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Like a visit to a doctor


Peter Brook, now 92 years old has published his latest thoughts theatre. He is the man who wrote The Empty Space. This book, published in 1968, was based on four lectures on four different theatres: the Deadly Theatre, the Holy Theatre, the Rough Theatre and the Immediate Theatre. His latest book is entitled Tip of the Tongue: Reflections on Language and meaning. Linking the theme of his first book with this latest book Peter Brook raises issues that should concern any artist of whatever expression.

How do we escape the banality of the obvious, the glibness of the outrage, the naivety of protest? In a situation when horror no longer horrifies, when scandal is no longer scandalous, shocking no longer shocks, where now is the weapon of the critical thinker, the writer, the painter, the drummer, the playwright, the singer, the musician?

This last Sunday, a man of 64 years of age went to the 32nd floor of a hotel with at least ten guns and thousands of bullets. Looking down on human beings enjoying a festival of country music, started shooting into that crowd of celebrants. In the process he killed 59 people, men, women, elders and children, people unknown to him. He killed them. And then, he killed himself. Why?


Everyday, on our roads, accidents, which are preventable occur. Reckless drivers, pot-holed roads, unmaintained vehicles driven by lunatics drunk on ogogoro and other raw alcohols, over-loaded buses, rush heedless into each other, run into trees in the forest, fly over culverts and bridges, taking the lives of hundreds of Nigerians away with their twisted wrecks.

Reports glut our newspapers everyday of obscene criminalities and more. Drivers killing their employers and running away with their vehicles. Child minders who Mind the children for their monetary gains by selling the children in their care to greater criminals for horrible things. Young men and women who plot their own kidnapping and demand mo eye that they share with their pretend kidnappers.

What about hospitals that born children for sale? Young girls paid to be pregnant for money and nothing else. End of motherhood? End of childhood?

What about natural disasters, amuwa Olorun, so to say. Deadly storms and hurricanes that wipe away years of human effort away in minutes. What about floods of water and of mud and sand carrying hapless humans away to their death as they flow along? And there are forest fires burning for weeks and consuming everything in its path. Winds and fresh air laugh at puny human efforts to put out these angry fires.

What about human conspiracies to create disasters and accidents and profit from them? Like the report of some people who stage motor accidents and make false claims on insurance companies. These persons are tempting chance and happenstance and they would end up paying dearly for their conspiracies. Devices and conspiracies that wish to harvest where they did not sow, what happens to them at the end of the day?

In the face of these litany of malevolent incidents natural and man-made, what happens to beauty, harmony, order, peace, joy, silence and tranquility, and quiet? These ideas persist, carried forward by those who persist. And those who persist, what weapons do they have to haul against all prophets of negativity? We cannot give up, is what Peter Brook says.

There will be rivalries. Hatred will exist. Meannesses will have their own spaces. So will fights. To prevail against them, humans must device institutions that will soothe these contrarinesses of human and natural beings. Institutions built with human words and sustained by human action, who has time for building institutions?

Human beings must build institutions. Then institutions will build men and women that would sustain civilised life on earth. Institutions for justice are the first on the drawing board because order is the first law in Heaven. Order should be the first law on earth. Procedures must be laid down. Processes must be enumerated and rituals must be sanctified. Then the right will get its rightness confirmed while the wrong would be chastised and corrected. And order will be restored.


It is against this background that I recall the sad ducking and diving we saw on television on the day that INEC arrived at the Senate to deliver a summons or such of the processes of the institutions of justice in this country. To watch a distinguished senator ducking and diving to avoid being served with judicial papers was sad, not funny. Even for a common criminal at Oja Jankara dodging law enforcement agencies, it would not be funny. For a member of the highest lawmaking body to be walking away, looking over his shoulders, trying to gauge how far he has to run to outrun justice is a sad spectacle. Someone who should aid in building an institution for justice was openly destroying that effort. It is difficult to imagine a greater disservice to a people and a nation.

It reminds us all of an incident during the presidency of Nelson Mandela. A certain man of rugby game sued the president both as president and as the person Nelson Mandela, accusing him of not applying his mind to a particular matter and so taking the wrong decision.

Members of the African National Congress high and low angrily advised the president not to mind the fellow. Who is he to sue the mighty Mandela? The president, they insisted, must not respond to the summons and must not go to court. Nelson Mandela being a builder of institutions rebuked his colleagues and followers. He asked them if we are not the ones setting up new courts different from apartheid courts? He wanted to know if it was alright for those building to be the ones wrecking the building at the same time. He went to court. He answered his accusers and won the case for the decision he took.

As Peter Brook says, it should be like visiting a doctor. We should feel better coming out than how we felt going in. Feeling better on the way out.


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