A housewife once believed she could tell if her husband was seeing another woman during the day by noticing the difference in the length of his tie on leaving in the morning and on returning in the evening. So one day, her husband returns and she notes the tie is a very different length from what it was when he left in the morning. She was very upset and accused her husband of having a mistress. He explained that he has been playing snooker! He succeeded. Once the perception of the woman changed, her emotions changed. In Nigeria today, we have been working on the logic that by making loud noises in the front of TV camera men, during public functions or setting up panel of enquiries, dismissing one out of thirty corrupt ministers or the IG is going to change a lot of bad things that are endemic in the Nigerian system. We believe we can succeed. Beautiful nonsense.
As you read this, the “Apo Six” have just been exhumed at Abuja just as a navy Officer pulled out a pistol and shot dead an okada man at Ikeja for hitting the bumper of his car. Soon, a panel will be set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the shooting, another beautiful nonsense. In south-eastern Nigeria , between Onitsha-Enugu and Onitsha-Aba road, we have more than 15 illegal police “checking” point on each route. These police men openly extort money from bus drivers at each spot. On February 10th, 2005, I witnessed a drama at the DMGS round about Onitsha. A bus I was traveling with refused to give out the dirty twenty Naira note to the police men and we were stopped. As we waited for the bus driver to “sort” himself out, a police man was shouting on top of his voice. “You must give me the money”, “Do you think I love what I am doing” he continued. “If you like go to Awka (Anambra state capital) and talk to the commissioner of police, he is aware that we are here, he sent us”. “So even if you stay here till tomorrow, you must give me the money”. He sadly but firmly concluded. Beautiful nonsense
We watched a drunk Ige attempted a coup in Awka with the supervision of disgraced IG and OBJ only to be retired and “murdered”. We watched Chris Uba set ablaze everything we managed to build in the last 14 years in Anambra State as the police men supervised. We have watched the Political Reform Conference with “extra-budgetary” funding end in disarray, with a report that will decorate one of the dusty shelves in Aso Rock begging for attention just like the Oputa Panel Report. We have watched some generals shed their Kaki and jump into the quasi-democratic wagon that is bumping along our corroded structures and policies. We are watching the evil genius repositioning himself for the great comeback that is bound to shake the nation. We are watching the green coast of the Niger Delta change to become a “weeping” dry leaf that will quickly ignite with fire leaving behind ruins. We are watching as those that rigged election (OBJ., Ngige, Jerry Ugokwe…) stay in the office almost three years after while the winner of the election gnash their teeth as they move from court to court begging for justice that has been thrown into erosion sites that is gradually taking over our streets and roads. Meanwhile the Bar Beach is threatening to swallow Victoria Island at least to register a protest that will surely be ignored. And believe you me nobody seems to be looking its way. Isn’t that beautiful?
I have been in Lagos for the past five months, every morning as I wait for bus along mile 2 Badagry expressway, I watch as goods are smuggled in from the boarders by “Area Boys” with Juju tied round their neck, some sitting on the bonnet of cars, others on the roof (as in Nigerian Home movies). They will come, the police men will bark, sometimes, they will stop and “settle” with money, some other times, they will shout back as they mention the “code name” they have used to settle the big Ogas at the office and speed pass. I go back home and listen to our government officials talk about economic reform, ban on some imported goods, the fight against corruption, cleansing of the Nigerian police and custom as the DPO accused of masterminding the “Apo six” killings escaped from “detention”. In essence, we have continued to watch television with candle light. Beautiful Nonsense.
Logic does not change emotions I have heard, but if perception changes, then emotions change. The logic of setting up panel of enquiry to investigate the “remote and immediate” causes of the Apo six killings and make recommendations will not change the perception and orientation of the men of the Nigerian police force. The logic of “officially” banning the importation of certain goods into the country only to open up our porous boarders will not change the perception of our custom men and corrupt police officials who capitalize on such ban to hike the amount they extort from the smugglers. It will not help the economic reform agenda; it will not help the fight against corruption.
“Look at the ceiling”. “Look upwards”. The effect may be the same, but the two instructions are very different. In the first case, you are asking someone to look at something specific. In the second case you are asking someone to look at a direction. We have been looking at a direction we hoped will lead us to a stronger, democratic, economic and liberal society. We have not seen anything specific in the present democratic dispensation nor the beautiful nonsense of debt relief only for the administration to accumulate another huge debt while mismanaging the money accruing from the sale of our crude oil.
Like the woman who tried to nail her husband, the tie test is now meaningless and the husband may still be having a girl friend. The present administration has failed as almost all government officials are still corrupt, all banned goods are still being “escorted” into the country by men of the Nigerian custom and police, our refineries are still not producing at up to 30% capacity, the price of petroleum products will go up by another 25% before the end of the month, the economic reform agenda is somersaulting. In the face of all these inconsistencies, disregard to the rule of law and the arrogance with which the iniquities are perpetuated, I wonder where my tomorrow will be. When I was leaving Onitsha for Lagos my mother warned me to b
e weary of all the “beautiful nonsense” that move around Lagos. Five months after, I am still looking out for them without success, if only they can make me stop burning my head over all the ugly beautiful nonsense one sees in every action and inaction of the present madness called government. Maybe I should go back and talk to my mother again or should I constantly be changing the length of my tie?