Tinubu becomes Tatalo’s mistress / By Festus Adedayo

The scholar and researcher had taken a trip to an open market. There, he met a female fishmonger. Attracted by the casual attention this researcher paid to a croaker fish on display on her stall, the lady attempted to win this potential buyer to her stall. So, she began to dish out a mesh of adulations and panegyrics of the buyer. “Aguntasoolo, okoo mi, e wa ba mi raa,” she chanted. The researcher translated the chant thus: “Dapper-and-gracefully-tall-one, my husband, please buy from me.” The marketing gambit won and the researcher branched by to haggle the price of the fish. In the process, however, he underpriced the fishmonger’s croaker by more than half. Enraged, the woman immediately withdrew and then went blank. Her praise of the potential buyer immediately turned into dispraise. Looking sideways as if talking to no one in particular, the woman muttered: “Sawa pile l’eja a yin, ohun nuun!” translated to mean, “cheap sardine is what you are worth anyway, that’s it up there!” The researcher made to leave nevertheless, oblivious to what he saw as trifle. As he did, a fruit seller nearby noticed the fish monger’s grumpy countenance and demanded what made her irritable. The fishmonger began, pouting her mouth towards the man as gesture to the man who annoyingly over-haggled her croaker. (In Yorubaland, pouting of mouth towards someone is a gestural insult). Then she said, “awon nuun, Daginnidooro! E wulo nle lee ran’yawo yin wa!” The researcher translated this scorching riposte to mean, “that’s him, lanky lout! If you had been such a good husband, your wife would be here instead!”

That was the encounter of scholar and researcher, Ayo Adeduntan. As he found out, praise can morph into dispraise in a twinkle of an eye. Anyone who had haggled price with a woman in a marketplace in Yorubaland would most probably have had a similar encounter. In “Praise, Anti-Praise and the Limits of Memory: Critical Reflections on Toyin Falola’s Adulation,” published by the Oye: Journal of Language, Literature and Popular Culture, (Vol 2, No 1, November, 2020) the scholar tries to explain how somebody, who was once a recipient of adulations and panegyrics, could, in a twinkle of an eye, tumble down into the pit of ignominy. Deploying what he called “an ethnographic field research on performance of verbal aggression by traders and buyers in a major market” Adeduntan drew a paradigm that may be used to explain the social anger against Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Nigeria’s president. If you listen carefully to the exchanges today on Nigerian streets, the question being asked is, is Tinubu a mystique or mistake?

If you ask me, that woman must be Ibadan. Ibadan are reputed for their lacerating tongues. Beyond Professor Toyin Falola’s biography, A Mouth Sweeter Than Honey, Ibadan should be invested with the Akure people’s cognomen as people of an ancestry which abandons the sword in a bitter war with their interlocutor. In place of a sword, they wage their war with the tongue! Sorry, I digressed. What struck Adeduntan the most in this fishmonger-scholar exchange was “an emotive transition from the good-looking Aguntasoolo” to “Daginnidooro; and from a desirable spouse to a stingy deadbeat and no-good husband.” Both identifiers are drawn from empirical observations of a tall man’s physique. However, while one is adulation, often used by second wives while chanting the praise poetry of their husband’s other male children, the other is a vilification. This goes a long way to show that, choosing between praise and anti-praise could sometimes be determined by individual encounters.

The interminable fuel queues which began last week have become, to Nigerians, another painful encounter with the one-year old Tinubu government. Those encounters, in close to 365 days now, have become the proverbial numerous smelly teeth of the Adipele. When asked whether the Adipele has the 32 teeth of an ordinary person, elders answer by posing a rhetorical question. So, they riposte, “how many teeth are we going to count in the dentition of the Adipele, the thousand uncountable incisors sunk inside trench-like gums or a million molars buried inside the jaw?” Which of those smelly encounters of the last one year do Nigerians want to talk about now? For those who unconscionably invested hope in the Renewed Hope, Tinubu and his government have swung from being the good-looking “Aguntasoolo” to “Daginnidooro”. It is a roaring tumbling down from praise to dispraise.

In my offering of December 10, 2023 entitled, Tinubu and Frank Kokori: A reporter remembers, I recalled my conversation with Tinubu about 26 years ago. It was precisely on Saturday, October 10, 1998 at Frank Kokori’s Yaba, Lagos house. Tinubu and other NADECO activists had just returned to Nigeria the day before after exiling abroad. Sitting beside him, I asked Tinubu what impression he had of Nigeria upon his arrival. His response: “Retrogression, rolling backwards, on reverse gear; that is my impression. Sad. That people are still queuing at the petrol stations, spend more productive hours at the petrol stations than in economic sector. It is a very sad story… You see poverty, glaringly in the face of the people in a nation that has so much resource to give. It hurts”. I am sure the serpentine queues in Nigeria last week, where Nigerians had to pay about N2000 to buy a liter of petrol, were gorier than that of the immediate post-Abacha years.

If government’s secret police still do their work effectively, let them compile the bilious hatred of Tinubu on Nigerian streets today and the curses heaped on him. In Yorubaland today, people mischievously greet one another, “a ku Tinubu yi o!” When Yoruba use the prefix, “a ku…” it is about periods, time or event; mostly of mourning. In a public cab I entered last week, the loquacious driver said the Tinubu government was an Agbako. Agbako is misfortune or mishap. Passengers freely rained curses on the government for looking by while they suffered.

Alamu Atinsola Atatalo, one of the pioneers of Dundun and Sekere traditional music in pre-colonial Yoruba Nigeria, also reinforced the transition from the fishmonger’s “Aguntasoolo” to “Daginnidooro” description. Tatalo mirrored the typical Ibadan whose tongue singes like hot knife on butter. Born into the Ajalaruru family of Opo Yeosa in Ibadan, the 1950s and 1960s saw him dominating Ibadan musical scene, first as a Sekere and Dundun drummer and much later, as singer and drummer. This he did in two of his songs where, within a short span, he shot a woman friend of his down from the echelon of praise to the abyss of dispraise. In the first vinyl, apparently under the sweet piercing jab of Cupid, Tatalo advertised the woman friend’s restaurant in such superlatives that you would want to visit it to have a taste of her highly burnished culinary prowess. Tatalo said the restaurant was located in Ayeye, Ibadan and that it was the best place where quality amala and ewedu soup could be found in the whole of the city. The restauranter garnished her soup with fish and shrimps, he said. He rendered this in a song I find very hard to translate: “Sokotoyokoto lo fi np’elo e, ede lo fi npata. Iyawo Atatalo ti nbe l’Ayeye!” Not long after, in his “Afidikaleni” album, Tatalo sang about the same woman who had now become his ex. He alleged that, in alliance with her mother, she was disgrace to motherhood and that both mother and daughter engaged in shameless prostitution. The restaurant, which Tatalo once praised to high heavens, had now, in his words, become so slovenly and smelly that it was fly-ridden. Indeed, sang Tatalo, off-putting smell of gonorrhea (atosi) urine oozed out of the restaurant, so much that no one could enter it! Please, how does gonorrhea urine smell?!

In the next few days, it will be one year since the Tinubu administration came into office. Pardon my ignorance, I am still searching for a singular pro-poor policy it began and saw to fruition. Many have said the IMF holds the Villa’s “blokos” and is dragging the occupant hither thither. From removal of fuel and electricity subsidies, this government doesn’t seem to be one with a human face. Tokenism is all the people get for their wait. Nigerians live in almost perpetual darkness. Cost of living is in adulterous romance with the sky. Despite the few commendable eclectic dance steps it has made in about two months, the Nigerian Naira has not stopped its Atilogwu dance to the drumbeat of the dollar. It has been said that it is only when African leaders are servile-minded or have skeletons inside their cupboards that IMF drags them around like pangolin. Late last week, apparently smelling that the president is inside the pouch of the west, Prof Attahiru Jega and other eminent Nigerians anticipated Tinubu’s next west lickspittle move and quickly asked him not to allow US, France site their military bases in Nigeria.

In America, a recent CNN poll must have made President Joe Biden to begin to scamper from pillar to post. It shows that petulant Donald Trump holds the ace in the hearts of the people, despite his shameful and unprecedented criminal trial. The outcome of the polls is that Americans think that, on hindsight, Trump’s term as president was a success, with a broad majority of the view that Biden’s has so far been a failure. While Trump recorded 49% in a head-to-head matchup against him, Biden’s stands at 43%. Realizing that his uncritical abetment of the genocide of Israel in Palestine is why he may not return to the White House, Biden has sent Secretary of State Antony Blinken on a diplomatic shuttle to the middle-east. Permit me to ask this belittling (afojudi) question: If a CNN-kind poll is genuinely held today, what would be Tinubu’s rating? My guess is 10%. The most tragic of it is that he doesn’t seem to bother. Just like one whose heart is made of a tortoise carapace. The moment a people’s groan and cry have no impact in their leader’s heart, the party is over.

So, last week, in pursuit of government’s defence of the N15 trillion award of construction of the Lagos-Calabar highway to the president’s business partner, Gilbert Chagoury’s High-Tech, Minister of Works, Dave Umahi, held a media briefing. Arise television reporter, Laila Johnson-Salami, jolted Umahi by asking a very critical question. Then Umahi attempted to take the wind off its sail by bringing in a needless humour and sounding like a palace jester. Exhibiting a gallantry that is becoming peculiar to Arise TV, Laila curtly replied Umahi’s apparently sexist jest of “Sister, I was raised in the village, me I no dey hear phoneh (phonetics), so try to speak…” with “Well, sorry, I can’t help the way I speak” and then detonated the unexpected bomb: “The EIA Act of 1992 states that an EIA must be approved by the Federal Ministry of Environment before the commencement of any project unless an exemption has been given…” Did the ministry conduct the EIA before this phenomenal project began or was an exemption given? For what looked like an eternity, Umahi didn’t know what to say and when he picked himself up, it was a waffle. Johnson-Salami represented us well as journalists. While Yoruba underscore defence of authority, maintaining that the secret of the fox should not be revealed by the dog (Àsírí ìkokò kò ye kó t’owó ajá tú) journalism should stand for the obverse. As watchdogs, we should reveal the secrets of the foxes in power.

On the 700km road construction, Nigerians have since been battling Umahi with facts and figures. This may demonstrate that the people have a hunch that, while the highway contract is shawled with the façade of public good, self is its propeller. Of a truth, the “we” and “them” bifurcation of the place of government and the people may be responsible for the general unbelief of the people in government’s advertised expenditure. I, however, think that pedigree also explains the unbelief and lack of trust. As the Yoruba say, a man who was once found to be a thief, if tomorrow he is clothed in Aran, one of the most expensive clothes of old, his raiment is seen as product of theft. Add the Lagos-Calabar highway project to a number of other bogus claims of this government that have been unearthed for not being in amity with truth and you will get what I mean. The pedigree of the Lagos boys on the throne is also perceived not to be trustworthy. Earlier, I wrote The Lagos Boy’s coastal highway (April 14, 2014). Therein, I explored the characteristics of the Lagos Boy. Among others, he is unusually bold, even capable of picking hot charcoal (eyin ina) from the fireplace; he is deceptive and deifies glitz and glamour as substances. You could see its carryover today in Lagos. So many self-curated “firsts” are unilaterally affixed to Lagos, “to catch cruise,” in the words of the youth of today. They even claim that Lagos is one of the most live-able places in the world. Last Wednesday, government made a public advertisement of the discovery of 86 partitioned makeshift apartments under a Lagos bridge. Tenants occupied these rooms reportedly paid N250,000 per annum. Place this side by side the “catch cruise” superlatives of Lagos and you will wonder which live-able sub-state in the world possesses such absurd renown. If government provides live-able shelter for its people, would they live under the bridge?

If Nigerians’ praise or dispraise matters, especially on election day, this government should bother about its transition from Aguntasoolo to Daginnidooro. Or what could have made Tatalo’s mistress descend downhill. And make Nigerians smile. Biden is bothered and is attempting to make amends. Here, on election day, we will be given money to vote them in. And we will continue to have governments without ears, for whom we are merely pawns on their chess board. We will always help them fulfill a lifelong ambition of filling the space in Aso Rock.



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