OF CBB & BB-Naija: Beyond Laycon and Ogun Governor’s Torrential Gifts
I recall the time must have been in 1979 or ‘80. My benefactor - a professor of International Relations had just returned from a foreign trip. He had a parceled message, apparently from someone in the US, for another professor in the same university. “Unfortunately”, it was me he called and handed over the message to give to this professor, whom he referred to as “ègbón”.
"Go and give this message to ‘egbon’” he hollered. “Please, tell him I collected it for him from the US”. As I did not know whom he meant, I asked him with a subdued tone, emblazoned with deepest honour and respect. After all, I was talking to a revered professor. But he answered me, “Take it to Professor Wole Soyinka.” (Haaa! I am in serious trouble…)
Professor Wole Soyinka’s office was in the Institute of African Studies, proximal to the Faculty of Administration of the then University of Ife. I only needed to saunter across a tarred road. It was not too busy a road for me to cross safely. That was not my real ‘trouble’. It was just about four minutes’ leisure trek away; not distant. But what sort of difficult errand was this man sending me? An ordinary me! . . . To go and deliver a message to this Professor I “dreaded” even from a distance? What would I say when I get to his office? Which good English do I know to speak to him? How will I speak correct English with good diction; without committing a grammatical faux pas?
Oh, my God! Wahala de o! - Trouble has come. It was too late for me to pray like Jesus did while on the stake to be executed by his arch-enemies and incredulous fault finders. Otherwise, I could have chanted his “Let this cup pass over me.” And so, with my wobbled leg, I staggered across the street to deliver the letter; while in my intra-personal communication mode, I was rehashing and reviewing what to say in English: “Professor J.A. says I should give you this letter sir.” No. Its better I say: “Sir, Professor J.A. said I should give this letter to your Honour sir.” No. “This letter is being sent through Professor J.A. to give you Sir”. No. . . No. . . . I reasoned. That appears too lengthy. I was really in trouble with myself! What an unpleasant errand!
Eventually, I got to Professor Wole Soyinka’s office door. I prayed to God to teach me what to say; in correct English and with good diction. Then, in my trembling state, I knocked. . . . Oh God. The Professor’s terse response disappointed and shocked me to the marrow!
“Taa nuun o?” He responded in his soothing tenor voice. Meaning “who is that”? . . . Haaa? He wasted all my rehearsals! He spoke in core, un-adulterated Yoruba, his mother tongue! My morbid fear dissolved right away. But what is the kernel of my story above? You will understand my analogy later. In Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s CBB album, otherwise called “Confusion Break Bone” he likened Nigeria to the proverbial Ojuelegba – a very busy, four-prong junction in Surulere, Lagos. According to the maverick artiste, “ for Ojuelegba . . . . motor dey come from left, motor dey come from right, . . . north and south. But Policeman no dey for centre”. Evidently the corollary is disaster. Fela surmised that the ensuing confusion can be likened to when an already “dead body” again “gets accident”; which apparently becomes “double wahala (viz trouble) for dead body.” According to him, it is a kind of “confusion that breaks bones”. I find his song very apropos for the situations in our beleaguered nation. Nigeria is a nation in total confusion. Yes.
The just concluded Big Brother Nigeria, with the popular acronym “BB Naija” ended few days back with the overall winner carting home a whopping 85 million naira, a plum eye-popping car and many other mouth-watering attached prizes. It featured immorality and obscenities of unspeakable magnitude ever, as humanity nosedived into depravity, gravely competing with bestiality in the daylight while the reality show of ignobility lasted. Brazen sex, opprobrious acts, immorality and adulterous show of shame were brazenly displayed. Complaints were loud from Nigerians, especially from those who place high premium on morality and civility. Obviously, it was below dignity for a nation of over 250 ethnic tribes, each with distinct and diverse beautiful cultural values. Indeed, the truth is that, beyond obscenities and vapidity, the country has enough amiable cultural values to project and protect rather than accept the culturally-alien intrepid show of shame.
However, perhaps for reasons best known to appropriate censorship agencies, they could not stop the reality show as reasonably expected; while discerning parents had to keep away their children and wards with impressionable and youthful minds away from watching such an inane reality show with highly corrupting influences.
A man is what he watches or listens to. His actions, reactions, commission and omission comes from the mind. Thus, I believe in the averment that “the state of a man’s mind is as good or as bad as his intention and actions.” But why do we need to agree with Fela that Nigeria is in a state of utter confusion? For a country that seeks to eradicate the present scourge of rape, child molestation and opprobrious immorality, a display of brazen sex and adulterous practices on our mass media is despicable. Nigeria on one hand decries youths’ present disdain for education, which transforms a society. It is obvious that our youths no longer have unfettered love for education, but are in pursuit of pastimes. The advanced countries we seem to copy are already in El-Dorado in terms of technological, scientific breakthroughs, political and economic advancement. America, UK, Japan and many other European countries had secured the future of every one of their citizens before reclining on reality shows as mere pastime and entertainments. Nigeria bemoans the decline in education, but fails to adequately reward academic achievements. Many Nigerians struggle day and night to secure political power but fail to understand what to do with power when given.
The winner of “BB Naija” was awarded a whopping 85 million naira and other prizes in a despicable show displaying crass immorality that attracted public condemnations. Many parents told their kids with impressionable minds that watching such obscenity was bad. Yet, in another breath, a governor in Ogun State - a Yoruba nation renowned for hard nose and puritanical discipline, was adding more gifts of N5 million, including a 3-bedroom flat to the winner; while civil servants and pensioners lament in squalor and hunger due to unpaid emoluments. The Executive Governor is just a mere symbol of our collective moral compasses, and institutional iniquitous policies. He would certainly preach against immorality any day. Yet, he conferred on the winner of the immoral show of shame a coveted Youth “ambassadorial” position! To him, and many others, the winner is worthy of being taken as a “role model” by the Nigerian youths!
An average Nigerian youth can hardly speak his mother tongue eloquently. He embraces the colonial English language, while he jettisons his mother tongue as a language. But, needless talking about literary appreciation, comprehension test or essay writing examination test, it is heartrending and suffocating to read crisp but horrendous and meaningless expressions our modern-day youths write in the supposedly embraced English on the social media. They hate intellectual reading. They simply adore photographs and videos! Where lies our hope of a developed nation? Many can hardly speak their mother tongues. They discarded it, branding it “old school”. But ironically and painfully, they cannot also speak well the colonial English language they superimpose over their own mother tongue! Thus, they are “neither here nor there”! Most of our modern-day musical lyrics are vapid and insipid, teaching no lessons! Our didactic and indigenous music is disdainfully branded old-school!
Great scholars like the Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof. Chinua Achebe, Biodun Jeyifo, Femi Osofisan, Jimi Solanke, Buchi Emecheta, Chimamanda Adichie etc. all promoted our cultural values, languages and traditions in their writings. They appreciate the pristine beauty of our languages.
Our today youths scorn our hitherto cherished values, while our languages are effacing gradually. Our problems appear hydra-headed and multifarious. Though, we can overcome. Yes. But not until we glorify what we have chastised; embrace and appreciate what we have always disgraced. "Verbum Satis Sapienti"
*Tunji Ajayi, a biographer, author, creative writer and audio visual documentary producer writes from LC-Studio Communications, Nigeria