By Abdulrazaque Bello.Barkindo
The term ‘political correctness’ never existed when we were young. We practiced clear-text. We used to call a spade a spade. Nowadays, there is a fear of causing offence and, as a result, our language and behavior have devolved, and not evolved. Prostitutes are now ‘commercial sex workers’, deaf people are now ‘hearing impaired’, the handicapped are ‘people living with disabilities’ and dwarfs are ‘little people’. Fat women are now ‘plus size’, but fat men are still fat men. And politicians no longer lie; they ‘misspeak’, they don’t misbehave, they ‘act up’. When they are rowdy, you call them ‘distinguished’ and ‘honorable’ to calm them down.
Political correctness is the term used to avoid offensive language that will marginalize or anger members of a certain group, usually minorities. It does have its uses, but I must confess, I am not a fan of it. I believe that the truth must be told, and political correctness seems to have got away with much, in the past and is gradually overtaking Nigeria, through its politics.
Today, everybody is petulant. Jews, blacks, gays, women, special-needs people and atheists, to mention but a few. Blacks are now African- Americans, even though they despise the migrant native Africans in their midst. These peoples have histories of being marginalized, oppressed and discriminated against. But I wonder what keeps pushing Nigeria’s legislators on edge, when they, like President Muhammadu Buhari, are supposed to hit the ground running, to solve the numerous problems of unemployment, insurgency and the like. That is why I think that the events of yesterday provided the Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara with an opportunity to showcase his political sagacity and his ability to mediate in times of crisis, among members whose demeanor tended towards disorder. Yakubu Dogara chose the path of honor by first admonishing members to be of good conduct before adjourning proceedings of the House to July 21 to avoid their chosen descent to anarchy. Like he rightly pointed out, apart from being a privileged group from among the 170 million of us that populate this country, they owe the country a duty to move not just the House, as he said, but the country forward.
The House has been through this perilous path before, he pointed out, and as leaders, they are duty bound to resolve whatever differences they have in order to bring sanity and progress to a nation in dire need of stability. That profound speech will reecho all over the country, just as this day will serve as a benchmark for deviant behavior that a few disgruntled people have brought from their past to the 8th Assembly.
But Nigeria’s “language police” are not in our social circles but mostly in the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly. Most members have taken the change mantra beyond the fine points of rational thinking to the bizarre stage of apocalyptic display of delinquency. There is nowhere in the House Order that stipulates that party decisions are paramount. What usually happens is a compromise of interests which predetermines the distribution of portfolios according to previous experiences to enhance the workability and functionality of the assembly. For any group to wake up and insist on perforating known ethos, their language uncouth, their positions disrespectful and their sentiments divisive, forgetting that we can only solve some of Nigeria’s problems if we learn to work together, whether in eliminating corruption or in national orientation agendas, like fixing behavioral patterns or adjusting political beliefs is preposterous to say the least.
And that is where Dogara appeared politically correct: Apart from learning to work together, we need to know that ultimately, it is either we swim together or drown the country. I relish the quotes of Edward R Murrow that a ‘nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves’. And it is clear from the happenings in the chambers of the National Assembly that some legislators are assuming that Nigerians are taking their eyes off the ball, thereby ignoring the wolves at their worst behest. Nigeria as it is currently constituted does not have the luxury of dealing with people in its National Assembly who will require the sanction of the law to bridle their conduct. While this week’s actions, particularly yesterday’s, are not criminal in nature, there is no way that one who sets out to effect ‘change’ in the public area should be exchanging blows. My belief is that Nigerians should insist on standards, whether they are in the opposition or the ruling party. These instances of rascality are clearly antithetical to the change we need and obviously contrary to morality and decency. It means nothing has changed because the disputes are not in respect of the provision of social amenities and other dividends of democracy to the public but for the achievement of clandestine self-aggrandizement. Our political representatives should be guided by a higher standard of principles and honor, which should bind their hearts and hands to conduct the affairs of the people they represent along a straight and narrow path, by never deviating into the muck and squalor of hooliganism.
The representatives have developed an attitude that if they have the election victory formula, then the Nigerian people need not be glorified with good behaviour. If the opposition is divided and cannot win an election, then respecting the people won’t be necessary. If the government is popular, then good comportment is not measured. But that is far from the truth. Yesterday’s men, to borrow from Dr. Reuben Abati’s vocabulary, were sent packing out of their offices because of deviant demeanor. The ingenious Nigerian police, have terms for what has been going on; ‘two-fighting’ or ‘free-for-all’. If they do not listen to Speaker Dogara’s politically correct address, we will conclude that there is “No better fish, no better fowl,” and obviously, sanctions will follow.
•Barkindo, former Editor Leadership Newspaper, is Publisher of The Road Newspaper in Abuja