About a decade ago, my piece “The greatest wonder” appeared on this page in the Weekly Trust edition of Saturday December 29, 2009. In that piece, I argued how mankind remains the greatest amongst all things we consider amazing, wonderful or fantastic on earth, natural as well as artificial. This time around, some scenarios that are peculiar to Nigeria will comparatively be discussed.
The way in which some brands of vehicles are used in the transportation of animals is quite amazing. In other places, for example, cows are normally transported in lorries and trailers even when the number involved is small. In Nigeria, it is normal to see two big cows (not calves) loaded into the booth of a Golf (saloon) car. How such big animals are taken into the booth of a small car still sounds incredible to me. Someone told me he had even seen a cow been transported on a motor-cycle! I didn’t want to accept this initially but I had to believe in what he told me because Nigeria is a place where incredible things happen. Transporters who carry two or three cows in a small car care less about the natural rights of animals. To them, cows should be handled anyhow because they are cows; animals. You cannot convince this group of transporters that animals deserve comfort even in haulage.
In developed climes, policemen and women have the singular responsibility of protecting lives and property. They provide security for all citizens; safeguard public institutions and property, just as they also have the primary mandate to ensure peace and order in the society. Conversely, the police in Nigeria have added their fraction of aberration to the list of amazingly abnormal scenarios in the country. While it would be strange and abnormal, for example, to see a policeman or woman in the United Kingdom carrying the handbag of the wife of a parliamentarian and following her from behind or holding an umbrella for her in the air as if he/she were her maid; it is normal in Nigeria to see a policeman being engaged in humiliating jobs that are alien to the primary duties of a security personnel. The abuse of this privilege by politicians and VIPs is not only derogatory but also humiliating to the image and dignity of the Nigeria police. Regrettably, millions of Nigerians are left unprotected and exposed to the perils of kidnapers, armed robbers, bandits, and cultists.
Although life is sacred, and should be seen to be so; events in Nigeria as equally obtains in many other African societies do not seem to be in congruence with this fact. With its sophisticated nuclear and chemical weapons, hi-tech gadgets and complex technology, casualty figures are always very low each time citizens in western societies engage in protests or even when a clash of ideologies occur. With very low-tech weapons, which are mainly matches, sticks, bows and arrows; casualty figures are most often on the high side in Nigeria whenever there is communal dispute or election violence. For example, while ten persons died from the yellow vests protests in France and other European cities, 130 people were reportedly killed in a communal attack in Kajuru local government of Kaduna state in February 2019. Besides being a manifestation of how lowly human life is valued in Nigeria, this also shows how wicked and mercilessly-minded some Nigerians have become in the treatment of fellow human beings.
The way tittles matter to a lot of people in Nigeria sounds fantastic. We seem to be in a generation of titles, which suggests why many are even ready to buy as many titles as they can afford especially from our traditional institutions. In decent and civilized societies, people are generally unassuming. They introduce themselves at public gatherings with a sense of modesty and humility; without mentioning any titles. In Nigeria, this is abnormal where modern trend is for names to be preceded by titles such as Professor, Dr., Chief, Alhaji, Honourable, etc. When some of these titles cannot easily be ascribed to, people resort to the use of professional or traditional titles. You rarely come across persons who introduce themselves by mentioning just their names. I hope some Nigerians can queue behind President Muhammad Buhari who chose to be called Muhammadu Buhari since he assumed office as President; dropping all the possible titles that Nigerians would simply use for him including Malam, Alhaji, and his military rank.
There is this story, which I wouldn’t know how true of false it is, of a man who went on pilgrimage to the holy land of Makkah. After his safe return to Nigeria, someone who knew the ‘Alhaji’ had performed pilgrimage and returned only few weeks earlier saw the brand new ‘Alhaji’ and called him by his proper name without prefixing it with the title of Alhaji. The ‘Alhaji’ was angry at the person who did not call him ‘Alhaji’; saying “You have to call me ‘Alhaji’. Didn’t you know how I suffered at Safa and Marwa?”
While common sense prescribes for people to live in a clean environment, it would not be too unexpected to find mentally-ill persons in dirty surroundings. This is the code in every human society. Unfortunately, I recently came across a community where it is the mentally-ill that cherishes clean environment and vice-versa. I was recently at a motor-park about 7am in one of the states in the southern region of the country to board a vehicle to Abuja. Drivers, members of the NURTW, other transport union workers and agberos had all reported for work and were loading vehicles for various destinations. Suddenly, a mentally-ill man appeared close to where I was standing with a group of drivers and agberos and pleaded that he wanted everyone around to move to another section of the park so that he could sweep the place. I was told the man does that as a routine. I curiously asked what happens any day the man fails to show up. I was told that’s how the park would remain filthy for the period he absconds. I find it absurd that it is a mentally-ill person that will pick litters and sweep the garbage generated by the mentally-sound. May Allah (SWT) protect us from being abnormal in our attitude, amin.