In Nigeria It’s Networking Not Butt-Licking Duhh !

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History demands that we record dates when life on the planet suffer grave setbacks, and I’m still struggling to recover the day the holy trinity of dignity, pride and honour fell off the Nigerian moral lexicon, when Nigeria became a fast food nation. Before I start blabbing like Dele Momodu on pendulum,
I must say that I’m not an activist like Kayode Ogundamisi who find it easy to relentlessly sing revolutionary songs on facebook, neither am I a social change advocate who coin all sort of catchy, impractical or over practical easy-to-fall-for phrases to make overstatements – like BLING, FIX NIGERIA, UNRULY, THE FUTURE PROJECT, LIGHTUPNIGERIA, ENOUGHISENOUGH and so many other nonsense in bold and capital letters – We have gotten to a point where it has in fact, become a crime in today’s Nigeria to attempt to write in a proverbial or poetic realm of a Chinua Achebe for example, or to keep a decent distance from one’s reader like Wole Soyinka will do in his non fictions. Only if I consider the people I address as a bunch of dick head-dumb ass that are not capable of any personal opinion of their own, nor do anything carrying great weight with their God given common sense, that I will want to ram my message into their brains like retarded kids from kindergarten.
“When I was a boy, getting to know a person because of what they could do for you was what my father called ass kissing. My mother called it social climbing. To me, it was brown-nosing. Now it’s called networking.”
These are the witty words, Dirk Wittenborn used in opening his raw and edgy article: When ass kissing became networking. In this I recognized the need to state how it concerns me and relates to my situation as a Nigerian youth. In the midst of the national youth euphoria that led to the birth of various awarding organization, and the coming-in-contact of the brightest and best, the most talented and most celebrated young Nigerians, to engage in serious conversations on how our generation could be relevant in the Nigerian regeneration, however informal and unrehearsed this coming-in-contact could have been, social networks like facebook, twitter and other blog spots played a great role in hopping the pace of this awareness.
In no time, I found myself part of a generation of philistines, these lots –in identity crises and denied of belonging– behave more like disowned bourgeois rats, whose only true desire is to be part of something cheesy and ongoing. After few interaction (or should I call it networking) with few minds who were apparently brilliant, but still I found myself in not-just-ok-dot-com, my quick and keen clairvoyance told me that this networking or social climbing will only do more in decorating our long need for change in flashy colours, rather than truly empower such desire. This was not so difficult for me to recognize, as I have already been exposed to this trend that is often spectacularly staged as after show cocktails, during my tours in Europe or in the US. Nonetheless I have never felt OK with –or believed in– such organized match making that doesn’t come with a common enemy, and if a common enemy is not quickly established in any affiliation, it will be difficult to forge a common front in pursuit of common goals.
Since I’m not terribly in need of a name or a face, not planning to be featured in a musical video nor being a judge in a reality dance show any time soon, and the promise of easy life/good fortune never incite me that much, then I gradually degraded in rank to become an unenthusiastic component of the bourgeoisie, and naturally I wondered what I was doing in the midst of ass kissers. Let it be publicly known that I’m not oppose to ass kissing or networking, or whatever it is labelled as, it is normal that men and women fuck one another to get ahead –just as men and men or women and women do– which is the aspect of human comedy that I find too tragic to laugh about in Lagos. But when a student is literally fucking her lecturer for marks, when you are fucking somebody to get or keep a job, or someone fucks you for a flight ticket, a cinema ticket, or even to be auditioned for a role in a TV series that will eventually made you a role model. That for instant is what some refer to as give-and-take; a figurative straightforward and pleasurable one-off giving on both sides, only that it often comes with a burden and responsibility for those who sometimes feel shame, and at some point in life, one really need to separate sober matters from bread and butter dealings.
When you pretend to be my friend, to share my pain just for personal gain, even when I piss on you, you still won’t let go, then that is a terrible thing that brings to mind a terrible phrase in a reprisal mail once addressed to Matthew Ogunnola my good friend “… I have been trained that the show must go on, and I would lick the butt crack of a mad man if that is what it entails to have a great show.” Aww, now that leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and that must have been a slip of tongue, because that was from one of the organizers of these trendy Nigerian youth programs that, in their words “seek to empower young people and redirect them towards adding value to themselves and society with strong positive images/messages.” As my people will say, ma fi oruko bo l’asiri, i.e. I will use his name to cover his shamelessness. This contrasting phrases if able to be juxtaposed, points out the complicity of these faction of the brightest and coolest Nigerian youth, and the use of their brainpower in scamming the rest of us, who might be duped by their use of attractive phrases that carries no connotation in itself, and hence, contributes greatly to the epidemic height of absurdity that is sweeping over the whole nation.
The sanious nightmare of creative people in Lagos, is the fear of victimization by these net-workers; for sure they know that a truly creative and conscious person won’t go to SWE bar or KOKO lounge thrice a week, won’t be seen -in see-as-i-gbensh dresses- on the road to their weekly red or black or green carpet events and after-parties, but since there is all the time for their Mohammed to go to the mountains, they have began to take over the front seats of every artistic and intellectual happenings; from poetry, to contemporary dance shows, from classical music, art exhibitions, to book readings. Meanwhile, most of these Lagos vultures don’t have the practical mind required to integrate into such gathering. Unlike the indispensable burden of a groupie, the creative person is particularly vulnerable to the toxic of these sneaky net-workers, whose only calculative ambition is to drive you into parties like giant termites, licking your ass just enough for you to feel like a celebrity that you are, to afford them the necessitated social climbing, waiting to be introduced to a friend of yours with a bulkier, juicier and better profitable curriculum vitae. Now that is what they call networking. Networking my butt!!!
For the sake of some offended readers, I think –even if very invisible and anonymous– that there are of course, some truly brilliant and talented youth out there, and I can humbly say that I am one of them, those who have survived as coconut in economic terms, those who are also often tempted to network, but one could see a certain kind of coconut perpetuating the if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them phenomenon. To now conclude with my opening realm of curiosity: When did the myth of making it on your own merit, gave way to who you know over who knew you? When did the proverbial saying of a good name is better than gold or silver became an understatement in Nigeria? I guess it was when those who lick the butt crack of mad men, began to be so efficient in it, that they kick those with the right skills away from the seat, I guess it was precisely that moment, when this shameful act was re-branded as networking and our world became so meaningless, and most of those celebrated as our brightest and coolest youth are nothing but a bunch of harlots, waiting to take over from the present vagabonds in power.
Qudus Onikeku

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