Saturday, April 2, 2011

On Being Bode-Georged

By

Obododimma Oha

The roosters in my neighbourhood could see and say things. In the ancient, √©lan and mystical tradition in which talking animals lived side-by-side with humans and inter-married with them, these roosters have been consistently crowing “Bode George ee!” One is therefore forced to go closer to them to ask why. Is it that these roosters have joined in celebrating his return, or that they want to say something to him? Or do they feel scandalized at the noise of the celebrations associated with his release from prison?

Out there, human beings have been crowing too, about Bode George’s completion of his jail term. Some are crowing his heroism, with fanfare and drums. Some are crowing against crowing for Bode George as hero. Yet, some others are crowing about their being made to crow for Bode George against their will. Perhaps the talking roosters of my neighbourhood are bored with all this types of meaning humans have given to their Bode George crow.

Let us get certain things straight: there is nothing wrong in members of a family celebrating the return of one of its members from prison. Such a celebration is a friendly post-imprisonment strategy, indeed a means of rehabilitation. Nigerians get it wrong when they think that imprisonment is only about punishment and the prisoner has become an outcast. No; the prisoner is still a human being, and may even be far better in morality and sense of justice than many individuals who walk the streets as free and law-abiding citizens.

Bode George will, for a long time to come, be a reference point in Nigerian social and legal discourses. He will, for the justice system, represent a major victory, courage, and freedom from a political system many thought had become omnipotent. Anyone could be “bode-georged” or better still, “bode-judged” and put away for a while if they think that there is no law in Nigeria to hold them accountable for their conducts.

Seen this way, the roosters in my neighbourhood could possibly be disseminating “Bode George” as a code of correctional culture, both in terms of the triumph of the justice system that imprisoned him without caring whether he was a PDP chieftain or not, whether he was billionaire sacred cow or not, and in terms of societal misinterpretation of the idea of the ex-con.

Those who are celebrating the release of Bode George as a way of “laughing” at his critics, or as a way of saying, “See, the jail term could not destroy him; he is still around and powerful, and so the court is a joker!” are even worse in the interpretation of the Bode George semiotic. For these friends of our friend, a fearless justice system means nothing and cannot achieve any difference at the end in trying to handle people considered untouchable in Nigeria.

It is in this regard that one gets worried when the roosters crow “Bode George ee!” as if Bode George has become a measure of time. One is particularly worried that some elder statesmen at Bode George o’clock tell us that attending the post-imprisonment reception organized in his honour was not their will, that they were “tricked” into attending. That obviously smacks of untrustworthiness. Sometimes when Nigerian public figures make public utterances with the mind of clearing their names, they fail to realize that such defensive postures could backfire and do some harm on the ethical aspects of their personality. There is always an ethical side to self-representation, whether such self-representation is direct or indirect. Accepting that one is responsible for being present at the reception is a better and courageous way of crowing “Bode George ee!” Perhaps being there and using the opportunity to tell Nigerians that no one is above the law would have made a difference.

I, too, crow Bode George, to add to the confusion of what it means to be an ex-con in Nigeria and what it means to crow in the neighbourhood of the politics of the “rule of the raw.” What worries me though is that Nigerian citizens as prisoners of the so-called democratic politics may not be aware of the fact that the entire country itself is a big prison yard and that their own jail term is endless, or so it seems. The Prisoners housed in the boys’ quarters at Ikoyi and elsewhere are merely there because they have, through their conducts, indirectly requested for some personal retreat.

I, too, am a prisoner. Onye gbube achara, onye gbube, onye akpola ibe ya onye ikoni!