Elnathan John: Mass distraction
by Elnathan John
It would be unfair to taint the image of a global literary hero with petty talk of a country that does not have in any of its 774 local governments, one hospital that can properly treat an accident victim without fear of complications. God forbid.
Let me start by being honest about the title, ‘Mass Distraction’. I was so excited that I had coined this cool phrase, but like I do with all things I create, I go to the Internet to see if someone else has thought of something similar. To my consternation, I found the phrase “Mass Distraction” as the title of two essays, the name of a band, a movie title and millions of references. But plagiarism isn’t plagiarism if you already formed the phrase in your head before Googling it. (Now I hate Google).
There must be an effective Mass Distraction Committee in this government. I do not believe in coincidences. That’s why I do not believe in evolution. A house cannot spring up in a forest without someone putting it there. The type of distractions we have are too calculated and effective to be coincidences. The problem is I am not sure who to thank for this. For example we spent the last week forwarding ‘Oga at the Top’ videos and songs, totally forgetting that an international fugitive and a guy who anally raped young boys were legally converted into saints by our president. This is a great thing. Instead of dwelling on negative things like the fact that Alams may have his stolen billions returned to him now that he has been absolved, we rightly dwell on the funny video. I am grateful to Mr. Shem for facilitating this important distraction.
I mean, think of it. If we all had to dwell on things like the Kano bomb blast, the Maiduguri killings, the Oron boat mishap, the nationwide darkness, the lack of hospitals and a president who doesn’t wear smart clothes, we would fill up our already crowded psychiatric hospitals. God forbid that we become a nation of mad people.
Achebe died this weekend. As various government officials declare that they join the world in mourning him, some do not forget to call him their son. Some will call him many things from African giant to a man who always stood up for the Igbo tribe. They will fix a pot-holed street and name it after him. They will ask for a public holiday. Because Nigerians must be allowed to mourn, unimpeded by the distracting pressures of work. They must spend their day in sackcloth and ashes chanting the name of this dead hero. These are important distractions. Otherwise, Nigerians would have focused on the tragedy of our most popular writer and intellectual having to live in the United States mostly because of health reasons. It would be unfair to taint the image of a global literary hero with petty talk of a country that does not have in any of its 774 local governments, one hospital that can properly treat an accident victim without fear of complications. God forbid. So, we celebrate Achebe and thank him for firmly fixing Africa on the map of world literature. We celebrate the London agent that found his UK publishers of ‘Things Fall Apart’ for making him globally popular. We thank the UK and US publishers who have not stopped giving African writers the opportunity to be popular. We also celebrate the countries we have outsourced our healthcare to: Germany, India, the UK, America, Saudi Arabia. Without them our important people would live short painful lives. Imagine if there were no cool German, or American hospitals for our rich people and politicians to go to. God forbid that an important Nigerian die in a Nigerian hospital.
I am happy though that the most important of ceremonies is still done in Nigeria. Our important people may die in nice American hospitals but it is Nigerian earth that will receive them, soaked by generous Nigerian tears. I know Achebe’s funeral will be covered live and sponsored by his state government with probably more money than is required to upgrade a hospital in that state. But it will not matter. Even the good book says that the day of a man’s death is more important than the day of his birth. So the convoys and ceremonies will be in order. It is my firm opinion that Achebe will rest well and in peace.
I must make a comment about Farouk Lawan’s removal as House Committee on Education Chair. Nigerians are bullies. Look at how they treat small-sized people, Lawan, el-Rufai etc. This is one thing my government will not tolerate – discrimination based on size. Because I believe that all men are born free and equal and shall not be discriminated against on the basis of size, corruption or the size of one’s cap.
Ps. I spent most of last week as the guest of a university, in the home of a kind but crazy 66 year old American academic who is addicted to bullet-proof coffee, and being grumpy. I taught five classes in his department, and every night listened to him tell me animated stories about his three marriages and divorces, American reservations and clans, China (and his ex-Chinese wife), the sexual evolution of men and his plans to make it as a neo-imperialist, the horror of American (and Nigerian) healthcare, the evil Nigerian doctor who tried to make him stop wearing his cowboy boots, the secrets of being a good teacher, why I am one of the best writers he has ever met and why my European ex-girlfriend is very likely a spy. I feel wiser. In spite of what I said about white saviors a few weeks ago, if all white saviors were like Devitt, we wouldn’t need to get rid of them. Just saying.
Ps. #2. My dear partner and I are no longer together. It was totally my fault.
Read this on the author’s blogTHE DARK CORNER
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.