The Debasement Of Everything – Trouble
HE was king over a dirty city, over a population of people who had their baths once in three years and over a place where wisdom has disappeared. He was, in fact, a descendant of a multiplicity of idiots, as their traditional title bore witness Omugodimeji, Oba Ilu Edidare, (Idiot To Power Two King Of The City Of Edidare).
We find the king sitting on a tumble down wall, part of the dilapidated ‘palace’ walls, playing ‘ayo’ alone and losing the game! He is dressed in an under-pant/apron with chest bare and a long cap favoured by hunters who use the elongation to hide their tobacco as well as their conjuring pouches. When those encountering him did not recognise him for what he thought he was, a king, he lambasts them:
You who have eyes and don’t use them! Is the way I’m seated on this broken wall not majestic enough for a king? Is it my under-pant/apron that does not proclaim my imperial majesty? What about my crown, have you seen the equal of it on the head of any monarch? And my palace, where in the world would you encounter such an abode of a mighty emperor? Look at my city, the best in the world. You come here and you do not know who I am, you are not equipped to recognise majesty and the dignity of imperial power.
This is a scene from a novel by D.O. Fagunwa, a novel written in Yoruba and published in the 1950s. Which would mean that even at that time, Nigerians were already on the road to debasing everything they encountered while incapable of seeing the addition of impurity and inferior material to everything they do. There was a report in the newspapers about the importation and/or production of sub-standard iron rods. There had been reports of the production and/or importation of sub-standard cement. Both these lead to substandard buildings that collapse on worshippers, and shoppers and school pupils. And because of sub-standard justice, nobody is punished for the crime.
Campaigns are then mounted to ensure that sub-standard iron rods must not be produced or imported, sub-standard cement must not be produced or imported. And the campaigns fail. It would seem that every Nigerian wants a stop to the importation and production of sub-standard iron rods and cement.
Yet, the minute someone is found who has been making huge money producing, importing, distributing and growing rich on these sub-standard products, cries go up asking for him to be forgiven. Or else lawyers, senior lawyers for that matter, in spite of new laws prohibiting such demands, rush to willing judges to file suits protesting the human rights of these criminals and demanding that they be not questioned about their crimes, they be not stopped from continuing to commit same; they be not brought to court to defend themselves. A veritable multiplicity of idiots, in the language of Fagunwa, making money from preventing criminals from answering for their crimes.
Given the fact that the same criminals also campaign against criminals! When a corrupt politician proclaims his or her determination to fight corruption what does he or she mean? There is a wonderful performance done under cover where one human being recreates himself as two creatures fighting one another. The fight goes on for some time and then, slowly the cloth cover is lifted and we see that it is one man alone who had contorted himself in two and was fighting himself for our entertainment! How did he do it? But to campaign against sub-standard iron rods and cement is not to see, like the king of Edidare, the extent of the rot in which the country is in.
What about sub-standard medicines and drugs? Ms. Akunyili, may her soul rest in peace, told the story of when she was made to head the NDLEA. She was approached by those who benefit from sub-standard drugs and told that they would come to an understanding with her. They would import ten containers of sub-standard drugs. They would let her arrest one container, make all the noise possible with police and so on while they kept the remaining ten. She would not have such a deal and they molested her to the point of attempting to assassinate her.
What about sub-standard universities, universities that have no legal existence offering sub-standard degrees to sub-standard students? And sub-standard professors and lecturers, self-publishers of their own journals in which their own learned articles are published to be peer-reviewed by sub-standard colleagues. All of them like Kokumo (child who will no longer die) and his mother deceiving themselves. Or like the farmer who cultivated two hundred heaps of yam and boasts that he cultivated two thousand. When he finishes eating the harvest of the two hundred heaps, he will now face the emptiness of the eight hundred. Which is why it is possible to list the best eight hundred universities in the world and not one is from Nigeria.
Where do you begin the repair of things and people who are sub-standard? What do you do to sub-standard pastors who menace those they are supposed to succour? What about sub-standard political leaders? Where do you begin? Those who do creative writing are usually advised that they have one of three choices to tell their stories. They could begin at the beginning with name and place of birth and who the parents were, all that David Copperfield kind of thing! Or they could begin in the middle of the story, in medias res, if the Latin be pardoned.
Today, mother died. Or maybe, yesterday. I received a telegram from the Home saying mother died. Burial tomorrow. Or the narrator could start at the end. And so they lived happily after. Anyone who would deal with the rot of sub-standardness in Nigeria must begin somewhere and nobody should complain that the person is being selective. You have to select and begin from somewhere, from something, from somebody. Those are the choices before a sub-standard country!