‘’Or can a bird which is released into the skies, say his problem is gravity?’’
By Jimanze Ego-Alowes
TUE, FEBRUARY 19 2019-theG&BJournal-The comic antics of Mahmood Yakubu, a professor and head of INEC, would have been really entertaining were it not a disgraceful penkemesi, peculiar mess. Just let us wrap ourselves around the details. The said professor and his cast of comedians were given 3 long and endless years and billions of naira to plan, organize and stage national elections. And Yakubu and his cast of jesters woefully failed, not just his nation, but most disgustingly himself.
As to the humongous material and financial black hole, Yakubu and Company plunged the country, it is been so clearly and severally stated, it is not worth repeating. But what compounds the public misery, are the rationalizations the professor forges. And that includes logistics.
One question is thus indicated. Does it then follow, that the professor is blissfully ignorant what elections are all about? How did we get this low? The fact is insistent, that in operational terms, elections amount to nothing other than logistics. That is to say, elections constitute nothing other than – tabulating and projecting numbers, moving materials, men, shepherding them, and building and test-running scenarios etc. And besides these fundamentals, the point is that all other electioneering schedules are contingent, not central to conducting elections. In other words, an election commission is a logistics body simplicitas. It is only that it is unlike FedX, say, it is not run for profit. Thus an electoral commission is a form of social entrepreneurship in logistics, if you liked. Yet, our professor rose to his high and powerful position despite his ignorance of all it entails.
So, how can a man and his cast of characters, who were hired to solve logistical problems say that his problems are again logistics? Or can a bird which is released into the skies, say his problem is gravity? But this is Nigeria and all kinds of strange things and even stranger human beings happen. Yakubu is one of these ”quantum-sociological” strangeness, if you liked.
And to worsen matters, Yakubu had the temerity to begin to explain, sorry, rationalize his disgraceful failures. And he begins to tell his urban myths of how he slept in airports and was nearly hit by ghosts on runways. Meanwhile, it profited him to forget to tell us he was drawing or not drawing his allowances, for overtime, for the hazards of sleeping and waking up on runways etc.
One can state with all due sense of responsibility, that this cannot happen in any self-respecting country. If it were in Japan or South Korea for instance, the minimum the Yakubu man and his top crew personnel would have done, is to appear in public drenched in tears and full of apologies. And just a moment later, they, especially he, did jump. In Korea that jump could be from the tip of ice capped mountains. In Japan, he did do seppuku. In all, these jumps are ritual admittances that they are no longer worthy to linger in a civilized society. That is, the most urgent need of civilization now and here, is their absence, however they concoct it.
Nobody calls for seppuku, but the minimum is that the man admit to his total and embarrassing ignorance of the job – logistics – he is hired to fix. And offer his apologies to the Nigerian nation and also his resignation. Those are the minimum. Otherwise how does one explain the twisted realism of a professor professing sophomore rationalizations.
But this is Nigeria. All the professor is interested in, granting his blissful ignorance about the nature of his brief, is in awarding and signing contracts. And the figures run into tens of billions. Meanwhile has Yakubu ever postponed any INEC contracts or suffered logistical constraints in awarding them?
And key parts of these contracts are the provision of peacock life of luxury for Yakubu and his princelings at INEC. Reports have it that they all drive in rose tinted limousines, live in choice and tony estates, pay themselves sinfully enriched allowances, etc., all at public expense. Yet, they don’t understand the nature of their commission, which is logistics.
Were the material costs all the loss we bear, we may at least endure. It is that this failure of Yakubu, who it is said is a professor of history, is yet proof again that Nigerians, whether a professor or a foreman, is lost before any real problem, before any complexity. That is to say that being a Nigerian professor is not sign enough the guy has stopped being a foreman – mentally. Anyway that is the opinion of many white kids as it regards blacks. And Nigerians, are blacks. See Professor P. Lumumba etc. And Yakubu is confirming their prejudices.
So with Yakubu, the joke that the black man is a failed specimen gets a new poster boy. But the point is that amidst the Western capitals, some Afro-optimists are of the opinion that given time and education, that Africa will come of age. And here is Yakubu – he is been give 3 long years, resources and he has education – a PhD and a professorship in tow, yet…. His, is the worst tragedy in careerism: a professor who is remunerated as if he is a prince, who has billions of naira contracts to dispense, yet, he does not know why he is been hired.
Just the other day, I spoke with one Afro-optimist white fellow friend. And he was crest fallen. What is wrong with Nigerians, he asked me. I had no answer, so I kept my peace. And he sighed away. Yes, thanks to Yakubu we have lost one European sympathiser of the African condition, his optimism of Africa, of the black man, proven wrong. By Yakubu.
And lest we forget, Yakubu and his princelings in INEC should remind themselves that India, an ”ancient” democracy comes to elections services deliveries impeccably. Yet, India has millions more people and has more varied and implausible geographies. And India has been at elections delivery before ICT made the world easy to run. Yet, India despite all these have delivered.
So there are no reasons at all to pardon Yakubu or even for Yakubu to pardon himself. If he is still in doubt, let him go to Korea or Japan and learn how those who failed in their commission, do conduct their affairs thereafter. That is all we have to say.
Translating Africa into English
Following our essay last week, https://www.sunnewsonline.com/for-your-urgent-attention-generals-ebitu-ukiwe-azubuike-ihejirika-et-al/, readers asked of other translations. For instance, is okanmuta an appropriate translation of professor in Igbo?
We think it is not. Oka/supreme nmuta/learner/learning does not correctly suggest what a professor does or is. A professor is not a [formal] learner. A professor is a post-school scholar. He professes, that is, he establishes or founds new ideas, categories and canvasses/professes for those. So a professor is not a professor, because he has learned what is extant. A professor is, because he has professed, that is added to extant knowledge, made revelations. In other words, a proper translation of professor into Igbo will be oka/supreme nchoputa/revealer. Okamuta or supreme student or learner, is the appropriate translation for a PhD holder and not a professor. A PhD holder has come to the end/height/oka of [formal] learning. Nmuta is in the acquisition of extant, not in the prospecting or professing of, new knowledge.
The reader also asked of university being translated as Mahadum. We guess that is not a one to one translation, but it is beautifully, creative one and thus appropriate. It conveys something of ma/understanding ha/the dum/all. The university is a station where all knowledge is being inquired into, stored and transmitted.
Since we are on translations we might as well take the one of igba nkwu. Igba nkwu, loosely, bringing in wine, is translated as wine carrying, or in urban Igbo idiom, marriage ceremony. Is this correct? We guess not. Our forefathers who coined the phrase were the Shakespeare of their age. They were also playing with words. Igba has double or more meanings, depending on context. In one context igba/means drum or to dance. So the verbal or musical echo that was imbedded in igba nkwu by our forefathers are a key part of the ceremony, the idea of giving in marriage. That is it is not just as dry as carrying wine, it is also, and more importantly so, about joy, dancing drumming and merriment. And any translations that misses that comes dry. It will be like swallowing garri without soup. Plausible but uninspired.
The fact of this same wordplay is repeated in Imo area, say Nkwerre. In Nkwerre, it is ime onu aku [nwanyi]. Now ime means to do. But it has a shared root meaning of mme-mme, that is to celebrate. For instance ime ego is not making money. It is spending/celebrating the abundance of wealth. Thus the urban Igbo proverb; adara abu ogalanya abu ana eme ya eme is on point. Loosely, We are rich not by assertion but by demonstrations, by heroic theatre, if you liked.
The point at issue is that in both ime onu aku and igba nkwu, our forefathers insisted in so naming the marriage ceremonies as to verbally echo and insist on it being a ceremonial, of joy and bounding together. Any translation that misses that misses the game. It is a fouled goal.
A sense of this is given by this translation difficulties quote: The Hebrew word adam has three meanings that nest inside one another: It is the personal name of the first man, a word for mankind in general, and a pun on the word for soil, adamah, out of which Adam is created. …https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/279344/robert-alter-bible
So translations are implausible tasks. But with patience and dedication we can get closer and closer to the mind of the original authors. All else is in humor. Ahiazuwa.
Jimanze Ego-Alowes (PhD) is Author and public commentator