A Farcical And Anarchic Look At Nigerian Car Plates
Akintokunbo A Adejumo
Laughter, they say is the best medicine. Let’s take a comic look at our predicament in Nigeria.
A “farce” is defined as “A light dramatic work in which highly improbable plot situations, exaggerated characters, and often slapstick elements are used for humorous effect”. And “The broad or spirited humor characteristic of such works”. Or “A ludicrous, empty show; a mockery: e.g. The Maurice Iwu-conducted 2007 election was a farce.
Most often, the term "anarchy" describes the simple absence of publicly recognized government or enforced political authority or a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority. When used in this sense, anarchy may or may not imply political disorder or lawlessness within a society. In another sense, anarchy may not refer to a complete lack of authority or political organization, but instead refer to a social state characterized by absolute direct democracy or libertarianism.
OK, you tell me. Nigeria does not fall into this category of anarchy. But how do you describe a country where one of its authority agencies, the Police, openly and brazenly waylay and collect money from motorists on the highways everyday; or where political thugs who call themselves transport union members, run amok killing, maiming and intimidating their opponents and ordinary citizens on a daily basis in Ibadan and other capitals around the country; or where kidnapping goes on unabated in the eastern part of the country or un-checked religious and ethnic strife in the northern parts of the country, or where the judiciary colludes with corrupt politicians to deliver spurious judgments detrimental to democratic and political enfranchisement and progress of the people or indeed, a country where political leaders (s)elected and entrusted to give us succour and progress brazenly steal and loot the treasury everyday?
The good state of Bayelsa proclaims to the world on car number plates that it is the "The Glory of All Lands". Thank God, they are not calling it “The Wealth of the Nation”, that would have been too obvious, isn’t it? But what exactly is their glory there? Oil spills, dirty and foul-smelling creeks, gas-flaring and irresponsible governors and local chiefs? All these and the corruption have given the state's slogan a hollow ring.
Plateau is "Home of Peace and Tourism". My wife was born, bred and buttered in Jos, the capital. Its cool climate and cultural landmarks have always made it an attraction for the rare tourists who make it to Nigeria, but Plateau has been plagued by religious and ethnic violence promoted and sustained by evil, calculating politicians that have killed hundreds. What have they turned one of the most beautiful environments in the world into?
As for Kaduna, it earned the label of "Liberal State" for its cosmopolitan and lively atmosphere. However, it has suffered from several bouts of religious violence, including the 2002 Miss World riots that killed 200 people after Muslims were angered by an article about the beauty pageant. Just last year, when President Jonathan picked Kaduna State Governor, Namadi Sambo, a Moslem, as his Vice-president, thus constitutionally paving the way for his Deputy Governor, Patrick Yakowa, a Christian, to become the new governor, there was some grumbling amongst the Moslems. Credit to Kadunans, they quickly sorted it out.
Some states have adopted more mundane slogans for their number plates. Nassarawa is "Home of Solid Minerals", but where are the minerals to complement the oil? Last I heard, those solid minerals are mined by individuals who never make any returns to the Federal Government, and the Federal Government is in full awareness of this but cannot do anything about it because these are powerful illegal miners.
Benue is "Food Basket of the Nation", more like “Basket-mouth of the Nation” to me. I don’t see the baskets of food. Most of them disappear into neighbouring Cameroun. But really, you should see their yams.
Others take a more abstruse approach. Yobe declares "The Young Shall Grow", what the hell does that mean, really? How long will they grow?
Kwara proclaims itself a "State of Harmony", well, one thing for sure, the Sarakis have harmonised all the resources and even the people of the state so much that I think the slogan should simply be “The Sarakis’ Own State”.
Abia is "God's Own State", no more, no less. (Let’s dance to Fuji music – apologies to late Ayinde Barrister). Yes, indeed. Why not “God’s Own People”? God gave Abia Orji Kalu, and the state has never been the same again. I know of only one God’s own people, and they are not in Abia State. They give Igbos a bad name.
Akwa Ibom is “Land of Promise”. Promising what? The killing of twins and the identification and punishment of children as witches? And Cross River as the “People’s Paradise”, well, maybe Obudu Cattle Ranch is the only paradise in the world. But I doubt it. I love the people of the two states, but they should discard all these bad cultural beliefs.
Borno State is the inappropriately named “Home of Peace”, with Boko Haram fanatics running around burning churches and killing policemen. Home of Piece, I’d call it.
I love Delta and Edo States. They are both hearty. Delta is the “The Big Heart”. More like the Big Art for me, with all the best “akpavin” and “skillo” located there. But what even makes it more heated is what ex-Governor James Ibori did there. He proved that treasury looting and stealing is an art and a hit. Edo is “The Heart Beat”. How they let that dullard boy Lucky run roughshod over them for eight years is beyond me, but it proves indeed the Edos, Esans and the Akoko-Edos do have big beating hearts, warm and welcoming and, unsuspecting of dubious politicians.
Adamawa is the “Land of Beauty”. I’d have agreed 100% were it not for the clueless retired naval officer with four wives who has made absolutely no impact on the state in the past four years and still wants to be there. One thing for sure, his fours wives are beautiful.
And “Coal City State”, Enugu State? Yes, the last time I heard about coal coming from Enugu was when I was in the primary school in the 1960s. Since then, all the coal must have disappeared into some people’s land and pockets.
Jigawa is “The New World”, a lovely state whose only contribution to Nigeria’s economy is production of dates, yes, the fruit called date. Yes, nobody, even the inhabitants exploit this versatile fruit.
Kano, the “Centre of Commerce”. Really? Where are the famous groundnut pyramids we used to see in the 60s? Kano residents no longer plant groundnuts? They are perhaps more interested in the “commercial” pastime of increasing the population that makes Kano State the most densely populated state in the country.
“Fountain of Knowledge” state, Ekiti, never cease to make me laugh. With all their professors and academicians, they might as well be illiterates. I’ve never seen a people more moribund. Yet they still have visions of Ibadan oppression of over 200 years ago. Inferiority complex!
And talking of “Pacesetter State”, my very own State of Oyo, living on and regressing into past glory. Pacesetter indeed! Since 1999, they have been taking one pace forward and ten backwards. In fact, they have not set any pace for the last 20 years. They still don’t know how to get the hell out of political thuggery. Imagine giving the country its first official political godfather and reputation for political thuggery. Only God can forgive Oyo politicians. I can’t.
Anambra is the “Home for All”. Last time I spoke to an Anambran, he confided to me that no non-indigene of Anambra had ever been sold land in Awka before. They simply don’t welcome foreigners. So how can it be home to all Nigerians?
Ebonyi is “The Salt of the Nation”. I will be honest with you, I don’t know much about this obscure state. They hardly make any noise worth noting. Is their salt there or are we talking metaphorically here? Salt of the earth? Right here in Nigeria? You are kidding me.
Katsina is the “State of Hospitality”. Sounds more to me like State of Hostility. The fact is that there’s narry a thing hospitable about that state. Turai Yar’Adua proved that to me.
Rivers State is the “Treasure Base of the Nation”. It will be, I suppose. That’s why their immediate past governor looted the treasure as had never been seen before in Nigeria. By saying that, the good people of River States are practically inviting treasury looters to come and have a field day.
Zamfara is the “Farming is our Pride”. I hope so; I want to see the food aplenty. Let the people farm. If not, get the hell outta there, Governor.
Taraba is “Nature’s Gift to the Nation”. Yes, that is right, together with Adamawa, a very beautiful tourist and natural paradise, but I see very little how nature is being exploited to the fullest here, thanks to clueless political leaders.
“The Gateway State” is Ogun State’s contribution to meaningless sloganisation. Geographically, maybe it is a gateway to the country, but politically and economically, a state that for the past eight years has been a gateway to political killings and chicanery. Some people need jail here.
Ondo is the “Sunshine State” as if the sun only shines on them. With a moon shining ex-Governor, I didn’t see much sun here until Mimiko liberated them. Don’t rest on your oars, boy.
Osun State’s “The State of the Living Spring” is an allusion to the great Osun River. This means these people still belive in African Traditional Religion. Good for them, but it did not help them for almost eight years where “Oyin ni o” was busy playing golf in Ada rather than governing the state, and a murderous senator waiting to take over. Now they have a “Teblik” in the state house, and the senator’s ambition thwarted, maybe things will change.
Sokoto is the “The Seat of the Caliphate”, aptly named, but what does that translate into, in terms of development and religious harmony? Feudalism at its worst! Does not give us confidence in democratic values and hopes.
Niger State is “The Power State”. Why wouldn’t it be? What with two former military dictators of questionable characters coming from there, and one of them still thinking he holds the reins of power in his hands.
Imo State is the “Land of Hope”. Or the “Eastern Heartland”. Why didn’t they add “and Glory”, and then I will know they are Americans? Actually, Imo people exude hope; I can say that – look at Nwakwo Kanu, Chioma Ajunwa and Emmanuel Amunike. But they have to do more than giving us Maurice Iwus. Incidentally, they are my in-laws, and I love them for their forthrightness.
Gombe is the “Jewel in the Savannah”. Hmm. I don’t know what makes it a jewel, but it sure is in the savannah. Have they heard that savannahs sustain wheat, and other cereals?
Bauch State is the “Pearl of Tourism”. Yes, with the game reserves, I suppose they can lay claim to that. And it was the home of our first Prime Minister, a very humble man called Sur Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. In Hausa the word Bauchi means the land of slaves. Bauchi and Adamawa were the two main sources of slaves for the Fulani Empire of Sokoto. Maybe that name is still working on them.
Kebbi is the “Land of Equity”. For a state that used to be part of the Sokoto Caliphate and introduced Sharia laws, I wonder where the Equity is coming from. But we are all here waiting.
Kogi, another of my favourite state is aptly nicknamed “The Confluence State”, because the Rivers Niger and Benue join there. I’d rather call it “The Confused State” because of the shenanigans of its former Governors. The state has been cursed with treasury looters since day one of its creation.
But by far the most famous and celebrated number plate in Nigeria is Lagos – “Centre of Excellence". My honest opinion? And you don’t have to agree with me. Lagos is far from being a Centre of Excellence. Don’t let us delude ourselves. Governor Fashola might be doing a good job, but there remains 97% to be done to make Lagos truly a centre of excellence. That is a fact. It is still a dilapidated, disorganised, lawless city of violent crime, slums, traffic jams, expensive and pollution. Only 20 % of the money being spent on Abuja for selfish and ethnic reasons could be spent on Lagos to make it truly a Centre of Excellence that all Nigerians can be proud of.
And lastly, but certainly not the least is our Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, or FCT. It is called “Centre of Unity”. All well and good, that’s what every patriotic Nigerian yearns for – unity. Have Nigerians heard of Unity in Diversity? Apparently No! We still don’t realise it that our diversity of tribes and tongues is supposed to be our unity and strength. And those unscrupulous politicians are not making it any easier. That is why I laugh when I think of Abuja as the Centre of Unity. Ask me: How many southerners has been the Minister of the FCT since the city was created? Many Nigerians still see it as a Northern city.
Nigerians are either living with delusion or deliberately like to confuse and mislead themselves, convincing themselves that they are a sophisticated people of the world. I will not be surprised if in the nearest future, we hijack the phrase “God’s Own Country” from the Americans and start using it to describe our country. After all we like everything American even if we don’t like the people themselves. Wouldn’t you know it?
But then: God Bless Nigeria and Nigerians. I just love my people. They can’t go wrong, can they? Except in the matter of who they chose as their leaders.