Nigeria: A nation that has been swallowed

February 20, 2018 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

SF/Kristian Buus photo



Prince Charles Dickson



“Sà á bí olóògùn-ún ti wí.” Meaning, ‘invoke it exactly as the maker of the charm instructed’



One cannot eat crab in secret.


Nigerian politics, economics, social, cultural and every facet of national life naturally should follow Ecclesiastes; nothing is terribly new under the sun.


So let me start this way, from the book of Exodus 7:9-12


Then God spoke to Moses and Aaron. He said, “When Pharaoh speaks to you and says, ‘Prove yourselves. Perform a miracle,’ then tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down in front of Pharaoh: it will turn into a snake.'”


Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did what God commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his servants, and it turned into a snake.


Pharaoh called in his wise men and sorcerers. The magicians of Egypt did the same thing by their incantations: each man threw down his staff and they all turned into snakes. But then Aaron’s staff SWALLOWED their staffs.


The operational word there is swallow. So it was that in the 9th and 10th day of the second month of the year 2018 after the death AD, Nigerians woke up to the story that a sales clerk has been suspended after she told auditors that a snake had swallowed the equivalent of more than £70,000.


The woman, Philomenia Chieshe, was working at the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, which collect examination fees. After N36Million (£72,050) went missing from the exam board, Ms Chieshe blamed the animal.


But the government organization dismissed her claim and has started disciplinary proceedings, according to reports.


Local reports said that the clerk claimed her housemaid and a work colleague had confessed to using the mysterious snake to “spiritually” steal the cash from accounts office.


And in the year 2004, it also happened that in the 9th Month and the 21st day, Nigeria admitted a “national embarrassment” after a Russian tanker laden with 30,000 barrels of oil disappeared without trace from the custody of its navy.


The vessel, African Pride, was seized in Nigerian territorial waters a year earlier on suspicion of oil smuggling. The navy impounded it and detained its crew of 13 Russians. The African Pride was last seen in August. The navy admits that the ship has since disappeared with its cargo and crew.


The Lagos Guardian, a Nigerian daily newspaper, described the whereabouts of the African Pride as the “one billion naira question”. The waters in the ocean SWALLOWED the ship. It never was and will be found like the snake and the money.


In the 9th month also in the year 2017, in the ancient city of Ibadan, the Oyo Assembly Investigates 320 Missing Tractors in 20 LGAs. The tractors that were distributed to 20 of Oyo State’s 33 local government areas in 2013 might have developed wings.


And to know whether or not the 320 tractors are deployed for the purpose they were bought, the Oyo state assembly has mandated the House Committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters to investigate.


The committee is expected to question ?present and former chairmen and members of transition committees in order to retrieve the tractors from beneficiaries who have reneged, or neglected to fulfil their responsibilities on the tractors leased out to them .To be unravelled also are the amount gained or recovered from the leasing out of the tractors and whether the four meant for hiring are at local governments.


The committee, led by Hon. Bolaji Badmos was mandated by the Assembly to submit the report of its investigation in the next three weeks.


The tractors till date remain SWALLOWED!


We have always had the penchant for swallowing things as a nation, from Plateau State where a fake commissioner was created and he was swallowing all the enumerations and pay of one. To the years of yore when wind blew away tractors purchased by the Bauchi state government. The wind just SWALLOWED!


Mysteries are a way of life, we SWALLOW all sorts of lies, contortions and deceit from leadership, so do you remember how one Veronica Onyegbula of the Police Pension scam during interrogation in 2012 when she was arrested, said she made $544,000 from sales of pure water.


With each passing day we SWALLOW all sorts, from teachers that cannot pass the exams they set for their students, to the fact that budgets have been known to simply either go missing or padded so they can conveniently keep swallowed monies.


Once upon a time it was that woman Hairdresser, beauty therapist & politician and House Speaker SWALLOW-ing monies for House Renovation, the next man in white followed suite SWALLOW-ing, and then there was that Integrity man, the short one, that allowed his CAP to equally SWALLOW.


From the local to the federal level, at ministries and MDAs, parastatals, various staff or rods simply turn to snakes and swallow our national patrimony.


The truth remains that as a people we are religious, we don’t joke with our Fridays, and Sundays. We don’t joke with our “juju” either. We swallow all sorts of black powder. We love music, we are intelligent and yes, we excel in many a thing we put our hands to do as a people. We are resilient, while people talk about the American dream, we as Nigerians are not dreamers, we are simply swallowing nation.


Amongst us are the ethnic jingoist and nepotic parapoist, we have those that do not see beyond faith, creed and clan. We are divided on many fronts, united in soccer and corruption. However we are equally a dramatic national, one full of drama, with so much suspense.


Lives have been SWALLOWED in various conflagration points from Zamfara to Benue, Adamawa to Kaduna, Taraba to Nasarawa; no one state is really spared in the ethnocentric faith based and conquest-like killings. We see them swallow but no one is held responsible for the SWALLOW-ing. Someone appears on the scene picks a target, commences the swallowing and we suffer the tragicomedy of it and case closed.


And as with many things Nigerian, this too shall come to pass, that we would soon have forgotten, and move along and ahead to the next SWALLOW-ing. Are we tired of the bizarre, the laughable, the oddly magically and mysteriously sickening? No methinks, and would we ever be tired—Only time will tell.






Prince Charles Dickson

Currently Prince Charles, is based out of Jos, Plateau State, and conducts field research and investigations in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria with an extensive reach out to the entire North and other parts. Prince Charles worked on projects for UN Women, Search for Common Ground, and International Crisis Group, among others. He is an alumnus of the University of Jos and the prestigious Humanitarian Academy at Harvard and Knight Center For Journalism, University of Texas at Austin. A doctoral candidate of Georgetown University

Born in Lagos State (South West Nigeria), Prince Charles is proud of his Nigerian roots. He is a Henry Luce Fellow, Ford Foundation grantee and is proficient in English, French, Yoruba Ibo and Hausa. Married with two boys, and a few dogs and birds.

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