I have good news for Ms. Marilyn Ogar, spokesperson for the Department of State Services (DSS) and unworthy aspirant to the unfilled shoes of Alozie Ogugbuaja in the annals of Force public relations in Nigeria. Contrary to the harsh judgment of her performance in a recent Channels Television interview by the Nigerian public, I happen to think that Ms. Ogar’s performance was not entirely shameful and disgraceful. Beneath that mountain of shame and disgrace lie useful windows into the Nigerian psychology. I’ve been on this meme for a while and I can’t repeat it enough: until we fix our wrongly-wired national psychology – itself a product of our individual psychologies – we are wasting time on the kwashiorkor called Nigeria. We shall not succeed in fixing her.
In essence, the Marilyn Ogar you saw on your television screen talking rubbish about carrots when asked about her allegations of attempted bribery during the recent gubernatorial election in the state of Osun is a product of a mass psychology that has produced a society at war with consequences. What we have done to consequences is worse than what the Americans did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No society deserves membership of global humanity if her civilization evolves on the basis of an absolute contempt for consequences. No society which is permanently in love with the absence of consequences for individual or collective actions deserves a space in the project called human civilization. Consequence is the reason why the village of Ferguson is burning in the state of Missouri in gun-ravaged United States of America. Folks want consequences for the actions of that trigger-happy police officer.
Why am I making consequences the minimum condition for membership of human civilization? The answer is simple: I am an avid watcher and collector of animal documentaries. I have spent years watching and collecting documentaries of wildlife in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Sometimes, I feel like I can find my way easily in the Maasai Mara, the Serengeti, the Kruger, the forests of Indonesia, India – anywhere where there are animal societies and communities to study. This informs the sad and painful conclusion I reached in some of my old essays that orangutans are better organizers of orangutan society than the leadership and increasingly the followership of Nigeria are of Nigerian society. If you are of the Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah school of diaspora persecution, don’t rush to judgment. Just pick up any documentary on orangutans in the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo. You’ll notice how dominant adult females (adult males mostly live alone) deal with errant members of orangutan society. Among orangutans, the dominant female of any group dispenses immediate justice for wrongdoing: no ojoro, no nepotism, no favoritism. You misbehave, you get your just deserts. Orangutans run a society of consequences.
As it goes for Orangutans, so it goes for meerkats. If you do not know what meerkats are, consult the Ifa oracle called Google in your handset. You may then proceed to YouTube to watch the documentary called “Meerkat Manor”. It’s an old documentary but it is very useful for our purposes. Watch that documentary and study how meerkats organize their society in the context of the action-consequences equation and you will feel truly sorry for Nigeria. The survival of their society relies entirely on the principle of the collective good. Meerkat society relies on sentries to be on guard duty watching out for predators; they rely on babysitters to take care of baby meerkats in the crèches and kindergartens they construct in their burrows. Carelessness, selfishness, and dereliction of duty could cost a precious meerkat life. Such grave offences attract immediate consequences: no ojoro, no nepotism, no favoritism. You misbehave, you get your just deserts. Meerkats run a society of consequences.
Then you quit orangutan society, quit meerkat society, and land in Nigerian society in the year 2014 and a garrulous public face of the law called Marilyn Ogar is asked on national television about her allegations of bribery against an unnamed political actor. Her response? After much rambling, she informs the nation that law enforcement is a carrot and stick affair. In essence, the politician who committed the grievous offence of offering bribe to law enforcement to influence an election was going the get the carrot of not being named and not being made to face any consequences this time around! To be fair to Ms. Ogar, she consoled the nation by informing us that the offender knows himself and knows that the DSS knows him! There is absolutely no way that such an egregious offence would have gone without consequences in orangutan society; in meerkat manor, there is no way the dominant female who doubles as law enforcement would allow the offence of bribery to corrupt the public good to go unpunished.
Marilyn Ogar is because we are. She is the mirror I fear to look at because I see us and our pathetic psychology in her. She didn’t just happen to us. We have a collective history of accepting and rationalizing our society of no consequences. Consider the case of one of our nemeses called Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. In the heyday of his presidential administration, one criminal called Chris Uba stole an election in Anambra state for his political god son, a certain Chris Ngige now canonized as a progressive by APC. The election robbers, Chris Uba and Chris Ngige, had even gone to the Okija shrine to cement the rape of Anambra. Subsequently, Ogbuefi Ngige failed to respect the time-honored code of honour among thieves and things fell apart between godfather and godson.
They dragged themselves to the Villa to see Ogbeni Olusegun Obasanjo who promptly made some interesting announcements to the nation. Ehem, see me o Nigerians. Chris Uba and Chris Ngige came to the Villa to see me o. Uba narrated how he rigged the election for Ngige right from the party primaries to the election proper and how he rigged in every member of the House of Assembly. Can you see? Nonsense! I was so angry! I scolded both of them! Mo bawon wi gidi gan ni o! I called them thieves for stealing the election in Anambra. Yes, I called Chris Uba and Chris Ngige thieves right before their very before. You know I don’t tolerate nonsense. Mi o gba gbere rara at all. And I warned them not to do so again. Trust me, they will not repeat the nonsense again.
But Baba Obasanjo even tried. At least he abused and scolded two Nigerians who went to our Presidency – the most solemn address in our country, the space that defines us and embodies who we are – to confess to the crime of electoral fraud in broad daylight. At least Baba warned them not to do so again and they got the consequences of being tongue-lashed in the Villa for the crime of stealing an election! The same cannot be said for so many of the Ebola characters who litter the Nigerian political space, calling themselves leaders. Somebody will jump up today and tell the nation that he knows who the sponsors of Boko Haram are but will not name them because he does not want “to heat the polity”; another one will jump up tomorrow and claim that he knows who and who is behind such and such crime against the Nigerian people but will only name them “at the appropriate time”.
On and on we go, rationalizing and accepting a society in which the President, Ministers, Senators, Governors, political appointees, politicians, etc, go on national TV routinely to announce that they know criminals they will not name and who, therefore, will not suffer any consequences because we need to “move the country forward”. The current bunch of contemptible characters ruling Nigeria cannot even measure up to Obasanjo’s standard of scolding criminals and telling them not to do so anymore o. Only Obasanjo can claim that he got us a little closer to orangutan and meerkat civilization where consequences are concerned. His successors have allowed orangutans and meerkats to increase the gap.
This is how we got Marilyn Ogar. My advice to Ms. Ogar is to increase her stock of carrots. Let her find a cold room to store enough fresh carrots for all the geopolitical zones in Nigeria. I know Nigeria. I know Nigerians. The problem, for us, will not be that she offered carrot and not stick to a bribe giver in Osun. If somebody offers her and the DSS bribe to influence elections tomorrow in Kano or Enugu state and she makes the mistake of rejecting the bribe, naming the criminal, and handing him over to the police for prosecution this time around, yawa go gas o. She will have to explain to Nigerians why the carrot that was good for the Yoruba criminal in Osun state yesterday is not good for the Hausa or Igbo criminal today. Na so we be.
Pius Adesanmi, PhD (UBC, Vancouver)
African Literatures and Cultures
Department of English Language & Literature
1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada.
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