“Before I formed you in the belly, I knew you, and before you came out of the womb, I sanctified you”……
-Prophet Jeremiah in the Holy Bible
THE above revelation from God to His Prophet, tells us that it is only God, who really knows who we are, and knows why he created us as humans instead of animals or some plant, or creeping thing.
In essence, God does not look at man’s physical attributes, but into his heart. It can, therefore, be correctly reasoned that it is only God who knows us more than we know ourselves. In order words, we cannot really claim to know ourselves.
Thomas Jefferson once suggested: “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you”.
This means that our actions say more about who we are than what we think or say we are. Our actions are often guided by our understanding of a situation or circumstance, our mood, interest, and condition. Thus, our actions may change with any of these parameters or factors, meaning that man can be unpredictable even by himself !
Yet, quite often in Nigeria, you hear someone ask the other: “Do you know who I am?” and I find that question very interesting to consider in some detail.
When some men want to woo the love of their heart, they ask her the question: “Do you know who I am ? And then in answering to themselves, paint pictures in the mind of the females that often sweep them off their feet.
They eventually hook on, but when things turn sour down the road, the females would be heard complaining that they were deceived. Generally, in Nigeria when you hear that question, do you know who I am?, some one wants to tell a lie, or deceive another.
During those days of Operation Feed the Nation under General Olusegun Obasanjo as military Head of State, I was deployed along with six other students from the University of Ife at the time to Iperu Remo, in Ogun State.
It was a particular Friday and we were all heading home to our families in Ibadan and Lagos for the week end.
At the motor park, a tout called Kamoru wanted to impress the two beautiful girls in our midst. And in what started like a joke, Kamoru asked his colleague called Jide: “Do you know whom Iam?” And Jide’s rather rough response was: “ Yes I know that you are a liar, and a womaniser”. Kamoru, obviously angry and hurt by that response, went for a bottle, broke it and wanted to intimidate Jide with it, but was disarmed. Kamoru fumbled with his bag pocket and brought out a charm, but before he could utter a word, he was on the floor. Two of us who caught the message, quickly put on our OFN caps and made peace within them, at least till we left the park to our destinations. Kamoru wanted to tell a lie or deceive, but Jide did not allow him, but both of them had some respect for our students OFN uniform.
To tell how bad things have become, youth corps members will hardly enjoy the same type of honour and respect these days that we had those days even as university students. How times have changed!
When a police officer asks, “do you know whom Iam”, he wants to extort money from you by intimidation, whether at the station or on the road. And if you stand your ground, you will discover that he was just a corporal or lower rank.
If you are unlucky to have an army man ask “do you know who Iam”, be ready to receive all the brute force he had mustered and learned. They practise their unarmed combat skills on civilian victims whenever they are given the opportunity. As they ask their victim that question, slaps, blows and kicks follow in quick succession.
This is why I had my respect for the late Rear Admiral Mike Akhigbe, rtd. I reported a case of such brutality by two naval officers at the gate of the University of Lagos in 1993 to him. He took his time and fished out the officers involved, got them to apologise, and he sorted out the victim, singling out the Navy as the most humane among the armed forces in Nigeria.
When a political leader like a governor of a state asks one his subjects “do you know whom Iam” in a foreign country, like we heard at the Chartenan House London recently, it is a question pregnant with meaning.
It could, for example, mean: do you not know that I am very rich, powerful and can turn black into white, make and unmake, take your common wealth, and nothing will happen?
It could also mean: I enjoy constitutional immunity, and the President and I are in the same ruling party, I can waste you or anybody for that matter, and nothing will happen?
In the very circumstance which led the Governor to ask that question, it could mean: Don’t you know that as your governor, I support the Cattle Grazing Bill? I do not agree with your agitations for Biafra, and don’t care whether they shoot at you in your prayer meetings or bury you alive? The categories of the meaning of “do you know who Iam” when asked by a Governor cannot be closed.
In actual fact, any Nigerian, whether a military person, law enforcement personnel, politician, professional worker, civil servant, religious leader or member, or just a common man like many of us, irrespective of his tribe, is a citizen of a fantastically corrupt nation.
The Nigerian generally suffers hardship in the midst of plenty; as an oil producer that depends on oil imports, yet can’t find oil; in a land where corruption is fighting corruption!
Nigerian big men, especially the political heavy weights, are potential guests of the anti-graft agencies, and with the right political will are potential convicts.
Mr By Clement Udegbe, a lawyer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.