By Kunle Jenrola
Ever wondered why Extreme Sports or Tensioned Adventures such as Bungee- Jumping or Highwire/Tightrope Walking do not appeal to Africans as a pastime.
It even arouses curiosity that Africans have yielded their heat -baked terrain suitable for the high octane “extreme motor rally” to the adrenaline- rush seeking Europeans and Americans.
The reasons for this apparent aversion for nerve- racking recreation may well be that most Africans have sufficient “extreme” socio-economic and political challenges to grapple with; thereby making any “tension-soaked leisure” an indulgent art.
It could also be that, by nature and nurture, we are wired not to join issues with mother earth.
To the black man, the consequence of any act that tends to defy nature by engaging in daredevil acts and highwired stunts is akin to tending your itchy nose with the head of a live cobra.
Not lily- livered,but if cornered into defending his instinctive flight from fright, he would, if he were of the Yoruba extraction retort:”eni t’oyo lon wa bekun bekun” (only the overfed resorts to a belly bursting activity).
Yes, it’s homespun wisdom that forbids a “motherless child” from courting an injury on his back.
It is however befuddling that either by accident or default, many African Nations, including Nigeria seem to have turned Tightrope walking or Skydiving towards socio- political danger into an art form.
From Cape to Cairo ;Monrovia to Mogadishu, the continent’s political travail is florid with incidents of reckless gravitation towards comatose/ collapsed political structures.
To give vent to this perception is to analyse the protean socio-political situation in Nigeria ;Africa’s most populous and , arguably, most endowed nation .
The irony is that this welter of chaos is more oddly familiar than novel.
Nigeria’s history as a nation tottering on the edge dates back to the pre-independence days when the” gift of self governance” was accepted by regional leaders with varying warmth.
Little wonder, we started our highwire -walk of nationhood with a military coup and counter coup; thus setting the tone for a civil war in 1967.
Even as the military leadership clutched at balancing tools of a political skywalker such as state creation, Youth Corps Programme, and Federal Character , the destabilizing highwinds of our polity always threw up a sweaty feat.
Indeed , at the peak of our shaky trip on the wire, a devastating coup, led by a certain Major Gideon Orkar occurred in 1991. The attempt of the coupists to correct the imbalances in the system through excision of a chunk of the North ended up as a quixotic act of trying to sever the head to cure a headache.
Then came the slap-dash political arrangement of the Babangida years and our immobile movement on the cline became a walk through the “valley of death” as massive protests greeted the annulment of the presidential election won by Chief MKO Abiola on June 12 1993.
But like the resilient tightrope walker who could survive tomato pelts, we steadied our pace toward democracy and arrived at a new political dispensation under President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999.
As usual, our nemesis: ethnicity caught up with us wearing a religous camouflage. The introduction of Sharia laws into the north tugged at the heartstrings of the nation’s secularity . Again, equilibrium was achieved when political sharia took a bow to genuine sharia.
With a consevative ,politically savvy and religion-sensitive North on the same highwire with a liberal, western -educated and entrepreneurial South, a foreground to upset the delicate balance was groping.
Another testy ride found expression in the Resource Control agitations in the Niger Delta region during the Yar’ Adua/Jonathan years. With the restive militants threatening to shut down Nigeria’s oil production facilities, an economic strangulation loomed and a break-up beckoned.
The signs of a split were real and as ominous as to provoke a “scientific prediction” by the Americans that Nigeria would be history by 2015.
But , they lied…we sprang back. We broke the locks and”Houdinized”!
Today, the storms that could cause a fatal misstep from our wired heights are palpable in the spate of banditry, abductions acts of terrorism and ethnic agitations.
And, how much closer can a nation totter on the edge than the current state of insecurity in Nigeria.
Yet, given the fact that we have perfected the act of pulling back from the precipice, we may have acquired the uncanny confidence level of the fumnabulist.
Why not? Having lived on the knife edge between nationhood and disintegration for decades must have honed our skill as a tightrope walking nation.
The good thing is extreme sports like “extreme nationhood” can push you to your physical and mental limits.
The events of the last couple of days in which ethnic nationalities were at each other’s throat may have taught us the virtues of tolerance and mutual respect.
A renewed sense of humility and fear management would also have spewed from these adversities.
A perfection of attributes such as unflappable calmness, stoic endurance, bravery, cautious optimism that define political brinksmanship would be quite handy at a time like this.
A perversion of these skills will keep us on the track of, banditry, terrorism, food blockade, expulsion of non-indigenes,injustice and ultimate fatal collapse of the nation .
It may be presumptuous to expect that the divinity of our unity typified by long history of inter tribal marriages and intercellular business associations, would always keep us away from a gardarene slide into an endless cycle of mayhem and violence.
All told, there can be no denying the fact that Project Nigeria is a work in progress.
Nigeria’s definition may even align with the popular anecdote of the “Blindmen and the Elephant” as recalled by the Vice Presidential candidate of the annulled 1993 election, Ambassador Baba Kingibe in his tribute at Chief Segun Osoba’s 80th Birthday Anniversary celebration, in 2019.
Whatever it is, a lot the work has to be done to halt the move toward a tipping point of disintegration by a leadership committed to the ideals of national peace and justice.
President Buhari appears set to halt this slide with his latest “shoot at sight” order on any illegal carrier of AK-47(Avtomat Kalashnikova) assault rifle.
A non discriminatory implementation of this order and active engagement with all stakeholders in the eye of the storm of insecurity could stem disorder and restore the mental and emotional health of the citizenry.
- Jenrola, a Veteran Journalist and Communication Consultant wrote from Lagos.