Nigeria, In The Twilight Zone, By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

Fifteen Urgent Questions, By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

“Logic is an enemy and truth is a menace.” How true, how profound!

Last week, before the Minister of communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami’s ugly past was unearthed, I was binge watching the classic American television series  – The Twilight Zone. The show, written by Rod Sterling first aired in 1961, long before I was born. Pantami’s Jihadi “past” exposed the worthless value of background checks on government appointees in Nigeria. We have long suspected the screening had always been mere theatrics and Paddy – Paddy arrangement, the unlikely choice of Pantami to the sensitive position of communications minister, confirms it. Like Alfa Shittu before him, looks to me that Islamic fundamentalism is a prerequisite for leading ministry meant for digeratis and creatives.

Nigeria is much like the aforementioned television series. Every day, life in Nigeria feels like an experience in the Twilight Zone. Season Two, episode 29 – The Obsolete Man; is similar to Nigeria as presently constituted. In The Obsolete Man, the state determines who is obsolete and therefore condemned to death. Kernels of truths are sprinkled generously through all the episodes. There are ethical truths, religious truths, technology truths as well as truths about human nature, fantasy, science, reality and even, government. The Twilight Zone is so strange, that you may be catapulted there without knowing. Nigeria is do strange as to lose one’s essence without knowing it.

Back to the Twilight Zone, In the episode, a character named Romney Wordsworth, is a librarian, whom the state has declared obsolete. Much like Boko Haram’s territory in the Northeast and in terror ravaged Nigeria as a whole, where education and virtue counts for nothing and vice is upheld as virtue. What is the significance of books, of education, of competence? How is our disdain for books, for education, for competence, fit into where we are as a country? How can a country have leaders who educate their own while millions of Almajirai are begging on the streets? How about rewarding a hate monger who probably radicalized some young people with a cabinet position? Aren’t we obsolete? Isn’t education obsolete? Isn’t history obsolete? Isn’t decency obsolete?

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What have we done to schools? To universities? We have shunned civilization in favor of caveman lifestyle. We have no use for dignity, the dignity to live as human beings. We are a nation of no books, where education is Haram – Boko Haram. The harvest of illiteracy has built a cult of ignorant followers of fascists, hero worshippers who follow and adulate those who do not act in their best interests. I can only explain our situation by using the words of the great historian, Barbara Tuchman: “Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.”

As we collectively sleep walk into twilight zone of our own making, certain questions comes to mind. As the movie of our discontent continues to unfold, fear grips those if us who understand the combustible nature if our present circumstance. Was Pantami’s appointment as Minister of Communications deliberate? Is there a sinister agenda? Why did the President entrust a lover of terrorists and terrorism with our life – biometric data? Was he appointed to protect terrorists? Is his National Identity Number scheme enforced evenly throughout Nigeria? There are lots of questions based on new revelations about Pantami’s past.

Just like it is in the Twilight Zone, Rod Sterling sets the stage for the story by his opening narration: You walk into this room at your own risk, because it leads to the future, not a future that will be but one that might be. This is not a new world, it is simply an extension of what began in the old one. It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time. It has refinements, technological advances, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom. But like every one of the super-states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: logic is an enemy and truth is a menace. This is Mr. Romney Wordsworth, in his last forty-eight hours on Earth. He’s a citizen of the State but will soon have to be eliminated, because he’s built out of flesh and because he has a mind. Mr. Romney Wordsworth, who will draw his last breaths in The Twilight Zone.

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How does this make sense to those who have not watched the series? Let me bring it to you. The plot for the series was set in a future totalitarian, fascist state, Romney Wordsworth is on trial for being obsolete. Since the state has eliminated books (like Boko Haram), that means his occupation as a librarian is obsolete and obsolescence is punishable by death. Romney Wordsworth also believes in God. That too is an offense because the State claims to have proven that God does not exist. The Chancellor finds Romney Wordsworth guilty and sentences him to death, allowing him choose his method of execution. Wordsworth requests that he be granted a personal assassin, who will be the only one who knows the method of his death, and that his execution be televised nationwide. The Chancellor grants both requests.

A live broadcast to the nation is scheduled in Wordsworth’s study. As the personal assassin, the Chancellor, who agrees to this unusual request out of curiosity, arrived early for Wordsworth’s final hour. On arrival, Romney Wordsworth reveals the chosen execution method is a bomb, set to go off in the room at midnight. The Chancellor expresses approval until Wordsworth told him the door is locked, and the Chancellor will die with him, giving viewers the spectacle of another death with his m. In a live event, he points out, the State would risk losing its status in the people’s eyes if they attempt rescuing the Chancellor. Wordsworth read Psalm 23 and 59, from his hidden copy of the Bible expressing his trust in God. His calm acceptance of death stands in sharp contrast with the Chancellor’s increasing panic as the bomb ticks away.

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At the last minute, the Chancellor cries and begs to be let go “in the name of God.” Wordsworth agrees to do so because of God and unlocks the door for the Chancellor. Wordsworth stays, the bomb explodes, killing him alone. For his cowardly display in Wordsworth’s room and professed belief in God, the Chancellor is replaced by his own subaltern and declared obsolete. He protests pitifully that he is not obsolete and tries to escape but he is overwhelmed by tribunal’s attendants, who clobbered him to death.

Sterling appeared at the end of the episode to give a closing narration. He said: The chancellor, the late chancellor, was only partly correct. He was obsolete. But so is the State, the entity he worshiped. Any state, entity, or ideology becomes obsolete when it stockpiles the wrong weapons: when it captures territories, but not minds; when it enslaves millions, but convinces nobody. When it is naked, yet puts on armor and calls it faith, while in the Eyes of God it has no faith at all. Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of Man…that state is obsolete. A case to be filed under “M” for “Mankind” – in The Twilight Zone.

Living through the Nigeria of today, the insecurity, mass slaughter, uncertainties, economic anxieties, in addition to the enemies within and without and, the saboteurs; this a warning from the Twilight Zone. “Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of Man…that state is obsolete.”

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo


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