Monday, September 5, 2016

Dogs and a theatre of the Absurd



I love dogs. They are man’s best friend. Of all the animals in the world, a dog is the closest to humans. When we were in primary school, we heard about this famous Alsatian which belonged to a blind German, and which used to deliver letters for his master at the Airport Road Benin City. It knew when to cross the road and when it entered the office, it would drop the letter on the floor and bark at the postman. When he appears to pick up the letter, the dog escorts the post man to the post point as if to make sure that the letter gets sent before heading home. Unfortunately one day, it got knocked down by an oncoming vehicle. It died. Distraught, and bereft of his friend and confidante, the German packed up and left.




Therefore when I had my dog, it treated me like that German and I treated it like a human being. He was my friend. I tried to teach him how to say the letters of the English alphabet. For letter A, he would bark once when I said it; for letter B, my dog would bark twice and bark thrice for letter C and so on and so forth. Unfortunately for me, it fell out with my neighbours and became persona non grata on that premises. We sadly had to part, and from what I was to hear from his new owner, he had been eaten.



I have never really believed that tale that a dog is food and a taboo among some ethnic tribes in Nigeria. But I began to believe it when my other dog died recently and mysteriously too. Our prime suspect was a dog-eating fella close by but we had no proof.  But just yesterday, he proved true – there, behind our premises, he had tied a dog down to be slain for pepper soup.





And just after, a chap named his dog Buhari and before anyone could say Changi, all hell broke loose. The man was quickly arrested and charged, I guess more from the effrontery of making his dog our president’s namesake than that the name could result in a breakdown of law and order. But then, the story began to move from the ludicrous to the mundane:  about 100 lawyers were already lined up to defend the rascally fellow.  I didn’t give this incidence any thought, except perhaps to begin to wonder at what the fuss was all about. I tried to place the furore of naming a dog after Mr. President but my compass kept redirecting me to another president whose dog, BO, has phonetic similarities with his owner’s name Obama. There was this story as well about an American president who travelled and forgot his dog. When he realized it, he sent Air-Force One to fetch the First Dog. He ran afoul of the press -they criticized him for spending taxpayers’ money on a dog. The president shut them all up. He told his traducers that if he would use Air Force One to fetch a lost dog, perhaps they should not wonder at what he would do if it were an American citizen stranded the way that First Dog was.


But perhaps to shut up the cacophony of insinuations making the rounds, that Mr. President had ordered the arrest of the dog owner, his image managers bungled things up once again. They said the President Buhari had no time for such things, and that anytime Mr. President picks up the papers, he quickly dashes to the cartoon section and just laughs and laughs. We all hope this is not true. A newspaper is a serious document where serious national issues are reported, debated and disseminated. It carries caricatures and graphical representations of these grave issues and they lampoon and satirize. Those cartoons are not funny, and why the president is indeed laughing at those serious issues at the heart of our heart as a nation, I may hazard a guess. Just five years after our independence from the British, our own people took over the mantle of oppression and suppression.  To mirror this sordid state of affairs, Wole Soyinka wrote a play, Madmen and Specialists, in 1970 as a satire on the political class. Then he invited the very people he satirized to come watch the play.  They all took up choice positions and as if on cue burst out laughing as the play started. But one of them did not laugh. He drew the attention of his colleagues to the deeper truths inherent in the play, and one after the other, they slicked off. Matters at hand today are no laughing matters.