Edifying Elucidations By Okey Ikechukwu
The Greeks kicked off the Olympic Games, which was good for the occasional distemper of the warring Hellenes of the Peloponnese. These games cost Aristocles, the young and incredibly handsome son of an Athenian aristocrat his real name. The young man was so well in all his events that his face and form became familiar to everyone. But how many people would know the names of all athletes from so diverse a background? Therefore everyone simply referred to this outstanding Olympian as “Platon” (The broad one), because of his build. Even when he later gave up public life and taught many young men (including Aristiotle, his most popular student), the world still called him Plato, following the designation he inherited from the Olympics. But we are digressing.
When is a nation seen to be taking its issues seriously? When it spends money, runs around making a lot of noise, or when it follows the time-tested Rules of Engagement for success in any sphere of human endeavour? As we prepare to zoom off on a national retreat on how to save Nigerian sports, let us note that the issues on the table are not just travel allowances, lamentational excesses and quarrels over whether the retreat should not be considered an undeserved holiday. It is also not the occasion for us to invite speakers who will tell us the meaning of sports and how it is good for our national image. This retreat should be a working session, designed to bring out clear (and implementable) steps towards raising our performance as a people before the world.
The good news is that the Minister of Sports has his head properly screwed on. The worry, though, is how to navigate the ‘industry’ of subterfuge that has dominated that sector for far too long. The middle position here is that the Minister will not be satisfied with nebulous propositions and generalisations. Specifics or nothing! It is time to disinfect Nigerian sports and separate its essence from the menagerie of interests that now take the name of that important sector in vain.
Let us, in the tradition of the great Olympian/philosopher look at what makes a thing what it is. Hopefully, that may help us to rouse the Sports Ministry.
A stone exists as a stone because it has withstood the elements and remained solid after surviving the rains, collisions with other objects and even human acts of force. If it had been crushed by any of these forces it would not have been there for us to see and talk about. But because it resisted the wind and everything else, it exists and we call it by a name. The day it loses these qualities it ceases to be itself. Being a stone is, therefore, not just a final result. It is simply a continuity in the fact of remaining a stone. Sports Ministry, take note.
This means that every reality is only a realisation of what it has the potential to be. Whatever cannot realise and maintain certain qualities that define it as a distinct entity is not a thing, not an entity and not real. It is this simple fact that some philosophers captured for us in the statement “Every entity is always a process of continuous self-affirmation”.
But, trust philosophers, they went out of their way to complicate this simple truth by putting it thus: “Everything is what it is”. Well, we know that already, don't we? A stone is a stone. It is not a house. A house, on the other hand, is not a tree. A big tree is also not a small tree.
Among animals each species is different from the other. A rabbit is not a cow. A cow it not an antelope. An antelope may compete for prime pasture with other grass-eating animals but it cannot call itself the pasture. Plant eating animals may even fight over grazing land, depending on which is stronger, but a soldier ant does not challenge a buffalo, or an elephant, to a wrestling match.
This is in just the nature of things.
It is also in the nature of things that the arrival of a lion in the same environment will create more than ordinary panic. Forthwith, the lion’s presence will force every other animal to change their ideas about who is in charge. Yet, the lion does not need to announce its presence in order to have this effect. It does not declare, or announce, its lionhood. It does not need to do so, because what it is, as a lion, speaks – naturally.
But what gives the lion its lionhood; in short what makes a lion what it is? Philosophers have asked this question, even if in a roundabout and tiresome sort of way. Let us just say here that the minister who fails to insist on policy leadership is calling his lionhood to question!
Philosophers! They say all sorts of things, you know. If you think back to what one of them said, to the effect that everything is what it is, you must admit that this is no great revelation. Does it even sound profound? Who does not know that everything is what it is? Have you ever heard anyone saying that a rat is not a rat, or that an elephant is a mango tree? Is a grain of corn not different from a tuber of yam?
But, wait a minute; a grain of corn can become a plant that is taller than a full-grown man. As a plant, it will eventually produce hundreds of grains of corn. So a grain of corn is not really a grain of corn, after all. No, that cannot be true. A grain of corn is still a grain of corn! But, o’ dear, when does a grain of corn cease to be a grain of corn? Is it when you put it into the ground, or when it becomes a maize plant? Did the ministry evolve into something totally incomprehensible over the years?
Please! Enough of all that! A grain of corn is a grain of corn; and that is the end of the matter. Let the philosophers say whatever they like. Let them also even believe whatever they like. We are all too smart to be confused and confounded by their summersaults and mischief. But what if …….oh c’mon, here we go again!
But, just wait a minute and let us think this through. If a baby elephant does not become an adult elephant until it grows up to a certain age, then we cannot say that it is an adult elephant before it has grown into one. And we cannot say that it is a baby elephant once it has ceased to be a baby elephant. It is then an adult elephant. A boy will one day become a man; but he ceases to be a boy when he has become a man. Ah, looks like we have found them out after all; these funny-sounding philosophers! But what about mutation? It happens, does it not?
Wait, but elephant, big or small, can become a lion. Will you say that a cow is a goat because it is small? If a cow can become a goat, then it must have always been a goat from the very beginning; which means that it was a goat before it became a goat! Hold on, that sounds absurd. In fact that is outright nonsense. If the cow was not a goat before it became a goat, then what was it before the change? Or was it really a goat before it became a goat? Wait, what are we talking about? Can something ‘become’ what it already is? No, not at all! But enough of all that!
You are who you are because we can distinguish between you and others. We can also distinguish between you and every other thing we see in the world around us. You are not a tree, a trailer, or a pigeon. You are not part of the landscape, either. A man is a man because he has the qualities of a man and can be distinguished from a woman, a boy, a stone and everything else in the world. To be, therefore, is to stand out. To exist is to refuse to be made to disappear. The Sports Ministry must use this occasion to de-mutate, affirm its essence and reclaim its deserved role in the polity.
Scrapping of Police Affairs Ministry
If you give someone an assignment and he brings recommendation you do not like, you simply refuse to implement it, if it lies within your power to do so. Handlers of the Police Affairs Minister should have spared us the rather unedifying image of a visibly rattled minister on national television.
The point of managing public office holders is that other competences are assembled, to ensure they do not come out at their worst.