The “Wide Brimmed Hat” Is Almost In Vogue

by Charles Sogbesan

It can be excruciating to discern the politics of appearance in an aesthetically varied political landscape such as Nigeria. I take the challenge very seriously whenever a social “across tribe” encounter occurs and dictates certain demeanor, for the most part, when unsure, some play-along will usually do the job, head bowed down to greet an elder, shake a hand if offered, attempt to kneel (If female) when greeting an elder and so on. A welcome exemplar of course is to pick any national daily (for example), observe the diversified appellations and thus discern how much emphasis these fanciers of grandeur and prominence put into these gibberish. Chief, Engineer, Alhaji, Apostle, Honorable (?), Imam, Elder, even here our “Architects”, many among the bountiful.

In outings (for instance), all protocols love to be observed, better be observed, are usually observed. The gratuitous and lethargic attempt at elevation, an enchanting probe not to take this society too seriously, makes even the most momentous air a big gambol.

As various perceptions of power shift become prominent, it is only to the unmindful not to discern the aim to cooperate in some of these liveliness, “the decoy of the Babanriga”, as I like to call it, is in full force, as GoodLuck Jonathan steps on the world stage. The perception of a shift in power has prompted the ever mindful participants to adapt; one has to say though, that the preponderance of the wide brimmed hat is worth commenting on. The pride in the faces of the true owners of the “Wide brimmed Hat” is nonetheless manifest.

The “resource control hat” as it is called, at least for now is in vogue. Part, survival instinct, part, pride, part POLITICAL STATEMENT, depends on who you asks, depends exactly, well, where you’re from!

First I wondered what the zoology professor was doing at a Nuclear! summit, in a twinkle of an eye, this was apparent (on the part of his host), APPEARANCE, CONFIDENCE BUILDING AND CAN YOU SAY “STATE DEPARTMENT, then I wondered aloud why the zoology professor had to be the odd man out at the photo op, the only one with the cowboy looking hat, it made him look like a fish out of a bowl (especially he wasn’t a Texan), of course that was to the untrained eye like mine, getting back to my 20/20, it all became quite luminous.

When was the last time a “wide brimmed hat” had the opportunity to present itself in the light of prominence, power and with such visibility, never, ever, ever, not minding the fact that its being supporting the Zanna Bukar, the Okpu Okonko and the Abeti Aja, never mind its been carrying (Mostly to its own detriment), the other thirty something states on its shoulder, a case of APPEARANCE? But please add PRIDE, SIGNIFICANCE, and A COMMINIQUE.

Back when Pan Arabism seem to be coherent and the radicals seem to be gaining a upper hand,
Muammar Gaddafi was looking to the Middle East and to his west as a base to solidify and a constituent to impel. Naturally, being outfoxed by Reagan, Thatcher, overtook by time and individual country nationalism slash priority (UAE, Qatar, Bahrain being good examples), Socialism being the other, Muammar now looked south of Awbari, if only for the sentimentality alone, but you have to give it to him, he sure knows how to let you know where he stands,

As a matter of fact I have to wonder, how many Tailors does he have? You will not be left in doubt where he’s from, only Muammar can get away with putting a map on his apparel and consistently too.

They sure know how to make those African garbs, If only to look at the map of Africa on those garbs, you are left in no uncertainty, where he wants to head, southwards that’s where, the unfortunate certitude is the south is not ready for him, If they were, thousands won’t be crossing to get to Tripoli just for that faint hope of a Mediterranean crossing.

Back to the Garb, whenever there is a crisis, If your name is Muammar, their will be one, always pay attention to events leading to the resolution, watch what the “Brotherly leader” is wearing, you wont be in doubt where he stands.

I have seen David Mark, many a times with (always well tailored) Buba and Sokoto, as matter of fact I had to do my research again to confirm the man was not from somewhere south of Ilorin,
That’s how good his decoy was, during the Owu commander’s regime, boy! Was the Buba and Sokoto a reckonable Attire, it was as if Abuja belonged to the southwest. Every time I have seen John Shagaya, I always wondered if his ancestors were descendants of the Oyo Empire! No better master of this of course than the suborned General from Minna who has begun his dribbling skills in earnest.

To rationalize it to the prefatory level of solidarity is to not understand the significance of appearance in the everyday enterprise called survival, to cast it off as appearance is to present oneself as naïve, of course it’s never easy when your environment has 250 ethnic groups.

Most Foreign expatriates learn quick about navigating our cultural land mines, the dos and don’ts, learning generally to avoid discussing politics altogether, as much as their hosts love to talk about it.
Learn quickly that proximity in this land of ours is not necessarily an invasion of space but an affirmation of affinity; quite fascinating on the flip side however is my observation these foreigners generally do look and dress like foreigners and therefore for the most part, navigate Nigeria very well as foreigners without necessarily participating in the attire decoy generally observed across the business and political landscape, of course even if, the dolling of the occasional (actually numerous) chieftaincy meant breaking those seldom broke consistencies, of course a visible foreigner will look glaring in a native outfit (that’s not to say you won’t encounter it).
News flash, there are Caucasian Nigerians!

If you’re left in doubt though where the perception of power lies, it’s in the robust appearance of the Babanriga. It seems to be the default decoy attire regardless of the reigning government. Maybe the State that has it’s motto as “Born to rule” knew what we always denied or dare not agree as faith accompli. For, you have to really try to find a Beni man in Okpu Okonko or a Hausa in Abeti Aja or a Kanuri wearing the Lelegi, which would be a sight to behold.

Since the advent of the second republic (for me at least), the Babanriga remains to be overthrown as the default attire, the politics of appearance makes the conclusion extremely easy, almost prefatory.
The wide brimmed hat is enjoying it’s time under the sun, lets hope it’s not accidental, maybe overtime second nature. Possibly a conversation such as this will become profuse, as us exchanging garbs, will have the same meanings across the board

It will be interesting and thing of pride, if the brimmed hat’s discomposure is based our affinity for it based on pride, our sweet experience with it and memories of it, this will remove any doubt about our motivations, for I for one like the “Resource control hat” same way I like the Zanna Bukar.

The decoy of the Babanriga will hopefully become unnecessary, as most motivations will

probably all be noble, say just for looks. Than again how can you tell?

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