political commentary

Lessons from a 23 seconds video

Man, they say, is a product of his environment. And when you turn that around, the environment is undeniably the product of man, of his actions and inactions. The recognition of this impact of man on the environment is what birthed the modern human society – with rules regulating these actions/inactions of man – out of the beastly existence in the Hobbesian State of Nature, where existence was largely by strength, leaving the weaker one as vulnerable as can be. 


Now, weakness is not in only the physical sense. Material, mental, military, character, economic, and institution are all ways in which any man or society can be weak, and be exposed to all kinds of consequences that being weak causes. Mind you, nature and the whole universe are governed by these two contrasting factors, weakness, and strength. From the universe’s beginning – a subject that continues to divide those who have put their minds to examine and explain it – to its evolution, and what currently is the reality, strengths, and weakness have remained in a perpetual rivalry. 


Nature is a beautiful thing, and at the same time could be ugly, depending on what end of the pendulum one is. Its design, its allure, its benevolence, and its lack of feeling all contribute to the grandness that is Nature. Take our planet for example. Animals, including the acclaimed higher animal (man), have remained in a constant rivalry and competition for space and continued existence. In the jungle, the lion is regarded as the lord of all, for no other reason than its unmatched strength and bravery. But as strong and brave as it is, in a moment of weakness – possibly because of ill health, age, or both – even the lion can be vulnerable to any beast in a better position at the time. 


Slavery, colonialism, and war have been significant parts of the history of man. Each of these subjects, irrespective of anyone’s perspective on them, is the result of a strength-weakness relationship among men. Despite man’s claim to being of a higher mental construct, and despite centuries of work, man has failed to create a conflict-free world. I do not think anyone who has paid attention to history can negate the roles of strength and weakness in these events. Between the predator and the prey, it has been strength and weakness, and their use, that have always determined the outcomes of their perpetual conflict. 


You may be wondering what’s in the “23 seconds video” that birthed this piece. Ironically, the content of the video, if examined on the surface, has little to do with the picture painted thus far in this piece. Even this writer did not anticipate that the writing would proceed as it has. However, after watching the video over and over, the strength and weaknesses of any society, and the effects became obvious. Countries have since been divided into developed, developing, or underdeveloped. The criteria for this division include the state of each country’s economy, infrastructure, education, production, healthcare, and human capital, among others. 


The United States of America, The United Kingdom, Germany, China, Japan, France, and Singapore are examples of the developed ones. The men and women who built these countries were undeniably strong, especially mentally. They recognized that to survive and thrive in a world that is perpetually marked by competition, they must build their country and continue doing so, because if you get complacent, someone is ready to pounce on you, and the consequences are often unimaginable. The leaders who built these countries, unlike many in other places, recognized that a country is as strong as the weakest among its citizens, and the volume of those weakest ones. 


Charlie Chaplin, on creating an ideal society, said in a beautiful speech, “Let us fight for a new world – a decent world that will give men a chance to work – that will give youth a future and old age a security”. Why does old age need security? It is because old age limits us and makes us vulnerable in many ways. And like old age, illness limits us and makes us vulnerable. The leaders in the country where our “23 seconds video” was made must have their minds working like that of Charlie’s. They, glaringly, did well on the criteria for making a country classified as developed, and that was obvious in the actions of the men and women in that short video. 


In the video, a law enforcement officer is seen staggering twice before falling the third time (probably because of ill health), in the middle of moving traffic of vehicles going in opposite directions. Thankfully, the space of the fall was under a construct that housed the traffic light, not right on the road where moving vehicles could have trampled on him. In that moment of weakness, which was beyond the officer’s control, the worst could have happened. And while the video did not tell us what became of the officer, the actions of the immediate responders must trigger various thoughts in the mind of any viewer, especially a viewer from a developing nation. 


The vulnerability of everyone was on display in that short video, and what was equally worthy of note is the immediate response from citizens who must have seen the fall. Three vehicles in opposite directions parked immediately, and their occupants rushed to the aid of the fallen officer. The officer was lifted and put into one of the parked vehicles, obviously to be rushed to the nearest hospital. As stated earlier, it is not known whether the officer survived or not. What is known is that the immediate response from strangers at that critical point was a chance at survival. 


These strangers could have ignored and gone their own way, but they displayed a huge sense of responsibility to the other person’s wellbeing. They were being their brother’s keeper. And because their minds had been developed correctly, they had the common sense to use their private vehicle, instead of waiting for an ambulance. In some other countries (like Nigeria), where life is increasingly becoming less sacred and without value, those strangers – even if they wanted to help – may have ignored, out of fear of being wrongly accused of a crime (if the worst happened to the officer while in their vehicle). 


If you are non-Nigerian, and reading this piece, you may be wondering why these strangers could be wrongly accused of wrongdoing when they only tried to help someone in need. Well, in Nigeria there have been cases where accident victims, robbery victims, stray bullet victims, and other kinds of victims are taken to hospitals, only for the hospitals to reject them or refuse to attend to them unless the stranger trying to help produced a police report. These hospitals, where common sense is obviously lacking, do this under the guise that they do not know if the injured person is a criminal or not, and because they do not want trouble from law enforcement agencies should the worst happen when the patient is still in their care. 


It is baffling why any law enforcement agency should “trouble” a hospital in any of the scenarios above. Hospitals are places where healthcare is administered, but not every patient survives or responds to treatment. It is a fact that people die in hospitals, and for various reasons. Even if the person brought is a criminal, isn’t it more sensible to try to save him/her first, report to the police in the process, and let the police do their job of investigation and/or prosecution if he/she survives? And if not a criminal, how humane would it be if the person dies while the police report is being procured? In any case, it is difficult to hold the hospital liable for any wrong if the worst happens while care is being given to the patient. 


Except that these hospitals are not primarily concerned about law enforcement agencies, but about profit. Did you ask why profit would be their primary concern at such a moment? Well, here medical practice is more business than care. And why is that? Decades of misrule by politicians with weak minds (in collusion with equally mentally and morally weak civil servants), perpetually plunder the commonwealth, leaving the country in a horrible state of misery. And it is the reason millions of Nigerians have little chance of survival in the case of a serious health challenge. 


Back to our video. In that country, the strangers who rushed to help that fallen officer were captured in a clear motion picture, likely by a public CCTV camera. In a country like that, you would have less worry about being wrongly accused in a situation where you only helped, because the investigation would look into the many CCTV cameras in that area, and would see that there was no wrong on your part. Simple things like the CCTV camera have helped in uncovering crimes, finding culprits, and vindicating the innocent. 


They have also helped to curb insecurity, as many potential crimes have been averted when the would-be perpetrator remembered that there was little or no hiding place under the constant gaze of numerous private and public CCTV cameras. Unfortunately, in Nigeria and other countries like her, CCTV cameras remain luxuries. With hard-biting hunger, disease, and a worsening insecurity crisis, CCTV cameras are far from being priorities/concern of Nigerians, whose country has literally become an abattoir in the hands of terrorists who kidnap and kill everywhere, without consequences. 
They strike anywhere, and at any time they so please. Farms have become out of bounds to farmers, roads have become hunting grounds for murderous predators, trains have also become unsafe, and lately, religious centers have lost their sacredness and sanctity, as the murderous sons of perdition become more emboldened by a complicit ruling class, which punishes the good and rewards the criminal. When Benue state communities suffered these horrific attacks in the first term of this current administration, the country’s chief security officer, while addressing the people whose loved ones had just been slaughtered, told the grieving to accommodate their brethren (the killers). 


Imagine that insensitivity and irresponsibility from a man whose primary job is to protect lives and property. But while many decried the man’s ways, many jumped to his defense, and have continued to do so. Today, things have become worse, and there’s no safe haven for anyone, including the man’s worshippers, to whom society’s wellbeing is secondary where their god’s name is mentioned. Elections are upon us again, and political parties have chosen their candidates. Unfortunately for the country, the party primaries have confirmed the fear of many, that while this misery-distributing administration winds up, 2023 offers no clear path to respite. 


Nigerians have been made weak and vulnerable to unremorseful predators, but it is useless to pity Nigerians, as they continue to support the status quo. When you look at how the victims of this perpetual misrule vigorously defend the same ruling class that has made their lives of little value, you wonder why the prey could be so in love with its predator. Before during, and after the party primaries, the discourse has been about mundane things like ethnicity, religion, and the depth of each aspirant’s pocket, and surely, it would remain like that till the elections. 


Economy, infrastructure, education, security, healthcare, power, petroleum subsidy, and other issues do not matter, whether to the aspirants or their supporters. None of the aspirants has given any idea of what is going to be done if elected, or how it is going to be done, and the elections are less than a year from now. If Lee Kuan Yew was mentally and morally weak like Nigerian leaders, Singapore would be in a sorry state as Nigeria currently is. If Deng Xiaoping, Xi Jinping, and other Chinese leaders lacked strength, China wouldn’t be the Super Power that it is today.  It wouldn’t have successfully lifted more than 700 million people out of poverty in a few decades. 


Had the ruler of Dubai, and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, been weak like Nigerian leaders, the story of Dubai would be the opposite of what it is today. Nigerians pretend to want an ideal society, yet their political choices are the exact opposite of the ideal. Like other countries in Africa, Nigeria enjoys being weak and vulnerable, and as is the norm where there is weakness, the strong countries have been in a tussle for the soul of the continent. With all kinds of Western aid and loans to these beggarly countries, China’s loans, and military operations of France and Russia in West Africa, the continent continues to be on its knees. It remains to be seen how long before Nigerians, and Africans – by their choices- quit being willing prey.

THE VIDEO

  • Oluwaseun Lonimi (lonimisamuel@gmail.com) writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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