Until the Shearer is Done – THISDAY Newspapers

EDIFYING ELUCIDATIONS BY Okey Ikechukwu
Fashion, especially in the area of barbing and hair dressing, can make an admirable miracle out of a misshapen skull. It can make a cranial facility that would ordinarily put a lousy-looking calabash that thinks it is ugly to shame. But that is while it lasts. That is why fashion will always be dated.
It will always have its duration, with acolytes and worshippers who will also eventually fall into oblivion. Most of its twaddle will fall into disrepute before the inevitable oblivion of its admirers. That is the way of fads. So, the most adventurous fashion engineering, in the name of politics today seems poised to unravel. Not many of the players seem embarrassed by the current state of the nation, wherein Federal and State budgets are read year in year out, but with nothing on the table. There is triumphant contestation for continued political dominance, and methinks that a shearer is at work here. He is not yet done.

A Shearer is like a barber. He is a skilled worker, though perhaps less dexterous than our young barbers of today, who can carve practically anything on people’s heads. The shearer’s capacity for unravelling the, sometimes scrawny, creature wielding a massive plume of “grown covering”, or hair, is an old and valued profession. His work revolves around removing (shearing), or crutching, the wool off a sheep, or hair off some other animal. The object animal he uses his shears on may have rashes. It may have a sore, or even untidy little bumps under the nice-looking clumps of wool, or other hair. But no one sees, or notices, the real situation of the animal, for as long as the plume of impressive hair is on. Thus, it goes about looking quite impressive, if not outrightly pretty.
It is all thanks to the anonymity conferred by the covering. With that, it struts about with an identity that may be called to question, once the truth about its underlying skin condition is known. As soon as the shearer lays hands on it, takes it to the appropriate corner and puts his shears to work, the unravelling is summarily begun and concluded.

Any animal that is then found to have some hidden defects beneath the lovely covering of fine hair, or wool, stands exposed and diminished. That is why merchants with sheep of questionable “inner” conditions do not like the shearing job to be done in public. The commercial and culinary value of defective animals cannot be redeemed after the shearer is done. Yes, any artificially projected value then speedily goes up in smoke. Picture a situation where the shearer’s skills leads to the discovery of some irremediable deformity, endemic skin blemish or some underlying condition that was hitherto concealed by the mass of well-kept hair. It is because these defects undermine the sheep’s ability to yield high quality meat or wool in future that it is simply “cast aside”.
So, every shearing, or barbing, season for woolen sheep keepers is also the season of cheap sheep and cheap sheep meat.

So, look around you, all over Nigeria, today. A great unmasking is afoot. The shearer is at work. The conversation is about tickets for contesting for one elective office or the other. That is all. That is what dominates the conversation of the political, religious and economic elite.
No one is taking inventory of the growing misfortunes of the people in whose name all sorts of people are prancing around in the public domain by the dozens. Not for them the worries plaquing the masses, no. Even as the life of the people is made unbearable by the combined assaults of insecurity, hunger, rising inflation and rising taxes, the leaders are busy with their own conception of moving the people and the nation forward.
Even as our universities are shut, no one is saying anything about the future of our youths. Instead, these youths are being further inundated by wrong role models; even as they are thus made more amenable to reprehensible political engagements under the active supervision of the very people who should be worrying about them.

All the talk about preferred candidates, consensus candidates, the integrity of zoning, etc., is going on at high frequency, and with very high voltage everywhere. Most members of the political, religious and economic elite do not seem to be concerned with, or about, the more critical existential concerns of daily survival drowning the people. They all seem to be caught up with dishonest politicking, cheerful spending, huge budget deficits, compulsive borrowing and irresponsible leadership.

That is why it is only those in the thick of all the scramble, in addition to their hangers on and other beneficiaries of the current fallouts, are still ecstatic in every sense of the word. They are all moving around accompanied by massive security paraphernalia in a fundamentally insecure environment. This contrived security infrastructure, dated as it is, creates the illusion of safety amidst bandits, terrorists and bombs. But that easily goes up as the bubble it is, once the shooters turn the guns in their direction.
Thus, everyone is actually still mostly unsafe, despite pockets of delusional pretensions to the contrary. In any case, is anyone looking at the brigade of former governors, former legislators, former so many things of yesteryears and the shadows they are become today?
You cannot speak of safety and security when those wielding state power dare not visit their homes, or their Constituencies, without literally invoking NATO Protocols. The question today is whether we should now say that some members of the political elite, including State Governors, are indigenes of Abuja, State Guest Houses and hotels. How many of them can still be said to be on the job they were either elected, or appointed, to do? Yet, they are taking themselves quite seriously, and talking about how they should continue in power and turn Nigeria to El Dorado.

But the trends we are seeing everywhere today are not new. It’s just that they are at their worst today. Progressively, and for decades now, Nigerians have been watching, and in some ways abetting, the public projection of “False gods of political salvation”. At first it was poor governance that gave people cause for worry. Then, outright misgovernment came into vogue. Confiscation of the state, as a hereditary fiefdom for which temporary Lords of the Manor must appoint preferring successors, came on. Now it is almost the out complete absence of any form of government. And no so many of those behind it all seem sufficiently bothered, or embarrassed, to show propriety in many things. Some are already in a deep dark hole. But, instead of trying to find their way out, they are still digging furiously!

Is this bad news? Maybe it is. But I take a different view. It seems to me that a slow and painful climb to a new day will not begin here, until after a winnowing process and the complete unmasking of the various forms of subterfuge masquerading as leadership and statesmanship are stopped in their tracks. We must, in the process, answer the following questions: {1} How many of our erstwhile elder statesman of the last fifty years have been either true elders, or true statesmen? And {2} Is there any real proof of lessons learnt?

It seems to me that a barber is at work here. Yes, the shearer is quietly, unrelentingly and mercilessly shaving off the headful of hair that has been concealing the true driving spirit behind our nationhood of today. Just as a misshapen skull someone has been concealing by all manner of subterfuge contrived in a hair dressing salon gets called out when confronted with a “balding clipper”, so are Nigeria’s political hair styles and false beauty coming undone. It all brings to mind, using the logic of the German ontologist and existentialist, Martin Heideggar, what I call the “progressive un-concealment of the profanity and sham wisdom that has been cloaked in solemnity.”

But since the Relentless Barber, called, Providence, has settled in here and has  been at work, since the mid 60s, we just have to get on with what he is doling out. The opportunities to learn, change and make real progress have been either presumptuously ignored in the past or missed; due to leadership myopia. So, here we are, with the two dominant parties threatening to save the rest of us, and probably the world, by occupying Aso Rock in 2023. They both lack internal democracy. They both are heavily populated by people with some observed aversion for competence in leadership. And, for good measure, the two parties seem to be affiliated to bedlam, in terms of cohesion and ideological focus.

The simple matter of national security, as well as the integrity of the territorial integrity of the Nigerian State, only attracts perfunctory, hollow, repetitive and wearing press releases. Across all party lines, no state government is without taint here. And, lest we forget, the elite came out to celebrate the 70th birthday of a man whose offspring is not so young; and who himself was sworn in as a governor over 20 years ago.

Cheerful, congratulatory messages, robust celebratory oratorios, contrived endorsements by many who were perceived as possessed of some personal dignity and inner decency were rife. But it must all be seen as part of the Relentless Unmasking; the chilling un-concealment of the hitherto familiar, but actually unknown. Welcome to the midday of the frightening insights. Insights about presumed heroes, role models and moral exemplars. The reality of the real!

The barber is at work. More shocks are heading this way, especially given the reflexes f those who consider it their duty to choose leaders us. We are now like recalcitrant students. That is, students who can only learn the hard way. But since the barber is still busy, the true shape of the misshapen skull called Nigeria keeps emerging in bold relief. It will continue, until Barber is Done. Enough said.
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