The Republic of Naruba held its presidential election six months ago. It was the first of its kind in this huge island full of both human and animal apes. The election was free, fair, peaceful, transparent, and conclusive. The inaugural of president-elect of Naruba, His Excellency, President Ahmed Mohammed Rihabu, took place last week. President Rihabu wasted no time in reaching out to supporters as well as critics.
I was the only lucky Naruban citizen abroad that was invited for the inauguration. President Rihabu e-mailed me. He’d been following my writings before, during, and after the election.
“Dear Bayo: I’m writing to invite you to our wonderful country Naruba for a visit and to celebrate with the gloating goats of Naruba my victory. I’m a regular reader of your column. I have been following you for a long time. I pray and I hope you’ll gladly consider my invitation and come celebrate with us. My kindest regards. His Excellency, President Ahmed Mohammed Rihabu, Federal Republic of Naruba.”
Naruba is a Western African nation stated to be one of the richest in the world and the best place on earth to live. With a population of 100 million people, it is located between Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Benin and Burkina Faso. The capital is the city of Jaabu. Posthaste, I set out on a 18-hour flight from Okokomako to Naruba. Right from the time I set my foot at the Naruba International Airport, visible signs of neglect and decay over the years from the rooftops to the floor of the airport advertised a microcosm of a nation paralleled to hell.
Droplets of February showers that escaped through leaking roofs of Naruba International baptized travelers with the ostensible truth that warned me of images of Naruba I would later experience. The airport was partially boarded up and torn down. Looks like an abattoir undergoing some facelift ready for meat inspectors from department of agriculture. Everywhere looks mangled, air-thirsty, decrepit, and filthy. Scraps of construction materials like trees hewed down by the storm compete for squeezed space, an ironic reminder of Naruba’s vestiges of its former greatness.
As the hours whizzed by, the rain became more violent and unfriendly. The waiting lounge and the baggage claim areas turned bedlam. People waiting for their loved ones were pounded by the rain. The crowd had become inured by the beatings of the rain. Out of the sea of heads, I strained and stretched my neck to elongate it more in order to recognize the sign held up by the aide to President Rihabu who came to pick me up. The aide was completely bathed in the pre-noon downpour.
If superstitions were vestiges of ancient religion, poverty and corruption have become the creative destruction of Naruba. The twin derivatives of socioeconomic malady in Naruba is on full scale war with Narubans. Open fields, abandoned houses, buildings, shops, and heaps of thrash greeted me with open arms. I saw people young and old, men, women, and children sauntering down the streets, hawking fruits, vegetables, cooked and roasted corn, snacks, sodas. I saw kids perched atop of junked automobiles that have become makeshift playhouse. Steady flow of human traffic ambled through a chaotic of jumbled streets. I saw people openly defecating at nearby bushes. I was amazed by the way people blended into the scenery.
After a prolonged sweating in the snake crawling traffic, we made it alive to the presidential palace. His Excellency, President Rihabu emerged from one of the many rooms. President Rihabu welcomes me enthusiastically pumping my hands as if I’m a long-awaited diplomat. Dressed in a long rustic white caftan similar to the ones worn by the Old Testament Mosaic herdsmen. With a thick black rimmed glasses similar to the pediatricians, the president sat me down. And he said “Welcome to our beautiful country Naruba!” “Thank you, your Excellency, I’m glad to be in Naruba,” I replied. I asked his Excellency how Naruba and its people are doing. I try to frame my questions in a way that wasn’t offensive or dismissive lest his supporters label me “arrogant,” “proud,” “cocky,” “rude,” and “inexperienced.” My instinct tells me I should let him do the talking. Here’s President Rihabu:
“I fought a very hard campaign. My campaign was tormented by fears, doubts, and bitter ambivalence of my qualifications and electability. First and foremost, my profound gratitude goes to the gloating goats of Naruba. They have never been so generous to a presidential candidate. The fact that I didn’t articulate any vision for Naruba and Narubans, they fiercely and sheepishly defended my candidacy. For the next four years, Narubans can expect the following during my presidency:
“The economy will nosedive into a recession. Naira, our currency will lose 70% of its value. Food prices will triple. Unemployment will rise to 200%. Petroleum prices at the pump will jump to 67%. Restructure of our inefficient and lopsided federal system will not take place during my time. Electricity supply will be worse than before. Narubans will pay more for darkness. Our hospitals will serve as a model hospital for non-humans. There will be nothing like rule of law. Armed robbers, kidnapping, abduction, herdsmen killings, ethnic violence, and complete meltdown of law and order will be the norm. My government will do everything to subvert the rule of law. My presidency will be a reign of terror characterized by chaos, crisis, violence, killings, poverty, corruption, fear, and uncertainties. Remember, I promised you next level. Well, Zamfara is a textbook example of the next level. I will spend more time jetting around the world than being in Aso Rock.
“My presidency will be known for poor vision, tunnel vision, vision that is fickle, or a non-existent vision. I don’t have the optics or the ethics to develop Naruba. Performance will not be an indicator of my administration. I can’t guarantee you love and leadership. But I can promise you lack of love, misplaced love, misguided policies, plans, and programs.”
“I will not apply leverage and resources in an aggressive and committed fashion to the problems facing Naruba. I will model the wrong behaviors. I will not pull forward the future of Naruba because I’m satisfied with the status quo. Expect no change, no innovation and no creativity that will make Naruba fresh, dynamic, and growing. I’ll be a champion of static business doom.”
“Naruba has not been blessed to be led by influential and competent leaders. I will continue in that tradition of failure and retrogression. My administration will live by the mantra “Overpromise and underdeliver.” I’ll bring lack of energy, and I will see initiative, and enthusiasm in governance as burden. My presidency will mirror the dark side of leadership: ignorance about the truth, wrong perception about the reality, obstinate behavioral pattern.”
“I will surround myself with gloating goats that were instrumental to my victory and bootlickers who will not challenge my decisions or opinions, but defend my incompetence, failures, bash my critics, and will do whatever they want. I’ll shirk my responsibility to address burning national issues. My message will be ambiguous. There will be miscommunication. I will avoid conflict and confrontation altogether, hoping the issues will resolve themselves. I won’t care about public opinion.”
As President Rihabu continued to reel out his plans for the next four years, a phone call from his Vice-President Festus Barbarosa interrupted his conversation. The Vice-President had called to intimate his boss that ethnic and religious violence had erupted in the oil rich state of Jibiti. The president conversation with me ended on an inconclusive note. He didn’t have the opportunity to bid me goodbye. I quickly offered a quick sick smile to the president.
As I leave the Presidential Palace, my thoughts were engulfed by the statement of the famous Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli’s: “It is just as difficult and dangerous to try to free a people that wants to remain servile as it is to enslave a people that wants to remain free.”
The people of Naruba will find wisdom in Machiavelli’s words as they face brutalities of realities of President Ahmed Mohammed Rihabu’s primitive style of governance in the next four years. As the countdown begins, meanwhile the gloating goats continue with the celebration of their beloved president… Long live the Republic of Naruba!