MICHEAL ODUBAJO bares his mind on the spate of corruption in the country and the comedy shows Nigerians are treated to in the bid to probe into the numerous dirty deals of those in government.
When foremost Greek philosopher, Aristotle, wrote in his Poetics (circa 335 BC) about comedy being a representation of laughable people involving some kind of blunder and ugliness which does not cause pain or disaster, little did he know that he had penned one of life’s finest scripts which would, over several centuries that cannot be counted on the fingers of two hands, come to define the Nigerian state which has, in a manner of speaking, assumed the status of a theatre of comedy. Our own kind of comedy is, sadly so, of the worse kind, only akin to ancient Greek comedy in primary function to provoke laughs, as very little, if anything at all, is expected to come out of the supposed probe panel other than the lavish entertainment that has further deepened our already soiled image in the red sea of humiliating disrepute among the comity of nations.
Our own brand of comedy veers significantly from the Greek prototype in shade and shape in regard to its elements and implications. As a matter of fact, the sophistication of the dramatis personae in the Nigerian theatre of comedy makes it even more interesting. It is quite shocking that our brand of comedy prides itself on refined casts who though never underwent any training in theatrical performances, could with the snap of a finger mentally script and execute a comedy of the finest and noblest kind.
What remains a mystery is why many of them decide to join the comedy gang at the heights of their political careers when their integrity is called to question. Even though the characters may not be laughable in themselves, their actions, however, seethe with ugliness and perfidy of monumental proportion such that anytime you call to mind their comic crafts, you simply break into a peal of rib-cracking laughter like a child in the face of a dangling lollipop.
And comedy has since become a face-saving strategy, a way of courting public sympathy and distracting the gullible public from the meat of the matter.
What do you expect of a society where elders, who should see to the ship of their society sail to halcyon shore, engage in a dance of shame in the market square? What a crying shame! There is simply no doubt that a matter that has travelled beyond the borders of weeping is sure to receive laughter as a welcome guest. It is therefore not surprising that the new comedy-thriller premiered on the stage of the National Assembly caught the fancy of Nigerians, wedging itself to the corridors of our lips, and so it shall be for, say, some days or weeks before it is overtaken by yet another blockbuster, and that is if it has not been overshadowed already. Or what do you make of the free-for-all exchanges between an honourable member of the House of Representatives and the minister of labour, who in a manner characteristic of a typical fish-devouring agbero, browbeat the former into silence on the same stage where Professor Peller, sorry, Pondei, had earlier in the week dazed the world with an embarrassing show? Well, that’s a matter for another day. After all, this is not the first time we are being inundated with unsolicited comedy and trust me our politicians some of whom we have elected or appointed in our collective unwisdom have their bags full of such inexhaustible suffocating wits.
The comic stunts of these actors need no special script or stage or even a ticket-bound audience. They do not need to act before special cameras and under heavy lights to the instruction of a Nollywood director. Theirs are unscripted but rehearsed and artfully executed anywhere, everywhere – from the courtroom to the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly – about anywhere that will bolster the newsworthiness of their shameful act.
It was in this same country, in the full glare of a curious world, that our TV screens were graced with episodic drama – similar to those of Checkmate and Koto Orun in the 1990s, or more recently Papa Ajasco & Company which held the Nigerian audience spellbound for weeks and months unend – during the trial of a former PDP spokesman for money laundry. There were episodes in which the star character appeared in court on a butcher bench, oh sorry, a stretcher. Some other time, he was wedged to a wheelchair. The apparent abashed show of comedy peaked when the accused freely collapsed with a thud in the courtroom all in a bid to stall proceedings for the day. I salute the audacity of the judge, who in a manner characteristic of Robin Wood, despite being treated to such theatrics was undeterred to carry on with the day’s business. It is still fresh in our memory the gloomy pictures of a former minister that surfaced online after the said minister was accused of mindlessly amassing humongous amounts from our commonwealth and was being called to account for her deeds while in power, or should I say, in office. I wouldn’t know if her act pulled the expected tricks of buying our sympathy but it thus seems that the minister who was rumoured to be in a fierce battle with cancer has since been cooling off on an island somewhere with the proceeds of her loot.
I am seriously afraid that if the Olympics of corruption (as a senior friend and brother, Kurtis Adigba, describes it) going on in the country is left unchecked, it is only a matter of time that the collapse of Pondei, though orchestrated and stage-managed, would be a realistic metaphor for the Nigerian state.
So, when on the 20th July 2020, another clown-in-chief decided to pull the same familiar stunt, I was not taken aback and I honestly believe many Nigerians were not. It is clear that ‘they’ are at the summit of their wits and wiles again just like Ola Rotimi declared that ‘Our husband has gone mad again.’ Isn’t it outrageous that a professor of Pondei’s standing would slap on our faces such an absurd theatre that is ridiculous and meaninglessly laughable at a time that his counterparts in other climes are buried in the laboratories searching for keys out of the prison of the current pandemic?
Frankly speaking, one key issue that has left me wondering after this infamy of an incident is the common denominator of most, if not all, of the myriads of comedy to which our politicians have treated us. The Nigerian state seems like one huge cesspool of corruption in which we wallow in wanton barbarity and pinheaded plunder. And comedy has since become a face-saving strategy, a way of courting public sympathy and distracting the gullible public from the meat of the matter. The meat of the matter which has since grown into a giant hawk, a giant whale and a sabre-toothed tiger which in Professor Gbemisola Adeoti’s words has continued to ambush the dreams and aspirations of our beloved countrymen and women who should peak to the Sun. I seriously doubt if there is any sector of this country or any agency of government that is free from the clutches of this self-inflicted malaise. From the public to the private sector, from education to health, from power to works, from transport to aviation, from communication to NDDC, and from one agency of government to another, the reign and reins of corruption are rooted and firm. And you know, all always seems well until the wind blows and exposes the smelly rumps of handlers of these agencies. To say that corruption in Nigeria is endemic is to understate its gross sway in the scheme of things. Our society has so rebelled against the tradition of integrity that some of the very few honest people left have been browbeaten into joining the bandwagon. It has become the norm. A deeply entrenched culture. But I think that when we have a part of our sum exhibiting the kind of rapacious greed we have seen, we need to do an audit check of our sum to be sure we are not all the same because our part is a subset of our sum. So we may be wrong to assume that only those in government are neck-deep in corruption. Check around, you’d be shocked to find out that most Nigerians are only intolerable of corruption to the extent that they are not beneficiaries of it. Many would beat all known records of corruption if given the chance. Corruption has become a highly coveted sports competition to which many Nigerians have heavily subscribed, and they are in a constant contest to win the greatest medal. This is the sad reality of our country today.
I am seriously afraid that if the Olympics of corruption (as a senior friend and brother, Kurtis Adigba, describes it) going on in the country is left unchecked, it is only a matter of time that the collapse of Pondei, though orchestrated and stage-managed, would be a realistic metaphor for the Nigerian state. It is actually an 8th wonder of the world that Nigeria is still standing today in spite of the massive mismanagement of its resources right, left and centre. I just hope that my beloved country does not fade to dust and memory like a speck.
Action!!! Not the kind shouted by an overzealous movie director but that which arrests the drift of Nigeria towards collapse and restores hope to millions of Nigerians yearning to breathe free from the repetitive sickening and stinking comedy of corruption, is all we want to see.
*Odubajo is a Business Communication & Educational Consultant, and a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Lagos. (firstname.lastname@example.org 08028115734)