Heart of Arts

No Bobo! No Zobo! (Part 1)

Toyin Falola


Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’

For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.


Have you seen or pictured a group of protesters in Nigeria chanting No Bobo at any government official or anyone else trying to address them? Or have you been told that somebody is serving you cold zobo as they talk to you? Nigerian socio-linguistic properties keep developing, and they do so in the context of social development. In this three-part series on Bobo and Zobo, I introduce and re-introduce you to No Bobo and No Zobo. In none of the three will I bobo you; neither will I zobo you!

Bobo is a popular yogurt drink in Nigeria that targets the kids’ market and is ranked as one of the top children’s drinks. Zobo is a local drink made from the petals of hibiscus. However, these two words have garnered additional meaning from slang and social contexts. If a friend gave me a bitter herbal drink, claiming it is a cup of sweet beverage, then he has boboed me! There is a tiger nut drink packaged in Ilupeju, Lagos, with the inscription “No sugar added,” yet it is as sugary as a popular Nigerian soft drink. Any milk that tastes as sugary as that and is purportedly made from tiger nuts is zobo.

Is the definition clear enough?

In social slang, bobo depicts misrepresentation of facts and figures, an attempt to play one for a fool on a particular issue, or downplay a scenario to convince, persuade, or discourage someone from doing something. It comes from the assumption that telling fantasies to children will impress them; meanwhile, saying the same thing to an adult may not make a similar impact since they are supposed to know better. Zobo, in the same context, connotes an outright lie. Hence, No Bobo means “do not deceive us,” and No Zobo means “do not lie to us.” Pastor Remote, the popular comedian, is a bobo man. Mr. Macaroni is a zobo man! When Pastor Remote and Mr. Macaroni teamed up with Mide to produce a skit, “The Deliverance,”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ro0ozhKhPkQ, they combined zobo with bobo with maximum effect.

Today, politicians are doing their bobo and zobo games to get to Aso Rock and gain direct access to the Central Bank. No Bobo and No Zobo have advanced to public reactions to statements, promises, and the state of things in the nation. They represent rejections of prevarications, stonewalling attitudes, and desperate legerdemain by politicians, “men of God,” entrepreneurs, and others, to create reputations where there are none and put themselves in a messianic position. One common pattern is the political promises candidates make to the Nigerian population to bobo them into voting in elections and the zobo they give to downplay the severity of the Nigerian situation when they are in office.

Although these bobos and zobos are mostly defied of logic and reasonability, unfortunately, they somehow successfully delude Nigerians into political dementia when elections approach, making them forget the numerous transgressions of political officeholders. This explains why, after collecting five-thousand-naira riba, you will hear a deafening Nigerian shouting the names of those who gave them the money, which is probably the highest amount the egunje collector has had in a long time. Considering this irony, one cannot outrightly posit that the citizens are ready to disallow cold zobo from being deceptively forced down their throats. It is not unusual for politicians everywhere in the world to make promises that cannot be fulfilled, probably due to unforeseen administrative variables. While that is the fault of uncalculating politicians, it is also unimaginable that the bare minimum of governance and reasonable promises are not met.

Sadly, this is fast becoming the custom in the Nigerian political and electoral space, and the people almost see no wrong. When a candidate dishes out bobos and undiluted cold zobos, the people believe it and vote him or her into office. He or she keeps giving the same thing to maintain ineptitude while in office, and the people tolerate it, leaving one to wonder if Nigerians are used to such discomforts or whether the bobos and zobos have hypnotized them. This circle of forgetfulness has continued to degenerate from independence, and the outright return to the democratic era in 1999 marked the beginning of a new great wave. The masses have been wooed with promises of a better future, qualitative education, world-class health care, infrastructure, and a better standard of living. As of today, none of these promises by successive governments have been fulfilled. They are all fanciful bobos.

The sixteen years of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in power paved the way for bobos and zobos. Although I must allude to the fact that every successive government seems to underperform the one before it, this does not mean the previous government’s woeful performance should be excused. President Olusegun Obasanjo promised to eradicate the erratic power supply and take the nation out of the darkness. He boboed you! You are still in darkness. His inability to fulfill this promise, among many other failed promises, affected the standard of living in the country. Although he set the standard for many reforms and developments the nation now builds on, he is not a sacred cow. He is also a zobo man!

Successive PDP governments pushed the same jamborees of promises, and Jonathan’s administration became one of the most notorious during that time. Nigerians should have known that judging by the level of decadence in the society, the “Transformation Agenda” of Goodluck Jonathan was just another bobo, and when it became apparent that it was impossible to achieve the sweet promises, cold zobos had to be served for damage control. Despite all the “transformation” bobos and zobos, by the time Jonathan left office in 2015, power generation had dropped from about 3000 megawatts to about 2000, insecurity proliferated, corrupt cases were in dangerous increase, the economy was not encouraging, and several other sectors never saw the promised transformations. This is not to say that the Jonathan administration achieved nothing but that the expectations he and his colleagues raised with their bobos were never met. A zobo manifesto can only produce a bobo ending.

These shortcomings were the stepping stones of Buhari’s campaign and the ideas behind the “change” mantra. The media, youth, and other Nigerians who were tired of the state of the nation took the bobo and zobo drinks in great quantities and passionately shared them among the citizens. You all became over-hydrated on excess bobo and zobo drinks. Buhari and Osinbajo were painted like the messiahs coming to rescue the country from the cue of corruption, underdevelopment, economic crisis and other problems Nigerians have been facing. Regrettably, the Buhari “change” mantra has turned out to be one of the most potent bobos and zobos in the recent democratic history of the nation. The bobo cattle rearer combines with the zobo pastor to sell fake merchandise.

Buhari boboed to revive the Nigerian refineries so that the nation would stop exporting petroleum to refine. Mr. Bobo! On March 23, 2015, at Dan Anyima Stadium in Owerri, Buhari was reported to have promised Nigerians to make one dollar equal to one Naira if elected. Mr. Zobo! The Buhari administration poured another cup of zobo into the mouths of Nigerians when he promised to pay a monthly stipend of five thousand Naira (₦5000) to unemployed youths, only to make a U-turn afterward and call them lazy. They have also had a generous share of Buhari’s bobo mixed with zobo in the form of the pledge to provide about three million jobs every year. Perhaps, the Bobo General meant to say three people, not three million. The Bobo General sent the Zobo Pastor to various markets to distribute the zakat, a series of heaven-and-earth promises kept flowing during the electioneering process, and, somehow, the bobos and zobos charmed the people into believing the “Change” would change Nigeria into such a utopia.

Statistics and reality have proven that the Buhari administration’s scorecard, especially against those promises, has been woeful. Awakening from their hypnosis, the Nigerian electorate has come to a sudden confusion about how this terrible decline came to be. Buhari and his cohorts will be found guilty on all counts if there is anything like arraignment for unfulfilled promises. Where is the promise to generate more than 4000 megawatts of electricity? Bobo! How come Buhari and many government officials still rush out of the country for medical attention, even for the slightest headache, despite the promise to ban such acts? Bobo! What happened to the promises of public declaration of assets and liabilities, the Ajaokuta Steel Company revival, and other expensive jokes and bobos Buhari told the nation? Zobo! Has Nigeria become so irredeemable that there is no way of making at least a sector of the economy stable or reducing the murderous poverty rate in the country? Zobo! This is not to say that the government has been totally idle, but they have been unable to explain why its efforts rarely result in any change. Yes, they are not idle because doing bobo and zobo require a certain amount of work, including filing your lips and oiling your tongues.

It is a few months to the 2023 elections and a new bobo and zobo season for the vote seekers. As usual, Nigerians will forget the transgressions of leaders who could not perform up to expectation and drink from a new set of lies. Bobo is sweet; zobo is sweeter. Today, Atiku Abubakar, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Peter Obi, and other presidential candidates, as well as candidates for other elective positions, have started laying down their campaign promises and supposed roadmaps to Nigeria we desire. Some of them may start the cycle again: give bobo of promises, give zobo on failures, and put it all on repeat, adding extra sugar and honey. I do not mean that candidates should not make promises; rather, they must be able to evaluate the rot of the nation, access the realistic factors and be honest about their capability to transform the nation. Otherwise, even with good intentions, overbearing circumstances will neutralize the effect of any attempt and make transformation a Sisyphean task.

Toward the election, it should be made compulsory that the incumbent government disclose the real state of the nation and declare assets, liabilities, debts, and other non-sensitive information so that candidates can prepare themselves in the six to eight months before the 2023 elections. Failure to do this or attempting to lace such reports with zobo should be met with punitive measures. This will allow the candidates to have practical and fact-based plans for their administration, save us from unnecessary bobos, and provide no justification for any zobo while in office.

The current surge of PVC registration has raised the hope that Nigerians may be ready for practical political participation. Nevertheless, the nation must look out for sweet bobos and zobos that cannot be evaluated based on logic or reality. In advanced democracies, candidates’ engagements through debates, interactions, and questions and answers sessions cannot be undermined. It is a huge step to separating bobo or zobo from real and realistic plans for the nation as it will expose each candidate’s reasoning and help electorates make the best decisions.

You see, the important thing is not how many people cast their votes but that most voters are informed. This means that there is a need for sensitization to enable citizens to identify bobos and zobos, as well as motivations to understand the country’s political variables. There is a need to stop bobos in the form of money or branded packs of kuli kuli, garri, salt, rice, and toothpicks to buy the conscience of voters at polling units. It is time for Nigerians to realize that four years are too precious to waste as it could mean selling the nation for the next 50 years due to the level of rot such a bobo government can bring.

It is time to say No Bobo! No Zobo!



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