Nigerian politics as entertainment, like alawada, comedians
Imagine the following film\television set. When the director cries “Action!” an honourable member of the Nigerian House of Representatives dressed in blue babanriga stands up. He commands four well dressed women in the public gallery to stand up. He then addresses his fellow honourable members of the house to the effect that those four women are his wives. They have between them given him 27 children. He then goes on to boast of his legislative prowess in this house as well as in his house. He then challenges the members to ask any of the women about his power at home. When the speaker rises to respond the director shouts “Cut!”
Change of scene. The President of the country has arranged with the Prime Minister of Great Britain or of Australia or of Canada for a group of Nigerian legislators to attend a workshop on the “Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Possibilities of 5G”. All arrangements are made: flight, accommodation, entertainment, everything. The receiving ministry of industry is initial worried about the number of people coming from Nigeria. The office of the Nigerian President was not sure, maybe 100, perhaps 200. The hosts insisted on a number because here they need numbers to plan. Okay make it 200. After all Nigerian is paying for the two day workshop with two day tour of industrial locations throughout the country.
They are met at the airport VIP section and welcomed to the country. The number of participants were 295, 95 more than Nigeria had asked the hosts to prepare for. Not to worry. The minister has money to cover the extra number of people. They are checked into their five star hotel and the drama unfolds.
The following morning when the workshop was to commence the host minister was there and the host Prime Minister Or President says to let him know when the workshop had a break. He would come and say his welcome. They should not have worried. Not one person turned up for the workshop. Not the first day. Not the second day. On the third day the Nigerian President ordered the delegation back to Nigeria. More than half did not report at the VIP Lounge where they were expected.
The host security clusters had followed them all. They found that many took different parts of the country to hide until the workshop was over and they would then apply for asylum!
The rest went to the shops to buy heaps and heaps of cheap shoes, clothes, watches things of trade, plastics all in hundreds.
What they could not pay for they carried as hand luggage.
A report was filed saying what a successful workshop it had been.
Scene three: from about 1985 onwards at the end of General Buhari into General Babangida regimes Nigeria became impossible for qualified personnel to achieve possible professional accolades no matter how hard they worked. Doctors left the country. Nurses and other medical personnel left the country. Then academics left the country.
The government became worried as any responsible government should be when the best trained minds and bodies of their country were leaving for other countries as economic migrants. Which is not what they were called then. At that time they were called brain drain. By the time they had spent 20 years in exile and were returning to Nigeria to spend their retirement their totally untrained relations with no passports were trekking through the desert, swimming the Mediterranean Sea, crossing to anywhere in Europe.
Anyway, the government put together a committee to go to the different parts of the world that the brains of Nigeria had drained to and find out why Nigerians went there. They were to talk to the Nigerians there why they were there and the people of the country why Nigerians were there. Their reports should help the government to formulate policies that would keep Nigerians in Nigeria.
The different committees left for their different parts of the world. Nobody among the members of the committee came back. Therefore no reports.
Seriously speaking, is any of the three scenes here presented funny? Funny ha-ha or funny hmmm? Like you are not sure?
There is one of two ways to look at these three scenes: they are either comic presentations or else tragic presentations. First as comedy. But it is comedy of a special sort – comedy of the absurd.
A member of an elected House of Representatives supposed to make laws for the country displaying his wives and children to his fellow elected representatives must look and sound absurd. In the second scene a group of people asked to go for one purpose who went for another is pure absurdity. And the third scene relates to the second in that again people sent to go for one purpose arrived for different purposes. In the meantime we are all waiting for the people of the country to begin to get out of the absurdity and do the right thing.
Which is why the other view of tragedy comes in. Tragedy has many definitions. There is one in Chinua Achebe’s No Longer at Ease which goes thus: a bowl of wormwood from which one drinks world without end. This kind of tragedy has no reprieve. It has no room for the flair and creativity of the player. The tragedy we hope for here, neighbour of the companion comedy above is where there is a flaw in a character. It leads to misbehaviour and the misbehaviour leads to tragedy of the above scenes. As soon as we have corrected the flaw in that character we would have fixed our problem.
If we look at our situation as comedy we would do nothing about it. The ensuing laughter will exhausts us as it has done us for decades. If we look at our situation the Achebean way, we are lost forever with no possibility of any form of redemption. If we look at our situation as one of a temporary flaw then there is salvation yet for us. We will correct our flaw and go forward with new energy and bold inspiration. So, let’s stop laughing and get down to work.
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