Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
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If there is a trophy for a country whose citizens indulge the most in criticism, Nigeria would have clinched it, for, Nigerians appear to love criticizing. We delight in it and it seems like a tonic for most Nigerians as we criticize just about anything even before we have thought them out. Nigerian critics cut across board. We have arm chair critics and professional critics. The bottom line is that we expend much energy/time criticizing, leaving little time to weigh other options. We hardly give the subject or institution of our criticism benefit of the doubt. It is a one way traffic, looking neither to the left nor right. In the process however, we indulge in double speak.
Let us consider some examples in this regard. Recently a Lagos-based television Channels interviewed an official of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for one of its flagship programmes. Majority of Nigerians cried foul and took it to the cleaners for ‘overstepping the bounds’ by giving a voice to a secessionist, illegal organization on national television. Then the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the regulatory organ for broadcast organizations in Nigeria wielded the stick by slamming a fine on the medium and banning the particular programme reportedly. Then the same Nigerians raised their hairs, accusing the government of muzzling the press and attempting to abridge press freedom. Double speak. The particular television station has since apologized and apparently paid the requisite fine. One is hard put to imagine that they did not consider the pros and cons before deciding to air that controversial interview. Apparently, they concluded that the advantages of broadcasting it outweigned its perceived disadvantages.
They are lucky we now have a civilian administration. If it were during the military era, the station would have been completely shut down without a second thought. It is impossible to muzzle the press now because of democratization of the media and emergence of online mediums, including offshore based ones operated by Nigerians, targeted at Nigerian audience. If one of these diaspora-based Nigerian online medium publishes and broadcast its interview with Shekau or Nnamdi Kanu for example, are the Nigerian regulatory authorities in a position to sanction it? The aforementioned controversial interview by that television station is still available to be seen by anyone to-date, on digital platforms – YouTube and others. In fact it has been watched, shared countless times and still being watched, shared to this moment.
Here is another example of our double speak. Nigerians generally, vehemently opposed any form of negotiation or ransom payment to kidnappers, whether they be terrorists, bandits or unknown gunmen, insisting that such actions fuels their evil deeds. However, when two students were killed in cold blood by their abductors (condolences), it then dawned on us that no amount of money can be equated to life and that it is worth throwing in everything material to save even a single life. We pestered the government and others to do whatever they can even if it means dining with the devil (with a long or short spoon) to get the remaining students out of the lion’s den. We feared that a military rescue option is fraught with possible fatalities and so not agreeable. Do we still insist that we should never speak to kidnappers even when they are holding school children and others in their camps under harsh conditions? Many Nigerians criticize the fact that government reportedly released a “notorious” bandit in exchange for release of some kidnapped persons. Would we rather these kidnapped people die there while we hold on to this one ‘dangerous’ person? Life is precious and everything should be done to preserve it. Those that are criticizing talks with abductors, exchange of captured bandits with people still in their custody (including women and children) and ransom payment to free their victims should have a rethink, especially when there are no other viable option as our hands are tied so to speak. It is a tough situation sadly, but life has no duplicate. we should choose between life and money or the lesser of two evils in this matter.
I conclude with a third sample of how we speak from both sides of our mouths, otherwise called double speak. “With gratitude to God for a life well spent, we regret to announce the transition to glory of …….. which sad event (death) occurred on …..”. That is how a typical obituary announcing the death of someone is framed. Generally, we are gleefully told that the person lived a good life while on earth and so has gone to heaven. If we are sure that the departed has “ transited to glory”, nay heaven, then why the REGRET(caps mine) in the obituary announcement? Surely, that the person has gone to heaven, a place which streets we are told is paved with gold and where there is everlasting life, calls for rejoicing, at least we should be happy for the departed?. Why then are we regretting his/her departure to ‘heaven’ and crying our eyes out over it? Its either that the relatives themselves are doubting what they wrote in the obituary or have no conviction at all. Some of the relatives say they are only mourning/crying about the fact that the departed left them. That smacks of selfishness. So, if they had to choose between the person remaining with them and going to heaven where they believe he/she has gone as per their obituary announcement, they would choose the former? That, is boundless selfishness with no iota for consideration for the departed. Double speak.
Death, a certainty here on earth, is not something that should engender loud mourning as such nor does it call for unbridled jollification either. It calls for sobriety. It is not the case that one would move straight to heaven upon departure from the earth as one has to wash his/her garment(soul) clean step by step up the ladder until it is pure, of the same consistency as heaven, to allow admittance. We are also not in a position to declare that Mr. A or Mr. B is in heaven, much less, ‘ resting in the bosom of the Lord’, because we only judge by externals, we do not know what the person’s thoughts and intuitions had been over the years. Only He, the Lord who has a comprehensive view of our inner and outer life can judge correctly.