There is presently more cringeworthy news than the airline seat matter I have chosen to discuss today. The heat of the moment is about the supposed rape of Mrs. Bukola Dakolo, wife of celebrated Nigerian musician, Timi Dakolo, by a pastor of the COZA church, Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo. An aide to former Gov. Fayose called it ‘consensual rape’, whatever that means. Knowing how our discourse space is fiercely divided over religious and ethnic lines, I may perhaps limit or skip any commentary over the matter until we hear the end of it. The pastor has indicated that he will file a suit in court against the false allegation, as he puts it. He insisted that he has never raped anyone in his life. Amazingly, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has not said a word over the rape allegation. This is very unlike of the body that is fond of issuing categorical statements all the time on virtually every other issue as it affects our society; meanwhile such a matter that involves a pastor has been ignored. This matter ought to be a front burner in CAN’s usual public statements because of the person involved. All the CAN president could say was that they do not intervene or regulate matters relating to the running of churches. Really? The fact that a pastor is involved has made it necessary for me to mention this unfortunate revelation, as it touches on the substance that almost all decorum is lost in our society. We have lost our morals, our ethics and virtually nothing is done with any noble intentions, and we continue to behave like an un-cultured lot.
Back on November 30, 2018, elsewhere, the chief executive officer of United Airlines gave up his first class seat for a senior citizen as a gesture of kindness. Rebecca Kuchar Krutz, who witnessed the encounter said, “I was a bit surprised seeing him walk back into the economy section of the plane to take his seat. Seated in front of me on the plane was an elderly lady in her 80s maybe even early 90s. She didnt appear to be in great health and had a bit of a hard time with her speech prior to boarding. I overheard the elderly lady telling the man she was seated next to, how she couldn’t believe the kindness of Oscar, giving up his seat in first class just for her”. Rebecca says, “that ladies and gentlemen, is how it should be done. Treat our elders with the respect and care they deserve”. Rebecca says, because of that incident, she may very well be a lifetime customer to United Airlines.
Fast forward to last week, here in Nigeria, billionaire Tonye Cole brought our attention to an incident where a young man asked Professor Wole Soyinka, the nobel laureate, writer and poet, with his elderly frame and thick white hair, to vacate the window seat allocated to him, which the professor was occupying. Mistakenly or not, the professor was astride the seat, strapped on and going over some papers. Though Tonye Cole was castigated over his description of the young in a rather thuggish way, which demeaned the lad’s character, he elicited a lot of sentiments and commentary, over how it was uncouth for the young man to ask an elder to vacate a seat for him, albeit the window seat was assigned to the young man. If the young man had a medical condition that made it uncomfortable for him to sit anywhere aside the window seat, he could courteously explain to the professor why he has to vacate the seat for him. But he did ask him off his seat, simply because it was allocated to him. Now, we know that airlines can actually swap one’s seat without giving any reason or notice. Where are our morals? Where is our upbringing? Has it come to this? Asking an elderly man to vacate a seat for you? An elder with a status like the prof’s? Things have really gone awry and the distinction between right and wrong has gone down hill, a very steep hill.
In another twist, just a day after Tonye Cole’s revelation, one Tosin Odunfa came forward and claimed to be that uncouth young man, trying to justify his actions. He claimed he had a PhD in Electrical Engineering and was teaching Nano Electromagnetic theory at the University of Mannittawiw. The Guardian newspapers went with his story without confirming any of the claims. It took the sanity of one Gimba Kakanda to alert everyone that there was no such course, neither was there any such institution. Guardian simply deleted the news from their website. Journalism too has lost all decorum. Media houses are now competing with junk journalism found on social media and other news sites that are fond of going to press with unverified news items. Investigative journalism has suffered a painful death in Nigeria and all the media cares for is sensationalism. Most others are sponsored with very sinister ethnic and religious bigotry, that further divides us as we lap up all that the media says, in the twisted and misconstrued ways they present the news to us.
A week ago, local news media were filled with news about a rich man being airlifted by a helicopter, to escape the traffic jam in Lagos. Some even said it was a rich man’s girlfriend that was picked by the chopper. Two days after, BBC came up with the authentic story of how a stroke victim was picked up by a chopper and rushed to the hospital. Where are our ethos in journalism and the delivery of accurate and verified news? A media house cannot be run like a blog or behave like a social media influencer where bragging rights and increased followership is all that matters – and to hell with the facts of the news. A Fulani young man kills a Fulani girl, but its reported as a Fulani boy kills a girl from another tribe, just to create a tribal crisis between Fulani and the Yoruba. ‘Herdsmen’ are reported as arrested and they are named Fulani herdsmen, whereas their specific names are Jacob and Isaac, definitely non-Fulani.
If Prof. Wole Soyinka would be excused off a seat by a young man, probably the age of his grandchild, and a pastor would be accused of rape, where is our decorum? Are the end times near, or are they here already? Prof says it’s just fine, but the truth is, it’s not fine for our society. There is already a generation of over 20 to 30 million Nigerians that have been denied their youth and are over the age of 40, yet are looked down upon as youths. This set is full of unprincipled people, who are neither here nor there. What more of the youths of today that are between 16 and 39? Can one imagine the rot and decay in their moral values? Can we explain the rationale and morality in the trip of a youth group in a chartered private jet, over to Ota, to hand over a gift of N1 million to a former head of state, just as courtesy? Shouldn’t they have been chased back home? Have the elders too lost their decorum? Just as history has been brought back to the primary and secondary schools syllabus, perhaps something similar should be done to teach and mentor an awareness of moral obligations and decorous conduct. Maybe it will be in schools, maybe by the National Orientation Agency, maybe by the Ministry of Youths and Sports; but something must be done in that regard, otherwise, the brigandage to come is of immeasurable proportion.
Tahir is Talban Bauchi.