Wednesday, March 23, 2016

GUEST WRITER SERIES: (Nigeria: The Joke is on Us...and We Are All to Blame!)

Mbachu Obinna.

I have been asking myself, how we got here; to this present state of moral decadence? How did our values get so eroded and our sensibilities numbed? How did our morals get so low that we began to celebrate that which we should utterly and angrily denounce, while our should-be heroes suffered blatant disregard or flagrant contempt at our hands?

We are a nation accustomed to falling and rolling over while laughing at ourselves; that we did not notice when the rest of the world joined in laughing at us. We became the party clown at the children’s party. And now we’re the washed-up comic whose joke is worn out from repetition that the world stopped laughing; but tragically, still, we continue to laugh.

Perhaps we can’t help ourselves because we are the proverbial laughing Jackal who couldn’t stop laughing while the porcupine slowly walked up the hill and ate the delicious meat.

Let me attempt an exploration into our collective national psyche with an event from the past:


In August of 2013, a story broke about a little teenage boy, Daniel Ihekina, who stowed away in the wheel well of a plane traveling from Benin to Lagos. What was our reaction? We laughed! We laughed so hard about the kid who mistakenly thought he would land in America. We then went on to talk about the state of the economy and how it made a little kid desperate enough to attempt such act. Some even used words like ‘brave’ and ‘daring’ to describe him.

A prominent national daily joined in this travesty and published a front page photo of him flanked by Adams Oshiomhole, the then and present Governor of Edo State; as well as Peter Obi, the then Governor of Anambra state. They were all smiling in approval. The kid had become a celebrity. These Governors then spoke of plans to establish a scholarship trust for his education.

Interestingly in all this, there was no talk of punishment.

Now if you do not know, the wheel well houses the landing gear and wheel among other things. The doors to this well closes after take-off and reopens in preparation for landing. If you are sitting on these doors and they open you could fall out of the plane to your death. And bodies of people have been found, who stowed away in this manner. Also at airplane cruising altitude, air pressure, temperature and oxygen levels are greatly reduced, and there is artificial air regulation in a wheel well. Any living being unfortunate enough to be here in these conditions will be exposed to the risk of hypothermia and other dangerous health conditions. There is also is the risk of compromising the airplane’s landing gear and appurtenances.

I think we can all agree that this kid put himself and others in grave danger by his action and was extremely lucky to have survived. This kid breached airport security and violated FAAN regulations but despite this knowledge, the authorities gave him a pat on the back and rewarded him with gubernatorial handshakes and a scholarship! Perhaps he was even in consideration for an OON or MFR.

Do we not reprimand our children when they fall short? Do we hand out candies to them when they fight in class or steal meat from the pot? Was this some heroic act worthy of praise? And if our answer to the last question is no, then why was there no dissenting voice? Tomorrow when this happens again we would blame airport security; we would say that they are incompetent. We would blame the Airline operator for not doing a thorough check. We would blame the Government; we will call them unserious and inept for not putting enough regulations in place and we might be right. But we will forget to blame ourselves for the contribution we made by not speaking up, for seeing wrong and ignoring it because that laugh was more important.

To be continued...

No comments: