The return of trouble – Part 1
Reality And Its Mirror
The mirror is a poor reflection of the reality. The mirror is a distortion of the reality. In a small town on the drive to the university village of Akungba, there is a bend in the road. At that bend, every fifth day, there is a market full of farm products to fill the massive trucks and other vehicles to the brim and more. Yams, plantains, cassava, oranges, lemons, vegetables, kola nuts and leaves in abundance the way only the rain-drenched tropics can produce them. The day after the market day, if the market place is not swept, the leftover of this abundance tires the goats and the sheep and the dogs that scavenge on these wasted food items. To the right, at the bend, as your groan over another sleeping policeman, (humps, speed breakers, built by the towns people to stop Nigerian drivers from killing their children, their elderly and their dogs and goats as they speed through the small town), to the right is an incomplete structure, an arc over a rough untarred road of rather irregular surface. Here and there on that road, to the right and to the left, are mud buildings covered with ageing corrugated iron sheets. Written in mixed upper and lower cases the following two words decorate the extremes of the arc: Oloba’s Palace.
Golden halls, shining marble floors, ornate towering structures, spires and cupolas, anything and everything grandiose is what the word ‘palace’ conjures. And double Olympic swimming pools under moonlight within the palace is what the word ‘palace’ conjures. Alexander Palace in St. Petersburg, The Taj Mahal in India, Buckingham Palace in London with a few Rolls Royce cars parked in front are the images of palaces around the word. Yet, here in the small town of Oba Akoko, on the way to the university village of Akungba is the ‘palace’ of the Oloba of Oba Akoko Kingdom, HRM (His Royal Majesty) the All Consuming Ruler of Oba Akoko Kingdom. And behold as his majesty appears, we see a ‘crown’ of cloth with painted gold and studs of yellow iron on his head. Around his neck the weighty red beads strung with transparent string. On his royal feet are fresh animal uncured leather hand sewn sandals decked with diamond-looking pieces. The movement of his majesty is slow, heavy and ponderous befitting the ruler of such a kingdom as this. And in his hands a staff made of the ancient and ever living iroko tree. The mirror of the royalties around the world. The distorting mirror of a grand reality.
Worship of God inspires the building of structures befitting the allmightyness of the Lord of Hosts. All along the highways of the southwestern parts of the country are the physical responses to the inspiration. The names of the churches are myriad and they are plentiful in their variety. In the naming the word ‘international’ must appear in spite of the word ‘worldwide’ being there. The Bible might or might not be part of the name of the church. Mountain is important just as ‘ori oke’ top of the hill is also good. Solution, Miracle, Possibility, Victory and Fire are also choice words to work into the title and name of the church. At the gates of such celestial locations of solution, victory, miracles, fire and mountains we might encounter cathedrals and basilicas made of mud and common firewood. And on such arches across the gate we read Here Be Heaven on Earth. Inside we find cattle sheds covered hurriedly with tarpaulin or corrugated iron sheets re-circled or re-cycled from abandoned warehouses. Like the palace at Oba Akoko, how cathedral or basilica are these places of mass worship?
What about our palaces of knowledge, of political decisions, of economic activities, where are they in the mirror? Cathedrals and basilicas of ordinariness, of mud and firewood? No wonder our language has also suffered delimitation and reduction in meaning and intention. Our proverbs now are proverbs promoting compromise over principle, acceptance of inferior things over striving for superior things. Our ministry of sports does not expect our sports men and women to be winners. Compromise and acceptance have become the order of the day.
There is a narrative in El-Rufai’s memoir ‘The Accidental Public Servant’ sometimes described as controversial. Here is El-Ruffin on his book: “I have nothing to gain by expressing honest opinions about policies, processes and persons. Indeed, personally, I stand to lose a lot from writing this book. I have written it because I believe it will contribute in some way to make our leaders more accountable and our country to function even slightly better.”
Whatever. We are on the issue of our proverbs certifying compromise and acceptance of the lowest of low moral positions. The narrative speaks of the small quarrel between President Obasanjo and his Vice-President Atiku. In the process, President Obasanjo is narrated as prostrating to Vice-President Atiku. This is an act of absolute submission and surrender. It is an act in which the one who prostrates tenders to the one prostrated to absolute submission, surrender and apology for whatever. In the narrative El-Rufai needed explanation from President Obasanjo. The reply is the Yoruba proverb, of which I was ignorant until I read in El-Rufai’s memoir to the effect that if we prostrate to the dwarf, lower ourselves to his level, it does not follow that we are shorter than him when we stand up and terminate our prostration. A proverb to validate compromise. Yet, we may be taller physically but morally we are dwarves. There is the other one as well, about cheating when cheating is available. And the other one about peeing on yourself when you have been in the rain because no one will know. Compromise and acceptance of lower standards of behaviour.
Awareness of palaces, cathedrals and basilicas of excellence and the mirror of distortion of these values. Majesties and kings over little villages of mud and firewood. What do our young aspire to?