I have looked at Nigeria in recent months, I have wondered how evil has become so pervasive, permitted, explained, excused, and rationalized.
I was looking at one of those witty banners that my friend Olakunle loves to post, and which I have learnt to steal from him since I never could figure out where he steals them from, and he seems to have an endless supply of them. Quotes from long dead wits, statesmen and dead Greek philosophers. The one in question was about how you never knew how weird you are, until you were afflicted with a child that reminds you of you. Constantly.
Jibola was busy bathing himself with the cologne that he got from his mother as his Christmas gift. I watched in terror as he squirted the perfume on his palm, anointed his head, and progressed to dab almost every part of the tawny frame that at 15 years old, is already taller than me. And I struggled to hold my tongue. What do I say to a boy that appeared to have been plucked from the past, and had Iya Wale’s bottle of expensive Christian Dior eau de toilette on spray? My past would appear to be my present, and it would be up to me to fix the future. A better man than I am, must come out of him I reasoned.
I took time to explain the use of colognes to my son for the umpteenth time, but this time I made sure to pocket my characteristic impatience, I explained the reasoning to him. I explained how with the more potent scents, a dash or two, would suffice, and how to avoid using too much perfume, because it becomes overpowering, and repugnant to anyone that would be within a particular radius of the wearer. From his responses when I listened to him, I found the presence of a common error made by most lovers of perfumes.
When you wear any fragrance or scent, you would appreciate the uniqueness of the scent at the point of application, but invariably all of the time, and in the immediate aftermath of the use of the perfume, the wearer does not really smell the scent again. At least it stops being so easily recognizable to the wearer. The olfactory senses become acculturated to the scent, and whilst the wearer would be able to pick up the scent of every other fragrances or odor, the capacity to smell the perfume that they have used, is greatly diminished.
You would be correct if you have wondered what you might have to do with Ajibola’s education on the application and use of perfumes, but you need not worry, I am not about to teach you how to use perfumes, but I found a teachable moment, and the insufferably pedantic prat that I am, I am out to scourge you all. You have lost your sense of smell.
When you live next to a refuse dump, let’s say Olusosun in Lagos, or if you grew up in Ibadan like me, the old refuse dump at Ring Road, today’s Shoprite, anywhere we dump our garbage as is the tradition in our country, the nonresident passerby is wont to cover the nose, the putrefaction is enough to be tasted in the mouth, right through the nostrils, and the ones that are not blessed with strong stomachs, have been known to vomit the entire contents of their stomachs. The residents eat and drink unmoved.
There are vast populations of Nigerians that earn their livelihoods from the refuse dumps around the country. Some live right there with the refuse, with home built out of our collective wastes, and beyond eking out a living in the dystopia within the larger dystopian society, their daily lives and realities are centered in the waste that abound around them. Taiwo would tell you tales of schools being ran out of the vast estate of refuse at Ajegunle, and where pupils pay 50K as tuition per day.
When I started my law practice, my first employers were located at 125 Igbosere Road, and next to my office was a public toilet. Some responsible government of the local government, in the distant past, had recognized that when human beings had left their homes, their need for public places in which they might answer the call of nature, might not necessarily be presumed to have been forfeited. But the visionaries that built the toilets did not reckon with Femi the inheritor.
Femi was the janitor in my office block. He would also appear to have been the neighborhood tough, dope dealer, fence, and everything in between. Femi was the administrator of the toilet: he had been “given” the toilet by the council chairman, went the legend, payment for services rendered in the heat of the elections. Femi is paid by anyone that would use the toilet, and before I forget, it had shower stalls I was led to believe. A food vendor had space by the toilet, and the Gurudi vendors competed for space. The shower stalls served as warehouse for the Gurudi sellers at the end of the day.
The senior counsel ate from Alhaja’s buka, and I followed their example. Her buka was about 4 houses away from Femi’s mansions, and approximately 50 meters away from the office. The walk to Alhaja’s buka would take me past the toilet, and whilst I would usually cross the street to avoid the stench of the toilets, the trek to Alhaja must involve walking past the front and rear of the toilets. As I walked past I would observe men and women, young and old, buying, selling, and eating food, whilst I gagged as I walked past. On days when the wind direction decided to play pranks, I had left meals unfinished at Alhaja’s place.
I have looked at Nigeria in recent months, I have wondered how evil has become so pervasive, permitted, explained, excused, and rationalized. How ordinarily intelligent men and women, have found the grace to not only tolerate evil, but become complicit in the evil itself. I got to the point where my angst was no longer with the evil oppressors, but with the victims themselves. I have listened to excruciatingly painful and self abnegatory arguments from those that should know better, and who benefits nothing from the maintenance of the status quo, arguing the most stridently, for its retention.
Agba Jalingo’s case is what has opened my eyes to the truth. Nigeria is not unlike Femi’s toilet. It stinks to high heavens, but the Nigerian peoples are used to it. We are acculturated to the reflexive wickedness of the Nigerian state, its evil and feudalistic ruling class, the morally and ethically compromised judiciary, and the pervasive disregard, disrespect, and discountenance of our human and civic rights.
How do you wrap your brains around the fact that in a democratic state, governed by law, a journalist is in prison for nothing other than for daring to do his job, sent their by an unholy confederation of the wicked state governor, the Nigerian police, the Federal High Court, and the Attorney General of the Nigerian state? But what does one say about the people living in the toilets, and around it?
How many Citizen Jalingo are in our cells? How many big men and women, have been given carte blanche to imprison those that have dared to anger them? If Ben Ayade is impervious to the protests against his wickedness, why has the APC controlled federal government lent itself to the evil designs of the PDP state government? How many of the innocent victims have tapes of their trial judge boasting about how they would be denied justice in the court of law?
The prisons are full of the innocent, and the ones that should be in jail, sits on the thrones of justice, and in the offices of power. The Nigerian state stinks, but the proximity to evil, has diminished our own capacity to be outraged, and we have become a people desensitized to the pains and sufferings of our fellow citizens, because we have ourselves, lost our collective humanity.
Be outraged enough to reclaim your own humanity: how many Agba Jalingos are in your local police stations, and when have you, played Ayade? Everything stinks.
First published 4 January, 2020.