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NIGERIA: The Narratives of the Masses

 In one of the Sociology classes those days, there were talks about society being stratified into cadres. There are the lower stratum, middle stratum and upper stratum. In between the various strata, there are sub groups that fit in. Each of the stratum has its peculiar characteristics. And one of the characteristics of the lower stratum is gullibility and even naivety. And for that class, there is a standing hysteria. They believe almost everything they hear. They lack critical analysis of issues and situations. They flow with the trend, thoughtlessly, almost. They not only believe, they spread the rumour in a way that imposes strong belief.

I recall in the 80’s when then Brigadier Jeremiah Timbutu Useni was military governor of defunct Bendel State.  There were tales and tales of how he was warehousing so much cash. On one occasion, the story was told of how a Peugeot 404 pick up van was loaded with cartons of star beer and how each of the cartons was stuffed with wads of cash to the brim. And that the secret leaked one day when one of the drivers who was detailed to go deliver the ‘cartons of beer’ dared to drink a bottle or two before delivering the goods at the instructed destination. And the driver was stunned when he opened a carton and found bails of raw cash very carefully arranged in the carton,  and that when realized what he was carrying, soon diverted the van and fled to a distant countryside.  Such were the tales.

Not long ago, the photograph of stacks of hard currency arranged in piles of about six feet from the floor were circulated and said to belong to former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori. That the said cash were found in his home.  All such talks of the masses, wrapped in ignorance and misinformation are common accessories in the narrative of that class of persons.

With the advent of social media, the naivety of the masses has further worsened. Not many know of the technology of photo-shopping. And so they will speak of whatever they saw or heard online with oracular certainty, after all, photo nor dey lie.

But if all that are permissive, the skewed story of last week in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, is not. Barely two weeks ago, the scourge called Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) hit Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.  It had claimed the life of a medic, Dr Ikechukwu Sam   …

Enemuo, who was said to have treated an ECOWAS Diplomat, Olu- Ibukun Koye in a Port Harcourt hotel.

Even the wife of Dr Enemuo who looked after her husband in the hospital, had tested positive to the virus. All the information about the developments of the spread of the affliction including those put on observation at the isolation centre at Emuoha were released into the public domain.

It happened that the handlers of President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid had slated a campaign of the South south region for Port Harcourt last Saturday. And suddenly the rumour hit the nerve of the city that the story about Ebola in Port Harcourt, were all the brain child of Governor Rotimi Amaechi, all because he did not want Rivers people to come out to welcome President Jonathan at the rally. That he wanted to scare people away from the rally, hence the talk about Ebola. And that were it not so, how come the hospital had not been identified? How come the body of Enemuo was not shown… and all such silly questions.

It is even more disturbing when otherwise educated people, in offices, and other public places push the argument that the Ebola news in Port Harcourt is a political creation of Amaechi. The story was told of a certain minister who posted on the social media that there was indeed no Ebola menace in Port Harcourt, and urged people to come out en masse to welcome Mr President. How misleading! It is enough mobilizing the people for the rally, but to lace it up with misleading information is injurious to a people’s well being.

With such mindset, wrong as it may be, many could be led into perdition. That belief may make many dismiss all the caution that is being preached on how to keep Ebola at bay.

It is such disposition, garnished in ignorance that makes the masses resort to such social platitudes like “God forbid!”, when they confront the reality of their follies. At other times, they claim that “it is not my portion”, when they have committed acts that could visit them with terrible consequences. If it is not their portion, whose is it? It is like a man who soaks himself with gasoline and walks by the fireside and claims that it is not his portion for fire to seize him. It is naked foolishness.

At other times, you hear the masses say, “I jump am pass” when you tell them the grave consequences of their acts. For instance, a man or woman who little cares about wholesome embrace of whomever, not minding the consequences, will readily quip “ I jump am pass”, when you tell him or her that he or she could contact Ebola from that act. Jump am pass indeed.

Yet, some others are quick to saying “: I reject it in Jesus Name”. It is not enough mouthing such platitudes. It requires doing much more to preventing that which is being rejected. Too often, they “reject” such fall outs,  yet it comes upon them. And when it does happen against their lip-deep declarations, their sympathisers console them with yet another such platitudes, “it is well”, which often symbolizes the end of their misleading claims and declarations.

These days, the list of such sayings have merely lengthened with comic phrases like “there is God” often pronounced as “dia riz God” , as a way of surrendering to what cannot be controlled. They all constitute the narrative of the masses.

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