A popular comedian in Nigeria once told a joke of his encounter with robbers while on commercial transport. An hour earlier, he had approached a female passenger, on same bus, trying to convince her he is interesting. She used the snub button. After driving for an hour, they were cornered by gun wielding thieves who took all they had. For extra entertainment, the female passenger was forced to strip which she did after some threats and stubbornness. He was also forced to strip and he did. Her backside reasonably raised, the command came: Enter! He couldn’t believe his luck. Here was the snob handed to him on a platter of gold. He moved in happily and the audience laughed their hearts out.
There was also the case of a comedian who declared his love for lesbianism and lesbians and his disgust for gay and homosexual men. He admires the sweet voices of lesbians. The softness of their bodies. Their pleasure delivering devices. Their naughty talks and everything. But a homosexual man? God forbid! He was on a stage hosting over a thousand men and women when he declared his hatred for homosexual men. He asked the good Lord in heaven to rain them punishments. The audience also laughed their hearts out.
Since ancient Egypt, Sarcasm has been a vital tool in improving the health of man. Jesters also known as clowns, fools and buffoons were paid to entertain people in the marketplaces, courts, and palaces. In courts and palaces they were given special treatment. They were the only ones who could joke with the Lords, the Knights, the King and get away with it. The reason: they were fools.
In 2011, a 53-country Gallup Poll declared Nigerians the happiest people on earth. There was jubilation in some circles when this poll was made public but did we didn’t bother to ask what entails happiness. Constant power supply was still a mirage in Nigeria in 2011. Corruption, blind tribalism and nepotism were still served as Nationalism. Soldiers still commanded ‘Bloody Civilians’ to roll in mosquito infested gutters. University lecturers openly bragged about their Demi-God status–who fails and who passes. The Police openly collected money from motorists. Good money still got one a good job. One begins to wonder if the Gallup Poll was actually laughing at the continental clown in love with empty flattery. It is May 2017 and none of those things have changed.
We have mastered a unique voodoo. We have learned how to reduce serious national issues to the level of clownishness. We have employed the most creative techniques to make sure nothing serious comes out of delicate matters. And by we’, I make reference to the ignorant and violent majority, defining the country’s identity, ready to counter knowledge and peace with ignorance and violence. We ought to be angry but we are not. Always on the lookout for the next joke to share. The next national issue to lead into our mad house of comedy. The next memes. The next heartache to play with.
But what we experience, and confuse with happiness, is an illusion. We are not different from alcoholics who numb their pains with drinks but suffer through the next morning. This sort of happiness is like a dream life. Neither does it afford one a sound sleep nor something real. After sharing and liking memes on Social Media we return to reality when the heat chase us out of our rooms at night. Those of us at the upper column of the prison, torture others with sounds from our contaminants-emitting generators. We are angry but only for a short time.
In October, 2016, Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, in the company of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, told the entire world his wife, Aisha Buhari, belongs to the ‘Kitchen and Other Room’. In any sane country, there would have been an outrage and calls for his resignation from every section. But what did we do? We put on our thinking caps, got creative and laughed over it. In conversations we used words like ‘the other room’ to elicit laughter. Another opportunity for merry making and fun was availed us. There was a little sense of shame and disgust. The self-proclaimed human rights activists were also quiet and probably took part in spreading the fun. When a few did speak we could only hear murmurs. What that Afro-beat Legend, Fela, called ‘Suffering and Smiling’ was in full swing.
Nigerians get angry. We get sad at bad governance. We cuss the politicians and every nonfunctional agency around. Our problem is, the lifespan of our anger is shorter that of the very sarcasm that weakens us. Our anger is not good enough. Anger that could have been a tool for change is easily watered down by gulping sarcasm. We refuse to learn that no matter how long a patient uses painkillers, no matter the quantity of dose administered at every instant, the injury will never disappear. We fail to use anger for something greater. Something humanistic. These painkillers distort true messages from our injured parts and we die from ignorance of our true state of health.
Several Nigerian comedians have also repeated the story of the quality of military slaps. In Nigeria, if a Police man slaps you you can raise your voice at him and accompany it with a slap if you feel so. If a MOPOL(Mobile Police) slaps you you fight back tears and explain in low and meek tones the true state of events. But were you to be slapped by a Soldier, you lose your voice, shamelessly cry and look for a passerby to explain things. The audience always laugh. These are supposed to be agents whose duties cover the preservation and protection of human lives. People whose salaries are paid from the taxation of the very people they brutalize but we help institutionalize their abuse with Sarcasm.
It is time for us to Get Angry. Be Angry. You can be sarcastic but not in matters of moral decadence and sheer stupidity. Get Angry at the politicians who couldn’t stick to the promises for which they were voted in. Get Angry not for political or selfish relevance. Get Angry at Police and Military brutality. Get Angry at Pastors, Priests and Imams whose lifestyles abominate humanity. Get Angry at the state of Nigeria. At Power Holdings. Bad roads. Inadequate water. Poor healthcare. Senseless killings. Look for an injustice around and carry the matter for your head.