Southwest’s Forests of a Thousand Demons

Sun Nov 13th, 2022 -

From my personal ranking of their tragic imports, three events which occurred in the last one week constitute leading narratives of where we are today. They are, one, the siege laid to Southwest Nigeria’s Lagos-Ibadan expressway by kidnappers and the suicidal plunge to death of an operative of Nigeria’s secret police, known as the Department of State Services (DSS), into the Lagos lagoon. The third was a video clip posted by Tolu Ogunlesi, Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Digital and New Media, in a Twitter post where details of what Buhari discussed with British monarch, King Charles III, aftermath his visit to the Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, were released.

“He asked me whether I have a house here. I said ‘no’. Even in Nigeria, the only houses I have are those I had before I got into government. I’m not very much interested in having assets all over the place. I feel much freer when I have nothing,” Buhari had told King Charles in reply.

The major faux pas of the Nigerian security establishment seems to be that it takes D. O. Fagunwa’s forest on its literal face value. Fagunwa had, through his fabulous tales written in the 1950s, one of which is the classic, Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmole, which Professor Wole Soyinka translated into Forest of a Thousand Daemons, represented the forest as the domicile and habitat of innumerable demons. The truth is that, rather than goblins and demons, blood-sucking offspring of demons, many of whom were displaced from Fouta Djallon highland, currently reside inside the forests, especially Southwest Nigerian forests.

That the Southwest, hitherto referred to as one of the safest oases in a violence-ridden desert of Nigeria, is under siege and its forests taken over by bandits, is a culmination of decades of lethargy by the people. Or the people’s willing victimhood of the Fagunwa typecast of the forest as the place where only demons live. Having taken Fagunwa literally over the decades, the forests seem to have been encircled gradually and now totally taken over by men whose original domicility, right from their creation, has been the forest.

In a piece I did in 2021 entitled Nigeria’s Cat and Mouse Game With Amnesty International, I cited renowned Global Terrorism Index, (GTI) which, n a 2015 document produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, gave a comprehensive summary of key global trends and patterns in terrorism of the preceding 15 years. With data from the Global Terrorism Database, (GTD) GTI said terrorism had become highly concentrated, “in just five countries — Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria…. (countries which) accounted for 78 per cent of (global) lives lost.” It said further: “Nigeria has experienced the largest increase in deaths from terrorism… There were 7,512 fatalities from terrorist attacks… an increase of over 300 per cent. The country houses two of the five most deadly terrorist groups (in the world)…Boko Haram and the Fulani militants.”

In the heat of this incursion of terrorists into Nigeria and their menace, we were told by one of the Nigerian ministers that since Fulani were pastoralists who traverse the African region, the Buhari government could not stop their incursion into Nigeria. On countless occasions, the federal government has deodorized the terrorism of Fulani herders, as well as bandits’.

With the recent upsurge in kidnapping, especially in the forests of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway and in Ekiti forests, the task before Nigeria’s security and the governments of the Southwest is to stop seeing the forest as the habitat of demons, flora and fauna alone. They should jointly invade the forests and rid them of the sons of demons from Fouta Jallon and their southern accomplices.

The second issue, which I think is tragic as well, is the self-piety claim of President Buhari at Buckingham Palace. Why I think it is tragic is that, this same narration was what Buhari and his minders, in the build-ups to the 2015 elections, used to beguile Nigerians into voting the man whom fawners have labelled the Mai Gaskiya. Just as Buhari did in the presence of King Charles III, he romanticized his austere outlook to life and anti-materialist disposition over the years and turned it into a campaign gambit. Uncritically, Nigerians voted for him, sucked in by that frightening narrative that Goodluck Jonathan, who unarguably ran a very corrupt government, would kill Nigeria if we didn’t kick him out. Seven and half years-plus after, we are wiser. First is that, we later realized that it would have been better for us to elect a president who had ideas than being fixated on electing a president who didn’t steal. While the former may steal, if he however had ideas, he would make life better for the teeming populace, democratize wealth, enough for him to steal from. The latter who is bereft of ideas would not even know when people under him have almost stolen the country blind. This was our lot under Buhari.

Almost eight years down the lane, we have realized our folly. If we are lucky to have a combination of a man who doesn’t steal and who has mountainous ideas about how to turn our country around, we should jump at him. Conversely, if we are lucky enough to have a man with empathy for the people but who is an ofon or what my people in Yorubaland would call ajelojuonile – mouse – as a stopgap leadership, it behoves us to jump at him.

The monies stolen under Buhari due to how bereft he is of ideas are far more calamitous to the polity than the money he could have stolen to buy houses in the UK. Nigeria has not benefitted a jot from the so-called Buhari’s Spartan claim. It was even ironic that the president was in the UK for medicals which must have cost the Nigerian purse a whopping amount of foreign exchange. If he had ideas, Buhari would have built counterpoises of his UK infirmary in Nigeria, thereby saving the country huge sums of money. By the way, could King Charles III have been making allusion to how Buhari had literally made the UK his home?

The third tragedy, and which is fast becoming a menace in Nigeria, is the death of the lady who jumped into the Lagos Lagoon last Thursday. Identified as AdetutuAdedokun, in her late 30s, she was said to have been a recently engaged unarmed combat instructor of the Service whose death allegedly resulted from an altercation she had with her fiancé who proposed to her a few weeks ago. She thereafter alighted from an Uber taxi car and jumped to her death.

It is easy to sit by and condemn Adedokun’s action as detestable, especially from the theological point of view. However, life’s afflictions are such that when they happen to man, he thinks of so many escapes, one of which is a permanent resolution in favour of abnegation of existence. While not totally taken in by the allegation that Adedokun’s plunge was due to an altercation with a man who she had reposed trust and belief of living the rest of her life with, depending on her view of life, securing a fiancé might have been the only source of joy she constructed around her existence. And once the construct had fallen, the logical consequence was to abridge her existence.

Living life in present times has been a very tough and rough journey. For so many people, living, especially in Nigeria, is almost equal to a pestilence. From afflictions of poverty and lack, to terminal ailments, social troubles and a foggy tomorrow, so many people who live today are prodded by religious frown at termination of their lives midstream. However, many argue and which seems to have strong reality attached to it, that those afflictions are ancient, happened to our forebears too and indeed define life. Proceeding further, they say that life would not be life if it is devoid of the icing of afflictions and sorrow that we go through.

Existence is fraught with pains and sorrow. Happiness or joy is so fleeting that nothing in this whole wide world can tame the wild hold that sorrow has on the life of man. It is absolutely impossible to retain joy for more than a fleeting moment without sadness or sorrow sidling in. This is a strong pointer and an affirmation of religious exhortation that life is not constructed to give anyone permanent joy, hence the religious construction of a hereafter where it is imagined that permanent joy resides.

Suicide philosophy is brought in to resolve the deployment of suicide by man as resolution of the pain of existence. Indeed, the problem posed by suicide is answered in varying forms by different philosophical schools. French Algerian essayist, novelist and playwright, Albert Camus (1913–1960) in his The Myth of Sisyphus began his intervention with his famous line, “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide.”

While cultural beliefs of western societies held/hold that suicide is immoral and unethical, in Africa, suicide was/is a test of a man’s valour. Monarchs, especially Alaafins, in ancient Oyo Empire, were expected to si’gba, literally, open the calabash but figuratively, commit suicide when they lose the legitimacy of the people they administer or when a less-than-noble occurrence happened in their domain.

Another philosophical school on suicide is called absurdism. Pioneered by Sartre and Camus, this school sees suicide as negation of human freedom. Rather than commit suicide with the hope that, by so doing, they are fleeing the absurd and meaninglessness of life, anyone who so thinks should rather embrace life passionately, says Camus.

Utilitarianism school of Jeremy Bentham says suicide contradicts the philosophy of the greatest good which man seeks. This is revealed in that, when depressed persons take their own lives to end their sufferings on earth, they unleash incalculable pains on the families and friends they leave behind, a pain which out-weights the release of the depressed from the pains of this life.

Libertarians and idealist schools however contradict all the above. Herodotus was a main proponent of the latter and he argued for suicide. He wrote: “When life is so burdensome, death has become for man a sought-after refuge”.

When the tripod of calamities of the week is viewed dispassionately, we must soberly sieve through them and find solutions to them. First is that our forests must be relieved of their evil content as we cannot continue to view them as home of demons alone. Second, brain must be the decider of who to choose as our leader in 2023 and third, we must choose to live, no matter the inconveniences of life.





source: Tribune