I used to have a friend we called Alhaji Bashy. He was not a Muslim. No. But he called himself Alhaji Bashy, even if that was not his real name. You want to know his real name? It was Theophilus. And his wife was named Ruth. His children? He was yet to have one. Even Ruth was called his wife by designation. We were all young in those days, and any woman to whom you wrote regular love letters and poems, and she gave you attention was your wife. In those days, you didn’t have to give a woman a N100 million worth of car to assure her that you were in love, you did not have to go as far as Offa to rob a bank so you could earn a living.
Once you grabbed a woman and you could send her titillating love poems and she believed, you gained the right to press all buttons, and shake every table in her body. The Vice Chancellor of one university in those days became very notorious. He said his students were among the brightest in the country but that he could not vouch for those students’ tendency and ability to explore the internal anatomy of the female homo sapiens! The laughter that greeted that announcement stretched from one part of the country to another.
And the women didn’t complain. They were happy to have a man who loved them genuinely. You didn’t have to put a ring on their fingers. They would cook for you, wash your clothes, kneel down to greet your mother, your father, your siblings, pray for you, and even if you didn’t marry them at the end of the day, they would still not take offence. They would resolve that the will of God had been done. The moment they agreed to become your friend, they became automatically your wife and some of them even if they married other men later, would remain on pension in your life forever. Yes, in this country, women used to survive like that on such anticipatory approval that had life-long consequences. I confess that I am still paying pension but I won’t name the women.
As you can see, anticipatory approval started in Nigeria a long time ago. Not just with girlfriends who became bush meat or fiancées or eventually wives, or other people’s wives. In those days, even persons who had no bicycle, and were professional trekkers boasted about their leggedes-benz. They turned their legs into a brand of the Mercedes Benz! Those who could barely afford a pair of slippers insisted they would one day ride the Mercedez. Now come on, that was a popular luxury car in those days.
Only important folks could afford it. So rugged, that car was nick-named “the German mistake”. Alhaji Bashy, even when we all smoked garri with groundnuts and watched the big boys who came from town to toast campus babes with ordinary suya, had big dreams. He believed he would also one day be able to buy his girlfriend the barbecued meat called “’suya” and a Mercedes. And Ruth was happy to hear that one day she too would ride a car. She was happy with Alhaji Bashy.
It was a different country we lived in. The men appreciated the women. Whatever went wrong, the women knelt down and begged their men and the men reciprocated by honouring the women. Nigeria was a community of happy people, anyone that behaved anyhow was ostrasized. I recall even being referred to on many occasions as Mallam when my only connection with Mallam things was to wait for the eid-el-kabir season to eat the generous portions of ram meat that Muslims gave their Christian compatriots.
We all ate together and enjoyed together and married across religious and ethnic divides. Our country was then just one happy place. Oh, what a happy place. Muslims and Christians played with one another and the festive season was the best time to show boundless amity. Cows didn’t pose a threat to farm produce. Every disagreement was resolved either in the bedroom or the beer parlour or at communal associations. Alhaji Bashy used to joke that Muslim girls were better than Christian girls and if we reminded him that his Ruth was Christian, he would laugh from one end of his mouth to the other, his 32 teeth in full display, and he would say:
“It is good to be good, when you are good to a woman, or any person, he or she will be nice to you, Christian or Muslim. Love knows no religion. Nobody is a Mallam or pastor in the bedroom.”
“Alha-ji Bay- sheeey”, we would all scream
“It is nice to be nice, because nice is nice, ” he responded.
Bashy was a good guy. He was incapable of hurting another fellow. No matter how serious the situation was, he reduced it all to laughter. The only thing that mattered to him was Ruth, the sugar in his tea, the puff-puff in his mouth, the woman he loved, the hope of his future. Ruth. I remember Ruth. She was that type of woman God created in a relaxed mood. You know how it is: some women look like God created them in a busy and tired moment, and hence they come out looking anyhow. But Ruth: God took his time. Any time she walked into a gathering of men, all the men had their instruments standing at attention in honour and in respect, and in anticipation. But she had eyes only for Bashy, and many used to wonder what he saw in the guy and his gross features. We all sulked and grumbled believing that God sometimes gives the best to the ugliest.
Then all of a sudden, June 12 happened. June 12, 1993 was the day our country held its freest and fairest election since 1922 when the first democratic elections were held. After colonial rule and influence, a short period of civilian rule and a prolonged military rule, another democratic interregnum, Nigerians eventually became tired of military rule. The rest of the world was moving towards democracy. The Berlin wall had collapsed. Across the world, everyone wanted the people to be the owners of power and masters of their own destiny. In our country, everyone wanted to escape the trap of authoritarianism.
On June 12, 1993, the military had asked the people to choose a President – one of their own. Bashy was one of those who supported Chief MKO Abiola, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). MKO promised Nigerians hope, progress and abundant welfare. One Baba Gana Kingibe was his running mate. The two of them were Muslims, but nobody raised any questions. Nigerians voted for their Muslim-Muslim ticket. It was a national unity ticket. The Christians didn’t mind. The people wanted change and it didn’t matter to them whatever shape the revolution took.
But the military stood in the people’s way and the entire country went adrift. The military annulled the election and aborted the people’s hopes. Alhaji Bashy was one of MKO’s men. He worked for him. He followed him. He became his disciple. “MKO-o o-oooooo is our man oooo” became his national anthem.” He was one of those who believed Chief should stand up to the soldiers and claim his mandate. He reported at MKO’s home in the morning and left at night.
He attended meetings he didn’t need to attend, but he did all the same because he believed in democracy. He told me once that if Chief was allowed to claim his mandate, Nigeria would become one of the best countries in the world. But the military hierarchy, after an overdose of peppersoup diet, obviously and in retrospect, refused to hand over Abiola’s mandate to him. People like Bashy insisted on a revolution. He was at Epetedo where MKO claimed his mandate in a historic statement. History was made at that moment and MKO’s followers were proud of his courage and resolve. When Alhaji Bashy returned from that event and I saw him, I knew something had gone wrong. His eyes were blood-shot. ‘MKO or nobody”, he screamed throughout the night
Those were sad days. Two days later, Ruth, the centre of Bashy’s life was attacked by a group of men. They raped her. They slashed her throat. They dumped her in front of Bashy’s flat. Alhaji Bashy was detained for a month. They said he killed her. But he didn’t. I was one of the people who went to the police station to testify that Bashy was a lover-boy, not a killer and that Ruth, with her buttocks that rolled as if it was responding to unheard music was all that he lived for. Bashy was released. The revolution that he wanted did not happen, because shortly after, Chief MKO Abiola was arrested and detained by the military authorities. He never came back alive. They said he drank tea and he died.
Bashy was devastated. He took to the bottle. He drowned his sorrow in alcohol. He became a shadow of himself. He owned a rickety Beetle. The Beetle, a Volkswagen star brand in those days, was known for its ruggedness. Bashy managed to buy a used one for N22, 000 – a lot of money in those days. The only problem was that his Beetle had to be pushed before it would move. Some of us who were his close friends knew this routine. Whenever Bashy wanted to leave, we would start moving away strategically to prevent being forced to jump-start his notorious Beetle. It was really a tug of war, so difficult to know who was driving the other between Bashy and his wretched car.
The only problem was that once you helped to push and the car jumped alive, a huge of volume of smoke escaping from the exhaust would suddenly emit onto your face. Pure carbon monoxide: Bashy would speed off, but you would be there struggling for oxygen and cursing that you’d never do it again. The more alcoholic Bashy became, the more unpredictable he also became. He was a shadow of his former self. It was as if the light that kept his life aglow had been switched off.
One day, on his way to his abode in Ajangbadi; armed robbers accosted him. Our country was extraordinarily lawless and ruthless and unsafe. Hadji Bashy told me the story himself, a day after. They stopped his car and asked him to come down. Come down! Come down! They pointed guns at him, each of his three assailants holding a gun. Bashy was dead drunk. He was dead to the world.
“Eyin boys, bawo ni. What is happening?”
“Are you crazy? You think we are joking with you?”
“Shut up” he said he told them. “I know you. You people are thieves. Armed robbers. Idiots”.
“Since you know, oya give us everything you have”, one of them replied.
“What do I have? I am coming from a June 12 event. You people should join us to make Nigeria better. Join hands with us to create Hope for this country.”
“Ha. Pastor ma leleyi oh, Ti Nigeria ba good, you think we will be here on this road robbing people. Gbagbe e o omo. Gbori n be. Irin tutu re oh,” one of the boys reportedly said. “Irin…Irin ise. Iyalaya anybagga”
The boys behaved as if they were drugged. Bashy himself was drunk. They kept their guns pointed at him.
“Ewo eyin boys, I have just 2, 000. We will share it. You people will take N1, 000 and I will keep 1, 000 because I will have to buy fuel into this jalopy tomorrow morning . If you don’t agree, let me know now.”
He said the robbers burst out laughing. Bashy went about with a carton of beer since Ruth died. He drank as he drove. He went to the back seat of the car. He had four bottles left. He took two bottles and gave to the robbers. He asked them to take two and he would keep two bottles for himself. He then turned on the car radio, inserted a cassette and asked the robbers to let them have fun. He started dancing, after opening two bottles of beer. Two of the robbers couldn’t believe what they had just seen. They laughed. One of them said:
“There is something in this Lagos oh. What will somebody not see on this job? This one doesn’t even know he is being robbed. He is too drunk to be aware.”
“June 12, my brothers. June 12. Let us show these bloody soldiers that on June 12 we stand,” Bashy told them.
The robbers collected two bottles of beer and the N1, 000 and drove off. I saw Bashy the following morning. I found him with a bottle of coke in his mouth. He was listening to the music of Reggae artist, Ras Kimono, a rhumba styleee…stai-leeee. He looked so dejected. I was alarmed. He told me his story.
“Bashy, what happened?”
“No something happened. You are drinking coca cola in the morning. What happened to schnapps?”
“I will never taste alcohol again”
“Can you believe that I encountered armed robbers yesterday and they didn’t shoot me? I told them off. I abused them, I told them I am a June 12 man and they still allowed me to go. I will never drink again.”
Bashy kept to his promise. He has not been invited to the special national honours ceremony for Bashorun MKO Abiola. He died two years ago. He is survived by a daughter. Ruth’s daughter….
About the Author:
Reuben Abati is a columnist and former Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to former President Goodluck Jonathan.
**Written pieces and contributions on this platform are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Tori.ng
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Welcome the next set of MTN Scholars!
360 young Nigerians receive scholarships from MTN Foundation
MTN Foundation has awarded scholarships to 360 university students at a virtual ceremony on November 12, 2020. The scholarships were awarded under the MTNF scholarship schemes made up of the MTNF Science & Technology Scholarship (STSS) and Scholarship for the Blind Students (SBSS). In attendance were the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, represented by the Technical Assistant, Dr. Olufemi Adeluyi; Honourable Minister of Science & Technology represented by the Acting Director-General of the National Space Research and
Development Agency, Dr. Francis Chizea; former Minister of Communication Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson amongst other notable dignitaries.
Speaking at the ceremony, the representative of the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Olufemi Adeluyi said: “We are here with the MTN Foundation to celebrate scholars that have excelled in school. MTN is also supporting people with disabilities by funding their education and this is very commendable. The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy is constantly working towards elevating skills over degrees. We are also committed to ensuring that individuals are empowered with the right tools and skills.”
Also speaking, Honourable Minister of Science & Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu represented by Dr. Francis Chizea said: “I am glad that MTN, in giving back to the society through its foundation, set up a scholarship scheme to empower the youths and as well, drive science and technology. This is a welcome development and a commendable effort that other organizations need to emulate.”
A major highlight of the ceremony was a fireside chat themed “Insight. Influence. Impact” with thought leaders sharing inspiring insights with the scholars. Nigeria’s former Minister for Communication Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson reiterated the role MTN continues to play in the ICT space and its impact on the country. “We need to get a workforce that is very comfortable with technology. We are in a state where we need world-class educational institutions and interventions such as this that will enable students to be very vast in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics,” Johnson said.
Leading to the ceremony, this year’s graduating students from the scholarship programme were hosted to a career incubation boot camp facilitated by experts from Google, Oracle, Cisco and Jobberman. Facilitators shared insights on various opportunities amongst other vital employability tips.
Speaking on the scholarship award ceremony and workshop for graduands, Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation, Nonny Ugboma said, “Providing access to quality education is the first step to a world of opportunity for the youth of our nation. We know it does not stop there. We need to also ensure that they are adequately prepared for the
workplace. We hope that the fireside chat at the award ceremony will inspire the students to reach for greatness and innovation. Furthermore, it is our belief that the employability workshop held earlier will enrich the career path of the graduating students. The MTNF scholarship scheme is more than just funds; it is a commitment to
build the capacity of our youth. We wish all our graduating scholars success as they set out to take on the world and congratulate all awardees as the next set of young nation builders in the making.”
The newly awarded scholars will each enjoy a scholarship grant worth N200,000 annually till graduation as long as they maintain a CGPA of 3.5 or its equivalent. The scholarship covers tuition, book allowance and stipend. Till date, MTN Foundation has awarded scholarships to 3,829 students valued at over NGN 2.1Billion.
The MTNF annual scholarships are awarded to high performing students in Nigerian public tertiary institutions.
Illegal Abortions Responsible For Mysterious Deaths In Bauchi: State Govt
Bauchi State Government has revealed that the mysterious deaths recorded in the State has been as a result of illegal abortions.
An investigation carried out by the Bauchi State Primary Healthcare Development Agency has revealed that illegal abortion by unqualified medical practitioners is the cause of mysterious deaths in Azare and other local government areas in the northern part of the state.
According to reports, no fewer than 200 women have died in Bauchi as a result of this and there are projections that the number could be more at the end of the investigation.
The Executive Chairman of the agency, Dr Rilwanu Mohammed, disclosed this Friday, May 29, at an interactive session organized by the Bauchi State Public Health Media Network.
Mohammed said the deaths resulted from unwanted and unplanned pregnancies by both married and unmarried women of childbearing ages who, after becoming pregnant, visited quack health workers to terminate the pregnancies.
He said the lack of understanding of the importance of child spacing as well as ignorance of what to do with such pregnancies had become a major problem to family health in the state.
He emphasized the need for adequate sex education for the girl-child by parents, particularly mothers, to reduce unwanted pregnancies, thereby reducing deaths from complications.
Ondo Govt Arraigns Suspected Killers Of Funke Olakunrin
The Ondo State Government has arraigned four men suspected to have killed Mrs Funke Olakunrin, the daughter of the National Leader of Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti.
Recall that it was earlier reported that the Nigeria Police Force handed over the suspects to the State Government.
They are Lawal Mazaje from the Felele area of Kogi State, Adamu Adamu from Jada area of Adamawa State, Mohammed Usman from Illela area of Sokoto State, and Auwal Abubakar from Shinkafi area of Zamfara State.
The suspects were arraigned on Friday by the government at a Chief Magistrate Court sitting in Akure.
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