Looking for Transwonderland

Looking for Transwonderland by Noo Saro-Wiwa Read Free Book Online

Book: Looking for Transwonderland by Noo Saro-Wiwa Read Free Book Online
Authors: Noo Saro-Wiwa
ruthlessness: tribal marks stretched vertically between reptilian eyes and a sour pout; a brooding assassin. Abacha governed Nigeria with an iron fist. He disbanded all political parties and government institutions, including the Senate, and replaced them with army men.
    In 1994 Abiola, the presumed winner of the 1993 elections, declared himself president before being arrested on treason charges and kept in solitary confinement. A growing opposition lobbied to reinstate the Senate, and workers went on strike to campaign for Abiola’s release from prison. Abacha, intolerant of all dissent, jailed union leaders. The former president Obasanjo was imprisoned for plotting to overthrow the government. My father and eight of his colleagues were jailed and falsely charged with inciting the murder of four other Ogoni activists, even though all of them had been prevented from entering Ogoniland on the day of the murders. The tribunal set up to try them was declared rigged by human rights organisations. Witnesses who testified against them later admitted to receiving bribes. The Ogoni Nine’s subsequent executions ignited international condemnation, and led to Nigeria’s expulsion from the Commonwealth.
    In 1998, Abacha died of a sudden heart attack. He was succeeded by General Abdulsalami Abubakar, a bespectacled, cleft-chinned man who allowed general elections to be held in 1999. Former head of state Obasanjo won the presidency and served two terms in office before being succeeded in the 2007 elections by Umaru Yar’Adua, a former chemistry professor whose thin lips and arched nose seem to originate north of the Sahara. It was the first time that Nigeria had had two successive democratic administrations.

    The museum’s apathetic display of these photographs placed murderous dictators next to the few democratically elected presidents. All judgement had been withheld, along with any information. A novice would have no idea that during its forty-seven years of independence Nigeria has lurched from one kleptocracy to the next. The leaders’ photographs resembled a series of criminal mugshots, a line-up of chief suspects in the ruination of Nigeria. The sight of them soured my tourist’s jaunt. For all their talk and intentions, most of these men pocketed billions of the country’s wealth, ruined the infrastructure, devalued the education system and obliterated Nigerians’ trust in one another, cultivating a dog-eat-dog attitude in all corners of life. A lack of professionalism characterises the top echelons of government, and extends down to the ordinary workers, including the managers of this museum. Nothing works, talent goes to waste, and nepotism is rife.
    Â 
    I stepped outside. It was already 4.30 p.m. Aunty Janice had instructed me to be back indoors by sunset at 6.30 p.m. for safety’s sake. I was surprised that visiting the museum was the only thing I achieved that day. When people told me that heavy traffic allowed you to complete only ‘one thing per day’ in Lagos, I thought they were exaggerating. But my watch told me it was time to hurry back to the mainland and Satellite Town.
    By the glittering blue lagoon, I stood next to the main ring road to flag down a motorcycle taxi, or okada . Okadas are the scourge of Nigeria’s roads. These Chinese-made, 100cc motorcycles buzz around the streets in their thousands, like a plague of giant flies. They’re popular because they’re cheap and fast and can weave through the traffic go-slows that consume such a huge proportion of people’s days. They barely existed as a form of transport in the 1980s, but when public transport fails, and the increasingly teeming roads aren’t expanded, two wheels become the best option.
    The okada drivers zip around at homicidal speeds, without any
regard for who or what lies ahead of them. No one is safe. They will use every available space, even cutting off their wing mirrors to

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