Inside Stuff With MARTINS OLOJA ‘THE GUARDIAN’, Sunday, September 13, 2020, Back Page


I have looked into the seeds of time again and an oracle has spoken that I should recast my (February 16, 2020) message to the authorities here. There is therefore a revelation that they are failing to read ‘the writings on the walls’ all over the place. The oracle has noted that they should get cracking to read the writing that has become more visible on the walls, lest the nation will be in a crisis of some sort.

So, before it is too late, the one who has authority over the most populous black nation on earth should put on some magnifying lens to read the writings on the walls.

It will be recalled that my concern in February centred on the consequences of ‘the writing on the wall’ that our leader and his men and women might not have bothered to read at that time. It was revealed then that, “He doesn’t seem to like anyone raising any alarms around him, even if they are of national security dimension”.

As I had noted then, for the purpose of ‘clarity and clarification’ as the late Maitama Sule would have noted, the expression ‘the writing is on the wall’ is used whenever an inevitable result or imminent danger has become apparent. What’s the origin of the phrase ‘The writing is on the wall’? The classical expression is also sometimes expressed as ‘the handwriting is on the wall’ or as ‘mene mene’.

The first of those variations is an obvious synonym but what does ‘mene mene’ mean? This is a shortening of ‘mene mene tekel upharsin’, which is of Aramaic origin. If your Aramaic isn’t strong enough, you can get some guidance from the ancient word, (Daniel 5), in the story of Belshazzar’s feast. To cut the ancient story short, Belshazzar was indulging in a drunken revelry and debasing sacred temple vessels by using them as wine goblets when a disembodied hand wrote ‘mene mene tekel upharsin’ on the palace wall.

On the face of it, and using a literal translation, this appeared meaningless. The expression seemed to mean ‘two minas, a shekel and two parts’ or alternatively ‘numbered, weighed, divided’. None of this meant much to Belshazzar, who decided that he needed further interpretation and sent for the Jewish exile, Daniel who had the gift of interpretation. It then became clear that the phrase was an elaborate wordplay, relying on the fact that each word can denote a different coin, and the third word can be interpreted as ‘Persia’. Daniel’s interpretation, as recorded in the first easily understood English version of the Bible, the King James Version, 1611, was:
‘And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing:
‘MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.
TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.
PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians’.

The point of the moral tale was that Belshazzar couldn’t see the warning that was apparent to others because he was engrossed with his sinning ways. The subtlety of the biblical wordplay is now somewhat lost on those of us who don’t speak ancient Aramaic.
Thus, ‘Writing on the wall’ began to be used figuratively, that is providing warnings where no actual writing or walls are involved, from the early 18th century; for example, Jonathan Swift’s Miscellaneous works, 1720:
A baited Banker thus desponds,
From his own Hand foresees his Fall;
They have his Soul who have his Bonds;
‘Tis like the Writing on the Wall’.

This is not about the interpretation of the ancient and clairvoyant Daniel. It is perhaps why Michael Ben Zehabe in The Meaning of Hebrew Letters…noted:
“If this letter system works, it should be reproducible and consistent. If this letter system works, it should be demonstrated in biblical narrative—with consistency. It has. It does. It will. For instance: Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the Babylonian wall (Dan 5:1-31). The question has always been, “What method would produce the same interpretation?”
If you will pull out your Strong’s Concordance and translate those same four words, you won’t get the same results that Daniel got. Was Daniel using a different method than modern Christians? Yes, obviously.”

However, in his autobiography, Mahatma Ghandi issues this caveat:
“It is also a warning. It is a warning that, if nobody reads the writing on the wall, man will be reduced to the state of the beast, whom he is shaming by his manners.” Erik Pevernagie reinforces this in his own seminal work on this expression ‘writing on the wall:
“In the rough-and-tumble play of politics, dog-whistle messages are copiously dispatched over the heads of the grassroots people that cannot see the writing on the wall and have to remain in the cold, like dumb puppets on a string”. Shahenshah Hafeez Khan kills it when he concludes the whole matter that: “When the writing is on the wall, closing & hiding the book will have very little impact on the outcome, neither will be walking away or shrugging the responsibility that the message is directed to others, it always takes efforts and determination to clean the wall.”

As I was saying, this is just to tell our leader that there is indeed a ‘writing on the wall’ he should read at this perilous time, especially when the dogs that have always warmed up to his arrival, wagging tails especially in the northern states are beginning to bark – to welcome him. Our elders have warned that when the dogs begin to act like that we should be careful in that vicinity because the dog can even bite. I noted earlier that our leader doesn’t often read warning signals. This time, he should swallow political and military pride and read the current ‘writing on the wall’: that it is not well with the country people elected him to run at this time.

There have been ‘writings on the wall’ our leader has been ignoring. We advised him several times in the beginning (2015) to set up a competent and robust presidential bureaucracy. Specifically, we told him on this platform to engage an experienced and competent Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF), the head of the bureaucracy. The second and current SGF may be a good man but he is quite inexperienced. Goodness in social intelligence alone is not a substitute for competence in public service. The presidential bureaucracy is with due respect still wobbly.

What is worse, as I have also observed here several times, even the wife of our leader has been drawing the attention of her husband to some ‘writings on the wall’ inside the presidential household. She has been complaining to the nation about the influence of a strange cabal on her husband’s presidency. Her last public outcry on this was when she reported to the nation about the presence of a powerful member of the cabal and a relation of her husband inside the presidential villa whose daughter once looked her menacingly in the face. No one is aware how the writing has been read.

Since 2015, there have been regular calls on the expediency of paying attention to restructuring of the federation. The Guardian (Nigeria) leader writers have been commenting every week on the expediency of legalising return of federalism as the only way out of the country’s complicated challenges. No one is reading this ‘writing on the wall’.
Behold, there is a new ‘writing on the wall’ of the Borno Empire that our leader should not ignore lest there will be an everlasting regret. As I was saying, the dogs that used to jump over him, excitingly wagging their tails to welcome him into Borno and Yobe states have begun to agonise as they now bark angrily to welcome him as they did in the first week of February this year in Maiduguri. That was a clear writing on our leader’s wall in North East.

All told, our leader should read this latest contextual ‘writing on the wall’ as posted from the Auno massacre where they once proclaimed: “We regret returning Buhari to power…You’ve disappointed us, we don’t want you… Those responsible for this negligence must pay for it… Our heart bleeds, this is national embarrassment….”

The Borno State’s charismatic governor Babagana Zulum too furiously told the leader then, the Auno massacre could have been prevented by an organised army. The restless and vocal Zulum escaped death recently too in the same state and no one has taken responsibility.

One of the most visible ‘writings on the Borno Empire Wall’ emerged that same early February, 2020 from ’Dr. Musa Usman, a scholar who hails from the area. He used his social media platform to speak for his people. He lamented that what happened in Auno and other places was total negligence. He said, “It pains every Nigerian that a government that promised to secure the nation has failed to do so. There are so many questions begging for answers as regards this insurgency. The Maiduguri-Damaturu highway is not a meandering slope with sharp turns. It is a straight road with open spaces… The road is not on the path of a thick forest… If the federal government cannot secure this little stretch of the road, then we are in a big quagmire. It is sad that security forces cannot comb the areas around the road for the insurgents. Despite huge resources, the military cannot develop a mechanism to check the antics of the insurgents. What pains us the most is the fact that nobody is going to be held responsible. And the situation is the same across the country, killings everywhere! If there is a conspiracy to thwart the gains of the Buhari government, as some diehards will say, what is the government doing to unravel the conspiracy…? We deeply regret returning this government to power. As it stands now, as it has always been, we will lick our wounds, tend to our injured and bury our dead. But God is watching! All those with hands in this calamity will pay for their sins. All those whose irresponsibility keeps this circle of violence going will equally answer for their inactions….”

There are fresh ‘writings on the wall’. There is a writing on the wall in southern Kaduna. There is fire on the mountain there. The official debt managers are pointing to another writing on the wall: “Debt has risen by N2.38 trillion in just three months and our debt burden is now N31 trillion”. An authoritative Abuja-based newspaper wrote a scoop on the wall last week: “264 Nigerians commit suicide in four years”. And this: “Nigeria spends N120 billion annually on idle refineries”. There is a report that, “new (electricity) tariffs push prices above global average” and Nigerians are wondering about the deadly cost of newly deregulated PMS price. Our leader should read all these ominous ‘writings on the walls’, and juxtapose them with last two week’s messages on the state’s lack of capacity to manage perception and conflicts at various flashpoints. A word from an oracle is enough for the wise!