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Can we change the conversation, please

Published by The Nation on Sun, 21 Jul 2019


To get the pulse of the nation now, you have to listen to national discourses by eavesdropping on street conversations, vendor stands, burial sites, or by reading former President Obasanjos letters. Yes, sometimes, you can go to the good old mediaIt is a given fact that Nigerians do not as a rule give dinner parties. It is a European thing, i.e., white mans ways. You know what dinner parties are, dont you' They are those times when someone feels so flushed he looks at his pantry, finds that there is just too much game or bush meat and wine, and deigns to ask one or two or three or four of his best friends to devour the lot with him and his spouse. At such repasts, conversations flow as ebulliently as the wine. In short, the stronger the wine is, the stronger the talk. That is when people recount their greatest hunting adventures, scariest moments or their best days to come.A long time ago when I was still young, I was invited to such a dinner even though I was not necessarily the host couples best friend, only the friend to the friend to the friend of their best friend. Anyway, the relationship was enough for them to include me in their arm-sweep of invitation. I listened in awe as one of the invited guests recounted his adventures and misadventures in the neighbourhood of Harlem, which back then, to hear him talk, sounded more like a city. He made us feel like we were there, facing the guns and knives together. Conversations flowed then around ginger beer for the older and wiser ones and something milder for the unwise ones like me. And, as the wine flowed, the conversations kept their thumb on the pulse of the nations.With all the unconscionable killings that have plagued the Nigerian nation in the last thirty years or so, the kind of social life that has a man invite two or three of his friends to dinner has been rather stifled. What has grown however is the bloating of the guest list such that a man would, under the pretext of burying his mother or father or giving out a child in marriage, and invite between two hundred and five hundred people toerr dinner. That is some guest list, you would say. Naturally, the conversation in such events is highly unpredictable, unprintable and not knowable.So, no, Nigerians do not give dinner parties. They also do not go to the cinemas as a national habit. Culture forbids. The whole village would rather gather around the television set. They also do not dress small and live in fine houses. Quite the opposite. Shall I go on'To get the pulse on national discourses now, you have to eavesdrop on street conversations, vendor stands, burial sites, or read former President Obasanjos letters. Yes, sometimes, you can go to the good old media. Myself, I still prefer the old school styledinner conversations. At least with that, you get to put some food in your stomach while you listen to your betters talk.That is how I know that right now, there is a loud din in the country. Indeed, so many conversations are going on at the same time that I doubt if anyone is really hearing the other. From the din, however, I can abstract that we are still talking about the herdsmens settlement problem. Right. Now, that is what I call a national discourse, when nobody knows what everybody is talking about and someone believes that everyone else knows but him or her.I also gather that we are talking about the death of the daughter of the chief of Afenifere. From the discourse, blames are flying here and there and no one has been able to correctly point at the perpetrator. People are using words very guardedly, and so should I. I sincerely pray for comfort for the family of the bereaved and Gods guidance for them all. I also hope that the killer(s) would quickly and correctly be identified.From the din, I see that a kind of recall back home has been issued to herdsmen who have migrated to the south. In other words, they have been asked to leave the south and return to graze their cattle nearer home. Well, honestly, I see this as someone taking a step further than my joking last week about acquiring one of those AK47 that herdsmen are said to be going around with.Now, when come home orders are issued, it can be for several reasons. It can be because one knows that continuing a course of action can lead to results that have not been planned for. For instance, I recall an incidence in my youth when the recall order was given to an uncle of mine to come back home when it appeared his studies were not progressing as well as his social antics. I know many come home orders given to children who went to school to study but were soon known to have veered off studying and gone into unmentionable businesses. I also know another instance but naaah, I wouldnt want you to remember all those come home urgently by the wifey to kill some invading cockroaches. Let us draw a modest veil over those.Anyway, back to our come home order from the north and what it means. Honestly, I dont know what it means. I do know though that Nigeria has emphasised this unnatural syndrome that is against modern living and civilisation, and that is statism. Normally, anyone should be able to live in any part of the country and do his business to the uttermost productivity level s/hes capable of but not in Nigeria. On that account, Nigerians have worked themselves into a frenzy over others living in their state to do business and have come against them with several means: stagnation, job denial and sometimes even death. Thats right, the politicians did this to us.Unfortunately, the suspicion deepens when people are victimised, and the country hardly hears of anyone being arraigned for such crimes such as beheadings and shootings. The law has nearly always been silent even when people know what went down. Naturally, the heightening of suspicion makes people more state- and ethnicity-conscious.If anyone lives anywhere, they need to know they are safe. This is what is getting scarcer and scarcer in this country. The herdsmen have been fingered in many instances of kidnapping and even shooting. The least the law could have done was to investigate even if only to debunk that view and put peoples minds at rest. To blithely believe and claim that no particular tribe is responsible is really responding politically and emotionally not with the facts. Indeed, such claims put facts before the truth, as someone said recently.We are in the age of science, the birth node of technology. How Nigeria can persist in living in the dark ages in the way it views and does things really beats me and leaves me dumber than I know I am naturally. One of the uses of science is actually to solve such problems as nature deems fit to dump on us. I therefore find it difficult to understand why Nigeria refuses to take advantage of these science-based solutions to some of our problemsin the law, weather, public service, etc.so that peoples sufferings may be reduced.It is time to let Nigeria move forward so that our conversations can change from perverse rumours to truthful facts. All the attempts of our politicians so far in every way appear to have been to keep the country in this unnatural darkness so that people cannot pursue their dreams. Darkness cannot persist forever, however. Whether we like it or not, Nigeria will move forward, with us or without us.
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