When purpose is perverted, or unknown, abuse is almost always inevitable. In the absence of an overarching common purpose to unite behind, with rulers more interested in dividing the people, Nigeria has grown ever more fractious, and the madness we live with, testament to the perversion of the Nigerian purpose.
I was away in the UK a few weeks ago, and something happened that left a deep impression on me. The incident was simple in its complexity, and left me quite perplexed and flummoxed for a while. At least until I switched off my Nigerian brain, and accepted that I was in a perfectly sane society, something nobody sane, would ascribe to the society I had just exited, before entering the UK. The Nigerian zoo.
I went to the Vodafone shop at the mall, it was my intention to buy some credit for internet dongle that I had purchased on my previous trip. We got to the till and I offered up a £50 note in settlement of my bill. The attendant took one look at me, and must have concluded that I was the last to escape the jungle from whence I came, and then proceeded to point out the little sign, that made clear that they do not accept cash in their store. I found a few more stores, turning down my cash. But I guess when their parliamentarians mothers die, they are not in the habit of “spraying” cash.
With Vodafone unable to serve luddites such as myself (I am not sure if there are too many people my age, who have refused to open a foreign account, or at least own a credit, or debit card), I was advised to go to O2 where they were more accommodating of the digitally challenged. It was here that today’s thoughts were provoked, and this is where I need you to pay attention.
My bill was a couple of pounds shy of £50, and when the attendant asked my help with getting change, I was the happy Nigerian, happy to grab the opportunity to tell the Oyibo girl to keep the change, how was she to ever learn that not all Africans are poor and desolate? That was when she burst my bubble. “We can’t do that sir”, she said, you’d have to find the change, she counselled.
She then proceeded to let me know how the system would not allow her to log out, without a balanced account, and how she couldn’t take the tip after the fact, or have the account showing more than it should, within a few minutes of each transaction. I know several businesses from whence I come, that would sack a worker for such impudent honesty.
The phone shop incident forced me to recall an incident that I recorded in my book: Do Not Die In Their War, beginning at page 214, and further confirmed an argument that I have been canvassing for some years, our problems are systemic, and only a systemic restructuring can solve them.
I have heard several Nigerian and foreign commentators describe Nigeria as a jungle, and Nnamdi Kanu, the Biafran conman has described Nigeria as a zoo. They have all been dead wrong, most unfair to the animal kingdom, and unappreciative of the Creative power that has ordered the jungle, and the animal world.
The jungle functions based on very clear systems. Each creature knows its place in the scheme of things, and each functions as it was designed and created to do. The preys know their places, and the predators are familiar with their roles. Each of God’s many creations, seen and unseen, functions exactly as intended, and even the dysfunctions, such as floods, forest fires, droughts, name it, if it is in nature, it becomes systemic in functionality.
NATGEO WILD is one of my favourite channels on Dstv. It has afforded me the opportunity to observe nature as closely as I am ever going to get, now that my childhood ambition to tour the Yankari Games Reserve appears to have been truncated by the abject and painful reality of the burgeoning insecurity plaguing our country, and the evidence that the time spent glued to this channel has offered, suggests that we libel the animal kingdom when we call our country a jungle. The jungle is strictly regulated, extremely systemic in all its manifestations, and Nigerian citizens would be particularly blessed if their nation were to be anywhere as efficiently ordered as a jungle.
Nnamdi called Nigeria a zoo. He is dead wrong, except he meant a Nigerian-run zoo. The bulk of the advertisements on British television stations were for pet foods, veterinary services, pet cemeteries, health insurance for dogs and cats, animal charities, and several indices by which one may deduce the extent to which they have gone, to take care of the animals in their care, and the ones ignored, abused, and “dehumanized” by the like of us. I even saw a wateraid advert, they were asking donations to save a Yoruba named boy, Ojo he was called, his community requires charity before he may have clean water to drink. When they deign to keep animals in enclosures, there are laws prescribing better living conditions than what you would find on our university campuses. I will not bother to compare their zoos to our best hospitals. Nigeria is not a zoo.
The man I travelled to bury was 85 years old. He was buried in style. Charlie had paid for his own burial before he died. He paid for limousines, he paid for everything, and nobody had to spend a dime of their money in furtherance of his burial. He chose the hymns in church, and the Bible passages to be read, he chose the reggae blues played as his body descended into the crematorium, and I’m sure you’re wondering how this is connected to the story I’m telling. Wait for it.
There were several advertisements on the television, all asking citizens to buy burial plans, whilst yet alive. The undertaker is a rich man in the land of the conscious, and I saw and observed a society familiar and comfortable with its own mortality. I saw a system that is built on the recognition of the limitations imposed by that mortality, and one where men plan in the knowledge of the importance of the community, legacies, and the primacy of the collective over the individual. I observed how they have designed a purposeful system, where everything is linked and everything integrated.
I observed my 71 years old mother functioning optimally in a functional society, she knew when the buses and trains would run, and she knew exactly how many minutes she required to get to the train or bus station. They even have apps that allows you to track the buses, and to decide when to leave the comfort of your home. I saw a functional human society, and I wondered: why are we the way we are?
It’s the system, stupid! Every system follows a design, and the design is always a pointer to the purpose of the system. Every system is designed to produce something or the other, and engineering designs are built with the creation of a repetitive and consistent process in mind. When you build a production line for the manufacture of kitchen sinks, unless you retrofit the factory, no amount of prayers, fasting, and exorcism, would make the factory to produce roofing sheets, even if the raw material are the same.
Nigeria is a state. It has territory, however challenged its security might be. It has a vast population, it has untold wealth, it has everything to be better than it is. But it has constantly failed to deliver on its promises, and despite the best efforts of several good men and women, it has defied every attempt at hauling it into the community of developed, or developing nations of the world. It continues to ask of itself, questions that should have been answered over 50 years ago. Its unity is seriously challenged, the people deeply divided and unhappy, and life is precarious and seldom livable with dreams of a better tomorrow. Hordes flee what should be paradise daily.
The Nigerian state, as currently designed, is incapable of delivering anything better than its current despair and hopelessness. The Nigerian system was not designed for the benefit of the Nigerian peoples, the system does not recognize or value citizenship, and was designed to preserve institutionalized injustice. The Nigerian state is unrulable if the state were to allow the laws to rule, and this is why no Nigerian government can ever allow the law to rule.
Disobedience and ignorance of the courts, are part and parcel of governance in our country. This is why we have been unable to produce a society that respects the law, it is why citizens have been forced into criminal activities on a daily basis. The people are aware that the government is as criminal as they are, and the government presumes the criminality of its own law enforcement agencies and the citizens. Each segment recognizes the inability of the other to comply with the unjust laws, and the state and citizens are locked into a constant and vicious battle for systemic survival.
In the absence of an overarching vision, the Nigerian state has been designed as a vehicle for the reservation, and preservation of unfair advantages, and the design imperatives have assured that a most unjust and wicked system, have been inflicted on the Nigerian people. Falsehood has become a tool of governance, and justice is incapable of reigning if the system itself is not to be destroyed. The law cannot rule in Nigeria and trapped in the vicious cycle imposed by the objective reality, Nigerians continue to look to personnel changes to deliver to them their desired country. But they omit to be courageous enough to examine the very foundations of their failing state. They talk a good revolution, whilst outsourcing the pains required to birth their dreams.
When purpose is perverted, or unknown, abuse is almost always inevitable. In the absence of an overarching common purpose to unite behind, with rulers more interested in dividing the people, Nigeria has grown ever more fractious, and the madness we live with, testament to the perversion of the Nigerian purpose. The Nigerian drifts unmoored to purpose, and where purpose is pursued, it is rarely ever corporate, the system has ensured that the people are locked into a constant battle for survival. We run without purpose, and produce nothing indicative of vision.
The jungle runs on a system, and the pattern design evidences a clear purpose in the mind of the Designer. The antelope wakes in the African velds in the knowledge that it must outrun its predators in order to keep its life, and the predators know that they must outrun the antelope, before they may eat. The lion sees everything that moves as food, and some have been known to hunt the elephants, in order to survive.
The jungle runs on a system, and it is libelous of the animals, the diligent ants, the weaver birds, and the eagles, the catfish in the water, the rats and the snakes, in their orderly manner and lives, to be compared to the disorder, putrefaction, and chaos, that are the true hallmarks of the dystopian society called Nigeria. Nigeria would be blessed to be a jungle.
First published 18 July, 2019.