Friday, May 14, 2021

The colloquial colour of the colloquium, by Bala Ibrahim

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tiamin rice

Let me start by congratulating the Jagaba of Borgu and the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for attending the age of 69. Hurrah! That’s a landmark achievement by someone as selfless and altruistic as the Asiwaju.

The Tinubu Colloquium was first conceived in 1999 by his close friends, who thought it important to arrange intellectual discussions on the day of his birthday, as a way of galvanizing ideas that would pave way for capturing power in future. Many were held since then, almost all in Lagos, with themes like, “Investing in People”, Agriculture: “Action, work, revolution”, and “Next Level: Work for the People”.

None was deemed fit to be taken to Kano until the latest, when the Jagaba turns 69. Could there be a motive, or it’s simply coincidental?

In Hindi language and culture, depending on disposition, 69 can be a vulgar slang that connotes the physical positioning of two individuals involved in oral sex. For the sake of simple argument, the article would look at the colloquial language and colour of the colloquium, alongside the revered culture of the Kano people, and see if there was any intention to seduce them with the vulgarity of 69, politically.

By nature, Kano people are very acculturating and assimilating with different cultures, provided nothing is done to corrupt or dampened the dignity of their own culture and religion.

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Contrary to the tenets and themes of the previous ones, the Kano colloquium came with theme, “Our Common Bond, Our Common Wealth: The Imperative Of National Cohesion For Growth And Prosperity.”

But in what seems to be on collusion with the saying of common bond, commonwealth, the event was preceded by the signs of suspicion or scepticism, which gave way to doubts about it’s sincerity of purpose, or the meeting grounds of mind.

Penultimate week, the press was awash with reports alleging a rift between Tinubu and the President, reports that made the Presidency to issue a statement, saying it is the handiwork of some ‘media mischief makers’.

The language of the statement, viz a viz the emphasis on the tightness of the togetherness, made it easy for the discerning mind to see the whitewashing, or the deliberate attempt to conceal something in the relationship between the duo.

Those good at reading meanings, knew the Presidency was speaking in colloquial language, because it was evident that something somewhere is not properly in place, as far as cordial relationship between the Villa and Bourdillon street is concerned.

The colloquial language of the president, who participated virtually in the event, came with the cleanliness of absolute political maturity, where he gave several kudos to Tinubu, whom he described as a man of uncommon political sagacity.

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The president said: “This has been a constant factor in his outstanding political career, from the time he served in the short-lived senate of the Third Republic to his involvement in the struggle for the actualisation of the June 12 mandate of the late Chief MKO Abiola, to his much-acclaimed period of service as Governor of Lagos State from 1999 to 2007. Despite occasional inter-ethnic tensions in our national history, it seems to me that we have all agreed on one point that, notwithstanding our diversity of ethnicity, culture, language and religion, Nigerians are better together; even stronger together.”

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Indeed this is a colloquial language that doesn’t suggest any political friction. But not in the eyes of pundits, who peruse with the political eyes of the eagle.

If anyone has given any hint about any friction, it must be from the bashing that came in the banter of the celebrant, who said, Nigerians citizens have been fasting for so many years, and that the people have rejected austerity measures, asking the federal government to introduce stimulus packages instead.

“Nigerians have been fasting for a very long time; we need a break now. Your own employment rate is 33 percent and you ask us to keep on fasting. The one we are fasting spiritually is voluntary. We have been fasting for so many years,” Tinubu said.

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One needs not be a student of political strategy to see the direction of the arrow. It is a colloquial language intended to spite those in charge and the game plan is for 2023, using the colloquium as a launch pad.

The most colloquial language of the colloquium is the call by Tinubu to the president, to recruit 50 million youths into the army. Tinubu said such a large scale recruitment would help the fight against insecurity across the country.

50 million man army? Even China’s military, which remains the world’s largest army, has been significantly downsized since the 1980s, and it’s slightly above 2 million active personnel.

Although my arithmetic is poor, but even at the minimum wage of N30,000 per head, it would cost the country 1.5trn every month to maintain such recruits. If you multiply by 12, you are talking of an annual budget of 18trn. This is almost twice the country’s budget.

For an accountant of Tinubu’s repute, that had worked with Arthur Anderson, and risen to the age 69, this is not only demotic, but too colloquial to say at a colloquium.

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Unless it’s a case of political vulgarity to spite the people of Kano, using the 69 as a sign language.

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