Cows, snakes, rats and reality of Nigeria as an animal kingdom.
By Dr. ARTHUR AGWUNCHA NWANKWO, Chancellor of the Eastern Mandate Union and editorial opinion contributor to USAfrica (Houston) and USAfricaonline.com since 1998.
How else can you describe Nigeria as an animal kingdom? A country where rats chase away its President from the effective use of his office is an animal kingdom. A country where a snake, reportedly, swallows N36million and monkeys jump on tree tops with as much as N70million is an animal kingdom. A country where cows take over airport runways, classrooms and public institutions is an animal kingdom. A country that values the lives of cows more than the lives of its citizens is an animal kingdom. All these happen in Nigeria. Simply put, Nigeria is, indeed, an Animal Kingdom.
There is no doubt that Aristotle belongs to the pantheon of the greatest thinkers the world has ever known. Students of philosophy will agree with me that it was Plato who taught Aristotle. Plato himself was taught by Socrates. Aristotle on his own part was reputed to have taught Alexander the Great who was perhaps the greatest military genius and world conqueror that used world conquest to spread Western civilization to the four corners of the earth. Apart from Aristotle’s other works, his voluminous scientific study titled, History of Animals stands out.
In this fascinating work, Aristotle made this rather provocative passage on the nature of certain animals and implies that these zoological observations have connections to certain aspects of human nature: “Some creatures, he said, are peculiarly salacious, as the partridge, the barn-door cock and their congeners; others are inclined to chastity, as the whole tribe of crows, for birds of this kind indulge but rarely in sexual intercourse…Animals also differ from one another in regard to character in the following respects.
“Some are good-tempered, sluggish, and little prone to ferocity, as the ox; others are quick-tempered, ferocious and unteachable, as the wild boar; some are intelligent and timid, as the stag and the hare; others are mean and treacherous, as the snake; others are noble and courageous and high-bred, as the lion; others are thorough-bred and wild and treacherous, as the wolf: for, by the way, an animal is high bred if it comes from a noble stock, and an animal is thorough-bred if it does not deflect from its racial characteristics. Further, some are crafty and mischievous, as the fox; some are spirited and affectionate and fawning, as the dog; others are easy-tempered and easily domesticated, as the elephant; others are cautious and watchful, as the goose; others are jealous and self-conceited, as the peacock. But of all animals, man alone is capable of deliberation”.
It is actually this capacity and power for deliberation that, in the opinion of Aristotle, distinguishes man from other animals, for indeed man is biologically an animal. Though man is biologically considered to be an animal, God has wired him in such a way that he stands at the summit of creation. Man is the only biological animal that was created by the Trinity. God had said in Genesis Chapter One verse 26 “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth”.
And God said “Let there be Light”, and there was light. And from this light, God created life upon earth; and man was given dominion over all things upon the earth. But men took dominion over other men and from that point freedom was gone from the world. The weak were made to serve the strong; and the conquered were made to serve the conqueror. And so have the lives of our people been made bitter with hard bondage in Nigeria.
Sociability in animals and the nature of animal kingdom are considered by Aristotle in his writings on Politics and the State, in relation with the development of human civilization. However, in his writings on human society, Aristotle is essentially concerned with the civilizational leaps made throughout history i.e. from the domestication of animals, which demonstrated an advance from primitive to civilized life, to the growth and development in the wealth and power of the tribe through the rise of the Greek city-states. As a measure of wealth and power, Aristotle denotes that wealthy men can be described by the number of horses which they kept, for they cannot afford to keep them unless they were rich.
However, legend and history are replete with narratives of the faithfulness and allegiance of animals regarding their human masters, and of the mutual attention and affection which men bestow upon them. However, driven as it is by their purposes for economic or other functions, the taming of animals to adapt to human use will often include violent or cruel abuse. The utility, or even the mistreatment, of animals by man appears to be justified by the servile estate of the savage beast compared to the rational nature. As plants exist for the sake of animals and man, so also animals, according to Aristotle, “exist for the sake of man, the tame for use and food, the wild, if not all, at least the greater part of them, for food, and for the provision of clothing and various instruments.” Similarly, Aristotle’s notion of the natural slave, discussed at length in his work on Politics, and alluded to in his History of Animals, uses the actual domesticated animals as a kind of paradigm for the management of human beings as slaves, tools or implements.
But there are many scriptures in the Bible where animals are used as metaphors to teach mankind spiritual, political and even economic lessons. For example, King Solomon, who is reputed to be history’s wisest king, shows a profound level of understanding of the animal world when he wrote in Proverbs 6:6-8 thus: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest”.
Honestly, if Nigerian leaders had but those three verses of the Bible and were collectively compelled to follow this aphorism as a universal rule of law, perhaps it would be impossible to have the bestial society that Nigeria has become. If only Nigerian leaders had followed this Solomon’s Ant paradigm, there would be no need for all that is happening today in the country because people would act in accordance with their nature so that they would work hard for their daily bread basically because starvation, deprivation, internal slavery and ethnic cleansing as well as displacement are very cruel and pitiable teachers indeed.
Yet today’s Nigeria appears to externalize all the negative and primitive instincts, which rational men would frown at as awful and barbaric. For instance, the lower animals think of nothing but to eat. Take the fowl for example. It wakes up before anyone of us. Form the point of its waking up; it scavenges for food till sunset. This is not how God has wired man. In God’s political economy, man should eat to live and not necessarily live to eat. This is the fundamental lesson in Solomon’s Ant paradigm.
But in Nigeria, our leaders behave like the lower animals. For them, the philosophy is to steal, steal and steal as much as possible from the commonwealth without minding what would become of the country tomorrow. Once he acquires any public position, the Nigerian elite goes on to loot billions of money to be able to buy mansions abroad, send their children overseas and frequently travels abroad to receive medical attention. Yet under his nose, his people are dying of preventable diseases, children are out of school and dying of hunger even as the elite display their ill-gotten wealth with reckless abandon.
In developing the concept of social contract, Thomas Hobbes also alluded to the base instinct of man in society where he likened the state of nature as being brutish, nasty and short. Eminent Igbo songwriter, singer and instrumentalist, Mike Ejeagha captured this scenario in his Akuko-na-Egwu with the story of “Aneke-Oturukpo”, which depicted the animal kingdom as a race of survival for the fittest. In other words, animal kingdoms are commonly denominated by the instinct of “survival of the fittest”.
Nigeria is not different from this instinct of animal kingdom. Having bled the country dry, the governing elite and their accomplices have hit on the expediency of the absurd as a means of correcting the social ills besetting Nigeria. Because of massive corruption in Nigeria as exemplified by the present Buhari administration and past administrations, our hospitals have become glorified mortuaries; our roads have become death traps, our schools have become breeding grounds for cultists and social miscreants, industries and small scale businesses have collapsed due to lack of power, universities and colleges have been shut down due to labour disputes, militancy and terrorism have blossomed and people now take suicidal dives into the lagoon. This is a classical scenario of dog-eat-eat dog. Since 1999, when Nigeria returned to civil rule till date, it is estimated that looted funds attributed to ex and sitting governors, ministers, legislators, public servants, bankers and business men and women run as high as N3.35 trillion.
As pointed out by Professor Itse Sagay, if we bring home the opportunity cost of such mind-boggling stealing, you will discover that just one-third of the stolen funds could have provided 835.18 kilometers of roads, “36 ultra-modern hospitals per state, 183 schools, educated 5,974 children from primary to tertiary level at 25.24million per child and built, 20,062 units of 2-bedroom houses. This clearly epitomizes a dog-eat-dog characteristic. Little wonder there is devastation in all spheres of human activity in Nigeria and the future of our youths has certainly been eaten by this scourge.
A close examination of social animals will also reveal another astonishing characteristic which bears on Nigerian society. For territorial animals like the lion, even though has described it as noble and courageous, if it wants to join another pack of lions, it demonstrates a high level of ferocity anchored on the base instinct of survival of the fittest. For instance, it must eliminate the cubs sired by the leader of that pack and then populate the pack with its own offspring. For such lion, only its offspring must survive.
This tendency is not different from what is happening in Nigeria presently. Consider the scenario playing out in this country today. The Nigerian elite has initiated a cremating earth-scorch policy that has made Nigeria too hot for her youths to live in. As a response, thousands of Nigerian youths now prefer to go and die in the Sahara Desert, Libya and the Mediterranean Sea; whilst the children of the elite enjoy life in the USA, Europe, and Asia- attending the best schools. The Nigerian elites love their children but do not care a wink about the rest of our children. This is why the President would not empathize with the families of those whose children have been mowed down by Fulani herdsmen in Nimbo, Benue and other parts of Nigeria but would immediately rush his son to the best hospital in Germany after a power-bike accident.
Itse Sagay described this scenario with the pedestrian cliché of “Monkey dey work, baboon dey chop. In the animal kingdom, for example, if a cheetah or leopard makes a kill, before it can settle down to feed, lions or hyenas will chase it away or kill it if it is stubborn and refuses to give the quarry. They will then devour the kill to the pain and frustration of the poor, weaker animal. In this country, the hard working people do back-breaking jobs to create our wealth. Then few members of the greedy elite consume that wealth. If this is not monkey dey work and baboon dey chop, I don’t know what it can be.
I recall that during President Buhari’s long absence from the country on account of ill-health, Senator Shehu Sani, representing Kaduna Central in the National Assembly alluded to Nigeria being an animal kingdom. According to the Senator, “Prayers for the absent Lion King has waned; until he is back then they will fall over each other to be on the front row of the palace temple. Now the hyenas and the jackals are scheming and talking to each other in whispered tones; still doubting whether the Lion King will be back or not. Now the Lion King is asleep and no other dare to confirm if he will wake up or not. It’s the wish of the hyenas that the Lion King never wakes up or comes back so that they can be kings. It’s the prayers of the weak animals that the Lion King comes back to save the kingdom from the hyenas, the wolves and other predators”.
Responding, Aisha Buhari had remarked thus, “God has answered the prayers of the weaker animals. The hyenas and the jackals will soon be sent out of the kingdom. We strongly believe in the prayers and support of the weaker animals. Long live the weaker animals, long live Nigeria”. Do you now blame those who characterize Nigeria as a zoo country? For me, they are justified.