The architecture and technology of discipline
Anyone who has passed through the arrival hall at our premier international airport in Lagos recently would notice that the structure of arrival does not permit crowding and milling.
A narrow path with guard rails leads to the passport control.
Here, the architecture of discipline has tamed the hurry-hurry, rush-rush na-me-alone-get-road mentality that rules Nigeria and Nigerians.
And anyone who has been to a football stadium in Britain or South Africa would not but marvel at how thousands of football fans, week after week, gather at these altars of ball worshippers, are managed in and out safely from and to their homes.
This is not to say that these places of worship of youth stamina and feet dexterity have not had tragedies of crowding and milling leading to collapse of seats and fences.
But like the Murtala Muhammad International Airport, the operators and managers of mass discipline learn to apply the architecture and technology that conduces to discipline and the good behaviour of masses.
Such management prevents masses from becoming unruly crowds beyond control and available to ant tragedy waiting to happen.
Over the years, it has become painfully obvious that our managers of masses are plainly stupid and ignorant. They have no business managing people in large numbers since they cannot guarantee safety of limbs and personal property at such gatherings.
The most recent such mismanaged gatherings are the presidential inauguration in Abuja, the enthroning of the Ooni of Ife and the swearing in of the New governor of the State of Osun in Osogbo.
All were marked by rowdiness, milling and ultimately rough-handling of everybody – ordinary people with ordinary invitation cards or entry tickets, extra-ordinary people VVIPs with gold-decked special invitation cards to exclusive enclosures.
In one particular case at the enthronement of the Ooni of Ife, a royal father was pinned against the gate by milling crowds contesting entrance with his imperial royal majesty.
At Osogbo those attending this civil celebration of our democratic process were put under unbearable stress.
In many cases, people alarmed at the potential damage possible simple withdrew from the whole event.
Yet, we all know that things can be better-managed to go as smoothly as spreading magazine over bread. Why then do things not go well with us in management of masses?
In planning these festivals and markets of mass gatherings our planners need to think differently. They need to think that wherever two or three Nigerians are gathered there is a market.
The market is central to our gathering. Or rather, the Market is our life’s philosophy. We even state as a fundamental of our earthly existence: this life is a market, after-life is home. This earth is not our home but our market place.
Yet, fundamental as Market is to our soul, our planning – town and Country planning, events planning, party planning, any planning that brings Nigerians together for a few seconds, like on the roads and highways of the country, or for longer times like at sports and games and entertainment venues, must begin with the market. The thinking must continue with the idea of a market. It must end with the thought of a Market. For us everything is a market.
At Osogbo, sitting outside the cement block fence of about three metres high one saw a moving market.
There were various food items on sale – cooked maize, advertised as steaming hot, popcorn, do-nuts, sweets, honey in glass and plastic bottles, pure water, spring cold water in plastic bottles of various sizes including some carrying the images of the new governor, candies, melting ice cream in the humid temperature, kuli-kuli, fresh onions in wheel barrows, beans in wheel barrows, rice in wheel barrows, ripe plantain on the heads of young boys and girls.
Think of any food to eat immediately or to go home to cook, they were there.
There were present in the car park school children wandering around, in their never fitting uniforms, young men in ill-fitting suits and red ties and shoes with slack pairs of socks limp outside the shoes.
Young girls and women dressed to the nines for this occasion. One in particular went about, followed by a less dressy companion girl taking photographs of the well-dressed as she posed against fancy cars only, such as Pan-cake flat sports cars, humongous SUVs and Range Rovers of varying shapes.
She was tall, slim, trim and smiling all the time. She would mimic leaning against them. She would mimic coming out of the, looking out of them… There was a thirty-something woman with a baby on her back and a girl carrying a plastic bag following her as she picked up discarded plastic bottles, empty cans of coke and cans of other drinks.
There were instant shoe repairers hammering away on their wooden boxes to arrest customers. And there were sellers of pairs of new leather sandals and slippers.
There were men with piles of traditional cloth caps going from individuals to individuals, inviting them to buy a cap or two. And women selling gaudy undies and simi. A young girl would approach with a tray of kola nut and bitter kola.
There were beggars of various descriptions and deformities. Which is another Nigerian fundamental belief: any deformity means you are destined for the distinguished career of begging. And didn’t the poet say “to beg is to bag/not is to lag”? Where else can you better beg except in the Market place of the inauguration of the new governor?
There were also the various security clusters of police, army, paramilitary, mopol, road safety, and many others with uniforms of varied colours, all securing nada, nothing.
Finally, there are the thieves and pickpockets. These are the people who are never reckoned with but whose attendances at these events are only noted later.
This would be after so many cell phones have been lost, myriads of wallets and purses gone missing and moneys in pockets would have disappeared.
So, the market is behind everything. Everybody is there. And there for completely different purposes.
It is, therefore, necessary for those who plan these events to ensure that it is what they have come to do there that is paramount.
By using the architecture and technology of discipline planners can ensure that inauguration and enthronement are what happens. Everything else must be merely secondary.