The king of comedy in my growing up years in the Yoruba country was Moses Olaiya a.k.a. Baba Sala. He had the Jacobs and Papilolos as sidekicks who made people laugh laugh and laugh. I daresay that these gentlemen came well ahead of time as they had very little to show for all their talents in terms of material rewards unlike today’s practitioners of the art.
But they made their marks as pathfinders and excelled in their trade. They paid the incorporation costs for those coming behind them and they should be eternally fulfilled.
I recall one of those scenes by Baba Sala in those days. He was indebted to a friend who had come to ask for the repayment of his money. Baba Sala did not have the money ready. He had defaulted on many occasions and could therefore not face his creditor. He had to device a scheme: to lie his way out to avoid the embarrassment, albeit temporarily.
He called his son to go meet the creditor and tell him that he was not at home. The pristine innocence of the child however gave him away as the boy opened the door ant told Mr. Shylock “Mr. Daddy said I should tell you he is not at home”.
The boy had hardly delivered the message when the creditor took the door for him, entered the house and grabbed Baba Sala by the collar.
That is the purity of the child’s spirit and the sheer incorruptibility which explains why Jesus Christ admonished the zealots around him who were going to bounce kids off him. He told them without mincing words that the kingdom of God is an exclusive preserve of theirs.
Christ was using a metaphor that only the pure in the sprit would have a valid visa to cross the immigration counter at the gate of heaven.
That was the import of former governor Peter Obi of Anambra as he paid tribute to Oronto Douglas at the creative industry in Nigeria’s celebration of the life and times for the departed icon two weeks ago in Lagos.
Mr. Obi in the course of his speech said one great strength of OND was the capacity to tell you the truth no matter how it hurt, a virtue in scarcity in our clime where hypocrisy defines people’s conduct most of the times. Which is the reason little men in power become tin gods because the people love it so and massage their egos with excessive praise and outlandish subservience.
In the process, they are locked from reality and they can no longer see themselves in the mirror and they begin to carry about the artistic impression of them painted by those who merely want to exploit their offices for their own little gains.
The immediate past governor of Anambra then told a story of his experience with sycophancy in his days in the saddle. He had gone on official visit to a community and the drums were rolled to welcome him. Praise singers were in abundant supply telling him he was the best thing humanity was sighting since the advent of toast bread. They poured all manner of encomia to celebrate him for the wonderful feats he had achieved as Anambra governor.
A normal governor in our degenerate culture would have soaked in all the praise, emit some noises and dole out cash to the band of sycophants. Visit ended and the media takes over the rest and do the needful.
Not Peter Obi. He had the right perception of power as an instrument not to make your head swell but to make strategic interventions in the lives of those you are privileged to lead. His conscience told him those singing his praises could not be a sincere crowd. He took a few steps not too far from the madding crowd and saw three of those guys whom Christ said have the keys to the kingdom.
In seconds they began to rain on their parents parade as the governor asked them to tell him their areas of need. The first one pointed him to the leaking roof in their community school, the second showed him the non-existent toilet and the third spoke about their broken chairs.
“I stood there looking at those kids telling me the truth while their parents were at another corner singing my praises. From that day, I decided that every Senior Prefect in all schools in the state must have my direct line so they could tell me the situation of things.”
The tragedy of it all is that except there is ethical adjustment in our society down the line, those kids would master the way of their parents down the line.