At the close of the 20th century, there was roaring optimism for the birth of the 21st century. I was one of the starry-eyed optimists who partied and drank champagne with family on that cold December night to usher in a brand new century. Future archeologists may find my footprints on the pavement of Trafalgar Square where I decided to lose all inhibitions of adulthood in the dying days of year 2000!
First, my ex-Prime Minister, the honourable Tony Blair in a rare mood of blatant triumphalism had proclaimed a massive project of re-ordering our mad world. He blamed a world that had lost its moral compass. He innovated and created posts for ethical mandarins in his government. These mandarins became moral and ethical guardian angels over a decadent United Kingdom. Among his breadth of visions was the desire to eradicate poverty in the Third world. Other pet dream was to liberate and put a liberal gloss on the trade imbalances between rich and poor nations. He also wanted to pursue a 2-state solution in Palestine, guide his holistic government through the maze of third way policies and promote democracy in far away lands.
Overnight, Tony Blair metamorphosed and became the biblical Joseph the dreamer and his amazing technicolour coat.
Blair’s utopian dream for a collapsed world was enough to destroy the agnosticism with which I view all politicians. Oracular Blair had seen the state of our mad world and came to the conclusion that our world desire stability, progress, love and peace. But his brilliant dream for our mad world was aborted by his Atlantic friend, George W Bush. Like my friend called Dollin, Bush sees the world through a pessimistic lens. He checkmated Blair and cautioned him not to be silly with his optimistic view of our world.
Psychopathic George W Bush converted Blair and by 2003, the world woke up to watch flares over Iraq’s skyline heralding the commencement of war. By far the most awesome agent of darkness in real human form is George W Bush. He destroyed the peace of this century in his mad ambition to dislodge his bedfellow in darkness, Saddam Hussein.
This Washington buccaneer foreclosed all arguments clamoring for peace. The prospect of peace and prosperity in a mad world was alien to the ears of Bush. His epiphany, like mine, was to conclude that since we all live in a mad world that had gone rotten, why not set out blindly and destroy it on a massive scale? His carefully choreographed image of a bible thumping neo-con was turned into a smokescreen to disguise a mind infected with pure evil.
America’s uncontrolled rage and the dream of world dominion through barbaric use of guns and ‘daisy cutters’ exposed human beings to a charge of barbarity and insanity and that bestir my artistic angst. The idea of living in a mad world, infected by evil minds is encouraged by the scandalous foibles of politicians, the materialisation of churches, the death of justice, the absence of courage to speak truth to power and the continued timelessness of corruption in Nigeria.
To turn the searchlight on Nigeria would seem appropriate at this juncture. Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo, the famous boiler chicken merchant in Sango Ota was rigged into office as Nigeria’s president and he saw the birth of the millennium while in office. This former combatant, intrepid warrior, politician, writer, philanderer, ‘baba alatika’ and enfant terrible entered the rough waters of Nigeria’s politics with so much optimism even though he had no credential of a messiah. We trusted Aremu, but the nomadic spirit in him would soon make him restless. He became a restless wanderer like Cain and junketed around the world meeting the good, the bad and the plain ugly.
I was among his captive audience during his visit to the UK when he held the keys to Aso Rock. He was in the UK to rub minds with Nigerians in the UK Diaspora. Obasanjo has always been portrayed as a prudent manager of resources, but on this occasion, he sold out.
Baba was a waster, I swear! He came to London with a full planeload of business moguls—from ‘pure water’ barons to oil and gas chieftains. It was an assemblage of the truly great and the good. When Obasanjo grabbed the microphone, the soldier in him roared to life! He spoke with unusual candour and authority. Frothing with rage, he charged the UK residents to start thinking of what we could do for Nigeria and not what Nigeria could do for us.
Under another crazy seizure, Obasanjo charged us to remit money home to alleviate the poverty of our forgotten families in Orile Iganmu, Isale Eko and Mushin. Aremu’s hopelessness and his clarion call to overseas Nigerians to take over his own responsibility to look after the beaten and battered Nigerians was seen as banality. Eight years after, Aremu quietly disappeared into the womb of the dark night of Owu to meditate on a broken dream of nation building.
During his rule, economics and politics did not come together in a positive way to shine on the public realm. Decent public services—cheap and affordable housing, schools, hospitals, transportation, energy and jobs—are prerequisite for a measure of a decent nation. The EFCC he created with its long arm of economic justice has been amputated by Musa Yar’ Adua and its gains rolled back like the miracle of the Red Sea! We live in a mad world brother!
In the millennium, greed and its temptations gripped many Nigerians and gory-minded ones became ’ritualists’ in order to rub shoulders with ex-Generals and politicians who stole our money brazenly and live to spend it in style. Oshodi became Nigeria’s darkest town where you could get a human skull, the alchemy used in changing poverty to prosperity. We live in a mad world, my brothers.
Oil and gas ‘boyz n da hood’ turned Lekki Peninsula into another Dubai. Beautiful and palatial mansions began to dot Lekki’s landscape and those with tons of cash moved in to live a comfortable but pretentious lifestyle. Empty mansions became weekend brothels for libidinous moneybags looking for energetic leg over with young and delectable ‘acada’ girls. We live in a mad world, my brothers.
On journeys to our hometowns, we clamour for pure water, plantain crisps and dark ‘bones’. Our jobless youth cluster around vendors perusing headlines for free and debating political issues with clinical ease. What do you expect? Majority of them have second degrees at home. We live in a mad world, my brothers!
Owning a mobile phone becomes an article of street ‘cred’ among millions of Nigerians. ‘Flashing’ becomes the craze of the day. Rather than phone to talk, our women will ‘flash’ you which is a coded message to return the call and thus shoulder the cost of the chat. We live in a mad world, my brothers!
Maintain gave us new dance steps. Plantashun Boiz brought ‘Ajegunle’ freshness to Zionist lyrics. Tony Tetuila mocked drivers involved in traffic accident and we chorus ‘oyibo repete’ in dance halls. Eedris Abdulkareem lecturer became rave anthem in smoky night clubs. Yahoozie is the current ‘ashewo’ anthem from Abuja to Zaria. We live in a mad world, my brothers!
Pentecostal pastors have abandoned modest dressings for couture shirts, trousers, ties and even handkerchiefs. They drip of bespoke tailoring of expensive materials. With their supposedly modest pay, their wardrobes are stuffed with Armani, Gucci, Hugo Boss and Lagerfeld. Looking great for Jesus seems to be the in-thing now. There is shocking worldliness in our churches. There is paganistic adulation for ephemeral, perishable, intangible and temporal possessions. We live in a mad world, my brothers!
The complexity of today’s world has made certainty a dangerous hope. Our ambition, greed and anxiety have destroyed the concept of tomorrow. The world is in turmoil and because we are all citizens of this planet, we look for happiness in ephemeral things like cars, houses, music, church, sex, clothes and money. We truly live in a mad world, my brothers!