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The normality of abnormality (2)

By Douglas Anele

From the foregoing, it can be inferred that acts of extreme sadism, especially the type manifested by those who actually brutalized and killed the four undergraduates and the mob that cheered them on, are the result of deep-seated alienation and psychic malfunctioning which stem from skewed individual character and sadistic social environment.

Now, the fundamental problem associated with mob psychology is the powerful and overwhelming eddies of uncontrolled psychic energy which overwhelm reason during moments of collective excitement and hysteria. As a general rule, mobs tend to act irrationally, and their vortex of collective aggression trumpscivilisational qualities that differentiate homo sapiens from other animals. Therefore, in order to reduce the deadly effects of mob action and jungle justice, wise upbringing of children is extremely important.

Parents should make conscious efforts to inculcate the right values into their children, values that promote humane living through loving- kindness and forgiveness. What is required is appropriate combination of rational benign discipline and communication between parents and children.

As I stated earlier, the injunction “spare the rod and spoil the child,” is usually counter-productive if strictly adhered to by parents and adults. It tends to promote sadistic infliction of physical pain on children for the sake of pain, which provides suitable soil for germination of sadism later. Aside from parents, teachers play a vital role in the character formation of children. Therefore teachers, just like parents, require a wise combination of “carrot and stick”to produce children with good hearts and minds.

Of course, proper upbringing of children is the most challenging task any human being can undertake. Parents, teachers and members of the society as a whole should appreciate this, and make sure that children imbibe the values of love, kindness and forgiving spirit. I sincerely commiserate with the families of the murdered students. Law enforcement agencies must identify those responsible for the heinous murder and bring them to justice expeditiously.

An issue that has generated much controversy among Nigerians both within the country and abroad is the scathing indictment of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Rtd. Gen. Yakubu Gowon and others for war crimes by world-renowned novelist, Professor Chinua Achebe.

In his Biafran war memoir, There was a country, Achebe accused Awolowo particularly for being a ring-leader in the formulation of genocidal policies by Gowon’s administration that led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Biafrans during the civil war. Of special concern in this regard is the policy of starvation, which Awolowo defended thus: “All is fair in war, and starvation is one of the weapons of war…”

Some pertinent issues can be distilled from reactions to Achebe’s book. First and foremost, the fact that Awoists, especially those of Yoruba extraction, reacted violently to the indictment of their iconic figure is a dangerous form of hero worship which must be condemned. Hero worshippers are like religious fundamentalists; they can go to any length, including deliberate falsification of history, use of violence and destruction, just to defend their idol.

Without any atom of doubt, Awolowo was a great man who contributed to the development of Yorubaland – some would consider him the greatest Yoruba of the twentieth century. Hence Achebe’s accusations do not obliterate Awolowo’s legacy which, like the legacies of other iconic political figures, is not without blemish.

Consequently, irrespective of his impressive achievements, Awolowo was not infallible. He was human, and like every human being, committed errors of judgment sometimes. Defending him in a very uncouth manner by committing ad hominem fallacy against Achebe or by deliberate distortion of facts is definitely disingenuous and uncalled for.

The psychology of hero worship is interesting. It is a symptom of psychical immaturity and self-alienation which ultimately boils down to obsessive craving for an object of devotion, for an infallible existential guide to navigate vicissitudes of the “human condition.”

A hero worshipper apotheosises a fellow human: in his mind the hero is an extraordinary human being beyond the reach of criticism. But is there any human being, dead, alive, or yet to be born who has not, or can never, make mistakes? Fundamentalist Awoists should stop creating the false impression that their idol is a perfect human being who cannot err at a time of crisis.

That said, Ebenezer Babatope, Ayo Opadokun, Ayo Adebanjo, Biyi Durojaiye, Femi Fani-Kayode and the band of Yoruba irredentist lynch mob should have marshalled facts to debunk Achebe’s claims instead of calling him names.

Actually, inspite of their high falutin essays, they did not refute the central argument of Awolowo by Achebe. Consider this:in his 1983 interview republished recently to inoculate Awolowo’s reputation against Achebe’s criticism, the late politician courageously re-affirmed the policy of starvation against Biafrans.

In the interview Awolowo recounted how, as a top official of Gowon’s government, he visited Biafra while the war was raging. He saw children suffering from kwashiorkor, and discovered that the food sent to Biafra by international humanitarian organisations was being hijacked by Biafran soldiers.

In his words: “So I decided to stop sending the food there. In the process the civilians will suffer. But the soldiers will suffer most.” Thus it is evident that for Awolowo, deliberate starvation of one’s enemy in war time, whether soldiers or civilians, is expedient and morally justified. The untenability of Awolowo’s position, particularly from a humanitarian perspective, is self-evident.

Frankly speaking, it is difficult to rationally justify the vituperations of Okpadokun and others against Achebe, considering that Awolowo himself unsuccessfully attempted to justify the inhuman policy of starvation against the secessionist Biafrans.

Probably deep down they have a gut feeling that Achebe might be right, and that his policycontravenes certain provisions of the Geneva Conventionwhich, in a nutshell, lays down the moral bottom-lines for the conduct of war. Keep in mind that during wars the warring camps commit atrocities, although the stronger side tends to do so to a greater extent than the weaker side.

Secondly, the Igbo versus Yoruba polarisation of reactions to Achebe’s comments on Awolowo has projected the ethnic question in the country into bold relief by drawing attention once again to the ethnic faultlines preventing the evolution of a great Nigerian nation.

Most highfalutin defenders of Awolowo are Yorubas, whereas an overwhelming majority of Achebe’s supporters are Ndigbo. In the push-me-I-push-youexchanges between the two sides, vital issues raised by Achebe were relegated to the back burner.



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