OF SHOLAY FILM'S GABBAR SINGH & OUR OWN GARBA SHEHU:
The Falsehood in Shehu’s Two-Digit Calculator
Whoever does not have strong enough guts should not attempt to watch that Indian film entitled “Sholay”. It is neither an exaggeration nor a misnomer that it was branded an emotionally packed film, and the mother of all Bollywood classics till date. The eerie night I eloped from my hardnosed mother’s eagle eyes to watch the film at the popular Rasco Cinema, Osogbo, my lachrymose gland was fully sensitized as tears welled down my eyes endlessly. Though, I hardly cried. No. Not even when flogged like a silly cow in school at the assembly in those days. How would I ever cry even while in serious body pain, when I was often a cynosure of eyes by my admirers who often swarmed around like bees. Don’t ask me if they were male or females. I don’t know. I guess I was handsome in my sparkling white shirt & blue knickerbockers. They loved their football goalkeeper. And what we called love in those days didn’t go beyond writing meaningless love letters; often with big indecipherable writings and crammed archaic English, merely to impress. “Can you be my inamorata” became so hackneyed in my own vocabulary and lexicon. And it wasn’t lost on me that my tendon would suffer multiple lacerations from cane should I ever be caught by any of our disciplinarian teachers. Thus, I still needed to beg my “inamorata” well to hide such letters very well, often at the base of her school bag. Hey! Should Mr. Ojelabi, our great cane-wielding Headmaster finds out; Iku de. Whahala dey.
The ethereal beauty of the Sholay and the lessons learnt adequately compensated for my mother’s often “gbékunmì” hard knock on my head; often typical of dropping a bag of cement on an urchin’s head from a storey building. Oh, my mother was a strict disciplinarian. I thought she was wicked. On the other hand, she said I was stubborn and didn’t read my books after school hours. Not done, she would thereafter still hand me over to my cane-wielding teacher. May God bless her for always beating the stubbornness out of me. Perhaps I would have been a never-do-well today. Hmm! But today, we call such discipline “child abuse”. And obviously, we are seeing the result of moral turpitude and crass delinquency, as our primary and secondary school students are faster and now beating and instilling discipline in their teachers. Even most primary school pupils are now in the secret cults wielding charms. Whatever a man sows, he reaps.
Now back to my story. Whoever knows the uncommon exploits and the cameo of starring Dharmendra - (hereinafter called Veeru) and Sanjeev Kumar - (the ex cop here) would be eager to watch any Indian film in which they feature. It was almost certain they would be enthralling in those days. Other great stars who featured in Sholay were Amitabh Bachchan - (Jai), Amjad Khan - (Gabbar Singh), the ever-loquacious Hema Malini and the ravishing Jaya Baduri - (who were cast as Jai and Veeru’s love interests). In Sholay, Thakur Baldev, a resourceful, discreet and incorruptible retired police officer had sought the help of two criminals he had once apprehended, prosecuted and got jailed; ostensibly now to help him effect the arrest and bring one Gabbar Singh - a tougher dacoit who was disturbing the peace of his home village. Gabbar Singh had caused untold mayhem, murdering all members of Baldev’s family in a retaliatory move for getting him jailed for his nefarious activities. Thakur Baldev was seriously battered for doing his job as a police officer and wanted Gabbar Singh alive to pay for his dastardly act.
A Yoruba adage says: “Omo burúkú lójó tiè – even street urchins and neighborhood scallywags sometimes have their own usefulness. The two men whose help he dearly sought, expectedly at a very huge prize were Jai and Veeru, ostensibly because of the dangerous task ahead, and they too, had been made to face the wrath of the law through imprisonment earlier by Thakur Baldev the brilliant ex cop. Subsequently, Jai and Veeru began their life-threatening task, trailing the extremely tough and dangerous target, to apprehend and bring to their principal alive. Gabbar Singh - a very sly man, whose capacity to alter his identity, voice, mannerism to create decoy and subterfuge, conjures terror. Just like a ventriloquist who can neither be identified with a specific voice nor be identified with a specific physical look, like a contortionist Gabbar Singh was extremely elusive. After a long fruitless search for years, Thakur Baldev almost gave up hope of his former assailant ever being found, needless arrested and being brought to him alive to avenge his horrendous acts.
According to a Yoruba proverb: Olè níí mo esè olèé tò lórí àpáta” It’s only a thief that can effectively trail the footprints of his colleague on the rock. After a long search and excessively foolhardy efforts, Gabbar Singh was eventually caught alive to the delight of the community who were all in celebratory mood. The villagers’ joy knew no bound. So was the ex-police officer Thakur Baldev to whom Gabbar Singh, his arch-enemy with unbridled genocidal instinct was handed over alive! Gabbar Singh had many times oppressed Baldev, including killing all the members of his family as punishment for making him face the impartial arm of the law for his nefarious activities in the past.
And so the day of reckoning came as the whole community of men, women and children were gathered, dancing and jubilating for the arrest of their tormentor. But to the chagrin of Jai and Veeru who risked their lives in assisting their principal to effect the arrest, Thakur Baldev was merely gawking at Gabbar Singh unable to even lift a finger to act and avenge! Gabbar Singh’s derisive laughter was loud enough to mock Thakur Baldev knowing full well the secret behind his always being adorned in a long-sleeve toga, wherein his two hands were concealed. His hands, which he had used to fight falsehood in order to uphold the truth as a police officer, had been viciously axed and amputated during one of Gabbar’s unleash of terror on his victims’ village. Thus, Thakur Baldev had no hands to avenge Gabbar Singh’s callousness. However, Thakur Baldev summoned up unusual courage. He avenged Gabbar Singh’s atrocities of the past years with a pair of customized spiked shoes on his legs to conquer him and his impropriety and falsehood.
What then is the kernel of my story? Some people’s character and idiosyncratic behaviour, albeit unwittingly, often make certain objects a symbolism. Consequently each time I see a cap, often called Awo cap, popularized by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the late sage and incorruptible politician, my mind goes to wisdom, integrity and valour as symbolized by the now ubiquitous cap, which often sells in thousands especially during electioneering. Though many of our politicians arrogantly often adorn the cap today but have nothing to do with the smallest atom of what the cap actually symbolizes. The lesson here is that a public figure or a celebrity’s actions, character and mannerisms may popularize or de-market a product in which he is often adorned. There is also a man with his idiosyncratic mode of dressing, who often adorns a certain type of cap. Indeed, when a friend of mine who was similarly adorned in same type of cap visited me recently; though an age-long friend whose propriety, piousness and sincerity had never been in doubt - nonetheless, I still struggled endlessly to believe all he was saying. Unfortunately, anywhere I see this cap being worn by anybody, to me, it symbolizes utter falsehood or half-truth. Each time I see any man distorting truth or mauling down naked truth, I immediately remember Gabbar Singh of Sholay fame, as a symbol of truth distortion, subversion and amputation of truth.. But for what should a virtuous man and public figure strive to be renowned or popular?
I love Fred Allen’s queer description of a public figure. Allen was an American comedian, who once described a public figure as “a person who works hard all his life to become known, but only to wear dark glasses daily to avoid being recognized.” There comes a time when a man’s popularity becomes his own burden. But many of our politicians and political advisers are popular, not because they are on the side of the downtrodden masses, but simply because they delight in telling the populace half-truth, and in most cases zero-truth mainly to please their pay-masters. No wonder Fela once accused them of being the dramatis-personae in “Government Magic”; turning red to blue; and green to white; and turning electric to candle. Even in our time, and of recent we have seen a 344 figure of kidnapped school boys being presented as only 10 to Mr. President. Even when citizens are being mauled down on daily basis by serial killers, criminals, and terrorists euphemistically referred to as the insurgents, our senior special assistants are whispering to the ears of their principals and pay masters; eloquently telling them daily that our security system and the apparatus are in full control. Even as we mourn genocidal deaths and condemn Boko Haram mass killings, bandits’ throat slashing, farmers’ massacre and cattle rustling by AK-47 gun-wielding herders on daily basis, their pay masters are being fed that all is well in town. And when our aged citizens languish in hunger, while millions of jobless university graduates roam the streets unsure of their daily bread, we are assured that millions of jobs are being created to stem the tide of unemployment; while the President is being told that millions of school children are being fed daily through the nocturnal “school feeding” programme. While it obviously smacks utter danger to ply our roads either in daytime or nighttime, we are told that efforts are both in top gear and in the pipeline to end the nightmare of insecurity to make our dear country a haven for industrialization, especially for job provision for the teeming masses of unemployed people; even in the darkness without regular electricity provision. But our great scholars and academicians do not fit into Fred Allen’s definition of popular celebrity. Thus they need not wear dark glasses to avoid being recognized. It is unnecessary. Hardly do our academic professors and intellectuals become popular, needless being recognized. Let them pontificate on their esoteric feats and scientific theories from today till eternity, or design the fastest aircraft that takes 10,000 passengers from the planet earth to the moon, back to the deep sea in 20 minutes. That’s their cup of tea. The bottom-line is that our major albatross in governance is the fake news often been peddled by our government “special advisers”.
In the morning of December 11, 2020 was yet another horrendous breaking news as confirmed by the Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Bello Masari that over 300 school boys at the Government Science School were suspected to have been kidnapped by the Islamist militant group called the Boko Haram. Earlier, the eagle-eyed but much accused Amnesty International had announced that over 1,100 people had been killed by bandits just in the first six months of the year. However, in a swift reaction the Special Assistant to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu debunked the governor’s claim, as being false, adding that only 10 students were actually kidnapped. My question is this: How did the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Mr. Garba Shehu feel when those whopping 344 school boys were coming out of the bush after being released about six days thereafter, as against the ‘only 10’ he swore and told the President and the world? While his subsequent apology might have been noted, but how do we trust our presidential special advisers when they speak? Who really are the purveyors of falsehood and fake news that should deserve no sleep as threatened by Mr. Lai Mohammed? If we truly need liberty from the crushing claws of falsehood, let the government lead the campaign. Until our public officers learn to peddle unblemished and undistorted truth at all times, the true state of affairs of the nations and the suffocating problems being faced by the populace will continue to be hidden from the government who are being looked upon to ameliorate them; while fake news, gossips and grapevine news will continue to thrive. The sacrifice and amputation of morality for the sake of expediency does no nation any good. Every official lie is evil. And like Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States would say: “No man is justified in doing evil on the ground of expediency.” Verbum Satis Sapienti.
*Tunji Ajayi, a creative writer, author, biographer and audiovisual documentary producer writes from LC-Studios Communications, Nigeria (+2348033203115, +2348162124412) facebook.com/tunji.ajayi.946