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Monthly Archives: February 2017

Of Choices and Consequences, Actions and Reactions.

Of Choices and Consequences, Actions and Reactions.

Imagine if I sold you a piece of equipment which malfunctions while still under warantee and when you return I tell you that I cant help you because I am not the manufacturer!

Imagine if knowing fully well that I am drunk, I picked up a bunch of kids in my car and then crashed into a trailer. I survive, they die but I insist I was only trying to help them and so should not be liable.

Imagine if I knew of a plan to get my friend raped because I saw some guy add a substance to her drink but I said nothing. After she gets raped I claim its not my fault because I did not drug her.

Every choice we make has a consequence. Every action we take begets a reaction. We are liable for the consequences of our choices and the reactions to our actions.

I often wonder whether when the terrorist group, the Black Hand sent groups to assisinate Archduke Ferdinand, they expected that their action would lead to WWI. Or when the soldiers struck January of ’66 they knew they would set off reactions that would lead to the Nigerian Civil War. But can either the Black Hand or the coup plotters of ’66 honestly absolve themselves of responsibility for the consequences of their choices?

No gain saying that the Nigerian political atmosphere has taken on a toxicity that many never envisaged. When the wind of black propaganda and outright lies were being sown, the planters perhaps never expected to reap the whirlwimd of intolerance, discord and arbritrariness. If they did, there probably will be less talk about rights to pick a candidate who is turning out much more flawed than envisaged, hoping this will somehow free people of responsibility for their actions. 

Yes, it is an indisputable fact that by design, every election presents an opportunity to make a choice.Each choice is valid and the supporters have a right to sell their candidate anyway they deem necessary within the ambits of the law. What then happens after elections have been won and lost? 

Let’s pause for a minute and talk about the spirit of sportsmanship. A person is said to have the spirit of sportsmanship when he imbibes fairplay and respect for self and others in his conduct before, during and after play. When competitors shakes hands before a game or after, exchange shirts, pull opponents up when they fall, show empathy when the competition is hurt we smile because we are seeing sportsmanship in action. Sports is of course first of all play.However, when the competition cheats in order to win or is foul in word or action, we do not think much of them as individuals. The same applies to politics. People should be magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat. 

Your “right” to victory gives you the “responsibility” of not gloating about your victory, mocking the loser, making him feel like he is scum for choices  rationally made.

In the same way your “right” as a loser, gives you the “responsibility” of not being a sore loser, exhibiting pettiness in explaining why you lost or accusing the victor of cheating without tenable evidence.

But what happens when the winner gloats? Or the loser whines? 

For every action there is a reaction. You have a right to free speech but you cannot scream fire in a crowded theatre and then refuse to take responsibility for the ensuing stampede.

Right after the 2015 elections were won and lost, there was a noticeable gloating by the victors. Everyone could testify to considerable improvement in the quality of life of Nigerians after. These improvements, we have come to know, were a fallout of the policies of the previous administration. They were, for lack of a better metaphor, what one would term ‘aftershocks from Tremor Jonathan’. But they were explained away as vibrations from the Buhari Bounce. The direct result of the Bounce Theory was added derision not just of the former president but people who voted him. And if anyone is wondering who fueled this disdain look no further than the President’s July 2015 interview. While fielding questions on running an inclusive government, President Buhari said, “Constituencies  that gave me 97% cannot in all honesty be treated equally on some issues with constituencies that gave me 5%. I think these are political realities. While certainly there will be justice for everybody, everybody will get his constitutional rights. But while the party in constituencies that by their sheer hard work they got their people to vote and to ensure that their votes count, they must feel that goverment has appreciated the effort they put in putting the government in place. I see this as fair.”

Excerpt from “Buhari, Working Magic in Body Language”, by Godwin Ijediogor, Opinion piece in the Guardian 18th August, 2015.

Earlier, July 1st to be precise, the phrase “Wailing Wailers” had been  released as a teaser to the enshrining of the 5% from the 97% dichotomy. By September 2015, in an article celebrating milestones of “the new sheriff in town’s” 100 days in office, the President’s media aide presented the Buhari Bounce, as an official economic policy.

Any calls for better governance by the 5% was greeted by phrases like “you are pained”, “GEJ is not coming back” and the like.  When the 5% mentioned that no provision was made for the Second Niger Bridge in the 2015 appropriation bill, they were reminded that they did not vote in the current administration and so technically had no rights to demand anything.

Did these supporters have a right to express their views? Of course they did. Free speech is a right that no one should even contemplate taking away from anyone. But remember responsibility? 

Two years on, the Buhari Bounce has dropped, lost its velocity and rolled to a halt. But those who predicted the disasters we are now seeing are again being denied the right to gloat. I say let them gloat. I say you cannot take action and still dictate reactions. I say  let people say “I told you so” for as long as they wish. I say let them remind you of all the signs you ignored. I say let them remind you of errors you should not make again. This is really a small price to pay for your lack of sportsmanship.

Granted, people of the I-told-you-so gang were sore losers as well. You would have been well within your rights to remind them of the mess they wanted Nigeria to remain in if things has turned out different. But they didn’t. And here we are.

Some are insisting that the present gloaters profer solutions. I dont think it is their job to save the country. The president and his team swore to protect and to serve, let them do their jobs. It is not the job of the “opposition” to govern. If the ruling party think the kitchen is too hot, they should step out and let someone else take over the cooking.

Same goes for those who were at the forefront of selling a candidate who has turned out very flawed. They cannot decide not to take responsibility for their actions now. If I came out to tell you that God showed me something about Nigeria’s future and it turns out wrong, I owe it to God and man to confess that maybe I did not really hear the voice of God lest I make God a liar. And if I decide not to, then I should be ready for whatever backlash I receive for my stance. 

When we begin to assume responsibility for the actions we take, when we understand that every choice we make has consequences, maybe we will be closer to making the world a better place. This itwasntmeism and dontblamemeism can only breed a nation of selfish irresponsible individuals. No nation ever moved forward with this type of thinking. In fact, this is the very thinking that created our problems to start with.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2017 in General

 

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Lest we Tolerate Intolerance

In the medieval times, it was a crime to translate the Bible into the languages that could be read and understood by common people. People who tried to defy these laws were captured, charged with heresy and sometimes burned at the stake. If you are one of the more liberal minded albeit religious persons today, you will frown and condemn such acts of intolerance in the dark ages. Back then, you could have been burned for daring to speak up.

In Nazi Germany, simply being a Jew meant you would be targeted. You might end up being burnt in the gas chambers or if you are more fortunate or less depending on which you would prefer, you sent off to a death camp in Germany, Austria or Poland due to this accident of nature. The fight against this intolerance led to WWII.

The problems in Nigeria can be traced to intolerance evidenced in the fear of domination by one tribe or the other. To what would you ascribe the killings in the North that ultimately formed a strong basis for the declaration of the State of Biafra and ultimately the Civil War?

One thing you would notice in these acts of intolerance is that the perpetrators often act in sincerity, based on a belief that they are doing the right thing. Some would have even thought they were doing God’s will. But history has been mostly unkind to them. The results of their lack of tolerance have shown that perhaps we would have a less bloodied history if they never did the things they did.

The word intolerance derives from the Latin wordintolerantia which denotes an unwillingness to endure a differing opinion or belief. It is an unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behaviour that differs from one’s own.  Synonyms of intolerance include bigotry, narrow-mindedness, small-mindedness, parochialism, fanaticism, dogmatism, illiberality; prejudice, bias, partiality, partisanship, sectarianism, one-sidedness, inequality, unfairness, injustice, discrimination.

It is important to give an in-depth definition for intolerance because it sets the premise of this piece. Intolerance is a negative word but its effects on society are even worse. A lack of tolerance can destroy the very fabric which should hold together any society. Intolerance means there is more reasons for disunity; it creates a people so divided that they cannot come together for any cause.  One fears that society in general and the Nigerian society in particular is slowly being eroded by intolerance. 

Once upon a time, the division was between the government and the masses, the oppressors and the oppressed. One could easily rally the masses under the umbrella of labour or civil society and so distinctly see the ‘us vs them’. These days the partisanship is not so clearly cut.  We have the APC/PDP, APC/APC, PDP/PDP, KOWA/APC, government/masses, inner caucus/others in government, volunteers/aides, paid volunteers/paid aides, civil society favourable to government/civil society seeking the face of government/ civil society not seeking face of government, fragmented labour…even more fragmentations, each group trying to own the narrative. 

What this means is that before you can garner support for a cause, you will have to cross so many hurdles and be forced to run a marathon at the speed of a hundred metre dash. You will be left so frustrated that you may decide it is better to suffer the intolerance that led to the purposed rallying.

Outside politics, intolerance holds sway in religion. There are not only the different religions in the world but even among the bodies of religions there are sects and counter sects. Protestants broke away from Catholics but continued protesting within whilst sowing wild oats and birthing children in the myriads. In Islam, Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist and other religions there are also numerous sects. Many so intolerant to each other that they sometimes resort to wiping out people of a particular sect. The continued incarceration of cleric Ibrahim Yaqoub El-Zakzaky in Nigeria has been linked to the Shi’a/Sunni divide. In fact, the recent conflicts in Iraq have been linked to the difference in ideology based on these two groups.

If you think that running away from politics and religion will save you from intolerance, then think again. Intolerance has crept into our social lives and is threatening to destroy that too. There is the division caused by the gender wars and the divides resulting from sexual orientation. These days, you not only have to be careful what you say but how you say what you say so as not to trigger attacks from a group that disagrees with your views. The protection of minorities and minority views often leads to the bullying of the majority and vice versa. Even when you choose not to express your views you will be labelled by the zealots of one group think or the other. Your silence is a submission to the oppressors and oppression. Oppression itself is a construct of what thinking you adhere to.

Let us get this straight; there is nothing wrong with bias. We all have our biases. In the same vein, we all have things we can tolerate or not tolerate. For instance, some people cannot tolerate milk. This does not mean that milk is bad. It only means that milk is bad for them. A person who is lactose intolerant may choose to become an anti-milk advocate. They may choose to start telling people that milk may not be good for their health and cite examples of people who should avoid milk for their own well-being. Even persons who drink and love milk may welcome their advocacy and even share in it peradventure they have someone in their family /friends are lactose intolerant or would benefit from not taking milk. But what if this person decides that everyone must stop taking milk and then begins to target and label people who do not agree with their anti-milk advocacy?

The above example may sound extreme, even unthinkable, but read a book like The Wave and you will see how easy it is to go down the slippery slope of intolerance. All it requires is a group of people who believe they are right, and they have a right to impose their will on everyone else. Give these people authority and they believe they can help others think what is best for them. But let us remember that even if our cause is right, it is wrong to impose our beliefs on others. You can evangelise but you should not colonise. You can propagate but don’t facilitate hate. Any idea that you need to use intolerance to propagate is not worth the violence you infuse into it. Remember one person’s lactose intolerance could be another person’s milk.

When we all realise – conservatives, liberals, neo conservatives, neo liberals, alt-rights, alt-lefts, fact checkers, truth seekers, revealers of fake news, creators of alternative facts, narrative shapers, shape shifters, communists, socialists, evangelists, atheists, religious, irreligious, areligious, agnostics, homosexuals, transsexuals, asexuals, white feminists, black feminists, neo feminists, feminist feminists, narcissists, extremists, pundits, intellectuals, neo intellectuals, Kabiyesi intellectuals, intellectually challenged, witches, wizards, pro-lifers,pro-choicers,  men, males, boys, teenagers, women, females, girls, children, the unlisted- when we realise that we are just people with different views maybe then we will get rid of intolerance. When we realise that this can just be about milk, we would probably be more tolerant and respectful of the views of others.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2017 in General

 

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