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Rats and Rodents As Threats To The Lion King: Tapped Phone Conversation Between Buhari’s Media Aides



“Good morning, Oga. This is Lady L. I just sent you a message with my sister’s phone.”


“Lady L, I got the message. That’s why I picked this call. You know I hardly pick calls from unknown numbers. Why aren’t you using your own phone?”


“Rats! Rodents! Rats! Oga, rats oooo! I have been receiving endless calls, text messages, numerous emails, messages on Twitter and Facebook. I had to switch off my phone. Oga, who thought up this rat thing? Who approved this rat thing? I know it must be Oga Lai.”


“Leave Lai out of this. It wasn’t him. It was one of the president’s right hand men. We argued against it but he insisted.”


“And the president approved it?”


“He said the president approved it. We have no way of confirming whether this was true or not.”


“But who chose Oga Garba to say it? Such statements are tailor made for Oga Lai.”


“We knew. We know. Most of us suggested that. But it was decided that Lai may be needed in future in event that after three months we need to say something else to justify why the president would not resume at the office. Or in case he needs to return to London. Lai would be needed in more difficult situations in future.”


“Na wao! But they should have chosen something else. Like getting the president to come to office at least once a week.”


“You think Nigerians would be okay with that? Are you sure Charley Boy and his team of loud wailers won’t start a work every weekday or resign campaign?”


“Forget Charley Boy and his mumu group. Old man claiming to fight for youths. He always wants to be noticed. It seems he has realised that Nigerians are tired of seeing his naked pictures in coffins and thousand piercings all over his body and is looking for another way to be relevant. Abeg, forget him. Reasonable people didn’t complain in the past when the president was only seen during Friday Jumat prayers.”


“We really had no choice. They just came and told us to tell Nigerians that the president would be working from his home because rats destroyed furniture and other things in his office. We initially thought it was a joke. But they insisted. Then they told us that the president approved it. We had no choice.”


“But these people are not the ones to face the consequences. Look at how Oga Garba is being made to look like a fool. You would have insisted on confirming from the president.”


“I last saw the president during the recording of the recent broadcast. That was the last I saw or heard from him. I know he met the service chiefs today. But I only saw that on television like the rest of Nigerians. I still have the president’s number. But if I try to call him, the same man that gave the directive would be the one to pick the call.”


“That broadcast! That speech! Just six minutes. The president and his people should have mercy on us. I have been trying my best to defend and justify it but is that really the best we could produce?”


“My sister, these are trying times. We prepared a beautiful speech that would have lasted about 45 minutes, which addressed all major issues in the country. I was so excited about the draft. But when the president arrived, we realised that the speech has been amended. They said the final approval was from the president’s doctors who insisted that the speech must not exceed six minutes to avoid accident.”

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“Which kind of accident?”


“Madam, what do you want to hear from me? Some things are better left unsaid. They would have told you how the president only made an acceptable speech at the fifth attempt. People think that the president insulted Nigerians by talking to them for only six minutes after more than 100 days away from the country. They would never know that more than two hours effort was put by the president in delivering the six minute speech.”


“So doctors are now the final approving authorities of a president’s speech? I have never seen this kind of situation before. The president didn’t even mention the ASUU strike.”


“We tried to push the ASUU strike into the speech but was constrained by the six minute limit set by the doctors.”


“Back to the rat issue. You know allegories don’t seem to favour the president’s image. There was the baboon and blood thing when the president was contesting an election. Then Kanu and his people started making references to a zoo. Then the president’s wife talked about hyenas and jackals. Then there was this thing about lion king. And now we are talking about rats.”


“I know all these. We were only acting under instructions. I thank God that I wasn’t the one that was mandated to deliver the message. Garba complained to me that he has been feeling unwell since releasing that statement.”


“So what are we going to do now? I can’t keep my phones switched off forever. I have to get back to social media sooner than later.”


“Stick to the script. The president can’t resume in his office yet due to rats and rodents. Period.”


“My sister told me that a snapshot of Aso Rock budget showing an allocation of two million for fumigation is trending on social media. How do we defend that?”


“Earn your salary, Lady L. That one is not difficult. Just explain that fumigation may not necessarily lead to the absence of rodents. Or you explain that Nigerian rats have become resistant to chemicals used for fumigations which are currently procured overseas and that government is working towards the establishment of industries to manufacture local substitutes that can easily eliminate local rats and in the process foreign exchange would be saved and jobs would be created. You see, you can spin this to the benefit of our government.”


“You have a point. It is not really as bad as I was thinking. A thought occurred to me that we could simply say that the fumigation was not actually carried out and the government would soon set a panel to investigate the situation and bring the culprits to justice.”


“Now you are talking. This is Nigeria. The president’s supporters would believe whatever you say. His opponents would criticize whatever you say. So just go out there and say something. In two or three days, this one would pass.”


“Okay. I saw a call from Channels just before I switched off my phone. I suspect they want me to come to their programme tomorrow morning over this rat issue. After this call, I would put on my phone and return their call.”


“Don’t be too fast about it. You know all these reasons we put out may be risky to defend on live television. Why not wait until FFK or Fayose says something about the rats issue so that you can divert difficult questions by attacking them and emphasizing that the president that they claimed was on life support has returned to Nigeria hale and hearty.”

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“Hmmm. Hale and hearty indeed.”


“Who can prove that the president isn’t hale and hearty? Remember how the issue of the president’s health situation has evolved. Do you realise that initially, we didn’t officially release a statement acknowledging that the president was sick? The story evolved from a medical checkup. Nigerians are deeply divided on issues of governance so situations are easy to manage. “


“My mind is still on the rats. What can we do to make this story go away quickly? Can’t Magu come up with something?”


“You have a good point. Someone in EFCC told me that they found something new on Diezani. But it seems Nigerians are getting tired of her story. I don’t really think that Magu can come up with anything so impactful as to dominate the rat issue. Unless he has to arrest Goodluck Jonathan. But that would be very risky.”


“What is risky in arresting someone who committed a crime? The law should not be a respecter of persons. The guilty must be punished.”


“It would set a bad precedent. And remember Baba may suffer the same fate when he leaves office.”


“But Baba isn’t stealing any money.”


“Yes. But what if they want to hold him responsible for killing of Biafran protesters and the atrocities of Fulani herdsmen? And by the way I understand that aside the Malabu issue, the only case against Jonathan involves about N800m. How would Nigerians react that the former president was arrested over N800m when just one act from a single minister involved a fraud of $1.2b? It would be difficult for them to understand.”


“But Jonathan was a real mumu. Look a Dasuki, $2b. All of them were using his head. They were really having a bazaar at the cost of Jonathan’s image and reputation. Only God knows what Abati and Omokri would have made.”


“I don’t know. I actually envy them. Despite Jonathan’s inadequacies, at least his media people did not experience these kind of situations we are constantly dealing with. Most of the things we say today are likely going to haunt us forever. And there is no real money to make these days that would at least compensate you for the future sufferings.”


“Oga, you were encouraging me. But now you are making me feel bad. I still remember your optimism when we were newly appointed. You said we have an opportunity to change the country forever.”


“We are actually changing the country forever. But not the way I thought. Go and put on your phone, Lady L. This is the time to earn your pay.”


“What of you? How are you coping? How are you going to cope?”


“It is easy for me. I just referred all the journalists who contacted me to Garba’s statement. It is self-explanatory. And I’m not doing any media chat until the issue dies down.”


“Okay, sir. Please remember me in your prayers.”


“I will try.”


“Hold on, oga. You know what? I just saw a rat dash across my office.”


“Interesting. And if I remember properly, you collected money for fumigation of your office about two months ago.”


“I did. And my office was fumigated. But as you mentioned earlier, these recession-hardened Nigerian rats seem to be resistant to conventional fumigation.”

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