The Palaver Hut
It was on a beautiful day in 1995, it dawned nice and bright and decided to stay that way. Brightness sank down into the ground, a sign of the time, giving prospect of a dry and sunny afternoon.
I sat at the end of the row nearest the exit door in the classroom at the Bamaka College in Nigeria receiving lectures. It was one of my early days in ‘Government class’ at College. My peripheral vision was narrowed towards the tutor, as I began to picture the sense of his lecture. I felt like a hard brush with hot soapy water was being scrubbed around the top of my head brainwashing my brain. How could I have let this happen to me?
I leaned forward; wanting to say something witty, something that would announce I had once made the transition from being a boy to a man in the Liberian war and could actually argue that what the tutor was lecturing to us in the classroom were not totally true. Instead, I kept quiet rather than speak and risk being called weird, stupid, or, worse yet, naive.
I was now much more afraid of Mr. Hamzat than I was of my rebel commanding officer in the war. Although my commanding officer was a bigger and stronger man, Mr. Hamzat was short and plump. He was of neat-appearance and had a somewhat big belly. He looked harmless enough, but his words didn’t seem like it. Mr. Hamzat spoke as if his years as a government studies’ lecturer were the most exciting years of his life. He seemed to agree that the pen was mightier than the sword; and that nothing good could be achieved with guns.
That says a lot about a Government-studies’ College lecturer who had learned so much about World governments and taught me about the revolutionary Karl Marx and his ideologies, and related his educational achievements with those of high profile global leaders and organizations in world politics.
Time flew, and so did I. I approached my learning with full determination not to let my sponsor down. I sat motionless staring at the ‘West Africa School Examination’ question papers before me. The year was 1997, in July to be precise. And so there they were; all those things Mr. Hamzat taught me in his ‘Government class’ appeared on the question papers. And there came a strong conflict within me. Should I purge down what Mr. Hamzat had taught me were the right things to do or reflect on what I learned and experienced, as a child soldier in the Liberian war? Would it be wrong to say I was militarily trained to be my own person and to follow how our government practices politics corruptibly, even if it means killing innocent people for power? Would the examiner marking my papers understand my idea of self-supreme passion of why it’s perfectly acceptable to satisfy myself without thinking of others, especially with guns by my side?
A few months after I sat the exam, the results came out and I was astonished to see a credit pass remark on my ‘Government class’ paper: C4 in those days. How could that have happened? I still couldn’t understand how I managed to pass my ‘Government class’ exam even when I relayed Mr. Hamzat’s dreadful lectures in my answer papers.
Looking back to my years in College, I realise that what we were taught in our ‘Government class’ is totally different from what actually goes on in the real world.
The African economy is dead and corruption in governments is rampant. Corruption and political clientelism are the order of the day. The justice system is so porous, and political interference so strong, that corruption is either swept under the table, or is made to fall through the cracks in the justice system. We often hear our political figures condemning and advocating against corruption but yet, they get to power and steal, lie, cheat and commit nepotism wantonly. We often tell ourselves that they will not escape the scrutiny of our vote on elections but still, we see them triumph and win elections through the act of rigging.
For the coming generation, it’s important to differentiate the discrepancy between what we have been taught at school, as the way things should be, and what we experience in actual world of politicking. We cannot afford to abandon our obligation to history!
By Joseph Spencer