It’s a dog’s life! By Wale Bakare

It was the great Indian nationalist and advocate of non-violent resistance, Mahatma Ghandi, that once said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. This quote played back in my mind as I watched what would have been a highly comic scene roll out before my eyes this cool Wednesday afternoon in a small town in the English Midlands. I was taking a walk along what is essentially one of the major streets in the town, leading to the General Hospital (with its heavy population of Nigerian Doctors and Nurses) one way and the commercial Town Center and Railway Station the other way, when I noticed that a car had stopped right in the middle of the road, just ahead. This immediately told me one of two things had happened: car trouble or driver trouble. This was England and it was highly unlikely that someone had stopped in the road to receive a call or a fight was about to break out between Oga and Madam. But it was neither. As I moved closer, the passenger door opened and a middle-aged lady hurriedly stepped out of the car. She was immediately followed by a dog! I still didn’t get it until the driver also stepped out, with the car still in the road. He came over to join the wife and they started coaxing the dog to kindly leave the road. The dog was having none of it. Like its infamous forefather in the Yoruba proverb, it was ‘determined to get lost’ and so had stopped listening to the voice of its owner.

At this time, the traffic had begun to build up on both sides of the road, stretching to a dozen, then two and eventually, the long line of cars snaked back as far as the eye could see towards the Town Center. Meanwhile, ‘Bingo’ had moved smack into the middle of the road effectively halting traffic coming from the direction of the hospital as well. I lost all interest in my walk. I had to see how this would play out, even as I imagined what would happen if this same scenario was replicated on Allen Avenue in Lagos or even on Admiralty Way in Lekki (afterall, that is where you would find the dog lovers, right?). Though the driver had moved his car on to the sidewalk by this time, I noticed nobody was cussing them out for holding them up. Everyone just sat patiently in their cars, waiting for only God knows what. No one had as yet offered to run the dog over, and fling the carcass to the side of the road. No one went looking for a discarded metal pole or ‘apola’ to smash the dog’s head in for wasting people’s valuable time. The Lady whose car was by now at the head of the line came out and tried to ‘reason’ with the dog. She probably had dogs at home too. But I guess she didn’t properly assess the extent of mental trouble this particular dog was having because it pretended to be getting along with her until she came close enough for it to attack. Luckily for her, it only managed to get a mouthful of her trousers. She immediately went back to wait patiently in her car. And the lines of cars lengthened. Finally, the Police arrived, fully kitted to handle any attacks, premeditated or reflex. And like magic, the stubborn dog calmly walked to the side of the road before the Policewoman got to it. They put it in their van and drove off, followed by the by now former owners I would guess. All this had taken about 30 minutes of my day. I was on holiday so it didn’t matter but I wondered about all the others in their vehicles who sat patiently while the dog had its day.

As I resumed my walk, I could not stop meditating on what would have been the fate of that dog if it had tried this ‘nonsense’ in the places I mentioned earlier. It is quite unlikely that it would have been able to hold the motorists to ransom for five minutes, never mind thirty. Someone would have ‘sorted’ it out, one way or the other and it would probably have involved some form of physical harm which would have been applauded by the other motorists who needed to get going. And the vast majority wouldn’t have seen anything wrong or out of place with it, afterall, it was ‘just a dog’! Yes, just a dog. Or just a cat. Or even just a horse. The bottomline would be that it was an animal and so it was unworthy of mercy or any kind of consideration. The truth though is that it is not just animals that are treated with the same level of intolerance and cruelty. How well do we treat humans? How much is a human life really worth to us as a people (and this is not a question directed at ‘ritual killers’)? Since we, the people, place so little value on our lives and dignity, is it any wonder that those who emerge from amongst us into positions of leadership don’t think our lives count for much? If they did, would they treat us with such disdain and handle issues that pertain to the quality of our lives with such levity? I don’t think so. When we, as ordinary citizens can adulterate baby formula and medication, when we use substandard building materials to build high-rise structures and bribe our way through the process, why should we be surprised that those we pay to look out for our best interests would steal $2.3Billion meant to provide us with electricity and calmly leave 200 million people in darkness. Yet they have the temerity to continue to pontificate while we applaud.

This random cruelty is also extended to the aged, the vulnerable, and almost anyone with some form of disability or mental health illness. Elderly people with dementia are routinely tagged witches and wizards and scorned or worse. My friend’s cousins locked up their mother in a room, out of sight of visitors for years, hardly going in except to give her food and a few words of encouragement to die quickly. Well, she is getting her own back on them as she has refused to go. People with disabilities are mocked by children and adults alike while hardly any provision is made by governments at all levels to accommodate their unique situations. I remember growing up to the saying that “Àtòrí ni ogún wéré”. Literally translated, ‘the whip is the cure for insanity’! It is therefore not surprising to come across supposedly sane people whipping a defenseless person with schizophrenia or dementia for sport. Who truly is insane? We laugh over things that should bring tears to the eyes. Some of the most inexplicable skits I see online now make fun of, and reinforce stereotypes about albinos. Maybe its just me but I can never understand how adults could find such funny. You would be so wrong to think the saying ‘it’s a dog’s life’ refers to the dog in that little English town I talked about earlier.

And one more thing!

I came across a video clip of the full scale war going on somewhere. Planes flew over a city, dropping bombs while anti-aircraft fire lit up the skies. The rapid fire of light artillery combined with images of people running helter skelter would make you think it was a movie about Russians invading Ukraine but being shot using black actors. Surely such heavy fighting could only be an invasion of a sovereign land being resisted by patriotic fighters. You would however be wrong. The city is Khatoum, capital of Sudan, and the fighters are all Sudanese. The dead and dying are Sudanese and the buildings and infrastructure being destroyed by these Sudanese fighters are going to be rebuilt by Sudanese. Already, close to a 1000 people, a substantial number of which are civilians, have been killed. They did not ask for this war. They are merely collateral damage in the power struggle between two of their own citizens. I hope they quickly come back to their senses and put an end to this senseless conflict. I think the ordinary people of Sudan, after going through 15 Military coups since independence, 2 civil wars, 30 years of a brutal dictatorship, and countless upheavals really do deserve a break.

And finally!

The Lagos State government yesterday demolished 13 houses in an ‘estate’ located in Ajao Estate. The demolition was first brought to public notice through a viral video where a lady was wailing about not being given adequate notice or the opportunity to evacuate before the bulldozers rolled in. It had all the ingredients needed to instigate the usual condemnation of government and it’s actions: callous destruction of the property built through the citizens hard-earned money, indiscriminate flaunting of official power, and the complimentary lamentation of a woman who has suffered life-changing loss. I was however slow to condemn government, especially knowing the location where the demolition had taken place. Anyone buying property or building one in the vicinity of any airport is under the burden of making assurance doubly sure that he has the right to do so. I also know that the government, at least the Lagos State government, would hardly wake up and arbitrarily demolish buildings. Usually, this would come as a last resort, often after lengthy notices and numerous warnings. The reason why quite often, the ‘victims’ rather than seek redress in court of law, would prefer to head for the court of public opinion. I was not surprised when I saw the news that they people whose houses had been demolished had been served notices as far back as 2016 that the buildings flouted safety regulations. According to the FAAN Executive, many were built on fuel pipelines and some even used the perimeter fence of the Airport as the fence for their homes. Case closed.

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