By Tunji Olaopa
Psychiatry as a discipline and a metaphor might, indeed, be more relevant to the understanding of
some psycho-social dimensions and being-ness of the postcolonial context we call Nigeria than might be obvious. Indeed, the Nigerian post-colony is filled with lots of terrible pathologies occasioned by a state that is existing in denial of its significant responsibilities. And in that denial lies the emergence of all the tragic symptoms of poverty, unemployment, infrastructural decay, underdevelopment, impunity, criminality, religiosity without spirituality and humanity, and bad governance, that have together turned Nigerians into angry and bitter citizens always demanding better quality of life without getting it. I believe that between legitimate aspirations that the citizens hold and the constant denial and deferral of such expectations by underperforming governments, there is a dark abyss in between that generates unhappiness and debilitations of all kinds.
Carl Jung was critically perceptive: “Show me a sane man, and I will cure him for you.” This implies, I surmise, that there is only a thin line between the sane and the insane. Thus, sanity is not a state of mind that should be taken for granted. And that means psychiatry ought to be taken with the utmost professionalism, patriotism and passion, if we must take Nigeria seriously. With these qualities, I am attempting to describe the humanity of Prof. Oyewusi Gureje— reputed to be Nigeria’s “most influential” researcher, a professor extraordinaire of neuropsychiatry, professional mediator of mental health, and a most unique human. I am referring to a scholar whose intimidating research oeuvre has remarkably inserted Nigeria into the global scientific map deserving of celebration.
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Thomas Szasz, the Hungarian-American psychiatrist, once asked: “Is psychiatry a medical enterprise concerned with treating diseases, or a humanistic enterprise concerned with helping persons with their personal problems? Psychiatry could be one or the other, but it cannot—despite the pretensions and protestations of psychiatrists—be both.” It is definite that Szasz was being precipitate about his judgement, and even more so because the capacity of psychiatry to be both a medical and humanistic enterprise depends on the person and commitment of the psychiatrist.
Prof. Gureje is not only an outstanding researcher—the most cited researcher in Nigeria according to the Web of Science Group, he brings patriotism and humaneness to a discipline that is one of the most vilified, but whose views on mental health is fast becoming very fundamental in the world. Prof. Gureje weaves a brilliant web of research, community service and advocacy that brings psychiatry and mental health into the consciousness of Nigerians. His Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy Programme (MHLAP) has achieved the grand status of a continental initiative that draws together mental health care givers, specialists and civil society to confront the ills of mental health and its relevance. And this is all the more significant because the lack of statistical analysis and impact assessment that correlate incidences of banditry, kidnapping, infrastructural burden and the general insecurity and civil conflicts with the mental health of Nigerians complicates the situation badly. And the predicament is terrible because it implicates both the elderly and the youth.
Let us not forget that Nigeria is a youthful country, with a median age of 18. This means that 53.7% of Nigerian population resides between 15 and 65 years. With the increasing incidence of drug abuse, drugs-induced crimes, money rituals, kidnappings for ransom, etc., that youthful population that ought to be the bedrock of human capital development is compromised. And the elderly that ought to be the repository of tradition and values are equally battling multilayered insecurity as the national economy exits and re-enters depression in equal measure, and have proven to be incapable, as yet, of providing safety net to cushion their old age.
And so, we are back, undoubtedly to the late Prof. Adeoye Lambo and his call for Nigeria’s political class to be subjected to mental health check before they contest for any political post. This seems logical given the spate of primitive accumulation and corrupt practices that, for instance, sees a person stealing 100 billion naira in a country where about 95 million Nigerians are living below the poverty line. This is further complicated by sociocultural practices by Nigerians themselves, that stretch the curve between the search for money (through money rituals) and the frivolous and wanton display of wealth (through owambe partying). There are also paradoxical incidences of seemingly fulfilled individuals and professional committing suicide. Medical doctors and psychiatrists speak about the revolving-door syndrome whereby an individual is diagnosed of mental health issue, is treated and leaves only to return a few weeks later because such an individual took her healing for granted and thus stopped taking the drugs. And so, Prof. Gureje and his associates and colleagues will keep lamenting a state of national mental health debilitation occasioned by a leadership that itself requires a mental health check.
Most unfortunately, Nigeria’s elite nationalism has occasioned morbid symptoms that complicates her developmental trajectory, especially the urgency of birthing a democratic developmental state that will take good governance seriously. The theories and rhetoric of Nigeria’s development failures keep mounting abysmally. We have heard of the wasted generation, the characteristic of Nigeria as a crippled giant, as well as the tragic horror of prebendalism and neo-patrimonialism. And yet, these terrible epithets do not discourage a profligate leadership from its tragic course.
Nigeria’s leadership quotient seems devoid of creative governance initiatives. I should know because I have struggled for many years to champion institutional and governance reforms that could help nudge the country toward a development progress. Nigeria has not been fully integrated into the fourth industrial revolution, not to talk of being ready for the fifth. And the source of the trouble lies in the predilection of the leadership—administrative and political—to favor mediocrity at the expense of meritocracy, and the lack of critical attention to those Nigeria’s human capital development requirements that lead to an uncaring attitude about the state of higher educational development. No wonder the brain drain phenomenon is truly draining the critical mass of competences and skills that could have been deployed for Nigeria’s progress. As Cassius says to Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “Men at some times are masters of their fates: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
The leadership of the Nigeria state has so far failed to take charge of the fate of Nigeria and Nigerians. And this in itself, from a psychiatric perspective is a mental health issue. And so, we begin to understand the predicament of scholars like Prof. Gureje who are patriotic enough to stand with the task of treating Nigeria’s psychosis. There is a point in scholarship that scholars like Gureje gets to that it becomes clear that more is required beyond research and scholarly visibility. The way Professor Gureje has mediated that relevance is to continually maintain large collaborative networks involving students and colleagues to facilitate broader academic capital and public education. Much more than this, Gureje also ardently curates his research findings and outputs to policymakers across Nigeria and beyond. This is a significant strategy by which he seeks to maintain a firm touch with his environment. In 2009, for instance, he facilitated a meeting of health ministers from across Africa to brainstorm on the relevance of mental health and how to keep increasing the consciousness around mental health services.
Now, Professor Oyewusi Gureje has achieved a septuagenarian pride—he has just added the hoary grace of age, as an àgbàlagbà, to the whole list of his overall excellence. The number seventy carries abundant sociocultural and theological significations. Even as the scripture pegs the normal span of human life at seventy, Prof. Gureje has filled that span with enviable values of being a worthy human blessed with a heart that reaches the very depth of sacred and providential enablement. But then, seventy is just the beginning for a man who is relentless in doing good, from scholarship that bends tradition and orthodoxy to the demands of necessity, to mentorship that raises millions to keep passing the baton of the excellence of outreach, advocacy and patriotic assistance to the nation that made him possible.
One can imagine the pain of someone who has made the diagnosis, epidemiological studies and prevention of mental health crisis his life-long endeavor, now waiting for the government to respond to many years of scholarly research and policy initiative to be backed by the political will that will attend to the psychosis of the Nigerian society. And yet, the Mental Health Bill has still not seen the light of the day, as a sort of crowning patriotic reward for someone who has given so much effort to redeem the mental stress of Nigerians. And by still oscillating over the status of that bill, we arrive at the height of Nigeria’s neurological imbalance—this is a nation that has a host of critical minds and intellects working around her mental health issue, and yet the nation prefers to languish in that situation. Nigeria is deeply enmeshed in the revolving door syndrome!
There is no doubt that, in the mystery of providential wisdom, God has blessed Professor Oyewusi
Gureje, like he blessed Bezaleel in Exodus 31. It remains for the leadership of the Nigerian state to heed the character value and professional excellence that God has deposited in this extraordinary human being, and harness it for national development. The first place to start is to pass the Mental Health Bill as a testimonial to the excellent effort of Prof. Gureje and team to deploy psychiatry to the understanding of Nigeria’s underdevelopment and arrested progress and national health.
Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies
(NIPSS), Kuru, Jos .
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Readers’ Showers Of Encouragement
By Tony Afejuku
It is time for me to wake up in the New Year in my waking mind to catch the pictures of the unseen and seen inhabitants who help to make this column the stuff of dreams. These inhabitants are my readers whose words see me any time they come to me or are called up by music of words, showers of encouragement, that help to seize and define the column.
My readers help me to see and feel the beauty and truth, ever bright, ever potent, ever lovely, in the things I set my mind to all the times it tip-toes to the rosy sky with its lure of some-thingness. I quote now select readers:
On ASUU and the “conquistadors.”
Professor Ademola Da Sylva
TA, our TA! Your resilience is amazing, your uncommon focused energy and optimism have continued, so far, to serve as essential fuel that keeps the ASUU collective struggle steadily on course, and very assuredly to the expected end. There are tricksters and there are tricksters: when a trickster-character attempts to make a society worse than he meets it, the trickster always ends up unwittingly, burning its own boat! Ditto the Speaker of HoR under reference, a chief trickster indeed, and his current ruling Party. No country’s leadership treats its academics this shabbily and disdainfully with impunity without serious short-term and long-term repercussions. Any further delay on the part of the society in taking decisive actions against these clowns and self-styled “conquistadors” could lead to a permanent and further irreparable damage to Nigerians’ warped psyche, and any meaningful development in the country. TA, the payback time is surely nigh. Cheers.
Professor Ademola Da Sylva
TA, our TA, ageless and timeless! When this current ASUU struggle shall be over, predictably victoriously, and hopefully pretty soon, either the principalities in the current government like it, or not, your adorable portrait, and name written in bold gold, shall surely adorn a conspicuous place in the nation’s Hall of Fame!; but the tricksters, interlopers, who constitute themselves, lately into a bunch of elitist-Boko Haramists, shall similarly have their names in the nation’s Hall of Shame! Kudos for an essay well thought out, and lucidly crafted! My 2 Kobo appreciation! Cheers.
Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano
Ha! Ha! Ha! You nailed the imbeciles once more. You’re quietly gathering a reputation as the Jonathan Swift of terrorist academic journalism or is it you as the columnist-academic-Professor terrorist? A student of mine said sometime ago that he would soon begin imitating your writing style. I told him in response that he should wait until he has mastered the language well enough. It’s not easy for a PG student to imitate a Professor!
Dear Mr. Afejuku, good morning. I am always eager to read your write ups. You are among the three highly rated journalists in this country. I have learnt so much from you in both content and form. I am an Associate Professor in the Arts Faculty in UNICAL. Keep feeding our brains and minds with your grip of the language, your knowledge and your expertise in journalism. God bless you immeasurably. The unfortunate thing is that you are speaking to minds that are depraved and have been inhabited by demons. Demons know nothing but wickedness and oppression. However, there’s always a day of reckoning, where the chicken will always come home to roost. Thank you profusely, Sir. Accept the expression of my esteemed regards. Have a useful and fruitful week ahead, while I await your next write up, Sir.
A Reader from the Diaspora
Good afternoon, my dear Brother. Thanks for your usually brilliant piece. It is obvious that the intent of the Buhari administration is to drop the ASUU file for its successor. Perhaps a bilateral conversion with each of the leading presidential candidates should be considered. Have a Blessed day and weekend.
Good morning, Sir. I appreciate your thoughtful article on the trickster beggars, and I love the inclusion of the allegories from the erstwhile FIFA World Cup, where professionals behaved like true professionals, upholding the integrity of the game by employing the best human and electronic resources to get the best out of the game. In our national climate, the different interest groups and personages in government and not in government, who begged ASUU to call off or suspend the strike, suddenly went mute. Even press and media personages involved in the begging charade are now fully engrossed in the flimsy stories of distraction created by the CBN sector and the Naira. The courts, which were employed by the FGN to force the lecturers to pick up their chalk by force, have ceased from advocating for the truth regarding the debilitating decay in the educational segment. A handful of those columnists, like you, who maintained a respectful distance and wrote about it truthfully, decently, genuinely, are now vindicated for writing objectively and absorbingly about the subject of begging and taking a stand. CONUA or whatever the alleged traitors of academics are called, are allowing themselves to be used to be playing a nauseating game against their mother union and colleagues.
SSANU members did not get their due for listening to the beggars. Now we are all waiting… Waiting… waiting…, while the present administration prepares for their swan song by inflicting financial pains on the populace with un-thoughtful money policies.
On Pele: World King of Football
Professor Owojecho Omoha:
Were you there at the invention moments of capture theory? You theorize the admiration of King Pele to recapture the attention of the world on coach Izilien. This vibrancy of your memory lives in poets, and only poets memorably work passionately to capture the attention of readers, the way you do, Afejuku. The year has begun with your poetry. Hold further passionate lyrics till you capture the attention of the world on Nigeria, when Coach Izilien and the rest of us shall dance gracefully turning backs on the criminals in February. This happiness makes greater sense, when you shall turn the attention of the world on Nigerians who survive the dark years in our history.
On Pele’s Warri ancestry
Professor Owojecho Omoha
A true African writer must be traditional in spite of the burden of modernity, from the ancestry, and again, back to the traditions that we know. This piece scores high on both points.
Passion and passionate passion! Now to our Waffi enclave. Pele was a Waffi Boy? This is a bad suspense and only a poet does that! I have started counting the day, to next Friday! Good morning, Sir.
Suyi Ayodele (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
Nobody, I repeat, nobody can dispute those revelations. I sat in divination sessions with my late uncle. Reading this piece brought back graphic images of those times. The Ifa priest was right, is right and will eternally be right. This is one of your best I have ever read. How did we abandon that plain religion, IFA? And about your younger brother, pity that you folks did not do what Ifa prescribed. It is always like that with Ifa, the Atori Eni ti o suhan se (The repairer of humanity). I would have personally ‘bewitched’ you if you have not written this! VINTAGE AFEJUKU!!!!!
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Professor Olu Obafemi (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
This is a very fascinating treatise, especially because of its crisscross transcendent of the abstractive ineffable to the physical/archaeological referents. The narrative’s rhetorical strategy is suspenseful with the capacity to provoke insatiable yearnings for the remit of the story. These days Africans in the Diaspora are Evoking DNA identity/Descent retrieval. Unfortunately, Pele has left.
Professor Sony Awhefeada (On Pele’s Warri Ancestry)
This is thoughtful, enriching and instructive. I wish you published this when Pele was alive he would have come home. And how is your younger brother now? I am really moved.
Nonso, Owerri resident (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
Good evening, Afejuku. I am totally intrigued by your write up on Pele’s Warri ancestry. I am enchanted with the eloquence of your pen that glides through the white sheet of paper and the attendant satisfaction that gladdened my heart to have stumbled upon this great literary work. Allow me to say that the article is un-putdown-able and the accuracy of the Divine revelation of the Ifa Priest should be announced to the world. Who knows? Or may-be Pele’s offspring may be interested in knowing the tree they were carved from … Thank you for the great work.
Professor Dan Chima Amadi (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
Good, good historical touch. I could not stop.
Roland Uyimulam Aleshi, from Calabar (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
Greetings, Mr. Afejuku, I read your well researched write-up on Pele’s Warri ancestry. You impressed me a lot with useful information and updates on Pele’s Warri ancestry ties. Well done.
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Professor Mabel Evwierhoma (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
I agree (from personal experience) that the art of divination is a means of finding out deep truths. We could know more, from such researches, but how can they be untainted by the factors of selectivity and monetary inducements? – May we know that which will not lead to perdition.
What do I say other than to thank my readers and readers, listed and un-listed, whose words charm me beyond any measurable afflatus? My nib gives applause to your lovely music of words – whose peroration I charm myself to let be.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
BREAKING: Gbajabiamila Threatens To Arrest Emefiele Over Old Naira Notes’ Deadline
Five days to the deadline for the old naira notes to cease being valid, Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emefiele is still in trouble over the policy.
House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila on Thursday threatened to order the arrest of Emefiele to appear before the committee investigating the old naira notes withdrawal.
Gbajabiamila said this on Thursday after the Majority Leader of the House, Ado Doguwa informed him that Emefiele and others shunned the invitation to a meeting on Wednesday.
Responding to the statement, Gbajabiamila said he would not hesitate to order the Inspector General of Police, Akali Baba to issue an arrest warrant to compel Emefiele to appear before the committee.
READ ALSO: Old Naira Notes Deadline Stays – Emefiele
Gbajabiamila added that the House ought to adjourn today to prepare for the elections, however, they will stay back to resolve the currency swap crisis.
“I will, pursuant to the authority conferred by Section 89 (1)(d) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Order 19 (2)(1) of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, not hesitate to issue a warrant to the Inspector General of the Nigeria Police Force to compel the attendance of the CBN or Managing Directors who fail, refuse or neglect to respond to the summons by the House of Representatives,” he said.
He also stated that Emefiele’s deadline is not consistent with section 20 of the CBN Act, noting that the banks are compelled to accept the old notes even after the expiration of the deadline.
The Presidential candidate of the APC, Bola Tinubu, who is believed to be The Godfather of Gbajabiamila, also spoke against the policy on Thursday during a rally.
Tinubu alleged that the policy is targeted at his presidential ambition.
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You don blow!
By Toyin Falola
My name is Toyin Falola, and I am an active member of the Association of Nigerian Pregnant Men (ANPM). We eat and drink every evening at our clubhouse. You can tell from the size of my stomach that I don blow. The Secretary of ANPM, a chief with a stomach twice as big as mine, don blow pass me. He is well connected that he can invite ten governors in the country to attend our annual gala. Men who don blow, as well as elegant don blow first ladies, honour us. Their drivers sit inside their cars, praying to become like us while they receive free AC to calm their bodies wey too dey hot. The Secretary and I look smallish than our Vice-President, who finds it difficult to climb into his jeep because he don blow well well.
Our President, our Oga patapata at the top, lives in affluence. I don’t know why I am afraid of him. He too get power! Plenty plenty power!! Whenever the President falls asleep, small girls steal from his wallet, and he does not even notice it. Sometimes I fear for the girls. What if one of them gets unlucky one day, and Oga wakes up to catch her in the act? But the girls seem not to send. They want a way out of their sapa situation. They steal from magas like my President, use the money to finance their japa plans, then some weeks after they get to the abroad, they post pictures on social media, and a barrage of comments follow: See as you fresh like today bread! Omo, you don blow!
If you are not a street guy like me or unfamiliar with the language of the street and slang, you might find all the slang phrases in the preceding paragraphs unusual. Communication and language are two interdependent concepts that hardly exist separately. Language is ineffective if it cannot communicate with another person. The indigenous languages of the regions that subsequently became Nigeria are very different from what the colonialists imagined them to be. The notion that Africa was a “dark continent” before European contact has been refuted and proven false by scholars and through our cultural developments even after independence. Before colonialism, Africans were not only able to communicate, but they also used complex languages to interact with one another and with events.
However, culture is not static, and one of its characteristics is the capacity to adapt to new situations and times. For context, words are borrowed from one language into another. For example, the Yoruba call onions alubosa, a Hausa word. The creation of Pidgin English, which deviates from the native English language and is increasingly common in other Anglophone-speaking West African countries, might be attributed to acculturation and the desire to improve communication and make languages simpler.
Even though the term “you don blow” is derived from the English language, it can be used in various contexts. Three words, three ideas. The pronoun “you” is used to directly address the listener or refer to individuals in general. The word “don” can be used in the present, past, or future tenses in pidgin English to replace the words “have, had, or has.” Examples are I don go (I have gone) and I don chop (I have eaten). The last word in the phrase You don blow can refer to either expanding air from one’s mouth or destruction by an explosion.
Nigeria boasts of an abundance of highly skilled and noteworthy people. The country is recognized as a talent hotspot in many spheres of human endeavour, including entertainment. Despite the challenging circumstances militating against young and brilliant individuals and inadequate leadership and infrastructure for nurturing such talents and people to develop and build the nation, Nigerian youth have been breaking through to international spotlights. These exceptional ones work as hard as they can with the limited resources at their disposal to achieve success and greatness, and when they finally do, dem don blow.
Let me further take you there. If someone says to you on the street, You don blow, it can be for various reasons. For those of us who are street kings, the first thing that will come to mind is that we have succeeded, and are now famous, trending, or the rave of the moment. This is well-versed in the entertainment field. Being famous or trending in the entertainment industry is associated with wealth and success due to the perks that come with it, such as sponsorship deals and money from social media engagements. Therefore, when an entertainer from a lowly background becomes well-known, he don blow. Olamide Adedeji, better known by his stage name “Badoo”, is a Nigerian rap artiste born and raised in Bariga, Lagos. He is just one example of a musician who has succeeded and become a global name despite coming from a lowly background. When next you see Don Jazzy, Badoo, Davido, Wizkid, and Burnaboy, greet them well well as dem don blow pass you.
Do you know some people believe you can hardly blow in the village? This is why people who live in rural or village settings find all means necessary to move to the big cities, even if they have to live in the “trenches” before they blow. The population of Nigeria’s major cities, such as Lagos, has exploded because many people, especially young Nigerians, believe that moving to an urban area is the first indication of success or achievement. Blow.
Another strategy that Nigerians believe will help them blow is to japa, our new alubarika. Due to the widespread problems affecting the country, such as unemployment, insecurity, and financial hardship, Nigeria is facing a brain drain in all sectors as young and older people emigrate. As a street person, you might think someone don blow if you hear they have relocated abroad or have gone to study abroad. Japa can make you blow, even bloat you! If you can successfully navigate the immigration process to leave the country, you’re good to go. Two months after you land in Saskatchewan or Houston, you have acquired a Highlander. Take many photos and post them on Facebook, include some Instagram videos or jump on some Tiktok trends, and you don blow!
You can blow a matter with your big mouth. This indicates that a secret has been revealed or that more people are now aware of an issue that only a few people were meant to be privy to. If such happens, it means the matter don blow. To blow in academia is to become a big brand and a well-established scholar, winning grants and carving a niche for yourself in research and other academic engagements. Professor don blow. If you become a Vice-Chancellor, you don blow pass all others! Shey VC wa kere ni!?
However, to blow in Nigeria, you need “grace”, which has been attributed to providence or blessings from God. Even if dem cut soap for you, you fit no blow if babu grace. In such a situation, keep at your hustle and be grateful for each day because, as Asake sang in “Dupe”, “cause you no get today no mean e too far” (https://youtu.be/sWj-zEuH4Lg) . Relax, you sef go soon blow, and when you do, just play over and over Kizz Daniel’s “RTID” for thanksgiving: https://youtu.be/ElgKinpsqYI.
Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.
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