Saturday Life Lines By Seye Arowolo

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Our National Comedy Series

On the 6th of August 2012, I posted on my Facebook wall, “Nigeria: A country of comedians in government”.  8 years after, neither the comedy nor the tragedy has abated.  Laughter is definitely good medicine in Nigeria (the country of the supposed happiest people on the earth) and that is why the stand-up comic sector keeps expanding with the entry of new acts almost on a daily basis.  Thus when the monstrous, the unbelievable, the incredible happens and you expect the most severe outrage from Nigerians, what you get are memes and plenty of GIFs on social media turning a serious issue of incompetent leadership into a comic relief of tragic proportions.

Take for instance the NDDC inquiry at the House of Representatives and the mindboggling revelations by the Minister of Niger-Delta, the enduring take away has been, “Honourable Minister, Off Your Mic…” and the fact that the acting Managing Director of NDDC “fainted” under the barrage of questions as an attempt to relieve the pressure and avert further embarrassment. 

One is not sure whether we are getting better or worse at these ridiculous cop out tactics.  At times one wonders at the veracity of such statements as,” the more things change, the more they stay the same”. 

Those of us who were nurtured on that famous Yoruba primary schools’ textbooks, “Alawiye” by the late venerable author, Joseph Folahan Odunjo, encountered many remarkable tales that you will naturally consider farfetched.  But not anymore with some of the “gymnastics” of the past 60 years from those who appear to have soiled their hands with the country’s patrimony. 

Until Andrew Yakubu and other distinguished suspects who buried money in overhead tanks, soak-aways and lately graveyards (“owo iboji” aye o!), the story of a man who hid significant amount of cowries in a pot and buried same in a farmland appeared preposterous at the time. These strange storehouses were effectively dramatized in Kemi Adetiba’s “King of Boys”.

The story of the tortoise who stole a measure of porridge and hid same under his cap and thereby scald his scalp making him bald, remained the kind of story restricted to the animal kingdom until Honourable Farouk Lawan stuffed his cap with a portion of the $600K he collected from Femi Otedola whilst keeping the remainder in his billowing babariga!

This is a tragedy of the Nigerian State where the man who picks the pocket of a fellow citizen for whatever reason is the “thief” and will languish in jail whilst his counterpart who has helped himself to billions in both local and foreign currencies is strutting about with impugnity running down the clock of an inquiry that will soon become a charade and lapse. 

This is an aspect of the problem I have recalibrated as, “Acquired Value Deficiency Syndrome (AVDS)”.  It is a disease that originated from the failure of government to engage in actions that make the citizens to appreciate that their welfare is the focus of government; that provides assurance that government is thinking about their problems/challenges and doing something to ameliorate their plight morning day and night.

This failure creates opportunities for those who play politics of intervention, politics of patronage, politics of deception, politics of the belly to enslave certain important but vulnerable segments of the society. It is AVDS that sustained Late Chief Adedibu’s brand of politics: “Amala Politics”; Ayodele Fayose’s “stomach infrastructure” and all those political coinages born out of greed for public purse but deceptively presented as love for the masses.

And whenever anyone engages in actions which reinforce a culture of perpetual dependence by the less privileged or the vulnerable class among our people, he is spreading AVDS.  So when you see anyone who has done what is agreed not to be right, engaged in gross misconduct or misbehaviour, shameful acts at local, state or national level but his relatives, kinsmen etc are carrying placards, placing advertorials in the newspapers in his support etc, this is AVDS. The whole nation is infected with this deadly moral disease. It is simply because of a failure of a system that cannot dispense justice, fairness and equity without reference to where a man comes from, who he is or what he is; a system where those who stage multi-billion naira frauds are granted judicial bails while pick pockets are jailed 50 years!

Where Are You Now?

I was introduced to Emile Durkheim when I took an elective course in Sociology during my undergraduate days.  That was just yesterday. 

My fascination with Sociology is out of appreciation of the focus of its inquiry; which is society and its condition.  For instance, Durkheim’s seminal monograph, Suicide (1897) was a study of suicide rates in Catholic and Protestant populations. 

This pioneered modern social research and served to distinguish social science from psychology and political philosophy.  For his contributions to Sociology, he is considered the Father of Sociology.  In my view, Solomon would be his grandfather because of his seminal submissions in Ecclesiastes.

It is interesting how all of life’s achievements, qualifications, position, credentials, privileges, benefit, training, name it, are summed up in the question: “where are you now”?

Take for instance, you run into your classmates (which happens so frequently), after the usual exchange of felicitations/salutations and catching up on old days naturally this question surfaces “where are you now?”

It does not matter whether or not in times past you were not known to be the brightest, first class, 2’1, 2’2, 3rd class or pass!  Even the profession of faith is not shielded from exposure to this query. Imagine, you are boasting that you have known the Lord more than 10 years or more ago, the query must arise: “where are you now?” or when you point to someone and claim he is your boy, you may not escape the query: “where are you now?”

This question at times is a short hand for saying that the enterprise or transaction is about your current state and not storytelling as in tales by moonlight. 

Whatever the position you have occupied or your status in life (political, social, academic, spiritual etc), you must brace up to face this question always: “Where are you now?”

This is the summation of life’s struggles.

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com