Savagery is Still Our National Pastime

Femi Akintunde-Johnson

A little over a month ago (8 September) marked the fifth anniversary when this column appeared for the first time in ThisDay on Saturday newspaper in 2018. The maiden article was titled ‘Savagery As National Pastime’. Few days ago, we decided to memorialize the five years of weekly conversations on these pages, and gauge if there is any positive dent on the chequered national framework since we “set foot at dawn”. Well, we regret to announce that instead of the witch’s ailment to abate, she continues to procreate more female inheritors. Our case has plummeted even further south, as our young ones have grown wilder and more uncontrollable in the ventilation of their ungarnished disgust and cynicism of how the affairs of the nation are being run, and the quality of leadership that is foisted on them.

Reading, again, the first article below, with only substitutions of a few names, it may appear to you like a commentary on last month’s happenings. It is that bad. Let’s go…:

“Here is a window to a typical day on WhatsApp closed groups:

“Ol’boy: So, Afenifere too have fallen in love with Atiku? They said they’re ready to join forces with Atiku so far Buhari can be removed, for restructuring to come to Nigeria!

Skola: Aha! That means Pa Adebanjo and cohorts have been Atikulated! (Several grinning Emojis follow)

Biggie: @Skola, are you well? Abi you just woke up in that Isheri brothel? Why do you lazy youths have no respect for elders? Do you know that Pa Ayo Adebanjo is over 90 years?

Skola: Mr. Respect, don’t insult me o! So, because the man is 90, I should not breathe again? Don’t I have a right to disagree with him, or anybody sef?

Biggie: You have a right to be abusing someone probably older than your grandpa? Kontinue! This table you’re shaking (on-the-run emojis). But if they yab your god, Bubu, you’ll be foaming in the mouth, crying that he should be respected as an elder and c-in-c… and him never 80 o, officially!

S.H.O.T.S: But why should Baba Adebanjo say anybody but Buhari! Because of restructuring? No be so dem trick them for 2014 with anything but GEJ.

Skola: No mind the Baba joor. Where and when did we even sit down to appoint them as Yoruba leaders – I didn’t remember voting anybody! So, nobody should use me to make money.

Biggie: When they say some people may die young, it is not a curse o. It is self-inflicted! So, these very old activists that have been in the forefront of struggles for egalitarian society… since even before Independence…are making all the sacrifices for monetary motives? Hmmm. That’s a great error in today’s thinking, and to use yourself as a yardstick of morality is a grave disaster to the future of this country.

Gaga-B: Bros, leave matter. All this big grammar over what? When you say someone is Atikulated, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s compromised. It may be the fellow is now a supporter or believer of Atiku. You can be Atikulant, Atikulized, Atikurated, or even be on Atikudol – as in Tramadol. (Several hysterical emojis follow).

Ol’boy: But we all know that Atiku is associated with ceaseless spending for political leveraging… Why did you think he cried when his associates bought his presidential form? He was shocked they could even return 12m naira after his several years of donations!

Biggie: Jokes apart, it is rather sad that young minds who should have retired these grand old men by leading the struggles for progressive ideals, are the same ones shamelessly mocking the old soldiers, and questioning their reputations! Mtshewwww….”

Several posts of irreverent and disruptive viral links follow…and deluge of swear words, profanity, abuses and reprimands go on and on… soiling the day of delicate minds, and spiking the adrenaline of on-line warriors.

Of course, the language and expletives have been moderated, and lexical errors spruced up – but the above “dialogue” is a common spectacle in many of today’s social media platforms (particularly Whatsapp and Telegram). Worse still, the savagery on Twitter as a relentless surge of gore, grime and gaffes…deserves a special feature.

We are all familiar with the desperation of the moment – the seeming frustrations of the “working class” engulfed in daily battles to provide for his or her family, keep children in schools (here or there), meet sundry obligations…and yet expect public authorities to fulfill the minimum requirements of their supposed mandates.

Frankly, the social fabric of the Nigerian society has been shredded in several portions. We can devote weeks to pointing fingers and apportioning blames, yet we shall be nowhere near closure, months after.

Arguments are not activated in public space because people want some sort of resolution or clarity. No, we argue in a high and violent tone today to ventilate our frustrations, impotence, and disillusionment. On the other side of the divide, we repudiate negative depositions against our preferred personality – not because we want to sway opponents or convince doubters. It appears our mandate is to decimate any contrary opinion (often wrapped in disparaging, condescending or derisive cotton wool of hate and hubris).

Even when our leaders fail us, and the planks of our personal and corporate economies wobble on account of the omission or commission of political actors, Nigerians must return to civility and coherence in social intercourse. Extremism in any form is a self-destructive toga that we must reject. Clearly, we can’t be a great nation when most of us are fairly great in malicious messaging, inglorious petty-swapping and such kill-or-be-killed verbal and textual attrition.”

End of quote. Do you share our sense of trepidation at what another five years would look like? Is it possible that an unpopular but competent rulership with formidable deliverables that stem the poverty and disillusionment in the land be able to curve downward the spiralling angst and anomie of our young population? Perhaps, this wish has nothing to do with a horse.

Thank you for reading us these past five years – may Nigeria thrive in our lifetime.

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