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Tunde Leye: Nigeria And The Lapalapa Killing Syndrome



I was reluctantly going with my mum to one of the numerous prayer meetings at her Christ Apostolic Church. Anyone who knows CAC will know that MFM took their manual from the CAC prayer style. At nine years old, I would have rather been doing a million and one different things; but being the youngest and the only one not yet in boarding house, I had no choice but to go along. It was on this particular day that she introduced me to a phrase I have heard her repeat severally over the years. On the street where the church was situated, there were many old buildings. One of them had all sorts of cracks all over and had a balcony on the verge of collapse. Yet, they were painting the building over. They weren’t fixing the cracks, strengthening the pillars or anything of such nature. They were simply applying paint to a building that in all honesty should have been declared unsafe for anyone to live in. My mum looked at them in disgust and said in Yoruba “Awon eleyi fi ete s’ile, won npa lapalapa”. For the non-Yoruba speaking readers (and the Yoruba speaking who can’t read it), this is the translation of that phrase “These people left their leprosy untreated and are applying medicine to eczema”.
That sums us up in Nigeria in many ways. We have pressing, real problems as a nation, but all our arms of government, from the legislature, to the judiciary and of course the executive do not seem interested in tackling these problems. Rather, cosmetic solutions, red herrings, personal vendettas and unimportant things are pursued with vigor.
Just last week, and every other week, we hear of clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers. I have heard of this issue since I had enough sense to comprehend things. There is a Designated Grazing Route Bill before the National Assembly, yet they will not get to work and pass this bill into an enforceable law and empower the enforcers. Rather, we will hear them release statements condemning such killings and organizing visits that turn out to be jamborees to the locations after lives are lost. Lapalapa killing syndrome.
Boko Haram seems to have been driven from the large swathes of the North East that they control to a tiny enclave near the border, but they have recently gone on a killing rampage, and included kidnapping young girls in their resume. One would have expected a strong statement from the presidency, but no, this ete was not enough to warrant that. Rather, we had a lapalapa type solution proposing replacing the elected governor of the state with a military administrator. Even when a state of emergency was declared, the governors were not replaced and the president was applauded for doing things correctly. Now, it is the lapalapa of posing for photographs on the campaign trail, removing elected officials by fiat that takes precedence over coming out strongly against killers of innocent Nigerians.
Also, in the last one week, the whistle blowing CBN Governor whose tenure is almost over was removed. In a classic case of leaving the ete and facing the lapalapa, the very real questions Sanusi raised are not being answered. Of course, Sanusi himself is an ete infested government official who has serious questions to answer but who assumes his whistle doesn’t need to be clean as long as his blowing is pointing at the bigger ete. But as it is with Nigerians, his garrulous opposition of the president and whistle blowing with figures which are inconsistent (the difference between the first figure he mentioned and the second and then the final figure is bigger than many countries economies) his ete has been washed away and he has achieved Nigerian sainthood. The House of Reps has also come out to declare as wrong the CBN governor’s suspension. But the NNPC being run in an opaque, corruption ridden manner would have been a thing of the past if this National Assembly just passed that Petroleum Industry Bill and it got enforced. Again, they leave the ete and are killing the lapalapa.
We prefer to stamp out lapalapa of Niger-Delta militancy with amnesty money rather than heal the ete of developing the Niger Delta.
I am not saying killing the lapalapa type of issues is wrong, but when one leaves the ete-type fundamental issues when the solutions are so glaring that outsiders wonder why it is so hard for us to solve them, it becomes an effort in futility, a quixotic pursuit.
We need more of the kind of end to end thinking that solved the pension problem with the new pension scheme or the type that delivered the ongoing power reforms. Executive showing political will and vision to solve the problems long term. Legislature buckling down to make or amend laws to create the needed legislative framework. Judiciary doing its bit. Politicians giving us the kind of continuity Jonathan has given to power reforms started under Obasanjo. That type of focused hard and continuous work is what we need to resolve our ete issues. The lapalapa will be cured in the process.
Tunde Leye @tundeleye is a fiction writer. He believes that the stories written form a priceless resource that is the basis of society, all the other arts (film, music, theatre, visual arts) and hence he is committed to telling stories out of Africa that show it as it was, is, and is going to be.

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1 Comment

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