Lion is reputed to be the king in the animal kingdom, preying freely on other vulnerable animals that share the ecological space with it. Nevertheless, lion is also a victim of the atmosphere of fear that the ecological space could become, in relation to some animals like African elephant, rhino, hippo, when they are on the offensive. Lion could also be frightened by the lioness when engulfed in filial disagreement. To this end, the roaring of the lion is not to only announce its fecundity and vitality, but could indicate a form of displeasure that innately portends fear. As much as lion is a ferocious foe to man, it remains a controllable animal to man, depending on the wherewithal that is creditable to such an individual. Figuratively speaking, therefore, while it is potent to enunciate around the boldness of lion, we can also talk about ‘Cowardly Lion’.
‘Cowardly Lion’ is a character in the American L. Frank Baum’s fictional work, ‘Land of Oz’. Depicted as an African lion, but he can speak. Given the background that lion is supposed to be the king of the forest, the ‘Cowardly Lion’ sees his fear as a form of inadequacy, but without the understanding that courage requires that he acts in the face of fear, even though he does that regularly. In both the book and film of the same title, the lion gets to drink a liquid substance, courtesy of Wizard, and beginning to falsely feel fearlessness, even though he believes the courage from the Wizard is temporary. Throughout the fictional work, the ‘Cowardly Lion’ exhibits bravery in the face of fear, but yet gripped with self doubts. When realistically situated in the context of human dissembling, and notwithstanding the attempts at prevarications, the courageous lion could become pretentiously cowardly when demystification beckons, or annihilation is imminent!
In a world defined by brute, or sustained by callousness, it is not outlandish for people to assume the appellation of lion. Either such adaptor partly or fully aggregates the values of lion; the impression would not be lost about the ferocity of the personality of such an individual. It is worse when a sobriquet is ascribed to a person whose social connection would be substantially moderated by the perception outside to him/her. It is for this that people carry the emblems such as razor-blade, Iroko, Elephant, etc., to inscribe their circulated personalities. Such aliases would substantially characterise the intendments in values, but similarly remark about the negativities found in such nomenclatures, however masked they appear.
The recent arrest of the Abuja-based socialite and social media, but moral ‘ragamuffin’, John Ewa, popularly called ‘John Lion’ for kidnapping, who had Bayelsa as his ‘atmosphere of fear,’ resonated the lopsidedness inherent in the material worth placed on people, and the social status they enjoy in Nigeria. It also reminds one of the fluidity found in material ownership and posturing, which allows people without any verifiable means to lay claim to success in business or politics, under the amorphous ‘hustling’ that permits the compartmentalisation of people with questionable activities as makers of history. The permissibility of the social media space for flaunting ill-gotten wealth has similarly made it a platform for indoctrinating would-be disciples that would willingly toe any line to get out of poverty, and join the madness of ostentatious living, in a nation that has been undoubtedly themed the poverty capital of the world.
John Lion shares many attributes with others like Hushpuppy, Cubana, and the suspended aide of Ogun State Governor, Abidemi Rufai, the latter that has just been sentenced to five years imprisonment in the United States for massive identity thefts and frauds, running to thousands of dollars, in pandemic-related unemployment benefits and disaster relief. With the popularity and endemic nature of kidnapping in Nigeria, the nature and spirit of John Lion who capitalised on the pains of others to move up the social ladder, and Rufai who preyed on the calamities of others, typically characterise the viciousness of many other criminals that have turned Nigeria to a theatre of insecurity, and platform for cannibalisation of innocent men and women. The criminal-billionaires peddle hard-drugs, harvest organs for sale, kill known and unknown people for rituals, and establish their own markets for human trafficking and kidnapping. The rogues walk free on the highways and streets of villages and cities across Nigeria, representing the unquestionable new generation of a wilfully deaf and dumb old order.
The victims of John Lion were a former boss at the new generation bank where he worked; customers in his bogus interior decoration but ensnaring shop where he evaluated for vulnerability, and countless successful business owners who laboured laboriously and would not be loud unnecessarily on the social media. John Lion was a church apologist, political rat, and a responsible father that cried for him to be spared of guilty verdict, to see the smiles of his newborn baby, when he had made others to shed sweat and blood. Undoubtedly, only the necessity for accountability for one’s indiscretion would make a courageous lion to be suddenly cowardly. The courage of lion lasts as long as the lioness is not angry or the hippopotamus is far away. I wish many more courageous lions still troubling the waters of Nigeria would become cowardly soon, when made to answer for their many atrocities!
Far away in Europe are the new efforts Vladimir Putin is making to secure victory in his invasion of Ukraine. The controversial referendum held recently in the Moscow-backed separatist regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, to allow them become parts of the Russian Federation as well as the new military drafts to reinforce the war in Ukraine are double-barrel strategy to weaken the Ukrainian side that has claimed successes in push-back resistance to Russian army and reclaiming of some of the territories hitherto lost to Russia, even though with gory stories of civilian and military casualties and victims buried in mass unmarked graves across the formerly beleaguered areas. The borders along heavens gates must have been populated by Ukrainians mowed down by Putin’s razors, and Nigerians fell by sophisticated guns of non-state actors.
The partial military conscription ordered by Putin has put Russian men under tremendous pressure, making their one-time courageous lions to be cowardly. They are not crying because of their babies, like John Lion, but they are fleeing the country, not to be part of the 300, 000 that could be called up for military service, with cars congestion at the Russian border with Finland, stretching for miles at its borders with Georgia and Kazakhstan. Whereas fleeing to Turkey, Serbia, and Armenia for these people could be fashionable, exiting to Belarus is no escape, as this Russian ally would repatriate such a runaway. Even at that, Russian authorities have made attempts to allay the fears of draftees by emplacing various enticing reliefs in the areas of loan payment and job security. Such a stick and carrot approach is alien to the Nigeria federal government that thought applying repressive tactics would end the almost eight-months-old ASUU strike that has crippled academic activities in most Nigeria public universities. There was, indeed, a country!
When Russia’s strategic accountability that prescribed the dubious referendum and the military conscription is juxtaposed with the many John Lion maiming and killing citizens unchecked across Nigeria, one cannot but suggest a new fillip to tackling overnight rich men and women with no known means who litter the socio-political and virtual spaces in quest of victims and protégées. The seemingly endorsement of corrupt practices and untoward activities by Nigerians must stop, with people made to clearly justify their wealth. The dubiously courageous lions that we see in the landscapes are actually cowardly, if appropriate agencies of government would make them accountable for their actions, not to talk of making merchandise of the proceeds of their atrocities.
With the silly gravitations of these dangerous lions to seats of power in the country, it is a matter of time for them to fully assume positions of influence in the executive, legislative and judiciary, to perfect their acts, and perpetuate their vices. For Nigeria not to be completely reduced to the metaphor of failed highways, battered by overloaded trucks, we must apply the principle of lifestyle auditing immediately, to unmask the cowardly ‘weeping’ lions that pose as courageous roaring ones, making helpless victims to cry, and fleeing from pillar to post, like Russia draftees, scared of fighting someone else’s war.
Nigerians I hail you; toughened by past woes, bent by bruising blows; regressing than progressing; driven by drivers in love with reverse mode; bothered by flooded roads ahead; with destination yet unknown! Happy 62nd Independence Celebration, still laden with multiple troubling loads!