What’s in a name? Nothing, says Western culture, for a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Everything, say the cultures of Africa, for every name is a messenger, running errands of family history and circumstances of birth for its bearer. That is why an African seldom jokes with the interjection: call me this or call me that. Self-naming is serious business, very serious business in Africa. Doyin Okupe, one of the caterwauling blights on Nigerian manhood currently littering Aso Rock, said to call him a bastard if APC survived the first year of its formation. It is time for Nigerians to obey his instruction and grant him the Chieftaincy title he requested: Bastard Doyin Okupe. I hope you understand that I did not call him a bastard. He insisted, and who am I not to respect a man’s wish to be called a bastard? If you want to know how to handle a man’s calabash, watch him and study how he handles it himself.
Although he is sadly in his sixties – I say sadly because his behaviour always suggests that he is trapped in a pre-teenage stage of development – the patriarchs in Ogun state need to summon Doyin Okupe and flog him in a public assembly. It is rare to see a Yoruba elder in Doyin Okupe’s station do so much damage to his culture because he either misunderstands it or his desire for stomach infrastructure stands in the way of wisdom. “Call me this if that does not happen” is a commonplace Yoruba cultural formula. Like all cultural formulas, it is not to be used by fools. Any secondary school kid in Yoruba land knows that you wield that mode of discourse only when you are absolutely certain of the results of what you are boasting about. Call me a bastard if January is not succeeded by February; call me a bastard if PHCN provides one year of uninterrupted power supply all over the country in 2015; call me a bastard if the EFCC ever prosecutes Olusegun Obasanjo, Abdulsalam Abubakar, and other beneficiaries of the $180 million Halliburton scandal. These are three contexts a Yoruba person would deem appropriate for that cultural formula because it is certain that none of the propositions would ever happen. However, call me a bastard if a political party lasts a year? Only a very foolish Yoruba person would say this.
You know that this person is foolish because the more you slice off his fingers, the more he insists on wearing diamond rings. Doyin Okupe is now into the business of comparing his boss with Jesus Christ. Suddenly, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, and Lee Kuan Yew are no longer enough for these deranged minds in Aso Rock. Oga Goodluck Jonathan is now better than all these people put together. Trust Doyin Okupe. He did not even stop at the Pope. He went directly for Jesus Christ. He even forgot that there is no vacancy for a second Jesus Christ in Aso Rock. Evans Bipi already named Patience Jonathan Jesus Christ over a year ago. Patience Jonathan accepted the honour and returned from Germany claiming to have raised Lazarus from the dead. Which of the two Jesuses in Aso Rock will step down for the other now?
There is something else I like about Yoruba culture. There is a point at which that culture determines that somebody’s behaviour has become so outrageous that you stop blaming him or holding him to account. Yoruba culture will migrate to the person’s kinsmen and ask them critical questions. The moment Doyin Okupe started comparing his Oga with Jesus Christ for the simple reason that what he will eat is standing in the way of wisdom, you are unlikely to find anybody in Yoruba land still blaming the man. Instead, questions will be asked of his kinsmen, his molebi in Ogun state. What did Doyin do? Who did he offend and what is the scale of his offence that you, his kinsmen, would fold your arms and watch him dance naked in the public square all the time? Why did you allow him to cross the market? Does he not have molebi in this town? What is his olori ebi – family head – doing about his matter? Are you his kinsmen just going to be looking at him? Won’t you do something? Ee ni jade si oro Doyin ni? I am sure these questions are being asked of Doyin Okupe’s kinsmen already.
Doyin Okupe is not the only one who has suffered misadventures recently in the field of naming. President Jonathan and the career Jonathanians who worship him on social media are also suffering from a crisis of identity. One of the rules of naming is that people tend to associate you with whatever you speak approvingly of. In certain cases, it could become your sobriquet. If I speak approvingly of football all the time, people could start calling me Pele or Messi. Whatever you approve of is usually a pointer to how you wish to be called. I am not sure that President Jonathan and career Jonathanians understand this basic rule. We must therefore break it down for them to help them avoid the pitfall of poor self-naming in the future.
President Jonathan went on prime time TV to proclaim that stealing is not corruption. He reprimanded those who take corruption too seriously for misunderstanding ordinary, mere, simple cases of stealing. Watching him, I told myself that he was very effective in making stealing look like the new cool in Nigeria. At first, career Jonathanians were stunned on social media. It was such a huge gaffe on the part of their Orisha that they initially did not know what to do about it. Then, like a herd, they started cutting and slicing the statement; defending it; justifying it; rationalizing it; explaining it; accounting for it; mitigating it; diluting it. As is usual with career Jonathanians, they forgot their Orisha who made the error and turned against Nigerians who dared to scrutinize it.
They hounded the nation. You must accept Oga’s premise that stealing is not corruption or you’re a hater. Perhaps the most celebrated instance of Jonathanian defence of the maxim, stealing is not corruption, happened when I delivered Pastor Tunde Bakare’s 60th birthday lecture recently in Lagos. Our brother and recent convert to career Jonathanism, Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo state, was on the high table with us. He kept wincing in pain and discomfort throughout my lecture. Stealing is not corruption was one of the planks of my lecture.
I got a standing ovation after it. Governor Mimiko was asked to respond. He spent almost forty minutes philosophizing President Jonathan’s statement. He defended, polished, cleaned up, explained, rationalized, disinfected. He was sweating. He accused me and the rest of the country of having not taken the time to research corruption and stealing. We have not theorized it enough. We have no research archives. Once we understand the theory of stealing and corruption, we would have a deeper understanding of President Jonathan’s statement. The audience booed him. Sahara Reporters later published the video.
In essence, for President Jonathan and career Jonathanians, there is nothing wrong with the statement stealing is not corruption. We got tired of their harassment and granted them their wish of calling them what they wanted to be called. Oga Jonathan went to Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, and some students shouted “Ole! Ole! Ole! Thief! Thief! Thief!” You’d think that career Jonathanians would be happy. After all, they’d spent months on social media screaming themselves hoarse and saying there is nothing wrong with the President’s beatification of stealing on national television in broad daylight. If there is nothing wrong with that statement, why is your mental carburetor suddenly overheating because some students called your Oga what he wishes to be called?
Career Jonathanians went into overdrive on social media. They screamed. They hee-hawed. I laughed really hard, reading and watching their contortions. At first, they said it did not happen. Then they said Sahara Reporters manufactured the story. Then they said that only a handful of students sponsored by APC screamed at the president. Then they said that even if it happened, it was rude and unpatriotic to call the President a thief – a president who had found a moral euphemism to rationalize stealing on national TV!
As we approach 2015, we must advise President Jonathan, his handlers, and career Jonathanians on social media: self-naming is a serious business. This is no time for you to suffer an identity crisis in the theatre of naming. You cannot say, one minute, that stealing is not corruption is the greatest philosophical statement of the century and turn around, the next minute, to burst a vein when the author of the said statement is called a thief. That is called confusion break bones. Make up your minds what you wish to be called.
Views expressed are solely the author’s