The magic of the cinema never ceases to amaze – blazing giant screen in front of an audience enveloped in darkness. The cinema is a theatre where darkness and light embrace in tranquility to produce relief from powerful emotions. It’s an arena where lovers, families, friends and solitary strangers converge and focus their retinas on the dazzling fluorescent called celluloid.
On this particular day, I had gone to the cinema to see the premiere of a movie, “Bloodiest Nigerian election ever,” but the four-minute promo of another upcoming film entitled, “Heads meant only for carrying loads,” shown before the premiere, brought me to tears. The plot, characterisation, songs; pictorial and tonal qualities of the promo were awesome. The voiceover was done in rich baritone. The unmistakable message of national retrogression in the promo made my eyes tear. I sneezed and coughed and blew my congested nose.
“Nigeria has not always been a story of doom,” the baritone began. “Growing up in the Nigeria of the late 60s and 70s was fun. It was an era when Nigeria was a country and not a potty. It was a time when parents brought back their children from overseas to enrol in public schools. It was a period when stealing was only done at night. Nigeria’s pioneer armed robbers, Babatunde Folorunsho, Joseph Ilobo and Williams Oyazimo, robbed their way into infamy when they were publicly executed on July 24,
“In those years, music had a meaning. Family values, societal cohesion, love, religious morality and patriotism were some of the themes of the songs by Roy Chicago, Rex Lawson, Adeolu Akinsanya, Osita Osadebe, Victor Olaiya, Victor Uwaifo, Dan Maraya Jos, Sir Warrior, Ebenezer Obey, Sunny Ade, Oliver de Coque, Ofege, etc.
“Then, people lived happily within their means. Work was worship. Parents were responsible to their children, who, in turn, obeyed their parents. Public taps ran, electricity never travelled, roads were tarred, the rail worked, our airspace was safe; government wasn’t dead. Anything you saw on TV taught a moral, even the jaunty Bar Beach Show anchored by the ever lively impresario, Art Alade. Nigerians never got to watch pornography on national television by some lazy and brain-sick youths holing up in an unholy house belonging to one faceless thingamajig called Big Brooder.
“TV soap operas taught morals. They also taught good English and various Nigerian languages. Whenever the evergreen signature tunes of Village Headmaster, Adio Family, New Masquerade, Cock Crow at Dawn, Kootu Asipa, Icheoku, came alive, streets become empty. This was a time when the naira was stronger than the British pound and the American dollar. Then, the heroes of our football were in Rangers International, IICC Shooting Stars, Bendel Insurance, Mighty Jets, Raccah Rovers, Calabar Rovers, Spartans of Owerri, Stationery Stores, etc, and not in Chelsea, Arsenal, Man U, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus, etc. Our boxing, wrestling, table tennis, lawn tennis and sprint heroes included Dick Tiger, Power Mike, Atanda Musa, Nduka Odizor, and Chidi Imoh, and many more. This was before corruption and nepotism snapped the spine of the country, rendering it immobile and fit only to bay at the moon…This is why I ask, ‘Are our heads meant only for carrying loads’?” the baritone tapers off to a loud sigh from the audience. The screen went blank.
A gruffy voice from the back of the theatre barked, “Who among dis our leaders no carry load for head when dem dey small? When you don compress ya brain with load for years when you dey small, how can you formulate better policy when you enter power? Yeye people!” The crowd thundered in laughter. Another voice in the dark asked, “So, Nigeria was a country,” adding, “Why are our leaders so greedy? Ol’ boy, I should just leave after watching this promo, it’s so engaging and deep, but I really want to watch the new movie, “Bloodiest Nigerian election ever.” Better people dey do election all over the world, dem no kill mosquito; na blood our own election they drink.”
The screen lit up again. Several red alphabets erupted like a volcano, gradually distilling like molten magma into the title of the next movie, “Bloodiest Nigerian election ever.” The letters of the title dripped with blood.
The words of the first German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, graced the screen: “People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election,” panning into a scene heralding gunshots, running feet and throes of agony, wailing and curses. The bodies of two brothers who had gone to vote were brought back home dead, in “body bags” and laid side by side for burial. The wailing rose to high heaven as the corpses were put in body bags. A woman jumped out of the wailing crowd and ran towards an open well, some men ran after her, grabbing her before she plunges.
Rich and clear, a female voiceover lamented the war the 2019 elections had turned into, saying that only animals in human skins could unleash such a level of terror on one another in the name of voting. It said, “Nigeria, the most populous black nation on earth, has brought eternal shame on the black man. The outcome of her general elections has justified slavery, colonization and western dominance. A people incapable of ruling themselves should be re-colonized. A people exhibiting slave mentality, 59 years after colonial rule, shouldn’t lament when called shithole. Sadly, it is becoming clearer by each passing day why the black man would perpetually be under the boots of the white. Other non-African countries of the world colonized like Nigeria have found their redemption and metamorphosed into global leaders while Nigeria regresses into prehistoric era, where the stealing of pants for ritual purposes was commonplace. It is only in Nigeria, where a national election would be reduced to a show of political strength at polling units, and online posts of who lost at what polling units would become a major talking point.”
A group of journalists asked one of the two leading contestants, President Muhammadu Buhari, whether he would congratulate the winner of the election – if he loses, to which he brusquely said, “I will congratulate myself; I’m going to be the winner.” His archrival in the election, Atiku Abubakar, in like manner, said: “My victory is sure.” The two boastful remarks by the candidates can only heighten tension and exacerbate the violence currently ravaging the country.
By these elections and the actions of Nigerian leaders and the led, the hope of the attainment of a just and equitable society further dims. Can Nigeria ever attain the level of development, sophistication and maturity obtainable in western countries? Not in our lifetimes.