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The antelope, the bad leg

By Josef Omorotionmwan
WHILE we were yet sleeping, the world became fully automated and all those unable to speak the language of the machine have been permanently left behind.

Christianity attempts to put a moral burden on us to forgive all those who trespass against us, but it is equally difficult to forget the circumstances where we have been disappointed by those in whose hands our affairs had been placed.

Right now, my N40,000 is cooling off somewhere, after it was “kidnapped” by an ATM at the International Airport, Ikeja-Lagos, Nigeria – that airport, which, like the Benin-Ore road – is for ever undergoing renovation! On that fateful evening, between struggling with the boarding formalities for a Heathrow-bound flight and the need to have some extra Pound Sterling in my pocket, I had inserted my ATM card into the machine, with instruction to bring out N40,000, which I intended to convert at a nearby Bureau de Change. The machine gave me a receipt but no money came out.

There was no one to talk to. I was faced with a machine as all the workers had gone for the weekend. A clear alternative would have been to forego the flight and wait till Monday to sort out the money issue. I chose to travel and leave the money issue for another day.

For the greater part of July, NEPA (by whatever name called) did not provide light to my part of Ikpoba Hill, Benin City. The generators had grown tired and evidently overworked!

Soon after I arrived in Manchester, I almost embarrassed myself when I asked my son to bring me his laptop with the UPS so that I could type my story before they would take the light.

He retorted rather curiously: “What is UPS and to where are they taking the light?” A friend who was around offered some succour: “Daddy, you don’t need any UPS here. I have been in Britain for more than 20 years, during which period the light has not blinked once and it will never blink”.

I gradually began to remind myself that in all my years in New York and other neighbouring states of the US, it was only the terrible winter of 1977 that caused a major accident, which made the light to go off once. Up till this day, the US authorities have not fully recovered from the embarrassment caused by that mishap.

No situation ever embarrasses Nigerian officials. We have said often enough that, even without a government, Nigerians cannot be worse than they already are. Just see how we are watching helplessly while the sweet world of automation leaves us behind. Beyond attending ward and local government meetings, those of us of the analogue age may not be able to cope much longer.

The present age demands that in whatever you do, you must talk the language of the machine. If you must travel by any means – land, air or sea – you must talk to the machine for your ticket and your boarding pass. The trend for the future is that those attendants who now lead us like the blind may not be there much longer.

In every aspect of life, automation is already taking over. An entire department store may not need more than one person to run it. When you get to the store, you pick the items you want; you pay to the machine, which will give you a receipt and your correct change; and you are done with your shopping! You no longer interact with humans but with machines.

There is the serious argument that the machine has come to replace man and taken over his functions, further worsening the unemployment situation. This view is very valid in Africa and the underdeveloped world. In the advanced societies, nothing is lost.

While some people have moved away from the front line where the machines have taken over, more people have moved to the back line where the machines are produced and that more than cancels out the problem created by the replacement of man by machine.

In spite of the obvious contradictions, how many people would say that the world is still the same – some are analogue while others are digital; some are in the light while others still live in the dark ages; some are progressing while others are retrogressing? For all we know, someday, we shall get to where the rest of the world already is but by then, the rest of the world will be holidaying in the moon.

In the advanced democracies, elections are won and lost at the polling booth; not by judicial contraptions. That is where automation assumes full meaning. Contestants do not wait for the last ballot to be counted. As soon as the direction of the results is known, a loser quickly accepts defeat, the sportsman’s way; he congratulates the winner and life goes on.

In Nigeria, we still live in the kingdom of the antelope, one of the fastest running animals in the bush. The rule is that if you see an antelope, you must attempt to pursue, with a view to catching it, because you never can tell if it has a bad leg. We hear the PDP has gone to the Tribunal to challenge the Edo State gubernatorial election, which has been adjudged the freest, fairest and best election ever conducted in Nigeria.

Some ask why; but we ask why not? After all, it is a free world; the world of the antelope and the bad leg. All the same, the PDP must hear this: Beyond the Nigerian shores, Nigerians everywhere are celebrating the Edo victory and they intend to celebrate it far into the Yuletide season!

A new wave is here with us. Are we willing to ride it?



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