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Unpopular thoughts on my country

By Owei Lamefa

THERE is a ground swell to punish hate speech in the country. Doubtlessly, societies evolve and what is acceptable today may be forbidden tomorrow. But hate Speech is like religion; it depends on your beliefs. If some say Nigeria is a zoo, and others say those who call our beloved country a zoo, are animals; both groups may be exercising their constitutional and fundamental human right to freedom of speech.

Personally, I support the hate speech campaign because if I say it is  diversionary and that   its advocates should go look for better things or more productive things to do, I may be accused of hate speech.

Almost everywhere I turn, there are claims that Nigeria is an arranged marriage by British colonialists. I agree. But many of our parents and grandparents had arranged marriages. In fact, with the rise of urbanisation, many feared that their children might be negatively influenced especially by ‘City girls’ so they literally posted or parceled wives to them.  In fact, the practice at a point was that parents or guardians sent photographs of young girls to their children in the urban centres and ask the men  to approve the girl of their choice who are then sent to them as wives.

People say there is no love in such marriages, and I respond, not in all cases. In any case, love grows or can be cultured; it is like tendering a beautiful flower. All marriages are not love at first sight. For many Nigerians, the marriages of their grandparents and even parents were arranged or are products of matchmaking. In any case, many of our parents stay in marriages not because of love, which by the way can wither, but due to a variety of factors; children, parental, religion or societal influence, and sometimes, economic reasons. There is a local saying that if we do not eat palm oil because of yam, we can eat yam because of palm oil.

I am not advocating that one stays in an abusive or exploitative marriage. No! That will be against my fundamental principles. All I am saying is that you do not seek divorce just because you are in an arranged marriage; the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side. In any case, what are many churches doing now with their ‘Single and Unmarried’  youth retreats and prayer meetings? Of course, they are matchmaking events, and in some cases, a brand of arranged marriages.

Let me make another point, the British who arranged the Nigeria marriage, was not that lucky itself; rather, Great Britain is a forced marriage; it is marriage by conquest. This may not fundamentally be different from the Boko Haram insurgents who over run villages and cart away the women as ‘wives’.

There are those who advocate we should eat yesterday’s food because the Regional dish in which it was served sweetens the food and makes it more presentable. Inversely, there are those who prefer today’s food because it contains many ingredients that were unavailable yesterday. May I ask, if we return to the Regional dish, what happens to the State dishes in which today’s food is served? Will they be broken or we will simply have more dishes to wash. I have no position on this because I have variously been castigated for harbouring unpopular thoughts; but if I may venture an opinion; should we rather not be concerned more with the food, rather than the dish in which it is served?

All these remind me of a story I was told as a boy. A village  was run based on gerontocracy.  The youths got fed up and decided to have a village of their own. They informed the elders they wanted out, but rather than listen and address the grievances, the elders flared up “Are you not fed?” “Yes” “Don’t you have shelter” “We do” “What then is your problem?” “We do all the donkey work in the farm  and produce the food while you sit down drinking and  regaling yourselves how you fought to unite the village”. The elders responded: “We also did all the donkey work when we were young.”  “That is not what our mothers told us; they said they did the donkey work while you merely supervised.”

The gathering broke up, but when the elders realised that threats would not solve the problem, they went to the village sage who told them to appease the youths by asking them to make a single demand which the elders must meet.

The  youths said they would stay, only if the elders produce a metre of rope made of sand. The sage told the elders  they have to keep their promise and advised them how to do so. So the elders told the youths, they were willing to meet their demand. However,  given the generation issue, they would not want to produce a substandard rope made of sand; can the youths kindly produce a sample of the rope so that the elders can produce a replica?  This is the origin of the modified saying that Africa was built by the wisdom of the young and the old; they are complimentary.

Nothing  in this piece suggests that there is no merit in the arguments of those who want change or transformation in the country; in any dynamic society, these are as natural as rainfall. I do not want my case to be like  that of our Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members of the House of Representatives who some weeks ago, deluded themselves that there was no issue in such a clamour and therefore, there was no need for the devolution of powers from the centre to the states. Therefore, during the Constitutional Amendment debates, they  voted against the Devolution of Power from the unitary centre to the states,  and went on holidays. When they returned, they discovered that the country had moved beyond them and that although they are ‘Representatives of the People’ they stood the danger of being left behind while the Change and Transformation train for a better Nigeria moved on.

Senior  citizen, Professor Ayo Dunmoye posted a quote from Chinua Achebe; I will end this piece  reproducing it: “A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to redeem them from starving. They all have food in their own houses. When we gather together in the moonlight village ground, it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so. Therefore let us continue with the team spirit and enjoy the power of togetherness. Let’s smile not because we don’t have problems but because we are stronger than the problems”.

 


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