#Reflections

The ‘Black snake’ under the mattress

By Busuyi Mekusi

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Discreetness could portend a great danger to human existence. This is as people either say or know half-truths about situations and circumstances. Such palpable omissions are oftentimes put up to deceive unwary co-interlocutors, as they are at best ‘green snakes under the green grasses’. Little wonder, Shakespeare is reputed with the axiom that “there’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face”. Given the above, scientifically-inclined DNA is substantially helping to expose and unmask lies cooked and served on socio-cultural and religious plates. As things stand, so many estranged fellows still pretend to be spouses, colleagues, business associates, partners, etc. Moreover, socio-cultural lines of demarcation get blurred by new attitudes, orientations and socialisation, to allow agencies such as humans, animals and other non-living objects to strike and maintain emotional cordiality. As we witness more compromising and liberal shifts in humanity, we see more of ‘stupidity’!
The unusual happenings in Nigeria psycho-physical spaces remind one of the story of a fairly old woman who was living in a house adjacent to mine as an off-campus-accommodated undergraduate student. The house and mine were located opposite the Dental Centre of the then State Hospital, Ado Ekiti. The Mama, while on routine cleaning of her one-room apartment, she was staying alone with no knowledge of reasons behind such abnormality, lifted the mattress she put on the floor, only to be confronted with the sight of a black snake. She raised an alarm that attracted sympathisers who helped in killing the ‘unwanted companion’, and old-time foe. It is not for fun that the Bible prescribes that the seed of Eve would bruise the head of the serpent, while the latter would bruise the heel of the former. Presently, various forms of ‘black snakes’ are still bruising the heels of humans!
It was evidently clear that the apartment of the old woman was surrounded by un-kept facilities, such as sawmill and plank sheds. Life for us as students was characterised by almost zero-level transportation arrangement to the university campus that was several kilometers away from Ado-Ekiti, but close to the rustic village of Iworoko. The period witnessed the dryness of public pipes and regression in public electricity, so much that my refrigerator almost went on holiday. Getting water for cooking and bathing also became herculean, as we sought water from any available source, including the shallow well dug to service a car wash. As all the protective barriers emplaced to secure the well, and guarantee availability of water, got undermined by desperate water seekers, the car wash owners resorted to pouring black oil in the well, to stave off predators. However, necessity made us to ignore the black oiled water, and we bathed and cooked with obvious poisonous contaminant. A couple of times, I would see the women from my community, Ijare, being transported at dawn en route to Efon Ekiti, for their itinerant petty trading. Ijare women are vigorously enterprising, and they are great assets in building homes, and supporting the development of their children. The foregoing narrations of my undergraduate days, and the despicable past, have been buried by the developments that were induced by the creation of Ekiti State. The hellish conditions in third-world nations help rehearse ‘hell’ on earth.
Public institutions are today analogous to a wardrobe stuffed with tatters. The two government facilities I visited lately in Ondo State clearly showed how Nigerians could not be well educated, how health care would continually be parlous, how the environment would remain unclean, and how justice would be miscarried, given the handling of the respective physical environments in those places. However, the experimentation of private ideals in public governance by Arákùnrin Akérédolύ, with the building of the Board of Internal Revenue Service’s office complex, shows that a white pap could be sourced from black pot. We are distressed by the issue of collective ownership and irresponsible handling, the kind that places the burden of raising a child collectively, in some cultural milieus, without anyone taking responsibility.
As the nation wriggles under insecurity, the desperate measures being taken by Governors, the ‘unauthorized’ Chief Security Officers of their States, are summarily limited by constitutional provisions that guarantee the rights to freedom of Nigerians, the privilege that is being abused by criminal elements. The executive pronouncement of Arákùnrin Akérédolύ in relation to the eviction order served on criminal elements inhabiting forests owned by the government and peoples of Ondo State is highly commendable, and must be consciously supported. Garba Shehu’s Press Statement is also justified in the face of the lopsidedness precipitated by the negatively-skewed federalism presently practiced in Nigeria, but he must be reminded of the volatility raised by needless kidnapping and maiming desecrating our spaces. For how long will the business of some few Nigerians continue to peril the peace of others?
While some ‘traders’ (materials and herds) are patently protected in their peripatetic commercial commitments others, particularly farmers, have been allocated the space for servitude by a warped constitution. It is true that nameplates should not be used to delineate and characterise criminality, the propensities in our socio-economic engineering show collaboration across religious and ethnic lines among bandits, kidnappers and terrorists. Even though it may not be absolutely right to get fixated on ‘criminal herders’, the criminal empires and republics established in Nigerian forests must be overthrown, just like the ‘black snake’ under the mattress. Similar to what obtains in the forests, ‘black snakes’ are many in homes with young folks without any means of livelihood acquiring properties, even as culpable parents celebrate their dubious economic migrations. Government offices remain havens to pen robbers, even as religious centres continue to function as groves for unmitigated questionable rituals. Definitely, there is the need to identify and kill the ‘black snake’ within.
Politics, globally, parades the contraction of facial expressions which frequently negate inner conviction. Political dealings are fraught with deception in loyalty and followership, with personal veneration taking precedence over collective liberation, as found in the stereotypical inextricability and apparent dispositions of some arm-bearing herders and insecurity. While not countenancing institutional viability above individual capability, Nigeria politics has been more about the interests and personal aggrandisements of the players. Increasingly, religious bigotry continues to thrive on the altar of gullibility.
Ailments in human bodies remain enemies within and without, and hide to hurt, just like the ‘black snake’. Attempts to feed for growth keep inviting unwanted unfriendly friends that are housed in frail bodies, even as lack of equipment for, and wrong, diagnoses cause premature death. No doubt, abandoning nature for human-nurturing is a path to dangerous ends. Characteristic of Nigerians’ reductionisms, Sanwo-Olu has redundantly advised that all malaria symptoms should be treated as COVID-19, since our scientific strength to test is almost zero. Sanwo-Olu’s outburst is akin to the politicisation of insecurity and criminality in Nigeria, considering the similarities between redundant nameplates/pigeonholing in fighting criminality and horrendous diagnosis. I wonder why leaders could not abdicate the seat of power if they are unable to deliver on their mandates. The problematic nuances of democracy get pronounced, as Uganda struggles with the protracted ‘renewable’ reign of Yoweri Museveni, and some Americans say ‘good radiance to bad rubbish’ in Trump, with the inauguration of Joe Biden as America President.
Arguably, killing the ‘black snake’ is a must. To start with, there is the need for thorough cleaning of our homesteads, forests, government offices, etc., to locate and kill ‘black snakes’. Clearing and ‘fumigation’ of public places, government facilities, forests, establishments, etc., might not be out of place. For the umpteenth time, there is the need for more scientific approaches to identify and expose ‘black snakes’ perpetrating criminality. Parents should stop harbouring criminal children, as they are poison to all citizens. ‘Parentless’ roaming miscreants are as good as snakelets, which remain not just liability to Northern Nigeria, but potential dangerous instruments across the country. The ‘black snake’ will build an empire in the house, beyond the forest, if unchecked. A return to natural order might be impossible, but highly desirable.

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