By Adewale Adeoye
I’m alarmed by the figures some UN agencies have reported on annual violent deaths in Nigeria. The UN puts the figure at 64,000. That is 10 percent the population of a country like Luxembourg. The North East top the least, now in five digits.
Life in my country is turning into the way cockroaches live.
For me, one of the root causes is the violent clash of values and civilisations.
It was not as bad as this in the 1950s and 60s when each of the three regions managed its own affairs.
Today, we want to build a house from the rooftop instead of beginning from the foundation. The police, military, DSS, NSCDC, customs Criminal Investigation, everything is centralized and we naively think the country will be better secured. Nigeria faces a conflict of identity. Unless we resolve this, we may remain in an endless circle of violence.
I urge Nigerian to learn from an agelong folklore betold by my grandmother. Nigeria needs to restructure before it is too late.
This folkLore which is thousands of years old indicated that the Yoruba people conceived of RESTRUCTURING, long before Nigeria came into being in 1914. Its thrilling and intriguing how existentialism of the past had been pregnant with the seed of the present.
THE MOONLIGHT STORY
We used to sit under the Igi Odan in my homestead, after dinner, usually pounded yam with bush meat, sometimes protein sourced from crickets followed by “Desert” of Esisun-the sweet, flying insects roasted to taste. I remember my good, old grandmother used to tell me stories about life. Grandmas are Professors without formal education. They are teachers in the vast University of Life. I recall: on one occasion, I was barely 6, some of our elders had returned from school, so hungry because Yeye was not around, they crawled into the carbon soaked kitchen, picked dried fish and ate with garri without grandma’s permission. When she came, they denied their ignoble exuberance. Her detective tactics were simple.
Uncles had denied basically out of fear.
Yeye ILERIWON–her name meaning “The earth sees the hidden foes that detest with cruel hatred.” Yeye had a solution from her fountain of knowledge. Each was asked to line up, take a gulp of water and each must vomit same in a white, glistering bowl—Tangaran- The CIA would not have done better. Two uncles had granulated dry fishes dancing in the bowl filled with their own mouthwash. Two had colourless waters. The guilty was evident.
NOW, HER ABC OF RESTRUCTURING
She told me a story that keeps reflecting the current situation in Nigeria, a garrison state in perpetual conflict with herself.
It was in a community of animals: Tortoises, his wife, Iyannibo, Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Cobras, Rattle Snakes, Hyenas, Eku Agege, Snails, Cows, Cats, Cheetahs, Crocodiles, Monkeys etc. There was so much conflict, blood, tears and misery arising from conflict of identity. Glad Epo Akara adopted this in
Each animal had a different way of sleeping, drinking, dancing, eating and even yawning or farting. Each was obsessed with the culture of the other, but some could tolerate each other.
Cow was notorious for defecating while walking; Cats were usually enraged to see Antelopes urinate on their body; Crocodiles had ‘stupid’ table manners, always opening their fangs in a savage tilt; Dogs had the funny habit of open, marathon sex to the shock of cats. He goats were terrible: They sleep with their mothers. Snails were just too sluggish that Cheetah felt angry each time; Sheep’s culture of ruminating hours after eating was outrageous, lions thought;
Lions prowling in the night and never staying in one place, in a coil, was disgusting to pythons;
Lions behold a life of dominion to the consternation of Tigers who though the jungle is their own nature’s gift. Cats could not understand why monkeys jump from one tree to the other and never at rest; Gorillas wondered why owls must cry all night and still at dawn; Frogs insisted their howling, crow, crow in the night was in awe of their own god and honor to creeping and flying creature. Zebras wondered why snakes had to crawl all through and the manner of hissing of the snail sent anger through the veins of Crocodiles.
The result was a violent clash of aspirations. Bitter rivalry; Savage killings; disorder, pangs and pains. Daily, the animals died one after the other so were their siblings and family members.
Things fell apart. But Lions and Tigers, the prime beneficiaries insisted the Kingdom must be sustained; “We must stay together and salvage it” They threatened animals asking for a debate on the future are “ethnic jingoists”. Those who asked for separate abode were described as “terrorists”. The punishment was death.
Lions resorted to attacks on any animal sighted in their domains and even invaded the country and dominion of other animals, setting up Lion Dens in the camps of Goats and Pythons. Their rival, Tigers insisted the King of the jungle should b rotated between Tigers and Lions, who make the laws that others must obey.
One day, tortoise began to raise bees trained to perch in the nostrils of lions and tigers, and also sting them. Lions and Tigers fought back helplessly using their claws, but in the process injure and bloody their own robust cheeks. Cubs began to die.
THE PREVALENCE OF REASON
One day, some of the animals met and decided that for peace to reign each should set its own dos and don’ts; there would be a signed agreement that all must obey.
ELIMINATING FEARS AND SUSPICION
The animals met at the village square. It was time for each animal family to list its Eewo- The personal rules for peace building and conflict prevention.
EACH SET RULES
• Crocodiles: Let no animal hiss in the night. That should be left for me alone.
• Cats: Let no animal defecate on the floor any time I’m around or near my own house.
• Hyena: I’m restless, I don’t want snails to loiter near my house in the day time.
• Tortoise: What I hate is gossip. Let no animal gossip about me.
Yet Tortoise was the chief gossip in town.
• Lions: Mine is very simple. Let no animal look at my face. Not even Tiger.
• Rattle Snake: No animal must step on me my head. Never
• Snail: I don’t want any animal to leave saliva on its lips anytime I’m around. That is mockery of the snail family.
• Tiger: No animal must look at my eyes in the night. When you see me coming, look at the floor.
• Cheetah: I don’t want any other animal to run fast anytime I’m around. That’s rivalry.
• Sheep: I can’t stop ruminating. But I hate the eating habit of crocodiles. Let them fetch their food and eat in the dark when I’m sleeping.
Hyena: Its simple.Never throw dusts on me.
Rabbits: It’s true we eat our own children. You people will never understand. Its our culture Just leave us alone and face your own business. It was tough to agree at a consensus. But they did.
Few weeks later, some of the animals were in the market place for a ceremony. Tortoise said he was off to fetch water. But he lied. He stood in a corner. Hyena began to gossip about tortoise saying he used to bedwet in the night. The third day, the animals met in the market again. Tortoise was so angry. The agreement had been broken. He stood up and threw sand on Hyena with the dust falling on his eyes. Hyena rose, looked up. Unfortunately, his eyes met that of the lion.
Eh! Fight broke out. Lion pounced on Hyena, in the process, Cow, out of fear pooh pooh openly. Cat was so angry. Crocodile opened his mouth to speak and saliva oozed out. Snail fought back. Mob action. In the process, the fighters stepped on Cobra’s head, they stepped on his back, he didn’t say a word. Later they stepped on his tail. In anger, he swung his teeth and bite the hell out of Hyena and Tiger.
At the end, 50 animals and their families especially wives and children, lay dead.
Violence and wars thereafter ruled the land.
The animals were forced to call another meeting after years of wars.
Each restated its own dos and don’ts again. They both agreed each animal should restrict itself to its own domain, carved through consensus. A center as put in place where all the animals would come each month to discuss issues that were of common interest.
This time, each animal obeyed the rules with religious faith and fate.
From that day, peace and prosperity ruled the animal kingdom.
Nigeria, oh fatherland, you should learn from this story.
Learn from the animal kingdom and save us from this endless carnage.
The time to restructure is nigh ! ( A section of this story has been adopted in a book to be published soon by Adewale Adeoye)