The Yellow Fever Palaver
By Abdul Mahmud
It was the Brazilian scholar, Donaldo Macedo, who coined the phrase ‘literacy for stupidfication’. The phrase which sadly highlights the inability of a people to interrogate issues, find truth to that which underlines the ordinary. The ignorance our people display over subjects of public discourse signifies that inability, without question.
Democracy represents the collective aspirations of any people. Democratic governments, by recognising these aspirations, work them into a single charter of action. It is the recognition of these aspirations that makes any democratic government representative. This is not the case with undemocratic governments that deny the people places at the core of governance. Through pedagogies that teach the people to look at their own world through the prisms of those whogovern them, the people are piggybacked into holes only fit for Tolkien’s hobbits. The journey begins with deceitand it is sustained bymanipulation. Our country is no different.
Just this week, one hundred and twenty-five Nigerians were deported by the South African immigration for travelling with irregular documents. The deportation saga is whatI dubbed some days ago on my Facebook wall as the ‘yellow fever palaver’. The outrage caused by the action of the South African immigration is rippling through our country like Tsunami. From our melodramatic legislators to insentient market women, the rage is the same. What stands out is how our people have become beholden to rulers who have never nurtured love for the homeland. Suddenly, they have found wells of love within their hearts from which our people can lap on and find succour.Finding the truth of what lies beyond seeing is about looking outside of the ordinary itself. Lookingoutside suggests we unwrap the lies the government feeds into our public spacesfor us to reach the core of what founds government’s new found love and uncover the truth of what actually transpired between those deported Nigeriansand the South African immigration.
Yes, one hundred and twenty-five Nigerians were deported. That isn’t all to it.They were simply deported because they presented dubious yellow fever vaccination cards to the South African immigration at the point of entry.Our countrymen and women merely tried out what has become a fraudulent pastime in our country and they were caught out by public servants who take the business of securing the public health of their country seriously. The biometric technology, as one example, that the FRSC clown, Chidoka, seeks to apply to our new drivers’ licence highlights the problem of duplicity his men contends with on our roads. Fast forward to Alhaji Maina of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reform who is doing a good job using every available technology at his disposal to weed out thieving public servants in the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation who filch pensions of our retired senior citizens. With duplicitous stamps the originality of anything can be faked in our country. So, where are the grounds for the xenophobic claims that South Africa always sticksits fingers up our noses?
Our government is angry and we are spitting venoms as if international travel is a trip to the backwaters of our dying coastal towns. International travel,like jiujutsu, is guided by the rules of self-preservation. If you don’t abide by the conditions of the visa, you get shipped. Self-preservation, at the level of the nation-state, is about securing borders, preserving territorial integrity, protecting public health. So, why are we peeved by the action of the South African immigration? Lest we forget, it was an action taken within the bounds of international law.
The histrionics of the government are perhaps directed at either masking the absurditieswe live through at home or the inadequacies of the government, or both. But, why are we not asking our government why we fall into the category of persons required to present evidence of yellow fever vaccination? In a country where public institutions are in comatose, the yellow fever palaver serves our government’s best interest. By spawning anger at the South Africans, the government seeks to hide the elephant in the room. Can anyone hide the fact that we still suffer from ailments that have been banished elsewhere? Only last week, it was reported in the press that Lassa fever had spread to twenty-two states of our country. That our country has serious public health issues whilst we sit on our hands makes the reactions of our government annoying. The action of the South African immigration points to one truth: all is not well with us.
When idiots bury their heads in the sand they expose their stinking parts. Time and time again, we are scorned abroad because we tolerate an irresponsible government at home. A government that infracts on our humanityfor the world to celebrate usas the planet’s happiest hobbits is today pretending to fight our cause. Being the happiest half-sized citizens anyone can find around isn’t an accolade we should be proud of, but we are.
The hypocrisy of our public servants is commonplace. Was is it not in our country two years ago that Governor Fashola forcefully removed non-Lagos state citizens-who he claimed were destitute-from the streets of Lagos, only to abandon them at the city gates of state capitals across our country?Forceful removal (or call it compulsory eviction) has same effects as deportation. And no matter how both are construed, they possess the attribute of translocation of individuals from one point to another. The absence of consent makes both what they are: expulsion. How can one explain the tit-for-tat battle that has quietly raged on between the governors of Abia and Imo states? Was there a national outrage when the governor of Abia state sacked Imo state indigenes from his state’s civil service? And Rochas Okorocha reciprocated by imposing high fees on students of non-Imo state origin in his state tertiary institutions. Are the actions of these governors not more heinous than the action taken by South African immigration? Here, we are talking about Nigerians who are daily buffeted by their governors and governments at home. Still, they want our people to believe that the reciprocal steps taken to deport twenty-eight South African nationals who arrived at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, three days ago is enough to endear our public officials to our mob and discerning publics. Not that our public officials are interested in being decorated with endearments, nor are they in a hurry to pull away from the verbal gymnastics.It is a game they can’t quite pull off.
Literacy for stupidfication doesn’t promote the two nations of unity and purpose that Disraeli wrote about in his brilliant classic, ‘Sybil or the two nations’.If our rulers think allegiance can be secured by having our people sold on to big lies, herded as xenophobic lynchmob searching for anything andeverything South Africa, they are mistaken. ‘Every day is for the monkeys; and one day shall be for the banana plantation owner’.