It is no more news that the origin of Lagos Carnival that is reputed to have been celebrated annually for over a century now has been traced to returnees and their descendants from Brazil, Cuba, Sierra Leone and Liberia who brought with them a vibrant culture of colourful rhythmical dance that is usually orchestrated with the wriggling of the waist and flamboyant artistry of carnival that is hardly missed by fun lovers whenever it is showcased as an annual event in Central Lagos that is popularly called “Isale-Eko”.
It is germane at this juncture to say that Nigeria and Brazil share so many things in common but for the purpose of buttressing my point in this context only few of such commonalities would be briefly discussed in this context.
One of the commonalities which can be said in this context to be favourably conditioning the memory of many a Nigerian towards Brazil is that of the “Brazilian hair” phenomenon. It is not an exaggeration to say that some women, that are imbued with fashion sense, particularly those that reside in the cities, are willing to buy “Brazilian hair attachment” at a price that can be used to purchase a plot of land in some rural communities that are contiguous to Lagos without blinking their eyelids. Once a woman succeeds in attaching strands of Brazilian hair to her God-given hair, she is wont to flauntingly wag and nod her head intermittently like an Agama Lizard that is wont to resort to self-adulation after jumping down from a tree to whoever cares to admire her artificial hair from Brazil, that is also known as the Samba country.
Similarly, Nigerians and Brazilians have a mutual passion for football which is widely known to be a sport activity that commands cult followership that bridges religious and ethnic differences. Analysed from religious perspective, the Yoruba traditional religion is widely practised in Brazil.
Not only does Nigeria, to a certain extent, shares the same religion with Brazil, it also shares common food like Cassava with the Samba country. However, while Nigerians processes Cassava to obtain garri or eba, the Brazilians process cassava to obtain Manioc flour which is a staple food in Brazil. Interestingly, the Brazilians also cook cassava derivatives with palm oil.
The influence of Brazil on Nigeria is very visible on the streets of Lagos, particularly on Isale-Eko, where replica of Brazilian architecture can still be found in Lagos. Places in Lagos that still have buildings that are reminiscent of Brazilian architecture are “Brazilian Quarters” in Popo Aguda on Broad street, campos square, Igbosere and Tinubu square. Most of the Brazilian architectural relics were reputed to be built by freed returnees from Brazil who were mostly bricklayers and masons.
Also, Brazilian names like Da Sousa, Da Silva, Veracruz, Salvador, Dos Santos, Fernandez, Ferreira, Cardoso, Pereira, Martinez, Marinho, Pineirho and Cruz are commonly known to be the surnames of most families in Lagos.
But alas! Despite the commonalities that exist Between Nigeria and Brazil, the impeachment of Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rouseff over the manipulation of the country’s budget, it has now dawn on millions of democratic-minded Nigerians that political issues that affect the collective wellbeing of Nigerians are not well handled. This is the area where Nigerians seems not to have affinity with Brazil. For instance, issues that would make politicians in Brazil to resign from their exotic position or to be impeached are what ironically makes Nigerian politicians to become more popular. It is as if Nigerian politicians enjoy getting into trouble as way of attaining publicity stunts. Simply put, they usually get away with issues that ought to have cost them their exalted positions.
As deceptively explained to Nigerians by various lawmakers that budget manipulation, which was euphemistically dubbed budget padding does not exist and not legally binding, it is ironical to read in the newspapers and on the internet that the same manipulation of budgeted figures that we have been debating over and politicising upon has cost the president of South America’s largest country parking from her lofty position.
Rouseff was accused of manipulating the federal budget, which was actually what some Nigerian lawmakers connived to do. However, in her own case, the manipulation of the budget was done to hide the extent of Brazil’s financial troubles while campaigning for her second term in office in 2014 .
To my view, her case and that of the controversial budget padding in Nigeria find expression in the idiomatic expression that says “Different strokes for different folks.” Interpretatively put, the idiom simply means that different things appeal to different people. In this context, it means while budget manipulation or budget padding does not appeal to Brazilians lawmakers as they overwhelmingly expressed this through their votes which was reported to be 60 votes against the impeached president and 20 in her support, budget manipulation or budget padding is unarguably appealing to Nigerian lawmakers as most of them defended the controversial budget padding allegation brought against some of them in the lower chamber of the Federal House of Assembly.
Speaking on Radio Nigeria, Ibadan, earlier in the month of August 2016, a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Biodun Olasapo, representing Iseyin/Itesiwaju/Kajola/Wajowa Federal Constituency in Oyo state defended the controversial budget padding by saying “That the constitution empowers the legislature to effect changes in the appropriation bill.” He argued , ostensibly to justify budget padding , by saying “that the budget presented by the executive arm often time, does not reflect true Federal character.” In a similar vein, the senate leader, Ali Ndume, was reported to have described the political imbroglio called budget padding as a media hype. To my view, he may be correct in his defense as it is a hype that made most lawmakers to be more notoriously popular more than ever before.
It is expedient to opine at this juncture that if the decision to impeach Rouseff was to be a Nigerian issue that nothing would have happened as it would be politicized and be swept under the carpet. Against this backdrop, it is expedient to say that the essence of of expressing this opinion is to illustrate how unserious politicians in this part of the world are as to issues that involve governance. To them, every issue, no matter how crucial it is to the collective wellbeing of the people , is usually politicized and swept under the carpet.
As a result of the misapplication of democratic principles that has no doubt become a political culture, many political thieves and malfeasants are wont to deliberately getting themselves enmeshed in the labyrinth of corruption and come out free without being caught or punished by the law. It is about time we started learning from other democracies on how to operate democratic machinery. It is therefore not wrong for us to see the impeachment of Rouseff as lesson to learn as regards the Nigerian controversial issue of budget padding.
Isaac Asabor, a freelance Journalist, writes from Lagos