HOW NOT TO SERVE COCA COLA: REVIEWING ELNATHAN’S BORN ON A TUESDAY

Image from bookslive.co.za

Usain Bolt is the world’s “fastest” man, but he knows better than to go up against Mo Farah over 800 or 1500 metres. While Usain Bolt possesses this fundamental understanding of his… well, profession, Elnathan John does not appear to. If he did, “Bayan Layi” would never have become Born on a Tuesday. Born on a Tuesday is exactly what happens when Usain Bolt attempts to race over longer distances.

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SIX PACKS ON A POTBELLY: A REQUIEM FOR DUE PROCESS

Image from my6packschronicle

They say two wrongs don’t make a right. This is a very questionable commonplace. What never ever makes a right is one perpetual, unchecked wrong. There are times when two wrongs make a right, or at least a wrong forces progress toward saner action. Mandela came to understand the usefulness of fighting a wrong with another wrong during the struggle against apartheid. Although it was literal in South Africa’s case, second violence is justified against an initial officially-sanctioned violence, speaking metaphorically now. Level the playing field first, and then consider commonplaces. When a thing is both sick and upside down, you don’t yourself turn upside down to deal with it. You keep your head, slap the thing on its head again, and then bust out the scalpel.

In essence, those who scream “due process” when shamelessly corrupt individuals are being given one-tenth of a dose of their medicine are disingenuous and dangerous people. Nothing is given is this world, except our humanity. Every other thing (conventions, laws etc) arises from an assumption, and all assumptions are arbitrary and therefore subject to challenge. Newtonian Physics was, and is, immensely helpful but the limitations of its assumptions were made clear by Einstein and company. Look where that has got us. Despite being the foundation of modern physics, there are phenomena that do not obey the theory of relativity, and perhaps another theory will come along to extend Einstein. Only God knows where that will get us. If science, supposedly a bastion of certainty, shows this much uncertainty, politics and its kosekukoseye bedfellows have a snowball’s chance in hell.

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AN IMPORTANT PROPOSAL

FOR THE PROLIFERATION OF BAD ROADS, TO FOSTER ECONOMIC INCLUSION AMONG THE LOWER CLASSES OF NIGERIAN SOCIETY

Photo: famousauthors.com

The release to the public of this important intervention in the affairs of our dear nation became necessary given the complete neglect it has suffered from this administration. If you can accuse the last administration of one thing, it is that its number one priority was the masses of our great country. The most important benefit of a public treasury is that its contents find its way—by hook or by crook; in dribs and drabs—to the public.

With the past administration, we had enjoyed an advanced level of talks, and you could already see the translation into action of our important proposal. But the nestling’s life was snuffed. That administration’s life was truncated all too cruelly, and with it, it seems, our brainchild, and consequently, the wellbeing of the masses.

This is not necessarily an indictment on the current administration. We believe that, like cattle, it only sometimes requires the prod’s indelicate touch to reorient itself in the right direction. After all, the man at the head of government is a stark socialist. And with this administration riddled with men like Mr Babatunde Fashola, an inveterate elitist, a man with enormous cataracts in his social vision, a push becomes doubly essential, to both remind Mr President of his deepest convictions and remind the people of what they must expect from any government that claims to derive legitimacy from it. In a democracy and even in dictatorships, the people only need to weaponise their will, and change begins to materialise. People must be brought into the realisation of their collective power; otherwise, our democracy shall remain a democracy of elites, a supremacy of elite concerns and values.

For too long, the elite has made off with our commonwealth in the name of incrementalism and conventional wisdom—which upon examination hardly bears up to scrutiny. We are assured our yearnings are impossible, fanciful, based on a shaky understanding of what is possible in the world. Public utilities are a luxury, we are told, privatize the lot, because it is aliens who run these private enterprises. Education, we learn, is expensive and should creep farther and farther away from the grasp of the ordinary man. Every day we are made to burrow deeper and deeper into the wall to which they had pushed us. We only need to cast a glance across to the United States, where Mr Sanders has at the very least sparked a revolution challenging the insidious conventional wisdoms perpetuated by disconnected, self-interested, insignificant—in numbers at least—members of our polity. What is the point of government if it cannot ensure the wellbeing of the greatest number of the governed? Why should every one not simply fend for themselves?

But let’s not lose ourselves.

Much has been made of Nigeria’s economic problems. Much of it stems from an infrastructural deficit. Much of Nigeria’s infrastructure is crumbling. Much of it is rotting. Many other things are simply non-existent. The impact on the country’s economy and social stability has been dire. The volumes written on the problems and their solutions can fill every inch of a small town.

Left to men like Mr Fashola, perhaps a Final Solution to the problem of poverty may have been fashioned. To them Mr G.K. Chesterton is a simpleton. When hats are not enough to go round, the solution that actually does work is to lob heads off. After all, poverty is a deadly affliction that must not be permitted to taint the lofty aspirations of society, lofty aspirations typified by high-rises and gated communities. But poverty, as it happens, is a direct consequence of the actions and inactions of the leadership class. If people must be delivered from this captivity, there is a need to overturn conventional wisdoms. Solutions to economic problems must transcend this preoccupation with hapless indices that conceal more than they reveal.

A cursory excursion through Nigeria’s highways will reveal that most of them are in a deplorable state. Because most people, despite exhortations to the contrary, do not think beyond the confines of their experience, they will miss the true import of deplorable roads: that nationwide these bad roads are responsible for daily commercial activities to the tune of N50 million i.e. well over a billion naira in a month of thirty days. There is in this an interesting parallel to the sale of items in traffic for instance. And to imagine that we are constantly bombarded with the questionable notion that some so-called productivity is lost in traffic. What productivity can be more productive than the enormous sales, daily, of manufactured goods? Think of people who will lose jobs, or livelihood, if the enormous number of beef rolls shifted in traffic was eliminated.

And it upon this piece of insight our proposal rests. We will not bore you with all the painful details technical proposals demand. Broad summaries are sufficient. Our proposal is a template for the economic empowerment of the lowest of the low within society. We have christened this plan in accordance with its brave audacity. It entails the creation of Economic Corridors for the Empowerment of the Poor Who Mostly Reside in Remote Villages Deep in the Forests Bordering Highways (or Who Simply Find Their Way Down From Slightly Far-off Urban Centres, All of Which is Simply Too Bloody Long To Fashion An Acronym From).

What is this economic corridor, you say? Simple. That the government must revamp bad road infrastructure is a given. But this revamp must as a necessity not be total. For every 60 kilometres of good highway, there must be one kilometre of bad road, where speed must necessarily slow to a crawl, where progress is so inhibited the allure of goods become enhanced. This one kilometre is the economic corridor, complete with roadside hostels. This one kilometre is what might ensure sustenance for some of the poorest people in the land. It is what will ensure the viability of industries like the dodo ikire industry and the highway plantain chips industry and the countless others I have failed to mention. Successive governments have failed the poor in this nation. We present an opportunity to redeem this debt. Nigeria will be great.

JUSTIN BIEBER’S SORRY IS AS DISHONEST AS SONGS COME

sorry

Warning: The following post contains some very colourful language and some very questionable philosophy. Proceed at your own peril. You’ve been warned.

To put Sorry in proper context, we need to go back in time to 2011, to Lloyd’s Dedication to My Ex.

My girlfriend at the time had essentially broken up with me. I was new to this heartbreak business, and as you may imagine, I was quite understandably shocked and distraught all at one go. (I’ve just found a rather meticulous diary I kept of that time and it is embarrassing that it seems to suggest I did not eat for 44 hours after the event and that I cried and that Esther, my best friend at the time, was a rock in a way that I sadly couldn’t be for her.) Although it looks fairly straightforward, I can’t explain now how that state of affairs culminated in my discovering Lloyd’s song. I did not go looking for end-of-epoch songs, and the songs that came to be my heartbreak songs were already denizens of my computer or phone prior to the shake-up.

The song’s brusque pettiness and reduction of what must-may have been love into a matter solely of sexual organs appalled me even then, when I had every right to be petty and revel in such songs as this, maybe even borrow a few lines and shoot them over to her via text message seeing as how only the iPhone had WhatsApp then.

But we’re made of class.

I retreated into the familiar philosophical comforts, the what-is-this-life-ness of Adele, Pink, and strangely, Jason Derulo (try listening to It Girl soon after you’ve lost your it girl), but not before Lloyd had caused me some pause.

Was it not possible that I was only distraught I would now have to hunt for sex when before it was a given? And what sort of sex did I know was out there? Would it be as involved and involving as it had been with her? Would it be as crazy, as spontaneous, as dangerous? Would the sex out there make me lose all sense of propriety too? Would I feel, or would it just be “hey, round peg, meet round hole”? Was it the love or the sex that kept me glued to her? Was it both? If it was both, then each to what degree?

Big secret: One key reason why relationships are such a thing is that at the back of their minds, partners are relatively certain their partners will have sex with them some 8 times out of 10 attempts. These odds can only be bettered if you’re the sort who pays through your nose to squeeze stuff out through your penis, which can only be bettered if you’re a hot chick who’s just really into sex. I mean, how is anyone supposed to say no to you with that sort of a combination?

I once did and I’ll tell you for free: If you don’t have to, never, ever sniff at free vagina. If you’re worried about where the hot vagina has been, wear a condom. (If you’re not, wear a condom still.) Because you’ll grow older and wiser. Because you’ll lose your principles. Because then you’ll regret being a sniffy little piece of principled fuck, because there are some opportunities that never come knocking again. Never. You can only sniff at free box if you’re married or in a relationship, not that it stops some of you.

Putting things in context Kayode-style does tend to run away sometimes, but at least, Lloyd attempted to be direct even if you can discern his pain through the riotous pettiness. He was explicit about his motives, even if like Big Sean, the puerileness is astounding. (Have you heard a more puerile song than IDFWU?)

In his case, JB misses the pussy quite alright but tries to sugarcoat this straightforward desire with an over-generous flavouring of sorry and asking for forgiveness. Sorry Bieber, that you slap all that seasoning into the pot does not make party rice of your jollof rice.

Let me oh let me oh let redeem oh myself tonight
Cos I just need
One more shot
To say I’m sorry.

Redeem ko, Redemption Camp ni.

With “tonight” and “one more shot”, a sleazy picture already begins to emerge. In the lines that follow, Bieber tears off his pants like a male stripper at one of those CFNM things, and gives us an eyeful.

Is it too late now to say sorry
Cos I’m
Missing more than just your body

I know we sometimes tell these little fibs to get laid, but c’mon, fibs are a work of art whose expression must not betray their design. It is instructive that Bieber expresses all he misses in terms of her body. You go through the song in the hopes of finding any hint at all of this extra-body desire, but you don’t. Even a deaf man listening to those lines can tell whatever else he claims to miss must come a very distant second to her body. It’s like a Kenyan and a Nigerian at a marathon…

Later on we hear that he’s “just trying to get [her] back on him/Cos [he’s] missing more than her body.” See, the whole point of Sorry is that Bieber wants one or two for the road. If you ask Bieber, he’s probably succeeded in constructing this elaborate conceit to disguise his intentions. If you ask me though, he’s only somehow managed to make see-through lingerie out of stacks of bricks and a sea of concrete. End of.

But God, I love the song. It’s not a tendency of mine to make a fool of myself. This means I choose my battles carefully. This means I move in for the kill when a self-advertising PhD holder insists El Chapo is Colombian, was extradited to the US, escaped and was recaptured again. This means I don’t dance where anyone can see me, and I don’t sing where I might be overheard. There’s a good chance that if you catch me doing any one of these last two sacrileges, it’s Sorry up in my ear. Or Waje’s Coco Baby, which along with Drake’s makeover of Wizkid’s Ojuelegba, are the only Nigerian songs on my phone.

HAS BBOG LOST ITS RELEVANCE?

I have a pet theory about activism and activists. I have come to realize that key to activism is a tunnel vision, or better, what some will call a laser-beam focus. The advantages of such limiting outlooks are clear. It delineates goals and objectives. It tunes out noise and distractions. When your goals and objectives are manageable, narrow, they are more achievable. The narrow way is more rewarding. Ask Jesus.

But the problem with a narrow outlook on issues is evident. (You know those narrow shortcuts you think you’re the only one who knows but everyone is already there?) Some of the distractions are necessary, because they put issues into proper cultural, historical or social context. An awareness of these contexts can help develop better strategies in confronting issues. Sometimes, this means taking the long view. But activist’s shelf-life is short; better to maximize time out in the sun. The self-preservation apparent in a narrow outlook soon flips into narcissism. The cause soon becomes the activist, and not the issue. To be a successful activist, you require relevance. The pursuit of relevance is the root of all evil. The activist flips into a self-absorbed monster, harmful to everything but themselves.

Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks is one of my favourite shows ever, because of course, Huey Freeman has great hair. Inevitably, its critique of America the Multicultural Society led it to the subject of activism and activists. Step forward Reverend Rollo Goodlove, the self-absorbed activist of blackness who worms his way into every and any issue with the slightest whiff – and it’s no matter if this whiff is imaginary – of racism, all for the profit of the self. Parody revels in drawing caricatures. But fiction, even those largely based on reality, couldn’t even begin to imagine the oddity of truth. Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson may as well be caricatures of the cartoon Reverend Goodlove.

I have always been slightly distrustful of BBOG, the Wave of Sentimentalism, the Hijacking, the Cultural Phenomenon of Untoward Selfies, the wave of Hollywood celebrities with their smiling faces incongruous with the pain of the message held in their star-spangled hands. I have always been distrustful of manufactured empathy with its shoddy workmanship, its loose seams and limp feet. BBOG the Yearning is legitimate of course. It is the pain of parents, of loss, of a sudden truncation, of undesired, unimagined ends and unwanted new beginnings. Close to 300 young girls, the oldest of them perhaps 18, were snatched from the NorthEastern outpost of Chibok by verminous Boko Haram snakes. A good number have managed to escape, but the larger number remain in captivity. In April, two years will have passed since their capture.

While the response of the Jonathan government was undermined by initial disbelief, inertia, and the bejewelled, bedazzling theatrics of Patience “da Shepoppotamus” Jonathan, Buhari in his media chat was forthright: Nigerian intelligence had failed; it knows nothing of the girls’ whereabouts. Because the Chibok girls became a central issue in the elections, Buhari and his party made promises we won’t forget in a hurry.

At his inauguration, where diplomatic pragmatism would have sufficed, he reiterated his determination to bring back the missing girls, a mistake. Perhaps he felt Jonathan could bring them back but wouldn’t. But now that he has control of the instruments of state, the unqualified promise must look silly and ill thought out, the product of a political imagination still befuddled by champagne.

Reality has set in and the frank, welcome admission of helplessness is the first step in doubling back from the promise. Action on the issue of the Chibok girls is now couched in the broadest terms: We have reorganized the military. We have changed service chiefs, and ordered the new guys to deal decisively with Boko Haram insurgency. Despite the economy, we found money to buy our soldiers weapons. Boko Haram’s ability to take territory has been attenuated.

Listen sir, what have you done to bring back the girls since you assumed office?

As things stand, the Chibok girls do not look like they are coming back. Nobody knows where they are. Too much time has passed. Too many girls were taken. Boko Haram, or Wilayat Gharb Ifriqqiyah, is too dastardly to keep the girls lying around somewhere, where one day the might of the Nigerian military will swoop in. Tactically, it is imprudent. Every time a young female suicide bomber detonates herself, we wonder, sometimes aloud, if she isn’t… and then we perish the thought. We’ve heard Shekau gloat, and heard tales, that the girls were shared out among commanders, some sold into sexual slavery. Boko Haram is man, violent man, unhinged, uninhibited man, man to whom woman is as disposable as a goat. Buhari has said any political solution to the Boko Haram scourge must include the Chibok girls as a precondition. I can’t pretend to know what goes on in the mind of Boko Haram top guns, but I suspect the offer will not be taken, because the girls weren’t taken as a bargaining chip.

The girls have been packaged into some manner of overarching poster for the other inhumanities perpetrated by Boko Haram. There were girls taken before then, boys taken or fried crisp in their sleep, to incomparable outcry. There have been girls taken after then, girls rescued, to muted fanfare. What is it about the Chibok girls that proves so enduring?

The BBOG campaigners must be aware of these facts, but the tunnel vision must be sated. The doggedness of the campaign is admirable, but the utopianism of it is now all sound and fury, signifying nothing but a narcissistic posturing for relevance, as the events of the past few days are coming to show. If BBOG must remain relevant for the right reasons, it must acknowledge the noise it has tuned out, and adapt.

There may be some truth to saying BBOG will remain relevant so long as the girls aren’t brought back. How relevant is up for question. And how long before it becomes a voice drowned out in the wind, full-throated, hysterical, desperate, but too distant to be heard? Already, the irritation has begun to set in. A rebrand is staring back at me from within this crystal ball, otherwise Valhalla.

#ThankASoldier, But.

I have always wondered what condition Medicine and Law fulfill to be considered noble professions. Is it the stethoscope hanging from the car’s rearview mirror or the ward coat displayed prominently in the car? Or is it the wig, the clownish getup and carriage, or the various car-sticker exhortations?

These are not sour grapes.

I once wanted to become a lawyer, yes, and my father, a lawyer, was convinced I had to become a doctor, perhaps because he wanted some variety, or according to him, he knows what is best for me. Perhaps he does.

In the end, my father won.

I studied Microbiology (I can’t say I’m a microbiologist because in this neck of the woods, you’d have to get a genuine Ph.D. to gain what I consider a rudimentary level of microbiologic expertise). Congrats, dad.

There’s frankly nothing noble about lawyers. For doctors, you could argue that they save lives that may otherwise be beyond redemption (thereby contributing to long life and overpopulation; life was much fun when a leg wound could spell death). But every doctor you know is handsomely compensated — relatively at least — for the effort. For me then, this pecuniary compensation neutralizes nobility. Medicine is in the end service of the self. And no, don’t mention the Medicins Sans Frontieres; they belong to a different field of endeavour.

We come to soldiering.

I have written about the brutality of men in uniform before. This piece (terrible, in hindsight) from 2013 was about police brutality, and this earlier this year about the need to temper our enthusiasm to support our troops. In this second piece, I prefaced my criticism of soldiers with the recognition of nobility.

If there is any noble profession in the world it has to be soldiering. For crummy remuneration, these brave men and women have essentially sworn their lives away in service of nationhood, the whims of politicians, and everything we hold dear.

But our soldiers can be mindless brutes, and any conversation involving them must recognize this fact. As I wrote before, years and years of military dictatorship have succeeded in constituting the military into a law unto itself, unaccountable before ordinary tenets of decency and humanity. If the Nigerian soldier inspires two emotions in the ordinary citizen, they are awe and terror. And for the most part, this is peacetime Nigeria.

To thank a soldier without a prominent “but” is to legitimize brutality. In fact, the contemporary realities of peacetime Nigeria require that we foreground the “but” and background the “thanks.” This morning, I woke up to the heartwarming news that my soulmate, Wole Soyinka, author of a topical poem titled “Civilian and Soldier”, had yet again offered a cautionary intervention to the unbridled, revisionist digital euphoria engulfing a significant clique of disconnected Nigerians.

Soyinka

Many stories are about of soldiers visiting indignities upon the ordinary citizen. You know someone, or someone that knows someone, that has at least one story.

Tajudeen, a colleague, was once on a trip to his hometown. At a military checkpoint, something mundane — perhaps a giggle, perhaps even nothing — happened. The soldiers ordered the passengers out of the bus. A young lady, already bagged and tagged as abrasive by the commuters, hesitated in being cowed by the soldier’s misdirected machismo, as is her right. One soldier was incensed. This young lady had an ample bosom and dressed to proclaim the fact. As punishment for dissent, the oldest man in the bus was ordered to ravage the young lady’s breasts, at the threat of violence. I was horrified at the events and the obvious abandon with which Tajudeen recounted the episode. Asides the normalization of brutalization, it was too reminiscent of something I had written earlier. Just replace sex with sexual harassment where appropriate.

kayode faniyi

But schadenfreude wasn’t all Tajudeen came away with from the encounter. Since the sin of the one shall be visited on the collective, the others gained bruised hands by taking turns to clear some nearby field with a cutlass.

I was once on a bus with a man on a bus who told his own story too. He and a few others had imprudent enough to look back to see a soldier fleecing a bus driver. Incensed by their effrontery, the soldier ordered all four men out of the bus and had them stand in the sun for at least an hour. Judging from his appearance, our storyteller couldn’t be younger than 60. There was some other person who was urinated on.

I’ve been fortunate enough not to fall foul of military brutality. But I’ve been through military checkpoints too many times to not have observed brutalities. I’ve seen phones smashed.

I’ve seen drivers slapped. I’ve seen grown men asked to sit atop their cars. I’ve seen and smelt fear and anxiety. Passengers in the know frantically rush out instructions: Turn the music down. Get off that phone. Shut down your computer. Hide it. Toss it out the window even. Maintain a neutral composure. Melt into your seat. Fade into thin air.

Recently I found myself advising a woman to get off the phone as we pulled up to a military checkpoint. It had come to this. I too had become socialized in the mechanisms of terror.

The soldiers don’t approach vehicles these days, at least not on the routes I ply. Vehicles approach a single soldier somewhere in the middle of the obstacle course with which these men and women have blighted the highway. By now, spines are sitting ramrod straight, and a deathly silence reigns. Something stinks too. The soldier begins his near-sadistic superficial inspection. The soldier glories in our reeking subservience, like a pig in mud, and content, shoos us away, like irritants.

Shoo.

But don’t listen to me. Google “soldiers beat up Nigeria” or any other combination of relevant search terms. From soldiers beating up LASTMA officials to soldiers disrupting court proceedings, treat yourself to the stories. At least, I am not the narrator in these cases.

In 2014, the stars aligned for Anakle, a cute little digital agency led by Editi Effiòng. The agency’s Bride Price App, a humorous take on bride price culture, escaped incubation and became a global phenomenon with zero ad spend. Bride price culture became a hot topic. Effiòng appeared on several international news media. Anakle had hit the big time. I was so attracted by Anakle’s scope of work and laid-back culture that I applied for a position there (this is a story for some other day). There is a lot to admire about Anakle.

In December 2015, Anakle launched the #ThankASoldier campaign under a broader Military Appreciation Week, a campaign which seems to have taken the underlying idea of the dastardly #SupportOurTroops and given it an Anakle makeover. The social public – including of course companies keen for some social leverage – latched on to the hashtag and fanned it into prominence, tweeting soldier or saluting selfies, and spreading goodwill messages. Later, Effiòng tweeted:

Wait, what? Teaching children what? Children? In Nigeria?

This is self-aggrandizement bordering on Goebbels. If I was going to let this piece lapse in my head, this tweet was all the motivation I needed to fire up my laptop to write.

No one teaches children to respect soldiers. I have been a child once and no one ever sat me down to teach me how to respect soldiers. I suspect no one sat you down too. As children, we somehow understood that a soldier is an embodiment of power, what with our childhood being smack at the height of ruthless military dictatorship. We did not learn that the soldier should be required to treat power with responsibility, and no one sat us down to teach us.

I held soldiers in awe. After all, did I not watch Commando and The Expendables? My friends and I made elaborate wooden guns, constituted militaries and went incredible lengths in trying to militarily outwit ourselves. I maintained a battery of crown corks who were footballers most of the time but when paired with sawed-off broomsticks became part-time soldiers. For the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, my Crown Cork Army had to make do with bathroom slippers propelled by me (complete with helicopter voice-over). I had to be content with transport aircraft; I hadn’t found a way to mimic fighter jets till I outgrew Crown Cork Wars. My mother still recalls that period with some amusement and plenty of consternation.

I have family members and friends who belong to all manner of uniformed services (I know, my best friend is black). In secondary school, I joined the military cadet corps, more for the fascinating parades than any inclination to violence or altruism. At the NYSC Orientation Camp at Asaya Kabba, I chose parading over football (even if there are other reasons implicated in that choice).

I do not write this piece with levity. My best friend really is black. Give any Nigerian a uniform today and watch him transform into a beast. Give him an assault rifle and herald the birth of a monster. These are the issues.

We are currently trying to dethrone impunity from its pride of place in our countryhood. The current drive may be limited and reactionary, but there is at least the recognition that many of the ills plaguing Nigeria arise from the brazen disregard for the humanity of the other. This explains Diezani-gate. This explains Dasuki-gate. This explains Patience Jonathan. This explains police and military brutality. This explains infrastructural neglect. This explains our politicians. This explains caustic student politics. This explains everything. This explains us.

If we must teach children anything, it must be to value the humanity of the other. And so whether they become soldiers, carpenters, physicists, politicians, teachers, singers, footballers, biochemists, writers, designers, coders, lawyers, accountants, messengers or whatever, a certain sensitivity, responsibility and respect will govern their dealings with other human beings. As the perennially resurrected Uncle Ben would say, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Also, “respect begets respect.”

Screenshot (5)

The Yorubas have a saying. They say a dog doomed to disappearance will stubbornly resist the allure of its owner’s whistle. From its title, Hadassah Egbedi’s topical piece for Ventures Africa was doomed to be farcical. And despite the frantic whistling of the evidence which Egbedi herself parades against the military, she trots off farther and farther into farce, and this because she strives, suspiciously, to stay on the Anakle message.

Egbedi recognizes the reasons the civilian treats the soldier as something to be avoided, sometimes at all costs. Yet, she attempts — and it’s an ingenious if transparent attempt — to lay the responsibility for this turn of events at the feet of the civilian, never for once suggesting that the military needs to make a genuine effort at redeeming its public image and pursuing a more cordial relationship with the civilian populace. It is the battered civilian who needs a reorientation, not the oppressive military. This narrative is as insidious as an uncritical appreciation of the military.

“In the war-ravaged regions of Nigeria, soldiers are accorded respect,” Hadassah Egbedi contends, and goes on to offer the views of a Lieutenant she spoke to as proof-positive of this statement. The sentiment may contain some measure of truth but I think the soldier mistakes relief and gratitude for respect. Amnesty International’s report of course stands counterpoint to this monocular view and President Buhari, a little less trusting of military authorities than Goodluck Jonathan, has not wasted any time in instituting an inquiry into allegations of human rights abuses by the military in the North East.

A lot is worrying, alarming even, about Egbedi’s tone, motivations and what she seems to be suggesting, but I’m not going to spend a third paragraph on her piece. If I have any piece of advice for Egbedi, it is that she might consider employing her journalistic privilege to give voice to the truly voiceless. She should note that Anakle, all said, is a concern in the business of publicizing its chops in the “story telling” business. Anakle can be excused its tunnel vision. The bottom line and a sophisticated social vision do not often mix. A journalist does not have the privilege of this pretext.

But perhaps Anakle has hit on something brilliant. If the military does not accept that it has a problem and so is unable to reform itself into a more socially acceptable outfit, perhaps us civilians should accept the challenge and seize the initiative. We should stop skirting around soldiers like they are IEDs, prone to explosion at the slightest irritation. We should do something crazy, something radical.

And here is the potential value of #ThankASoldier. Let’s overwhelm brutality with love. Let’s smother these needy babies with love. Let’s embarrass them with love. Let’s kiss them so lovingly sloppily that next time a soldier is moved to compel a hapless civilian to roll in mud, or beat Kunle within metres of his life, our awesome show of love will make him pause. If that fails, print out your #ThankASoldier exertions, laminate them and carry them around with you. It could come in handy.

Anakle would approve.