SoS – Sam on Saturday|Akpabio and his weird anthem logic


Managers of some public personalities must surely have a spare heart. That spare heart must be something that can be toyed with. It must be made of some form of indestructible material, the type with which toys are made. A heart that cannot be broken ─ literally and figuratively. This other heart cannot be that regular muscular organ which we learnt is the hub of the cardiovascular function of every living human. No, they must have a second heart which must be bland, unfeeling, aloof, and must also be detached from the seven functions of the heart, those functions which elementary biology taught us back in the days.


For the managers of some of our politicians and public office holders, this spare, unbreakable heart would have just one function: As a store of things that are better left to pass rather than acted on or talked about. Such managers will not just have their spare hearts functioning optimally, they would also have the capabilities of a traditional dump site.


The Yoruba refer to the dump site as Àkìtàn. The people of Ikwuano in Abia State dig big holes called Ólù to receive their waste. The Àkìtàn, which is usually an open space, can accept all forms, manners, shapes and sizes of refuse with equanimity. The Yoruba will say that akitan does not reject refuse. In the same vein, the Ólù too does not reject waste. Just bring your refuse to the dump site and fling it anywhere at the Àkìtàn, and anyhow.


The men and women in this position must, in addition, possess the right know-how to best manage their principals without blemish while their principals go about with their inherent blemishes. The aides will stand in the gap and absorb the shame of their infirm kinsman. That shame which has escaped from or eluded the ailing man has become the lot of his kinsmen nursing him. With their spare hearts, these politicians’ aides are like members of a household who understand their bosses’ situations as normal human activity but those who are watching from outside would only be seeing the symptoms of pure madness.


We have these confounding politicians and public officials in various degrees and in nearly all spheres of our public life. For instance, we currently have a Senate President who sometimes attracts more opprobrium for some of the things he has said than for his legislative and managerial prowess. With a senate president who spills like Senator Godswill Akpabio sometimes does, his aides would just need to always switch off their real, human hearts and turn on their second hearts and watch reactions unfurl after such a speech.


We should still remember Senator Akpabio’s famous ‘prayers’ he said he had sent to his colleagues’ emails and the monumental blip that brought about that infamous email prayer conundrum. The same Akpabio was at his pristine best as the President of the Nigerian Senate when the upper chamber of the Nigerian legislature handled the issue of open grazing of cows, brought on the floor of the Senate by some of his colleagues.


His Excellency Senator Akpabio was at the Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies recently. While there, he said a few things about their decision to return the national anthem Nigeria discarded eighteen years after her Independence in 1960. The crux of Akpabio’s argument for that anthem handed down by our colonisers was that Nigeria might not be experiencing banditry today if Olusegun Obasanjo had not changed the anthem in 1978.


He said: “The other bill of social impact passed by the National Assembly is reverting to our old national anthem. A lot of people are not aware that there was a panel set up, made up of Nigerians to receive input from all over the world in 1959.


“So when people are saying we’re bringing in colonial anthem, they need to look into the history of “Nigeria, we hail thee”.


“If we had kept to that anthem, we probably would not have banditry today in Nigeria because if you take your neighbour as your brother, you will not want to kill him.”


I will not blame Senator Akpabio for sounding this simplistic because it is not abnormal to make postulations. I will only blame him for not making himself clear enough with what he has decided to tell us about the old national anthem. Meanwhile, as far as his aides are concerned, I think they have done well in managing the situation. They have rightly switched to their spare hearts. Sometimes, it is better to try to manage the issue of our national anthem than to disagree that Akpabio said something about it. Some people had initially argued that the Senate President said that. But that’s out of the way now.


However, we would still ask questions. Is what Akpabio said the reason why the national anthem bill was handled with such speed? Not many Nigerians remember the National Assembly treating issues that concern the welfare of the majority of the people with such inexplicably quick dispatch. What then with the seeming secrecy and the somewhat lack of transparency in the handling and passage of the bill? Why shouldn’t Nigerians be told exactly what was wrong with the work Dr Sota Omoigui; the late Mr. Benedict (Ben) Odiase, et al did with ‘Arise o Compatriots’ as enthusiastic and patriotic Nigerians? Distinguished Senator Akpabio sir, we also learnt that Nigerians from all over the world competed to give us the discarded anthem. Are you saying that Arise o Compatriots lacks its own history? Have you read “Change your ways, not the anthem”, the lamentations by the same Dr Sota Omoigui? If you haven’t sir, find time to do so or let your aides read it to your hearing.


Has Senator Akpabio forgotten which anthem was sung in Nigeria before and during the crises which culminated in that brutal civil war? What anthem was there during and after the war? Akpabio once told the story of how, as a schoolboy in his community, he heard the story of an armed robbery incident in far away Lagos, on the radio. It was the first time he had heard such. He said it was shocking to him how people could arm themselves with weapons to rob others. What anthem were they singing in school that time in in our beleaguered history? If we loved ourselves so much as Nigerians and take ourselves as brothers because of ‘Nigeria we hail thee’, why then did we degenerate into pogrom, ‘wèt è’ and ‘Akintola ta kú’ and so on? These were before ‘Arise o Compatriots’. Was it “arise o compatriots” that led to the blatant rigging of the 1983 election in Ondo State that led to a violent political crisis?


Shouldn’t Akpabio be more concerned that the policies and actions of government at various levels and the disposition of politicians or government functionaries are more likely to cause problems for us than ‘Arise o Compatriots’? What has Akpabio’s Senate done about the biting hunger in the land and soaring food inflation? What have they done in the Senate about the high cost of governance? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera… It is for us to wonder as done by King Mongkut in the movie, The King and I.


These questions are like the cries of a chick seized by the roving kite. The chick fated to be eaten by the hungry kite says he is crying not because he would be let go by the kite but because he wants the world and his brothers to see and learn from his fate. Nigerians have been crying for answers to so many questions.


Many issues confront us in Nigeria. The one that affects all and sundry is food inflation. It appears like a leveller. The high cost of food in the country and the squirming associated with it appears to have now thoroughly overwhelmed the government. But people who speak for the government overlook this and loosely refer us to what is happening in other countries. Each time they want to defend the hardship, they speak from their spare or second hearts.


Imagine the kind of things we hear from our senior, Mr Bayo Onanuga! I’m sure those around him too also have their second hearts with which they endure him. Akpabio’s logic in the anthem issue is not so much what it should be.

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