…we all seem to be mad in this clime, so much that every student of society should be genuinely bothered about the slide in the affairs of Nigeria. The somersault is frightening and worsens by the day. The quality of our humanity is on a plummet, the nature of our engagements weird and the contours of our actions are so different from what obtains in other sane human societies.


Ulli Beier, that German kindred spirit and arts connoisseur, had wandered into Nigeria on October 1, 1950. Within a few weeks, Nigerian culture and arts, which had begun to be disclaimed by the emerging elite on the pretext of modernisation, began to feel a renaissance due to him. Dugbe Market area in Ibadan, the Western Region capital, was where he founded his now legendary Mbari Club in 1961, at the site of an old Lebanese restaurant, which he and his gang converted into a literary pot-pouri of an open-air performance venue, an art gallery, a library and an office. Beier’s Mbari thus became a hub of cultural activity for African writers, artists and musicians. It was also said of it that, coming at a time when pre-independence mental acuity was at its zenith, Mbari’s birth brought together a constellation of the best of the pre-colonial, and later the immediate post-colonial, literary brains that helped fire Nigeria up to the world as an emerging mental power.

Beier frequently wandered into the Aro Psychiatric Hospital in Abeokuta during that same period in the early 1950s, seeking to use art as a therapy for mentally-disturbed patients. On one of Beier’s visits, he had walked into the wards where the mentally challenged were sequestered. While rants of disturbed patients rent the air, he walked through the aisle of the well-arranged beds and looked at the patients, one after the other. And he stumbled on this gentleman. As if by a divine pull, the German found something strange and atypical about the man. He was calm, looking subdued and pensive. Immediately, Beier’s architectural mind began to construct a huge prototype of his kind and he decided to engage him in a talk.

“What brought me here?” The man had retorted to Beier’s mild enquiry. And out of his mouth proceeded pleasantly-shocking well-articulated English. This further arrested the attention of the German. So, the calm man began his story. He had been sleeping one night with his few months-old child beside him. And he lapsed into what clearly was a nightmare. In that tormenting dream, he saw a huge black bird seeking to peck him and he thus wrestled the animal. All of a sudden, he leapt from his nightmare world into the physical world and beheld the bird by his side. He strangled it to death. He was sweating profusely from the encounter and as he began to relish his victory over the accursed animal, he realised, to his horror, that the child beside him was the bird he had just strangled. Neighbours raised the alarm and the world concluded that he had a mental breakdown. Before he knew it, he had landed as a patient in the mental hospital.

This Beier encounter can illustrate the huge sanatorium that Nigeria is. No wonder, the head of that hospital was quoted recently to have said that the number of patients the hospital gets monthly has hit the roof top, to between 250 and 300 persons. When you compare the cacophony of crazy issues we grapple with as a people with the supersonic speed at which the rest of the world is moving into the digital world, you cannot but conclude that we are in a very big madhouse where crazy stunts and maddening demonstrations proceed out on hourly basis. There is only a sprinkle of the seemingly sane ones among us, like Mr. Calm who we demonise.

Hardly does a day fly past that you are not confronted with issues that clearly mark us out as a people living in a sanatorium. While our leaders are the proverbial blind leading the purblind, our acts as the following reveal that we are either too lost in the maze of hopelessness and just don’t care or that we have lost hope of any redemption for this country. Impunity from government, and even from us against one another, is on the rise; social crises are as thick as decomposing stench. It is either a 70-year old man is raping a three-year old, a “couple sells day-old baby to pay debt” or the police is torturing a man to death. Granted that such social vices are all over the world, their unmitigated disaster should point the mind of a thinking government to the calamities that lay ahead.

At the leadership level, we seem to be taking one step forward and a thousand steps backwards. Muhammadu Buhari who, in 2015, held great hopes for the redemption of this country, has so badly performed that an Atiku Abubakar is the narrative of consideration as replacement. Have things become this bad? Accusations that would make the Adamawa-born multi-billionaire liable for jail in the 1950s, 1960s and even early 1970s Nigeria are the selfsame canons of his acclaim by the electorate today. The Nigerian sky is painted with crimson; we just don’t care any longer.

Nigeria is a great case study which has never ceased to amaze students of society and politics. How can a country hold so great promises yet flounder this terribly? How could a people be this endowed and yet be numbered among the impoverished?


My friend, Debo Abdulai, had riled me during the week. He had written: “The things that should enrage us no longer enrage us: A young female aid worker was executed by Boko Haram; a governor was caught on video dollarising his babariga; young boys become rich doing runs (yahoo plus); girls barely out of their teens beating boys in smoking drugs; party primaries controlled by thugs and motor boys; elections monetised and bastardised by superintending officials. Those who argue that there is a new normal in town may not be wrong. We look, talk about it, move on. Another day, another normal. We shall be all right soon.” These are clear traits of a madhouse. But how soon is that soon? How soon will we be mentally all right as a people?

There is this story of Prince told to me by another friend who worked for an ex-governor in the South-West. The entourage of the governor had followed him to a squash tourney in Lagos. While they waited for the squash-addicted governor, Prince had strolled past and my friend, renowned for squeezing drama out of every life event, had engaged him. Prince is known in the neighbourhood as a mentally unstable man. Like Mr. Calm, he spoke well-articulated Queen’s English and didn’t have the disheveled hair of the deranged. Neatly dressed – indeed known in the vicinity for his aesthetics – he lived in solitude in his father’s house and was said to have lost the bearing of his mind through the excessive inhalation of marijuana.

“Prince, how are you?” my friend had begun, by way of provoking a discussion. “You called me Prince? How did you know I am a Prince?,” he asked. The drama-seeking fellow said, “merely looking into your face, I knew you were a Prince.” Prince was livid. “Merely looking into my face, you knew I am a Prince? You are a 419!” Prince had fired. And he launched into a sermon which sounded like the moment of sanity of an insane. “You are all slaves of…the governor,” he began, “because one man is playing squash, all of you, like jobless people, stand here, waiting for him to finish…You’re mad!”

And we all seem to be mad in this clime, so much that every student of society should be genuinely bothered about the slide in the affairs of Nigeria. The somersault is frightening and worsens by the day. The quality of our humanity is on a plummet, the nature of our engagements weird and the contours of our actions are so different from what obtains in other sane human societies.

If you are lucky to travel out of this country to anywhere in the West, and even some African countries, you immediately become activist and pessimistic about the future of your fatherland. You will instantly hate successive leaders of this country. If you are sincere with yourself, you will either come out with the nihilistic estimation that Nigeria is edging towards destruction or you relapse into that fatalism of religion that God will help us.

Nigeria is a great case study which has never ceased to amaze students of society and politics. How can a country hold so great promises yet flounder this terribly? How could a people be this endowed and yet be numbered among the impoverished?

Nigeria, we do not need anyone to tell us, is fast evaporating from the glacier of normal societies. Her leaders are inept, incompetent and are tickled by mundane fancies that do not drive world leaders. The citizens have become perverted, sub-human and very pessimistic about the future of their land.


Another friend of mine was at the Harvard Business School a couple of years ago. During a lecture on Governance and Innovation, the instructor offered the example of Bogotá, Colombia. Formally, Bogotá Capital District. It was called Santafé de Bogotá and it is the capital of and the largest city in Colombia. It is the most populous city in Colombia. In land mass, Bogotá is the largest city in Colombia and could be said to be one of the biggest cities in Latin America. Boasting of so many universities and libraries, Bogotá was once named “The Athens of South America” for its pleasant aesthetics and landscape. Unfortunately however, at a time, the city lost this pleasant renown and became one of the zone of the world suffering in dire straits. It witnessed an incredible somersault and had to grapple with the problem of drugs and global estimation of it as the drugs capital of the world.

You will recall that the Bogotá typecast became a universal burden for the whole Colombia as, the moment you mentioned it, what came to people’s subconscious was a people immersed in drugs and the redoubtable problems associated with drug cartels. Recall also the story of Pablo Emilio Escobar Gavíria, who was a notorious but extremely wealthy Colombian drug lord. He had an exclusive cocaine trafficking route that embarrassed the world. Escobar capped it all by, in 1983, taking a short-lived shot at Colombian politics. He is estimated to be one of the wealthiest criminals in human history and is notoriously profiled as “The King Of Cocaine” and was believed in the 90s to have had an estimated net-worth of U.S. $25 billion.

Bogotá thus became a study in an extreme case of violence and insecurity. The number of homicides in the city stood at 3,657 in 1995, street robberies at 13,027 per year, house robberies at 1,301 and bank assaults at 382. Thousands of lives were lost in the process and thousands were handicapped, while urban residents lived in an environment of fear and insecurity. A researcher once tagged Bogotá the “City of street robberies, beggars, armed pedestrians, never-ending traffic jams, uncollected rubbish; Bogotá of panic, intolerance, and hate.”

But came Antanas Mockus, a philosopher, mathematician, and professor. Mockus lost his job at the university and in 1995, became the mayor of Bogotá. He began a series of urban experiments which involved social engineering. He first started by asking himself, what drives people into taking decisions? He discovered that this falls into three layers: the fear of the law (refraining from social ills because the law will take its course); the reprimand of the conscience (that I will not live it down for life if I ever steal money from the government purse) or societal shame (that if I am involved in stealing, none of my children would be able to bear my name again, as it will be akin to that of Oyenusi, the robbery kingpin of the 1970s). Mockus used this last classification to work on the Bogotá residents, and in a short while, the city of filth, drug, violence and fear became a city of glory.

So, the instructor asked, if I leave my laptop behind in this class, how many of you wouldn’t steal it due to any of those three classifications? Each of the students in that Harvard class chose the classification that drives their countries, but my friend stood up and told the instructor that in Nigeria, none of those three classifications can stop anyone from committing crime. Law? It is not made for people of the high social cadre in Nigeria and the consciences of virtually everyone in Nigeria is cold dead. Shame had long been interred in Nigeria as well.

Nigeria, we do not need anyone to tell us, is fast evaporating from the glacier of normal societies. Her leaders are inept, incompetent and are tickled by mundane fancies that do not drive world leaders. The citizens have become perverted, sub-human and very pessimistic about the future of their land. Things have gone so bad in virtually every sphere of life in Nigeria that it is no wonder that spiritualists have taken over the function of providing hope and succor to the people. No wonder socio-political and economic proposals that solve the problems of other lands hold no hope for our land. We are all Princes inside this huge sanatorium.

Jamal Khashoggi and the Fate of Dele Giwa

The difference between Giwa and Khashoggi is however that of their climes and the efficacy of their institutions. While, in a matter of days or weeks, the actual killers of Khashoggi would be un-shrouded, paving way for his soul to really rest in peace, Giwa’s hasn’t rested in the last 32 years.


Yesterday marked the 32nd years of the assassination of that avant-garde journalist, Dele Giwa. Giwa was one of the pioneers of the brand of investigative journalism which Nigeria needed to confront the sleaze that marked the massive corruption of the military era. Parcel-bombed in his Lagos home, his death provoked a new wave of concerns about the safety of journalists in the dispensation of their duties. Gory pictures of Giwa’s mangled body adorned the pages of newspapers and magazines all over the world, with a phrasal jab at the spleen of his killers affixed to the front pages of virtually all Nigerian newspapers, magazines, and dissemination leaflets of that time: Who killed Dele Giwa?

Till now, no one has provided an answer to that worrying query. After Giwa, scores of journalists have been killed in no less horrendous manners and state censorship of printed works continues. Bagauda Kaltho disappeared into thin air during the era of the goggled General, Sani Abacha; ex-Daily Times’ Eddie Ayo-Ojo was assassinated in a mysterious way as well; while Minere Amakiri had his head shaved with broken bottles in 1973 for embarrassing Alfred Diette-Spiff, the military governor of the State, with his negative report.

George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen-Eighty-Four is a vivid portrayal of the censorship by the Russian ruling class in the old Soviet Union. The same system of censorship prevailed in military governments in most of Africa, as well as in Apartheid South Africa between 1950 and 1994, where there were various shades of governmental restraint on free speech and publications.

While the censor of works has reduced greatly due to the 20th and early 21st centuries advent of electronic media, as well as the internet and other “new/social media,” the concept of “freedom of the press” has been further problematised, raising the issue of how free journalists and the written/spoken words are. In the last few weeks, the issues of Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi’s disappearance have trended in the globe. Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist, author, and ex-editor-in-chief of Al-Arab news channel, and editor of the Saudi Arabian newspaper, Al Watan, who turned the paper into a platform for expressing agitations for Saudi Arabian progressives, was killed inside its Consulate in Istanbul and his body allegedly dismembered. While global suspicion is on Saudi Arabia, two days ago, the country confirmed that Khashoggi was killed “during a fight.”

The difference between Giwa and Khashoggi is however that of their climes and the efficacy of their institutions. While, in a matter of days or weeks, the actual killers of Khashoggi would be un-shrouded, paving way for his soul to really rest in peace, Giwa’s hasn’t rested in the last 32 years. His killers walk the land free and are perhaps the ones we do rankadede to today inside their plum offices and imperial mansions.

Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.