Nigeria’s minister of Information Lai Mohammed AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI
Recently, the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, declared that a register had been opened to prevent recovered stolen money from being re-stolen. Two things this told us as a country; there are still rats in our national treasuries who are not afraid of Buhari and secondly there is the possibility of these monies been stolen. I have resolved not to highlight already known problems or the semblance of it but to try and proffer some solutions.
So here is what might work. To my honourable minister and Mr President, have no fear over this matter, all you have to do is look into our old ways of resolving issues around theft. Let me take you to my village briefly and show you the oldest and most efficient lie detector ever invented by man. Bear with me sirs, to be honest with you there is no proper road to my village but if we can manage the bush paths you will be fine.
The Esans have invented lie detectors that would be useful in your war against corruption today. In my village, the elders have no time for thieves and liars who are not ready to confess once accused. We have two types of lie detectors, Alamonka (loosely translated as corn roasting) and Osunene (no translation).
When I was a kid, my father told me a true story about my Uncle Godwin and his journey to Alamonka in the early 70s before he left home to enlist in the Nigerian Navy. As a young boy, uncle Godwin was bright and smart in school, this meant he was the one villagers would go to for letter writing and reading. He was also a co-secretary in an elders’ meeting –“Meeting” is the village’s system of saving money. It is the same as what the Yorubas call Osusu.
Uncle Godwin and another young boy (name withheld) in the village were entrusted with the duty of recording the contributions of members in a register and counting the money before handing it over to a treasurer. On one occasion, the books did not balance. Apparently, somebody with fast fingers, like the corrupt politicians you are chasing up and down at the moment, had pocketed part of the money. This became a major issue because stealing private or public funds was something my village frowned upon just like you Mr President. The elders raised an alarm and reported the two secretaries to their families (like EFCC), asking them to be questioned before the matter got escalated.
My father being the guardian of his younger brother, drilled Uncle Godwin thoroughly to be sure he was not the thief and Uncle Godwin said gbeigbei, he did not steal a penny. The next day, my father took him to the elders and told them his brother was innocent that they should escalate the matter. So, it was between Uncle Godwin and the other boy (name still withheld) and the elders decided all roads would lead to Alamonka, Esan’s number one lie detecting mechanism.
The administrator of Alamonka is like the lie detector operator you see in some CIA movies or documentaries. He would roast corn (if I told you it was ordinary corn like popcorn at Silverbird Galleria, I would be lying) and give the roasted corn to the accused to eat. Before eating the corn, the accused person would be given another opportunity to confess and save himself. Once the corn is administered, the guilty one becomes epileptic and would start falling like he had been drinking paraga for seven days. Whereas the innocent one would stand by and watch the unfolding movie while enjoying his roasted corn. That was how the other lad was caught as the one who stole the villagers’ money. My father joyously carried my uncle shoulder high back to our village while songs resonated from the villagers “Alamonka mui ijogbe – Alamonka mui Ijogbe” meaning Alamonka has caught Ijogbe. (Names are not withheld in songs, sorry). After that incident, the guilty boy eloped from the village to Lagos, because there was no room for thieves in my village. True story, and Alamonka still exists.
The second time the lie detecting mechanism was administered, I witnessed it myself as a teenager. A man was accused of spiritually oppressing his own son- well you canb giggle all you want. Let me explain, this boy was sick and was taken to an herbalist with a 100% accuracy healing rate for anybody that came to him. Except for this particular case, where his patient’s healing was fluctuating. The boy would be well today and relapse the next day, especially after the boy’s father’s visit. Well, the herbalist decided to check from wherever herbalists check such things on the cause and realized the boy’s father was coming to neutralize/contaminate his medication (the same kind of people that may re-steal Nigeria’s recovered loot). So, the herbalist sent emissary to my village to report the case to our elders. The elders called the accused and his wife (the mother of the sick boy) to question them. The man denied ever doing such a thing to his own son. The village elders said no problem and told him to get ready for Alamonka in seven days. To this, the man agreed. The funny thing is that the next day the man travelled to Alamonka village to bribe the administrator ahead of the official visitation, that way he would be given fake corn and he would not fall (it is not only our judiciary that has bad eggs).
Unknown to the accused, the elders of my village have a very tight security network, better than NSA. They got wind of the accused’s plot and kept the secret.
On D-Day, they all loaded themselves into a Peugeot 404 pickup and off they went. Getting to the road that led to Alamonka, one of the elders told the driver to take another route that led to Osunene, the other lie detecting village. The accused man started shouting that he preferred Alamonka but the elders in the pickup told him not to worry since he said he was innocent, it did not matter which one they took him. That was how he got to Osunene, which is not corn but just water taken from a local river. Once the accused drank this water, if guilty he’d start behaving like he just downed a bottle of 100% proof vodka on an empty stomach. That is how the man flung himself on the ground and practically went crazy – meaning he was guilty. The thing with Osunene is that a part of the hair of the fallen would be shaved as a way of making him carry his shame back to wherever he or she came from.
Needless to say, that the man’s son was healed and is doing very well now in some megacity in Nigeria. His father? He became an ancestor three months after the incident, Osunene is a killer, it does not spare a thief.
So, like I was saying, Mr President and Honourable Minister, I strongly believe taking all these accused corrupt past politicians and Generals to Osunene or Alamonka in Esan land of Edo State and having them take the lie detecting test will hasten your victory in war against corruption. Oh, one more caveat, the accusers also go through the lying test just in case someone is wrongly accused. Are you game?