Uncle Tom

Nigerian rulers and girls in short skirts

I sure had to giggle when, last month, Muhammadu Buhari was elected President of Nigeria as a ‘candidate for change.’

For heaven’s sake, the man already did rule Nigeria, ages ago, and we didn’t see much ‘change’ then, did we? He was a military dictator, cantankerous and authoritarian, though he was never –we must grant him that- as bad as the guy who came after him, the oppressor and plunderer Sani Abacha.

But a change maker Buhari was not. More like a humourless old schoolteacher. He used to send militia to whip people at bus stops into orderly queues and forced civil servants to perform frog squats when they arrived at work late. And he jailed Fela Kuti. Had a judge pronounce a five year sentence for a ‘currency violation’, he did. Poor Kuti: the musician who invented the Afrobeat had had sixteen-hundred British Pounds on him, earned from gigs in the UK he said, but they didn’t believe him and made it out to be a big offence. In the end Kuti spent two years in jail before he was released. Then he flew straight to the US, where he and I met in the campaigns to end military dictatorship in Nigeria.

Humourless schoolteachers, the lot, I say. They just didn’t like Fela’s music, especially that ‘zombie’ song in which he made fun of soldiers. And I reckon they were pretty jealous of the musician’s short-skirted harem and marihuana-smoking entourage. They would probably have loved to be able to prance around like Fela did –boy was he a macho man- and to be adored for it by beautiful groupies. But these old men –he was old even then- didn’t know how. They just knew how to whip people and make them do frog squats, and those things don’t charm anybody.

I laughed extra hard when I saw a Nigerian newspaper reporting that Buhari had been elected on the strength of, of all things, a sex worker campaign! Referring to former President Goodluck Jonathans’ clampdown on sex workers, -he used to send police in trucks to round up any young woman walking the streets of Lagos in a mini skirt at night, hoping to catch at least some real sex workers among them -, the newspaper wrote that these sex workers had been supporting Buhari to get rid of Jonathan http://dailypost.ng/2015/04/01/nigerian-prostitutes-congratulate-buhari-declare-nationwide-free-sex/. “They even promised ‘a free sex for three days’ deal if Buhari would win, and it worked,” the newspaper wrote, adding that they were giving it away already.

Like –probably- quite a number of men In Nigeria, I immediately jumped up to go out. Only in my case, I just wanted to go tell my friends at my local stomping ground Freddies how politically savvy –not to mention generous- the working girls in Nigeria had become. Then I realised it was the first of April. That Nigerian newspaper had almost had me.

Still, it is funny that Buhari, that old military anti-music, anti-fun fuddy-duddy was now portrayed as the champion of Nigeria’s mini-skirted working women. Fela and his harem would have loved that.