rats.   Perhaps, the practical thing to do—and I would pay serious attention at this point if I were Mallam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity—is to call back the rats to fix what they destroyed and take the country back to where it was before their invasion.

Just when we thought rats and cows were the worst things to happen to Nigeria, we now know that there’s more to be worried about. Snakes may have been swallowing trillions of naira for years. But I don’t blame the snakes; I blame us because when you think about it, snakes have been creating mayhem since the days of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Snakes are single-handedly responsible for the fall of mankind from grace so it’s not hard to fathom they would be responsible for the theft of so much from our nation’s coffers. Snakes are the reasons we are where we are today, the real perpetrators of corruption.

Rats, cows, snakes and an inanimate object Nigerian households and chefs can’t do without have conspired to make President Muhammadu Buhari look bad, but Nigerians won’t let them succeed. For those who don’t know, that inanimate object is a condiment called Maggi with which we have been making finger-licking soups for generations. I didn’t know that Maggi had such a dangerous side effect until Honourable Aishatu Jibril Dukku of the House of Representatives brought it to our attention and now it makes perfect sense. We put Maggi in jollof rice, Maggi in Porridge, Maggi in Egusu Soup, Maggi in meat pie, Maggi in everything we eat; now see where Maggi has landed us.

While our leaders debate and contemplate options for dealing with these human animals and magic condiments with superpowers, I’m taking a personal precaution to keep my family and me safe. Now I know that my two dogs, Legend and Fiona may have material needs and may even be secretly corrupt, I’ll take extra care what I say around them. Most importantly, I’ll be very careful where I keep money in the house. I no wan hear story!

The culture of blame is alive and thriving in Nigeria. Instead of taking responsibility for our actions and inactions, we prefer to look for who to blame. When we run out of people to mention, even animals and inanimate objects are not spared. The APC can’t get over the PDP –  the PDP points to the military; past leaders are quick to write letters to present and future leaders forgetting the number of years they were in power and the changes they could have made…and so the circle of blame just goes on and on and on.

You and I know, and I hope I’m not wrong, that the problem is not the rats; it’s the gross inefficiency, lies, deceit and cover-ups at the highest level. It’s not the cows destroying farmlands, it’s much deeper than that, but the presidency won’t call it the terrorism that it really is. It’s also not the snakes; it’s our refusal to fight corruption by strengthening public institutions, instead of selectively naming and shaming enemies and those that have fallen out of favour with the powers that be in Abuja.

Lastly, to Honourable Dukku, it’s not the Maggi; it’s the stupidity in the argument that seeks to reduce a national crisis involving human lives to a campaign against Nestle Nigeria PLC for manufacturing Maggi cubes so our food can taste better. I’m sure members of her constituency know this too, so I’d leave it at that.

A proud son of the Ijaw nation and lover of Nigeria, Michael Afenfia associates with everything good and exciting about Nigeria.His ongoing work, the Mechanics of Yenagoa, is published on his blog every fortnight. So far, he has authored three critically acclaimed novels and a number of nonfiction writing, including a biography. He is @MichaelAfenfia on social media and can be reached via [email protected]

1 Comment

  1. Eyitayo

    February 17, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    Our situation seems to be worse than animal farms. Nigeria certainly isn’t an animal farm at the moment – it is worse! Animals can conduct themselves better!

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