Revisiting Remnants: Of Lost Etiquette and Social Dislocation

Femi Akintunde-Johnson

In dealing with the fifth element that may provide us the power to lift our people out of diverse manifestations of poverty, and therefore promote and produce a great nation lies in how we moderate our  interactions and transactions within the fabric of a heterogeneous society. 

  Let us ask ourselves a few questions. And answer them with honesty at the tip of our tongues. What do we hold dear nowadays? Who do we celebrate in our society today? What do we justify? We cannot hide under the cool shade of “in our own days…” – it won’t cut. We are seeing the perfidy of today because of what our children saw in some of us, read about many of us, and watched as some of us struggled in the mud with greed and shamelessness.

 What exactly do we hold dear as Nigerians? It is useless rhapsodising about a great period in this nation when every adult in the community was a disciplining parent to any wayward child, irrespective of tribe and tongue; when the scandalized ‘owner’ of the child would seek the surrogate out for thanksgiving – and a reassurance that remedial ‘works’ were ongoing. It is pointless luxuriating in the glow of the 60s and 70s when low fences were mainly to prevent straying animals from disturbing your household; when there was not wrought iron behind your curtains to irritate burglars or robbers; when driving against the traffic flow (‘one-way’ we call it now) was unheard off, except in a serious emergency. 

Now is our problem. Now is what is letting us down, and showing us in discomforting probe-lights that our descent into total damnation is certain, unless we reverse and recapture our innate human essence. Today, we see and behold head-shaking spectacles, and we shrug in resignation – ‘children of nowadays’ is our national mantra of acquiescence. Young men and women in flashy cars drive around the neighbourhood, plunking money in the air for the next generation to scurry after, with seeds of future conquests and acquisitions sowed in their fragile minds. 

  When we justify villainy because others are doing it…or because governments have been irresponsible…or the country has gone to the dogs…and several other puerile ‘reasons’… we inevitably pauperise our country, and besmear all as a people whose long history of academy, sophistication and high culture is now seen as merely a poorly sewn dress to cover a mind predisposed to crime and subversion of rules – that crime without punishment is locked deep in our DNA. 

So, because of the roguery of a few, the entire nation is condemned into ignominy. Our hardworking, law-abiding citizens are dragged through the guillotines as possible fraud artists, drug barons, or mules – and indecently treated and filtered at international airports. For the sake of a few, we are all tarred when you engage in legitimate online transactions, and your currency and nationality suddenly become an irritable issue – a cause for caution. The picture of eating with the devil while wielding a long spoon pops up – simply because some of your ‘compatriots’ had gone ahead of you to muddy the waters. 

 Sadly, this level of depravity is not synonymous with youth. The generations before them, in places of trust and responsibility, have also been involved in activities that suggest mental retardation, spiritual hocus-pocus, or some level of group mysticism. How do you steal from your company or business (even if you have the largest shares, or serve as the chairman) then pocket 90% of the loot, and go to church to give God 10% as tithe? The amazing part is the tendency that some people indeed believe that the penance of paying the tithe bestows on them a sense of restitution, a settled conscience. Laughable as it may sound, it is altogether possible that some righteous rogues actually believe that giving to God, or more appropriately, to the church (or the pastor) a portion from proceeds of their corruption, would make their crime less sinful!

 More soul-sapping were reports of some pastors who have allegedly taken possession of physical property (cars, buildings, other hardwares) that some harebrained worshippers willingly transfer to the church, in moments of ‘spiritual’ catharsis…but in fact, those property, in some cases, actually belong to the entire family who are completely ignorant of the generous giver’s sudden beneficiary, nor of his mental or religious evolution. However, on being made aware of the wilful duplicity of the ‘righteous’ giver, the pastor plays the ostrich, or acts affronted! And these are the end-time bastion that would be relied upon to pull us back from the awesome pestilence of the devil and his infernal host, in the coming Armageddon. So, mentally, spiritually and governmentally, the Nigerian society is in a depressing cul-de-sac.

 Then, on another leg, our ethnic and tribal relations are sorely tested. Nigerians are so divided, with obvious push from politicians and profiteers of irredentism, that every act and statement are now filtered through frames of ethnicity, religion and tribal affiliations. It is grotesque when every kidnapping is surely by the Fulani herders; every fake product is likely by an Igbo trader; most, if not all, romance fraud, is, of course, by a Yoruba chap. Broken and brittle are words that now describe our national fabric which ought to be a one-size-fits-all coverlet for our more than 200 nationalities. The entreaty, ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ is trampled in these times.

 We accept abnormal tendencies, and normalize deviants and pedeophiles who have star-rights, not just human rights. We indulge buffoons as political representatives because some hawk-eyed godfather has assumed power of omniscience to identify great works of God in one man or woman, instead of another. 

We are no more shocked or incensed when ritualists kidnap and disgorge our children for money-making condiments. We are no longer troubled when kidnappers ask for and receive humongous ransoms, even from highly placed persons, and strategic state functionaries – in a world where phone calls and electric messages can be traced to the tiniest end of the pin-point. 

We are now in a society that vilifies honest actions of upright individuals, and deodorizes the unfortunate excesses of dubious characters. 

  Are you sufficiently worried?

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