A Dry Sallah And Other Stories - Reuben Abati



“Baba is back, we thank God”

“You have started your mischief again. Baba said he will be back in two weeks, and he is back, so what is special about that?”

“You know sometimes when the President goes to London like that, we may then be told that his doctors have advised that he should spend another week or more. But we thank God this time oh.”

“There is no way the President will spend Eid-el-Kabir outside Nigeria. Allah be praised! Did you not see how many people trooped out in Abuja to welcome him? I liked that.”

“I didn’t see that”

“Of course, you don’t always see good things.”

“But I saw something.”

“Which is?”

“I saw a photograph of the President in which he was acknowledging cheers from the crowd as he arrived at the Abuja airport, and then just a step behind him, I saw your Governor also waving to the crowd. I thought that was funny. Is he the one that travelled? What is his own in the matter?”

“You mean Yahaya Bello? Ha, Governor Bello. Many of us from Kogi state are certainly worried. The man is always in Abuja.”

“They say he is an adopted son of the President.”

“I don’t know about that. I think the man should just resign his appointment as Governor and assume duties in the Villa as a Special Assistant to the President, since that is what he seems to like.”

“I hope he will stay back in his own state to do Sallah. Don’t be surprised if you suddenly see him going from Lokoja to Abuja to Daura to pay Sallah homage to the President.”

“You know when I hear people say young people are not too young to run, I tell them yes, but when young people run for elective positions and they win, they should also be told that they are expected to distinguish themselves with the quality of the service they offer, not with the photo opportunities they get, the ceremonies they attend or their capacity for sycophancy. I mean, just consider the spectacle of a state Governor leaving his own duty post now and again, to go and queue up at the airport, along with Presidential aides, to receive the President.”

“Leave that one jor. I don’t want to take Panadol for the problems of the people of Kogi state. Instead of going up and down, Governor Bello should sit down and look for ways to pay salaries so that civil servants and doctors will not be dying anyhow in his state…Governor Bello. Na wah o… But look at what the President said when he became back.”

“What did he say? Did he say anything about Governor Bello?”

“No. He said he will deal with thieves”

“So, what is new in that? That is what he has always said. Only the thieves need to be afraid”

“After two weeks away from the country, and a few days to Sallah, one would have expected the President to speak to us like a father and wish us a very happy Sallah season. Baba could have made a statement that will give hope and succor to the hopeless, something to inspire the people at this festive season.”

“Of course, he will wish you Barka da Sallah and he has done so – he wants you to engage in sober reflection and self-examination but he is also making it clear that he is not a father of thieves. Thieves don’t deserve any Barka da Sallah.”

“This Sallah that is so dry, who is even enjoying it sef? I have examined myself and I have engaged in sober reflection and I am concerned that this Sallah is too dry. People are just keeping long faces as if something has gone wrong somewhere.”

“Nothing has gone wrong. Examine yourself and reflect. ”

“Can you believe that for the first time in a long while, ram sellers are complaining loudly about poor sales? People can’t afford to buy rams. Poverty is so widespread in the land.”

“I don’t think it is poverty. People have just not been paid salaries, yes I mean civil servants. How do you expect them to buy rams? In about 22 states of the Federation workers are being owed salaries, and some Governors are saying there is no money, so they can’t pay and they won’t pay.”

“But they have paid salaries in Ekiti, And in Osun, the Governor has moved from modulated salaries to the payment of full salaries.”

“You mean the Osun Governor is no longer modulating salaries, he is now politicizing salaries? Don’t forget that some of these Governors now pay salaries to get people to support them politically. No vote, no salary. Well, okay, at least in Osun state, for the first time under Governor Aregbesola, people can now enjoy Sallah and buy rams.”

“With what they have just been paid? Don’t be surprised if many of those workers use the money to settle accumulated debts. And if not, would it not be better to hold on to the money since they may not know whether or not they would still be paid after the September elections?”

“I know. I know. Can you imagine I actually saw some people pricing fowls for Sallah?”

“What do you mean fowls for Sallah?”

“Fowls! Yes! In fact, one guy told me that this year, some people are buying he-goats for Sallah. Goats are cheaper than rams. A small ram, with some measure of meat, is about N75, 000, a slightly bigger one is about N100, 000 or N120, 000. “


“The thing is so bad ram sellers have become very aggressive. For the first time, this year, I saw ram sellers knocking on people’s doors to hawk rams. Some of them went on social media to market their wares and even offer incentives. I got what’s app messages offering me rams at what was called good price! When I complained that I am a Christian, I was told it didn’t matter and that I could buy and give out as gifts to friends. Buy two rams; take one at half price! One of my Muslim acquaintances later told me that what he has resolved to do is to buy his own ram on Sallah day, when suddenly the price of rams would have crashed. He doesn’t intend to go to the praying ground. He would get to the market early and get a ram for his family at affordable price. You see what these Governors who don’t pay salaries have done to our people?”

“These Governors.”

“By the way what happened to that our brother in Ekiti state?”


“Ayo Fayose. He has been quiet.”

“No. He has been talking. He spoke out in defence of Samuel Ogundipe, of Premium Times for example. I read that.”

“But I haven’t heard him abuse the President lately.”

“Why should he abuse the President? You think he should abuse the President, after losing the election in Ekiti state?”

“He is one of the most vocal and forthright critics of this administration.”

‘So, if you were in his shoes, knowing that you will soon lose your immunity as a Governor, you will keep talking and not change tactics?”

“I don’t get your point. Some of us depend on people like Fayose to hear the truth.”

“Very good. But I believe Fayose is also a wise man. A wise man knows when to fight and when to be tactical. May your mouth not put you in trouble. ”

“You think Fayose will also defect to the All Progressives Congress (APC)?”

“Candidly I don’t know what to believe anymore. If a Godswill Akpabio can defect from the PDP to the APC, I mean Godswill Akpabio, one of the most articulate members of the PDP, the man just jumped ship as if something had hit him in the chest.”

“You want to bet?”

“Bet what?”

“If the PDP wins in 2019, the man will jump back.”

“I know. That is the nature of Nigerian politics. Our politicians are very good at jumping like monkeys from one tree to another.”

“That is how that your brother, Dino Melaye jumped onto the top of a tree for eleven hours.”

“That is fake news. The man has denied it. He said he never did that.”

“Thank God then, but he ran into the bush.”

“Yes. He did. It is called survival. The man defected from street to bush.”

“I am waiting for him to compose a song and a dance step around that.”

“He probably has more serious things to do.”

“Meaning what? He just did a song, there is a latest number from him”


“You haven’t heard it? “Governor dey pass Governor, ha yah yah, Udom pass Akpabio, ha yah yah. And you could see the Akwa Ibom Governor, and some PDP Senators who visited Emmanuel Udom laughing and enjoying the song.”

“No wonder Senator Akpabio fired back and said he regrets making Udom Governor.”

“Kai. What won’t we hear or see oh? Politics has become season film. Asiwaju Tinubu attacks Atiku, Saraki and Governor Tambuwal, Saraki attacks Tinubu, Tinubu attacks Wike, Wike fires back, Akpabio attacks Udom, Ajimobi attacks Ayefele, Tambuwal sacks 252 aides…That is the shape of Nigerian democracy.”

“252 aides?”


“Yes, 252”

“One Governor and 252 aides!”

“How much is the entire budget of Sokoto state?”

“Well, he has sacked them or is it that those people refused to defect? Well, whatever.”

“Hmmm, but this matter between Governor Ajimobi of Oyo State and Yinka Ayefele, the musician. What is the latest?”

“Very sad. The constituted authorities of Oyo State have been most unkind to Ayefele. They had to demolish his Music House even when the matter was already before the court.”

“I saw the pictures of the demolished building and I wept. There is more to that demolition than meets the eye. Politics. Media repression. Vendetta. Sheer wickedness. These are very strange times.”

“The latest is that when the matter was heard in court on Monday, the lawyer for the Oyo State government allegedly said that the government of Oyo State is not aware of the demolition.”

“The lawyer said that?”

“Yes, that is what I read.”

“You are sure what you read is not fake news? You are telling me that ghosts demolished Ayefele’s N800 million building? You want me to believe that the constituted authorities of Oyo State are ghosts?”

“That is what I read. The state government is even planning to set up a panel of inquiry to find out who authorized the demolition of Ayefele’s Music House.”

“No. That is not possible. I read a statement by the Special Adviser on Physical Planning and Development Control to the Governor, a town planner, explaining why the constituted authorities of Oyo state had to demolish the building. The statement is titled “What You Should Know about the Partial Demolition at the Music House.”

“Okay, I give up. Nothing is ever straightforward in this country. Wey-tinnnn? Can we please leave these Nigerian matters alone and talk about something else please before I start having headache?”

“Mr. Kofi Annan is dead”

“Great man. He was Africa’s great ambassador on the world stage. He will always be a role model and a source of inspiration for generations to come. And he will be remembered for the role he played in promoting world peace ”

“I agree with you. He deserves to be immortalized.”

“Aretha Franklin died too.”

“Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. I love her songs. Nothing lives forever other than good talent, depth, quality, distinction, be it in music or politics.”

“Yes. Yes. In civilized places, people are honoured, promoted and encouraged for their talent and contributions. At a time when the world is celebrating Aretha Franklin, is it not curious that here in Nigeria, somewhere in Oyo State, some constituted authorities are causing heartache for a talented musician. In another place, the government would be more interested in supporting Ayefele, and not discourage or destroy him.”

“You are right. It is the man they are trying to destroy not his house but I can see that his spirit is strong. Our love and prayers are with him at this trying moment.”

“Have you been following the conflict between Omarosa Manigault Newman and the Trumps?”

“Yes. Yes. But I consider Omarosa’s conduct indecent and opportunistic. Spying on your boss and his family, recording conversations around the family and the Situation Room, for me raises questions of integrity and character.”

“But with people like President Trump, people have to be careful, and protect themselves. Trump is just one kind of a President, often so un-presidential, brash, aggressive, bullish, petty and manipulative. He lies too like a Lagos girl.”

“I forgot something which may interest you.”

“And what could that be?”

“Only God knows where we are going in this world. People now worship Satan. In Little Rock, Arkansas, United States, some people have erected a bronze statue dedicated to Satan, a goat-headed, winged creature called Baphomet…”

“Do you mind?”


“I don’t want to talk about Satan today if you don’t mind. I’ll rather wish our Muslim brothers and sisters, Barka da sallah… Okay?”

“Okay. Barka da Sallah”.

“Thank you.

“Thank you too.”


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