Nigeria’s special fools
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Cowards with columns pass as men of valour. I am a columnist and perhaps a coward. But you would never know. You could never tell if I am true to the calling or just another character pushing pen and idle rant to make ends meet.
It is never my intent to arrogate to myself some blundering heroism or self-abnegating priesthood, there is too many of my ilk doing that. I write to vex your ego and caress it, as your prejudices dictate. I write to contend and affirm those defining moments in which you have discovered me to be a coward or villain, time and over again.
Nigeria has taught me that heroism is overrated, villainy could be relative and cowardliness is a virtue, where perverted will consorts with ill.
You are entitled to whatever you think of me. And I am entitled to what random thought I deem worthy of your readership – knowing the tenor of my rant inadvertently guides you to define me. So, if I am your hero, I believe you think too much of me. If I am your villain or contemptible coward, I guess it pleases you.
But if you consider me to be an idiot, I hope you finally get to understand that no one can be a Nigerian without being in the strictest sense, an idiot. The average Nigerian is a special fool. The higher his status, the more adroit he is in perpetuating his folly. But this is hardly flak for the Nigerian fool in high places. It has always been his luck to find some greater fool to admire him. This is about the greater fool.
This is about men and women whose nerves are disoriented and moral fiber, handicapped. This is about men and women presumably of higher learning and good breeding. Those extraordinary Nigerians by whose talent and individuality, Nigeria customarily channels pride and banalities of a better tomorrow.
This is about the Nigerian columnist, the one whose dazzling intellectualism Moliere’s riposte of the knowledgeable fool fittingly substantiates.
Today, the Nigerian columnist grovels at the feet of the ruling class, like mongrels. Today, we recognize the stench of the looter with the fattest envelope and our trained eyeballs hardly misses the deep pocket with the promising smile.
In our calling, there are still no-go areas. We can never question religion save the instances we get to castigate one faith to elevate another, in the heat of poverty-induced pogroms we have learnt to call ‘religious crises and ‘politics.’
Need I say people are simply hungry? They are jobless too. That is why they become willing muscles to criminal masterminds. The labourer still goes home with heavy steps, and the heart of the casual worker resuming night shift shrivels desolately, like fresh mutton sautéed with local gin. Even the newborn arrives sorrow-clad; he wishes that he had waited till never.
Within this cheerlessness, the masses stare resignedly at our cover pages with knowing glares. They know they would never hear the infinitesimal clangour of chilled truth neither shall they enjoy the comfort of temperate hope because we have become the aberration of their desperate circumstances.
Yet we pride ourselves as national heroes. Noble intellectuals and men and women of letters. Such is the wonder of a newspaper column; it goads too many of us columnists to think too highly of ourselves.
Add to the mix, a mass of fawning, frosty readership and you have a perfect cocktail that makes a narcissist and lapdog of even the most modest journalist.
How far we evolve depends on the quality of citizenship exhibited by the most patronizing and hostile audience. Yet it would never do to lay the blame for what we have become on society. That would be tantamount to perpetuating the “Nigerian factor” – that ageless pretext we have learnt to incite every time we fall short of measure.
Are we truly great and heroic? Are we uncommon, high-cultivated men and women of letters; stout seekers of truth and shiners of hope?
We claim: ‘If we are no heroic shiners of light, it’s because our readers aren’t heroic seekers of it.” True, most columnists live to fight monstrosities visited on us by the ruling class because they covet the beauty of ‘stomach infrastructure’ as their teeming readership.
Columnists live to echo the cynicism and intolerable disloyalty of all manners of readership. And many a reader lives to applaud such treachery because it is politically correct to do so. The result is the gang of conscienceless and duplicitous citizenry that we have. Thus Nigeria embellishes truths into absurdities and bad lies.
Every day, we fail our people with shame we do not feel. We have become the stamen that lets down the azalea, the comforter that brings grief, the emissaries of needless hate. We have become slaves to the tyrants we ought to remove. Did we fight the military to a standstill so that we may become their instruments when they turned democratic tyrants?
We offer no direction save our shenanigans in the interest of the ruling class. Today every columnist seeks friends in high places but then, we are only being Nigerian. It’s time we inspired by the wisdom of sages from whose ashes we struggle to rise.
Let us put heart to what our pens intone. Let us become the conscience of the ruling class and the pulse of the breadlines lest we become dead to future generations; lest they never get to read of our selfless beginnings and know of the noon that confused us and the sunset of our debauchery.
If we fail to change, our twilight will malign us. And in death, we shall lay rapt in lowly graves, our ears keen for the least abrasive diatribe we may get to treasure as the eulogies we never had.
Let us brighten our world with truth. Let us imbue it with wisdom and deep delight.