The funny news is this: this Sunday morning in Lagos, President Jonathan genuinely baffled us with the statement that, without the backup activity of prayer warriors, Nigeria’s security status would have been even more screwed up than it currently is. Now, we know that you, our readers, are prayer-addicts and good luck—no pun—with that! But when a democratically elected President makes such a statement on public safety, you have to—as they say in England—shine your eyes well-well. Although, on the bright side: at least you know the President has a security plan in place.
Now, reliance on prayer is not so shabby a security blueprint, (although we consider it totally ass-fucked), considering that it seems to work well enough for the Vatican. The problem is, while the Vatican has Angel Michael on speed dial, someone in the Ministry of Defense forgot to obtain VIP pass for final approval from God—or whatever witchery you have to perform to get your prayers working—for, no sooner had the President finished his statement than Boko Haram flipped him a finger and pulled another dick move—in what has to be the most astonishing case of conflicting reliance on divine instructions.
Now, of course, Boko Haram isn’t a new issue in the country. In fact, every well bred Nigerian—unlike us—knows that a situation stops being a “pressing issue” after three days of non-resolution by the government. And, after two weeks it stops being an issue altogether. And accordingly, the most successful public policy of Nigerian governments has been: “Hang on guys, let’s allow this one to blow off by itself.” And if the particular public official ranks high on the asshole scale—they may even pass it off as an unsolvable spiritual problem.
Common sense says Boko Haram isn’t going to blow off by itself, and an offering-load of prayers will not resurrect one dead victim. But this is Nigeria, and we love to screw around with vital situations, and that’s why the government is committed to investing prayer into public issues—and that’s why religious leaders have tried to re-brand the president as some Old Testament king.
And as long as the Nigerian government continue to muddle personal spiritual issues with public policy issues they will continue to screw the job they are given. But, naturally, the government has always responded to social criticism by mistaking unhappiness with discontent: but Nigerians are not merely discontent with the half-assed attitude a government that relies on magic—miracles, if you wish—they are truly unhappy about it.
But GEJ is a sly dog. Instead of facing his critics on the continued Boko Haram insurgency, it is plain easier for him to file the problem away as a “God vs Satan” affair, and leave Oritsejafor and his book club members to sort it out. Afterall, no “sane” Nigerian really expects Goodluck Jonathan, Mortal, to do all the work when it comes to waging war against the damn Devil.
And when the majority of Nigerians are wired to think this way, then the government wins the lottery. And here’s the lesson for today: the Nigerian government counts on your approval to a spiritual argument. Even more, it counts on your inability to detect when your brain is being messed with. You see, GEJ isn’t just appreciative of your prayers, he’s also appreciative of your tendency to forget the underlying issues by the time you are done reading this line.
Let’s take time off our political rants today—and despite all that evidence to the contrary, we are not a political blog—and get cracking, instead, on some important stuff that’s bound to make you a happy person in life. Of course, there’s plenty of things we could show you to achieve this: how to marry happily, how to pay your taxes; how to find good food and how to successfully manipulate your company’s financial records without getting caught.
But, before we focus on your future welfare let’s quickly dig up a favourite nightmare from the past—exams. Of course, at this stage of your life, you’ve probably gone way beyond the dreadful claws of examinations. You now have a job, you pay your monthly tributes in the name of bills and you have even attained the privilege of punching school teachers in the face. But no matter what age you are now, that primeval fear of exams and the horrific memories of those days of torture will always be there to mock your dreams. And every time you hear the sentence, “There’s going to be a test”, you’re bound to shiver inwardly. Sorry. Now that we’ve kicked away the lid of your subconscious, we’ll just give you a few seconds to shiver and recover from the repressed memories.
Now, here are some other reminders. Those damned examinations often come in two main types of indigestion-inducing questions: there’s the “objective” or multiple choice question and then there’s the “subjective” theory, or essay questions. And of course, you remember the rules—the “objective” questions are the ones that require you to give an objective, undisputed answer—usually achieved by simple guesswork, elimination processes and outright gambles of Las Vegas proportions.
You don’t even have to believe in rightness of the “objective” answer—just pick the freaking correct one, according to the dictates of the examiner. And unless your examiner is the Second Coming of Satan, there’s going to be only one correct answer. For example, when you see the question: “Was Hitler an evil person? You had better choose a “Yes” as quickly as possible or you’re on your way to a life of failure and hardship, or worse—a career of producing music videos for Tonto Dikeh.
Unlike objective questions, essay or “subjective” theory questions have no “right” answers. What you have are: fucking good answers, fucking bad answers and “whatever” answers. Answering a subjective question is where students prove their mettle. This is the point where your hours of posing at the library begin to count, and then you begin to write furiously as you dramatically defend your position—or, more likely, if you are human like the rest of us, you take up a sudden interest in the architectural structure of the examination hall ceiling while hoping the paper will sort itself out.
And here is the point we’re trying to make in today’s post: life works like a freaking examination administered by a bureaucratic examiner who keeps throwing you a bunch of objective and subjective questions in the guise of decisions and dilemmas. Your objective questions are easy to figure out and spout. It doesn’t take any effort to give the correct answers. Even the most superficial person can easily state all the nice principles of life objectively: “Love Your Neighbour as Yourself”, “Do Good to All Men”, “Democracy is Good”, “Corruption is Evil”, “Babies are Assholes.”
But when it comes to the subjective, essay, questions, things become less clear and the shit begins to spray around. That’s where life asks you to stand up, unzip your pants slowly and show the world your balls. Do you begin to count the ceiling at this point or do you draw up, and submit, a kick-ass paper?
Take a socio-economic scenario, for example: the objective answer states that “corruption is bad”, but when the President decides to cut down the bogus civil service—and you end up losing your job, how glad will you be that you have sacrificed something to fight corruption? When your 15-year-old car is impounded, do you praise God for the objective joys of road safety? When your beautiful house is demolished for the superhighway, do you rejoice in the objectivity of town planning and infrastructural development?
And here’s our moral for the day: a strong education is built, not on the ability to pick objective answers, but also to subjectively defend them. It’s the essay questions that get the high marks. The existence of a disconnect between your objective answers and your subjective arguments is a premise to failure. Your principles should be more than just agreements with objective facts, they should also have subjective application. You, as an individual, should be willing to defend your paper—otherwise, you will always be apprehensive whenever an exam is around the corner. Or if you prefer, you can always call in sick.
P.S. The upcoming book, Sorry Tales is still in progress. Keep your fingers crossed, folks, and also bear with our fortnightly publication schedule. We’ll be back to weekly in no time, seriously. 😉
You know we are asking for trouble on Idlemindset when we reference God in what is clearly an irreligious blog. Now that its virtually becoming Nigerian law not to take God’s name in vain, we really can’t predict the response of you, our dear, religiously sentimental, readers. Nigeria is a religious country and no one screws around with their God or Gods or gods. No one, that is, except us. Of course, when we use the word “God” on this blog, we expect you to fill in the relevant, itty-bitty details by yourself: e.g. gender, looks, musical preference, number of angels and tolerance level for bullshit. In fact, for our own purpose, and because we love women, we will consider God as a kindly ageless woman with plenty angels (three of whom will die shortly), listens to Afro hip-hop and has an unlimited tolerance for the bullshit we do everyday.
But today’s post is not geared towards a psychoanalysis of the nature of God, nor is it about defending the independence of God—She is perfectly capable of doing that Herself, otherwise She would have resigned the title “God” long ago. Instead, we’ll focus our precious time on examining that alarming, and almost specifically Nigerian, culture of invoking God in every half-assed achievement scenario, however irrelevant. And the latest of these infatuation with spiritual controllers is the relegation of God to the role of a favoritism prone, country partisan, asshole of a football official who lets one team win and double-crosses the other team.
Here’s an example of how prevalent that mentality is: at a barbershop yesterday, during the match against Ivory Coast, a Nigerian watching the play had a near heart attack when someone playfully suggested that some juju must have been involved in the seemingly improved performance of the Super Eagles. This cardiac-prone gentleman, like a desperate defense attorney, seriously began to rebuke his fellow fan for ascribing to Ifa what was clearly the handiwork of the Christian God. “This match belongs to Jehovah” he said with profound insight, and three angels collapsed and died on the spot (we warned you).
You see, playfully ascribing a football match to juju is one thing, seriously ascribing it to God, instead of hard work, practice and random factors, is another. The uncomfortable truth is this: God is freaking indifferent to the African Cup of Nations. And the Barclay’s Premier League, and the World Cup. But apparently, Mr. Keshi clearly thinks God is a Nigerian, because during the press conference after the victorious match, he confidently proclaimed that “God is wonderful, the boys showed character.” In fact, he started the conference with the verbal equivalent of tossing the ancestors a libation before commencing a social drink: “First of all, I want to thank God….”
Now here’s the crux of today’s post. Its okay to thank God in everything. But superstitious belief should not be confused with a personal thanksgiving. In a country where religion precedes common sense and folks are convinced that supernatural forces, and not human factors, decide what happens, we should not hesitate to fight against that mentality wherever it pops up. We will achieve a great deal more if we thank God less and work harder, than if we thank God more and work less—and it doesn’t matter what your religious leaders tell you. In any case they will be the first to abscond if this country crashes from the weight of their superstitious influences.
And God doesn’t mind your focusing less on superstitions, really. That’s why She gave you that pound of meat contained inside your skull—so get the fuck out and use it. And just like a fish doesn’t wait for God before using its fins, or a bird before using its wings, you shouldn’t sit on your sorry ass, praying, waiting for meat. Unless, of course, you live a zoo. Otherwise, you just have to work for your own goals. God is awesomely indifferent to your football matches, your fixtures, your players or your coach. And the same applies to a lot of everyday life and activity. The supernatural realm is very, very indifferent to a lot of things you consider very, very important.
And so what’s the use of religion and spirituality? Religion is an internal influence, not an external one. Your religion is a personal spiritual business, its not a physical force that will change things for you. Your religious beliefs will not change the laws of nature, logic and human psychology. Whatever your religion, either primitive ancestral worship or the more advanced Christianity, Islam and their several counterparts, if you jump from a skyscraper and fall on a rock below, you will break something. If you work studiously towards a goal, you will get it. Religion could give you knowledge, but it won’t give you resources. Religion could give you enlightenment, but it won’t give you progress. Religion could give you inspiration but it won’t give you success. You just have to do that freaking work yourself. And with that said, get off this blog and go do something useful.
P.S. Remember to order my short play “Death in the Dawn” here. It will not change your life, but it will entertain you some. 😀 😀 😀
Its another cheery Monday, and therefore, a very fine time to throw punches at our cherished social norms. So, let’s start off with this insignificant news item from last Friday that still has many Nigerians mystified: the President paid a surprise visit to the Nigerian Police College in Ikeja, Lagos.
But, as the constant readers of this blog will tell you, we try not to take things at face value on this blog. Accordingly, we are intrigued that the President’s sudden visit to a long forgotten institution has to be—for want of a more appropriate term–-coded. There shouldn’t be anything to hide, really. But the nature of the visit, the suddenness of its occurrence, and the general distrust we have for our leaders suggest that the President’s visit has more to it that meets the eye. In fact, it must have involved a very very pressing matter.
Of course, the President must be worried sick about the consistent welfare of our beloved police force. We all are.. Worried sick, that is. But, however innocuous his visit was, the fact is that the simplest governmental gesture cannot be trusted. So, we cynically listen to Abati’s praise of the event and draw our own conclusions: maybe the President went for a private meeting, at best; or at worst, someone is angling to for a major police college contract.
This reasoning itself is a consequence of our government’s attitude towards information feedback and appraisal. To translate that into blog English: the government doesn’t give two fucks about letting the people know what it’s up to. Policies, activities, decisions: there’s always something, somewhere, left unaccounted and unsaid. Instead, we have plenty hidden agendas and public denials. Therefore it becomes hard to trust the government. Turn on the TV and listen to a public officer speak, and you just can’t be sure he is saying the honest truth.
But we have little time to waste on government talk today. It is generally agreed that our government is fucked-up. The real problem is this: a fucked-up government is merely a composition of fucked-up individuals who have emerged from a fucked-up society. The people whom we elect into government publicly feed us with the same kind of crap we like served to us, hot and steaming, in our own private lives.
We are quite comfortable with deception—either in the name of government policy or spiritual authority. We lie to others and other people lie to us. Hereabouts, we are all public saints. Oh yeah. Especially when it comes to morals. We are all fine religious folks: we abhor masturbation, reject foul language, condemn abortions, ban porn, criminalise homosexuality, censor Big Brother Africa shower scenes, strongly oppose nudity in the media, crucify pre-marital or extra-marital sex and lie through our teeth with a straight face.
We have all managed to consistently project the hypocrisy of being so good and nice and saintly and Christian, without vice or sin or blemish. We are so spiritual, the situation would be outright hilarious, if not for the social implications. Especially when the evidence around suggests we are not. And yet, we all know the truth: we love the nasties. So, here’s some unsolicited advice: instead of clinging stubbornly to a false spirituality, why not just embrace the reality of the sin?
That ability to say: “Yes, I did it” takes some magnificent balls, but it can go a long way to making your life more peaceful. Cut out the crap and let the world know what you are, a character quite separate from what you hope to be. Tell the world boldly that you’re not above natural human desires and instincts, including drinking inappropriate amounts at the local nightclub and spilling it out all over the toilet seat.
And this is the moral for today: honesty is refreshing for the mind. You have no one to fear when you are an honest sinner, you have everyone to fear when you are a dishonest saint. And when we are done removing our individual self-deceptions, then we can then take a broom to our shitty government and clean it out properly.
Let’s take time to laugh at ourselves today. And what better way to light up the laugh lines than with the hallowed traditions of this country? You see, there’s this line of the Nigerian national anthem that’s obviously there for shit and giggles. Actually, every line of the anthem is for laughs, but this line is particularly extra comical: “The labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain.”
The hilarity here is not that we have no heroes in the objective sense (we do, seriously) nor is it that we have consigned the labours of these heroes to the recycle bin (we have). The real joke is that our problem is much more serious: we have no freaking idea what a hero is or who our heroes are. These days, a number of odd figures show up on the hero radar, the word “hero” has lost all meaning and the criteria for selection has become quite jumbled.
So here’s a quick test: if you’re able to identify Uti in the picture above, but not Saro-Wiwa in the picture further above, then congrats! You’re the fucking problem with this country. But before you jump off the nearest bridge—a solution which we highly recommend—its not entirely your fault that Uti is more recognizable than Ken.
The creepy value system most of us were bred with has blatantly encouraged us to regard winning a million Naira in an effortless venture as a more worthwhile life achievement than fighting social injustice without pay. Even worse, our moral and religious systems have encouraged the idea that a good spiritual life is necessarily rewarded with riches.
That is why our leaders keep getting away with corruption. Because deep down, we value those leaders who cram their mouths full much more than those who go hungry for us. In the latest installment of materialistic hero-worship, lots of folks went gaga over the fact that some Nigerian woman took Oprah’s place at the top of the dollar counting scale. In typical Nigerian fashion, this was enough reason to be proud to be a Nigerian. Worse, this non-news was taken seriously by a lot of people.
Of course, it is irrelevant to most of the Alakija hero worshipers that Oprah’s influence over the years derived from what was basically community service, and not from the number of dollar bills in her wallet. This inability to discern what is worthwhile is why the prayer meetings are going to speed up like an expressway on drugs, as pastors get new material to feed their congregation. And all over Nigeria, folks will keep on begging God desperately for their chance at mouth-watering riches in a misguided attempt to involve the divine in material aspirations.
Now here’s the lesson today: a people are defined by their heroes. Heroes are ordinary people who manage to do extraordinary things. Extraordinary things such as defending the weaker and battling the stronger. We used to have such heroes; some kickass awe-inspiring heroes that stood their grounds before teargas and gun bullets. We used to have men and women who stood and died for what was right.
From the days of the Aba Women’s Riot to the nights of Occupy Nigeria. We had voices that spoke without fear or guilt. Yes, Superman and Batman used to live among us. But they are mostly gone now. What we have today are bratty guys who win reality shows and silver-fed women with oil blocks. These are our freaking heroes. Well played, Nigerians. You messed up in heroic proportions.