04 April 2010

By Order! – suffering from militariatis infection

One of the notices you will definitely come across in Nigeria will say something similar to this:

Do not urinate here. By Order!


Do not park here. By Order

One of the sad relics and certainly a giveaway of our long and unfortunate military-rule past is the tendency to act military by Nigerians. A good example is that no notice is complete without a ‘By Order’ trademark. Nearly all the signs you see even on private properties are marked with those two words. Whose order? You may want to ask.

What is apparent is that living under military rule for a considerable length of time has significantly altered our brains so much so that almost everyone invokes a form of military lingo, and many exhibit military behaviour without giving their actions or words a thought. ‘By Order’ is just one aspect of this militariatis infection. I guess the thinking is that adding ‘By Order’ to any notice will stop a perpetrator from doing No 1 on the nearest wall he sees when he's pressed to go. I’m not sure, it always does.

Wherever you go, in schools, in places of worship and in places of work, people bark out all manners of high-handed warnings and threats. ‘I will deal with you’, ‘I will teach you a lesson’, ‘You will be punished’, are a few of the militarist expressions now rooted in the vocabulary of the average Olu, Chike or Aliyu.

Even, politicians with no military past are not immune to this virus. Rather than say something like this (as it may be said in some other countries)

‘those who commit crime will face the full weight of the law, or face justice’

Our politicians with eyes blazing, face concocted and adopting a thundering voice, for maximum effect, prefer the military lingo:

‘anyone caught will be severely dealt with’.

Although I admire the courage of Dora Akunyili, she however used to irritate me to no end whenever she speaks to the press after the weekly Federal Executive Council meetings in her capacity as ‘Minister of Information’. I’m sure she never realised her presentations were similar in style to that of the head of a military junta imposing a new curfew or announcing the number of people that have just been rounded up for not bowing to the image of the ‘Dear and Revered Leader’.

I must say that I have come to the conclusion that the military has a romantic appeal to Nigerians because of the power they wielded and still wield. I think we like the way a few untrained soldiers forcefully and illegally take over government, keep people under oppression and end up becoming statesmen. It gives the impression that this is an alternative and legitimate way of getting to the top quickly and easily. We think we like their uniform, their 'discipline', their sternness. We think we make this decision independently. In reality, we don’t, we just think we do. It’s the infection.

It’s also the infection that accounts for why it’s impossible for a Nigerian politician to say the name of the President without preceding it with the title ‘Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces’ as if he’s not complete without that title. We like the way soldiers bark out orders so we adopt their style and behave like dictators at home, at work, in the church and in government to the detriment of our family members, employees, congregation and citizens. Who will deliver us from this high fever of militariatis?

Last word - Haven’t you noticed that the ‘Minister of Information’ position is in itself a relic of military rule? It’s a position created to launder the image of illegal governments. We have however imported it into our democracy. Only communist regimes have a similar Ministry. My point exactly!

On this note, please let me have your comments on this article. By Order!


Dami said...

very interesting blog! definitely crazy observations

I will be back by order!! with excess luggage by the way hope I'm welcome!

Unknown said...

I have never noticed that until now. Anyway out of this "militarist" order ? It is already in our blood. God help us ! Nice one

Richard said...

If Korea is anything to go by, "militariatis" will be around for time. Korea held (relatively) free elections in 1993 for the first time after over 30 years of military dictatorship. The institutions that were created and strengthened during this time of military rule are still very much here in Korea. Education has gone a long way to reduce this hangover, as well as freedom of the press that has allowed debate from different views. I pray that Nigeria will build a strong social infrastructure so that the opinions of the people wil be heard.

Postcard from Lagos said...

Thank you Richard for the outlook from South Korea and also for your good wishes for our Nigeria.

Anonymous said...

Other countries do have a ministry of information even though they do not call it that. In the UK the Central Office of Information, which is a government agency in the Cabinet Office, performs the function of the ministry of information. The prime minister also has a director of communications (see Alistair Campbell) who performs a similar role to Dora. Michael

Postcard from Lagos said...

Thank you for your comment.

I'm reading Alastair Campbell's book 'The Blair Years' at the moment and I'm quite familiar with his role as Press Secretary, later Chief Press Secretary and PM Official Spokesman but he wasn't a Cabinet Secretary.

Usually, handling information dissemination in many countries is not a cabinet rank position. In reality, there is a similar position to that of Campbell in Nigeria - the Special Assistant on Communications which is currently held by Segun Adeniyi who used to be the editor of a major newspaper.

Thank you again for your contribution.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gbenga,
I looked up Ministry of Information in Wikipedia and there was a list of about 40 countries which had such a ministry with a cabinet level minister. Not surprisingly apart from a couple like Australia and South Korea, the majority were third world countries with third world dictator type regimes.
I have enjoyed reading your blog immensely, I admire your fortitude in going back, there are loads of us here who aspire to do that but never get round to it, so more grease to your elbow. I wish more people in Nigeria blogged to give those of us here a good flavour of what is going on back there.
Thanks for your reply.
Best regards,

AlabasterInk said...

Something new! Your blog is dealing differently; with our beloved country's palavers. Its refreshing!

Gege said...

It would be nice if all our politicians attended public speaking courses to enable them communicate like normal human beings!