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The chameleon’s attitude


Watch the chameleon; it knows how to blend with the environment. Watch the man; he doesn’t know how to blend with the environment. Man unlike the chameleon doesn’t understand his political, technological, social, legal, economic, educational and internal environment.

The chameleon can change its colour from green, to yellow, pink, red, orange, brown, black, etc., etc., when the need arises, when we were young; many times we almost harvested chameleons together with okra on our farms during harvest. You never knew they were there. They blended quite well with the colour of the plants.

This lady was promoted to a manager in her office and  her colleagues at work began to give her the Gallic shrug, only because she asked for help in carrying out her job responsibilities’ and revealed her vulnerabilities to them. They make sneering remarks that she isn’t competent to lead them and might have got the position some other way. “How can she not know anything, be promoted and ask us for help on how to work? They ridicule behind her back.


I told her that the major mistake she made was not applying the chameleon philosophy.She needed to have studied her organizational culture beforehand, is her environment one that supports openness and empowers people to lead or an environment of competition where smugness and deviousness are part of the job descriptions of all staffers? No organization survives when the latter is the in-built culture.

Knowing the prevailing culture would have guided her by the book on the way to relate with her colleagues. She could then decide to become ‘Athena’ and be open to share worries, ask for collaboration or act like a ‘Queen Bee’ and hide all fears, give marching orders, master everything alone and become miss-know-it-all, nothing wrong in fakery in this circumstance.

Even love can be faked until one feels it. You don’t have to love your boss to work with and for him but you must work with him and it is better to fake loving him so you can work with him with ease, caveat though is that you might love him eventually. So tread carefully, but there is nothing wrong in loving so long as it is love the right way.

I see some poor people acting foolishly and insecurely in the presence of the rich. It angers me. To be born poor is no crime and to be born into a rich home is only a privilege and not an achievement. Some are luckier in life than others. When the poor find themselves in the presence of the rich, they need to behave like the chameleon. Act like the rich, but not by trying to outspend the rich in buying activities for they cannot but by carrying self as crowned heads, as proud as the coxcomb.

Royalty makes a man. Poor people who carry themselves royally end up being royals in achievement. This plumber was owed NGN1, 200 balance for job done for the rich in his hotel and was asked to return the next day for it. But he chose to substitute the money for alcohol, before the owner of the hotel and me he drank six bottles of beer, the monetary equivalent of his balance and the rich man took judicial notice. He did this in one hour. How very poor in spirit can some poor people be?

I see some rich people acting stupidly when they visit the homes of poor people, on exceptional occasion when they venture to, after the passing away to eternal glory of someone they knew or at marriage ceremonies. When water and food are offered as is customary to guests, they shun it. What is even worse is that they do not reject it tactfully.

You can see the, “this food is beneath me appearance on their faces.”
They fear typhoid, dysentery and other sickness associated with water and food from poor people. They forget the chameleon philosophy and refuse to drink water offered and eat the food presented merrily, they need to eat and act like they enjoy it even though the rapidity of serving to the mouth may belief the impression, and after which they should go home and take some antibiotics. How very poor in spirit can some rich people be? What is nonplusing is that some of the rich who just stumbled into richness yesterday, those who were very poor yesterday act out the disdainful script to the poor more than some of those born into wealth?

The poor scarcely forgive wrong that bothers on discrimination on their status. The chameleon philosophy can help the rich be in the good books of the poor, that is if the rich care, they should because they are lonelier in the real sense than the poor and need the company of the poor more than the company of rich people. Rich people massage the ego of rich people, they walk on eggshells – they do not tell truth to each other. They go to battle without firing their guns. But most poor people do not have anything to lose; they say it as it is, they shoot from the hip. When the rich find themselves in the company of the poor, they should act poor.

I am no moral guardian.
Just one time in his marriage and without warning, this man behaved like our ancestors. Our forebears had rules they worked with and they seemed to live longer. Wives in their monthly curse do not cook their food; they didn’t also share any physical intimacy with them on those days.  They had separate rooms from their wives and their wives tasted every dish presented to them, even sipped water offered.

“Love overcomes all things and husbands should love their wives and take them into confidence in everything.”He played this lovely script to the latter, after marriage and never ducked out.Then one day, the chameleon in him took charge.His wife served dinner and he asked her dotingly for the very first time to taste it before he could venture to eat. She lovingly avoided tasting the food and hubby got suspicious.


“Taste the food as is customary,” but she would hear none of it, after all that has never been the practice these many years.
“Eat a portion of the food you served right now,” he barked.Then she dared him, “if you don’t want to eat then forget about it, when you are hungry you will eat.” And she left the room.He called in officers of the law and madam became frightened.

These officers became his guest for the night and the food was offered to one of the dogs and moments later, the dog began to bark, wanting to run out of hell, seeking help for it was in trouble, and died. The man is yet to recover from the shock. Surprisingly he asked that legal action should not be taken. They both have grown up children in public service and he wouldn’t want the bad attitude of their mother to come to public light and embarrass the children but they went their separate ways.

But for the chameleon philosophy which he applied, just once since he married he would have taken the place of the dead dog.
Had he died, no-one might have known the cause of his death: for there is nothing like a royal inquiry in Nigeria, no coroner’s inquest and autopsy is a waste of time for many people. The only available option is to find out using ‘Juju.’
•Abah writes from Abuja


In this article:
Simon Abah
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