I have tried to contain myself and that is why I did not write this piece when the story broke. For those of us who are pointedly living under a rock with no access to news especially that on social media, my friend and brother, Tonye Cole posted a small piece that blew up a social revolution and forcefully make us confront the wide gulf that seems to have divided very clearly and cleanly two generations of Nigerians.
In the post, a young ‘muscled man with tattoos’ had asked the prominent Professor and Nobel Prize winner in his 80s to kindly stand up from his allotted seat. This post had hit social media with an explosive thud and generated so much of heat showing the deep divide that we have found ourselves.
It is very clear that most of the young ones are in total and full support of this ‘person’ claiming that he paid for his seat and as such reserved the right to it even if it was methuselah that found himself on it. As far as he was concerned, the creaky bag of bones must evacuate. Nobel or not. To add insult, he was said not to have recognized the icon and even if he did, his position would remain more resolute.
For the older people, this was sacrilege. A breakdown in our values which hinges its legitimacy on moral mores, cultural linkages and sacrifice as against the ‘me’ culture that seems to pervade our society.
For me, I would like to thank Tonye for this because it has brought us to the realization of the failure of the older generation in throwing down the same values thier own parents fed them with to their children. So for a toddler with the millions of ‘zengar headed mutants’ whose heads are permanently plugged on the emptiness that is cyber space to think that because he paid for a seat and as such reserved the right to be disrespectful to an elder who in the twilight of his life needs all the support and love remains no less than a bastardization of our values as a culture.
Now even hinging it on a health challenge which at worst is not life threatening just adds insult to the injury.
I have tried to explain this thing to myself by looking at capitalism and its destructive tendencies as it relates to our relationship with private property, rights to own, rights to protect and the backing of a legal system that has been designed to defend it. The individualism that comes with it has eroded our cultural values which preaches communalism, sacrifice and respect for constituted authority.
It is the failure of Soyinka’s generation who have not been able to pass down the strong morals to the next generation leading to the degradation of our cultural DNA and breeding this next generation that we do not recognize.
This for me is beyond the plane, certainly beyond Soyinka and obviously not about that ‘zombie’ but about the real essence of our lives as a people. Where millions of youths would rather push the individualism that is embedded in ‘paying for my seat and as a result I reserve the right to it irrespective of who sat there’ than the communal respect for Elders and the sacrifice embedded in true African statehood.
This is a wake-up call to both sides and I really do not even know what exactly is the solution because we are faced with a deluge of next level generation ‘Z’ who do not even recognize the issues I am trying to push on this write up. It remains quite sad because truth is that it is really not their fault. We opened them up to this with the kind of education and exposure we threw at them in our attempt to achieve ‘civilization’.
I would have said good for us, but then again they are our children. Truly sad!