“Latitudinal” and “Longitudinal” Balderdash

by Abiodun Ladepo

Tajin Taire is offended that I seem to gleefully dwell on the “savage” acts in the Nigerian society while neglecting those of the Western world. Let me oblige him here:

Just this week, the state of Michigan recorded one of the most “savage” of acts in recent memory. A woman, Tara Grant, was strangled to death by her husband, Stephen Grant, after what appeared to be a domestic argument. Mr. Grant then proceeded to cut Mrs. Grant into little pieces, throwing those little body parts around the neighborhood. As that story unfolded, the state of Texas announced that it arrested a 17 year-old “uncle” serving marijuana to a 2 year-old and a 5 year-old. The announcement was made with a video footage of the little ones taking puffs of the pot. And as I type this, 47 year-old Eric Johnson of Indiana loaded his 8 year-old daughter onto a small plane that he piloted, and angrily crashed the plane into the home of his ex-mother-in-law, killing him and his daughter.

Those are some of the most recent “savage” acts in the US. We can go back in time for more if it will satisfy the duo of Taire and Akintobi:

Timothy McVeigh was a former member of the US military. He had served in the first gulf war. One day, he rented a van, loaded it with explosives, drove to a government building in Oklahoma and detonated the bomb, killing scores of people including young children in a daycare center. Few years ago, an American living in Germany visited his wife in the hospital. In the plastic bag that he presented to his wife was the severed head of the man with whom she was cheating on him. Ted Kaczynski was a disgruntled former mathematics professor. Between 1978 and 1996, Kaczynski hid in a Montana shed from where he built and mailed letter bombs to people in the academia with whom he disagreed, maiming some and striking terror in the lives of many. In 1994, Susan Smith told police she had been carjacked in South Carolina by a black man and that her two children were still in their car seats in the vehicle. For nine days, she made tearful pleas on television for the return of her children, before finally confessing to having rolled the car herself into a nearby pond with her children inside.Another woman, Andrea Yates called authorities to her Texas home and told them, “I killed my children.” Each child – aged six months to seven years – was drowned in a bathtub. In 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman, were “savagely” butchered to death in front of Simpson’s home. The scene resembled a busy abattoir when camera crews arrived. Nicole’s ex-husband, O.J. Simpson was suspected of the murders and accordingly (but unsuccessfully) tried in the criminal case.

Need I go on about “savage” acts in the US? Maybe my two friends –Taire and Akintobi – want some more. Aside from murders and violent “savagery,” America has had its share of political ones.In 2006, former Illinois governor, George Ryan, who drew international praise when he commuted the sentences of everyone on Illinois’ death row, was convicted of racketeering and fraud in a corruption scandal that ended his political career in 2003. Before him, formerly powerful member of the U.S House of Representatives, Dan Rowstenkowski was also found guilty of corruption, kicked out of office and sent to jail. Also in 2006, formerly powerful member of the U.S House of Representatives, Tom Delay, from Texas, was accused of corruption. He too was sent packing from the House. He is still fighting to stay out of prison.

And finally, former president Bill Clinton was investigated and impeached, (while in office!) for having “sexual relations” with Monica Lewinski, a White House intern.

Now that I have written at length about some “savage” acts committed by mostly white Americans, I hope Tajin Taire and Yomi Akintobi, (and others like them) are satisfied. In fact, they better savor this moment, for it could be the last time I concern myself about a world in which I have the littlest chance of influencing. Both of these gentlemen ought to know that in the case of the US, we have proof; we have the data; we have hard evidence, in most cases, that the “savage” acts were relentlessly pursued by law enforcement agents, and duly prosecuted. Even as numbing as these acts could be in their goriness and the frequency of their occurrences, there is usually enough outrage, (as was the case over the Abu Ghraib and GITMO prisons abuses) that compels culprits to check their behaviors.

Human beings, by our very nature, are susceptible to barbaric and animalistic tendencies. When allowed to blossom, the demon in every person could take him/her to the bottomless abyss of vile and revolting behaviors, regardless of the “Longitudinal” or “Latitudinal” location of their communities.

Tajin Taire expects me to waste my time blaming others for the ills that have become the trade mark of my people. The Yoruba people, again, are fond of warning us that “if others are fooling you, do not fool yourself.”

When I write, I try as much as possible to avoid abstract theories. I dig deep to find real examples, names, incidents and dates – events to which readers can easily relate – and I bring those issues to the fore in a didactic form. My writings are deliberately less esoteric. And as I have told Taire in our private E-mails, I did not intend to offend anyone by quoting from Henty’s book. In fact, for the avoidance of any doubt, I am as angry as anybody, that Negroes were so denigrated in the book. I cede no ground to any ultra-nationalist who concerns himself with the mote in other people’s eyes at the expense of the huge Iroko tree in his. I am as Nigerian as you can get – born in Lagos; speak Yoruba and Hausa fluently; attended primary schools in Zaria, Ilorin and Jos; attended secondary schools in Ikirun (Osun State) and Babanloma (Kwara State); completed my tertiary education at Ile-Ife and Ibadan; worked in Ilorin and Lagos; traveled extensively as a newspaper reporter before re-locating to the United States. And since living abroad (about 20 years now), I have not spent a single day out of my leave or vacation time outside Nigeria. Tajin Taire and Yomi Akintobi therefore do not have a monopoly of Nigerian nationalistic fervor.

When I write about the deplorable state of Nigerian roads, it is because I drive there regularly and have a first-hand experience of the roads. When I write about the poor medical facilities in Nigeria, it is because my mother lives there and uses those medical facilities. When I write about the poor schools, it is because I have children in the school system there and know some school officials. When I write about the lack of water and electricity, it is because I own a home there and I know what I am talking about.

When I write, like many patriotic Nigerians, it is to beam some light on some of the darkness in our polity, hoping that those in whom the power to effect changes reside might wake up to their responsibilities. Our society is the way it is because most of us do not ask questions of our leaders. We do not force them to account for their derelictions of duties. Our leaders travel abroad to enjoy the better standards of living there. They send their children to schools in Europe and America. They fly to Germany, Italy and Spain for “medical check ups.” Yet, they consign our people back home to the most squalid of living conditions, in spite of the huge human and natural resources that abound in our country. I don’t need arcane theories from the Jared Diamonds of this world, along with blind followers like Taire and Akintobi, to convince me that Sani Abacha, for example, turned out to be a despot because Nigeria was a “latitudinal” country, not a “longitudinal” one. What balderdash!I refuse to accept Jared Diamond’s excuses. And so, I refuse to recommend “Guns, Germs and Steel” to my friends. It will be a waste of their time like it was of mine.

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Oluseye Bassir September 10, 2007 - 4:16 pm

I find you have expended a lot of text and little insight. The use of the word savage is savage. It is proof that you have internalised the worst self image possible.

I am sure I am not savage but you have admitted to be. you are the ignorant savage by your own admission.

Anonymous March 10, 2007 - 11:49 am

I am a little disappointed that you will waste precious time answering charges by two individuals who show lack of understanding of a basic essay. There will always be people like Taire and Akintobi who cannot put things into context.

I do not always agree with your view point but I think you do a fantastic job of articulating and putting the issues out there in the public square. You are one of the very few whose essays I read on this medium. Keep up the good work.


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