Before The Guardian of Lagos came with its ‘Simply Mr.’ more than two and half decades ago we had thought such a venture was even long overdue in Nigeria. Needless saying that the paper blew up a good initiative almost immediately. That was apparently because of resultant fall in patronage generally and ads specifically. And with that a good effort to encourage society to more seriousness in other for individuals to receive informed perquisites of genuine efforts and to play down on primitive egoism in our national life died. Since then the craze for titles in our clime has pitched in Everest; and a culture most abhorrent to civilization now holds sway in all four cardinal points of the country and in all segments of society. The whole thing represents something psychologically irksome: an inferiority complex masquerading as high status symbol. As it is now Nigeria ‘excels’ the whole world put together in this matter.
Let’s pick on government as starting point. Every Nigerian politician may become ‘honourable’ and you will be in trouble if you don’t prefix their names with Hon. Today all past and present local government councillors are ‘honorable’. The same is true with our self-imposed parliamentarians since Shagari’s regime. So that today we have too many Mephistophelian fellows who are ‘honorable’ for life. Perhaps we should leave your senators alone except to say that they are distinguished failures; just as your ‘Excellencies (governors) continue to excel in sundry travesties. There is becoming more JPs today than ordinary citizens. Government is not even helping matters as they dole national honours to the very undeserving as a matter of rule. But we think this is the time we must begin to honour men with known enthralling pedigree. Talking seriously: what should prevent Chinua Achebe, Phillip Emeagwali, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Michael Ibru, Gamaliel Onosode, Emeka Anyaoku, Akintola Williams, Dora Akinyuli and the late F.R.A. Williams and late Pius Okigbo not to get the highest honour in this land? How do you want to encourage excellence in society when, for bundling their ways to Aso Rock (and Ribadu Road before it) and consequently milking us dry, the likes of Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babaginda and others are getting the best honour. And what really should qualify Atiku and Anenih to get the second highest honour of my country at the expense of the aforementioned greats? Yet, somebody desires patriotism from me.
What with say Major so and so (Rtd) etc? The traditionally approved titles of Dr and Barr that are almost no longer prefixing names in developed climes are not only still in vogue here but prefixes like Engr has since become traditional with us. And we now have Arc, Pharm, Surv and too many others. We are waiting now to see the PolSc, Jour, MicroBio, and even Zoo to prefix so and so names of those who have such degrees. While at the global level we are now getting used to hearing say, Peter Andrew, Professor of so and so, this is not so in Nigeria. Here it must be Prof Ekwetafia Olusegun Dibia Audu. Here we have Prof (Dr) so and so! If you don’t know we already have High Chief (Prof) so and so. Come and see that in my Urhoboland. I am referring to an academic professor and not some herbalist professor. We now see Dr so and so (PhD) and Barr so and so Esq. In Nigeria education has been made primitive because men want some status and recognition. Highbrow minds behaving lowbrow, as it were, is education miss-road.
I suppose there are more Alhajis and Hajiyas in Nigeria more than the whole Arab world ten times over. It is like this title is Nigerian for you hardly see others making pilgrimage to Saudi using it to prefix their names. It now remains that we may soon be hearing or seeing Alhaji (Five), Hajiya (Ten) etc suggesting how many times such trips are made. The Christian Church so-called is the guiltiest of them all. Contrary to the good admonition of Jesus Christ, Paul the Apostle, Peter the Apostle and others the church so-called has a hierarchy of titles that is the world’s equivalent, most of which are actually blasphemous. The reader would notice that this writer has followed Bible method in referring to Paul and Peter: Paul or Peter the apostle, suggestive or descriptive of an office, function and service. Not a title! The only title we know of in the New Testament Bible is Brother (or Sister). Period! It is humbling to read Paul addressing Peter as ‘Peter’ or ‘Cephas’ or Peter calling Paul simply as ‘Brother Paul’! How could mortal men claim titles and prefixes such as ‘His Preeminence’, ‘His Lordship’, ‘Most Senior Apostle’, ‘Venerable’, ‘Reverend Father’, ‘Reverend’ et cetera? Whatever their excuses are, these ache our hearts. Rev (Dr) and Bishop (Dr) now represent a flagrant breech of the simplicity of the gospel. I tell you too that I have seen Chief (Pastor) in Nigeria. All is part of this sad vogue in society.
There are uncountable royal highnesses, high chiefs, double chiefs, triple chiefs, etcetera, in our localities. ‘Chieftancy title’ may well be a Nigerian phrase. There may be more Rotarians, Lions, ‘Sirs’ and ‘Dames’ in Nigeria than the world put together going by those with these prefixes against their names.
How come we accepting this sorry practice which showcases blithering rubbish as a way of life? Don’t you think this is a key causal element in the underdevelopment of the minds of Nigerians and of this country? Am I to suppose that we want civilization to scream blue murder before we behave in this matter of titles and prefixes? Haughtiness oozes; false haughtiness (or inferiority complex promoted or masquerading as high status symbol) oozes doubly. This is a way of life out of true, a lifestyle beside the point. Infatuation for titles and similar hogwash emptied itself from serious climes almost two centuries ago, and so cannot be allowed here in this century to thrive and flourish unrestrained. Honours are rarely given in developed climes and when given the recipients are seen by all to be deserving of them.
Except we treat this matter as about the worst nuisance right now in our hands we would be heading fast to something else, because we are talking here of a ‘flamboyant’ evil let loose and which moldering effect on our sound ethos is nonesuch. Beyond the flaunting of endless titles and the supposed gain of flatteries, attracted or occasioned by those primitively pompous representations, is real hollowness that the man actually is. It is a danger and falsehood that leads the nation nowhere. Because to flush this damned practice down the drain would be good riddance, our laws, values and national life must come alive to do just that. We need some sanity. Government must start to undress this crazy title-chasing culture. She must not dawdle about it because the need to alter our mentality and properly refocus our minds to embrace civilization, strive for true excellence, and so move this country truly forward is great. The time is now!