The dog fight
There is a dog fight going on not over a dog but over the name of a dog. There is a second hand clothes trader called Joe Fortemose Chinakwe or Joachim Iroko depending on which of the two names makes you bark. He lives in a seedy part of Sango Ota in Ogun State where a large number of Hausas from Nigeria and Niger also live. According to Saturday Vanguard of August 20, 2016, he owns a dog which was initially called Bully but whose name he changed to Buhari. Although there are many Buharis in the world the best known Buhari today is the one who lives in Aso Rock, Abuja and runs the affairs of Nigeria as its President, Muhammadu Buhari. He was a military Head of State 1984 – 1985 and came back as an elected President on May 29, 2015.
Mr. Chinakwe not only called his dog Buhari but he wrote the name on the right and left side of the dog and allegedly paraded the dog around his community. One Nigerien saw the dog and got angry that Chinakwe named his dog after his own father, Alhaji Buhari. Some of the other Hausas in the area queried why he would name the dog after the President. They reported the matter to the police who themselves are familiar with the dog business considering that they use them to track down criminals. As Chinakwe explained perhaps unconvincingly: “I love the name so much I decided to give it to my dog. Neighbours give names of dogs in the neighbourhood like Obama, Clinton.” He said “the President is a hero. He is a man that inspires people. He attempted to be President three times and got it at the fourth time. He is a role model.”
Chinakwe, this is sweet nonsense. But why didn’t you name your dog that you love so much after your wife or your child? Or why didn’t you give the name Buhari to your wife or your child or yourself? This is bull crap. A man who takes the trouble of writing a name twice on the body of a dog and takes it on a tour of his community is acting mischievously.
It is not a show of love for the person after whom the dog is named. It is simply an insult. If you give the name of an animal to a human being, it is generally regarded as an insult. Muhammed Ali called his fiercest opponent Joe Frazier, a gorilla when they had their third boxing bout in Manilla. Frazier never forgave him until he died. In fact, during the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1998 when Ali was lighting the Olympic torch his hand shaking from the Parkinson’s disease, he had Frazier said he wished that the fire would consume him.
It is well known that Olusegun Obasanjo, the President who brought Goodluck Jonathan into the Federal power axis by making him Vice President had fallen out with his godson towards the end of his regime. He wrote a toxic letter to President Jonathan making some unproven allegations. The relationship had deteriorated to the level that he named Jonathan’s wife, Patience, as a co-president in his book, My Watch. There is an allegation that Obasanjo later donated a Chimpanzee to a zoo. He called the animal Patience and most people assumed that even though many women in Nigeria answer that name the one that Obasanjo aimed his missile at must be the one that was Nigeria’s flamboyant and intrusive First Lady.
When there was an altercation between Daniel Dino Melaye, the iconoclastic senator from Kogi State and Remi Tinubu, the elegant senator from Lagos State, there was reportedly an exchange of insults between them. Melaye who has a foul reputation with women reportedly called Tinubu a “bonga fish” while Tinubu, an even tempered lady, called him a “dog”. In this part of the world, when someone is called a dog it means he is randy or wayward and I suspect that is the meaning Tinubu wanted to convey. So in general, calling a man a dog’s name is no compliment in our part of the world. The reason is that animals including dogs are not respected here. They are only killed and eaten.
Maybe Chinakwe truly sees Buhari as a role model but he didn’t quite know how to express it. To do what he did in a community filled with a Sai Buhari crowd was manifestly insensitive. The Sai Buhari crowd is an emotional, not rational, crowd. When Buhari lost the election in 2011 they went haywire breaking and burning anything and everything in sight including human beings. Buhari as a President evokes varying reactions in the populace. Some admire him for his simplicity, honesty and tenacity. Some criticise him for his rigidity, ethnocentrism or his insularity. These qualities, positive or negative, bring out the fire in the belly of his critics and admirers. In any democracy, a President can get taunted, abused or insulted. It is not an acceptable practice but it is done because conflict is the raw material for politics and governance. It is part of the territory and any person who decides to go into the kitchen must tolerate the offensive smell of onions.
I must say that the police handling of the matter was an exhibition of excess. According to Chinakwe he was chained hands and feet and even though his wife brought food for him they refused him access to her. Neither did they offer him any meal. They simply starved him. What the man did can be classified simply as vulgar abuse. The police could simply have given him a slap on the wrist, and told him to sign a statement to be of good behaviour and then release him to return to his Bend Down Market (BDM). The police can also reduce the drama around the incident, by warning those who have threatened to kill Chinakwe that their threat is criminal. They, too, must be made to sign a statement to keep the peace. An insult to anyone including a president should not attract a death penalty.
But why should a dog be given a bad name or a man be given a dog’s name? Don’t let us treat a dog badly because a dog is a good animal, a faithful ally, a guardian angel and a whistle blower. It alerts you about an unwanted intruder and about the wolf in sheep’s clothing. When you are asleep it is awake to ensure that when you wake up you will find things the way they were when you went to bed. When you are awake it is also awake. Its minimum strength is in its bark. Its maximum strength is in its bite. With that combination of a bark and a bite, your dog does the needful when the occasion calls for it.
A dog is more sensitive and more loyal than humans. It does not betray its owner. It is diligent, that is why the police and other security organisations use it to detect crime. It does not take bribe. You may hit it with a bone but it still does its job without any compromise. It is an animal that ought to be adored. I adore my own. The food I eat is what I give to my dog and the bonding between us is surreal. It kneels down humbly to welcome me when I get home and I caress it admiringly knowing that when I was away it was an effective sentry on guard duty.
In the United States all its presidents keep a dog which is christened First Dog of the United States. President Barack Obama has one called Sunny. It was born on June 11, 2012, a female Portuguese Water Dog. He, his wife, Michelle and their two children enjoy Sunny’s company and speak fondly of it. The interest in pets is nothing of interest to Nigerian leaders. I know of no Nigerian President who kept a dog as a pet. If anyone of them kept it he kept that information strictly out of the public’s consciousness. Maybe Buhari should buy one dog and name it Chinakwe as evidence of mutual admiration or sweet revenge.