Wednesday 26th July, 2017
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Arguing while President Buhari ails

Arguing while President Buhari ails

Ordinarily, in sombre times as this Nigeria would have been suffused by calls for us to beseech the good Lord to restore President Buhari to good health, ‘prayer warriors’ of all re­ligious hues would have been pressed to service and the land would have been overtaken by a conflagration of prayer summits across the length and breadth of our country. Instead, Nigeria was enveloped by a huge cloud of ar­gument hovering over it and re­verberating through the land over one word - “coordinate”.
President Mohammadu Buha­ri had in the letter notifying the National Assembly of his med­ical leave, said in part that while away, the vice president “will co­ordinate the activities of govern­ment”. Notwithstanding that sen­ate president Bukola Saraki urged that we ignore the phrasing of the missive and dwell more on the constitutional requirement of of­ficially writing the lawmakers about his absence, Nigerians have latched on to that phrase, giving it a thousand and one meanings and interpretations. There is no agree­ment as to the actual meaning of that word, ‘coordinate’, whether among ordinary Nigerians, gram­marians, intellectuals, lawyers, senior advocates of Nigeria, pro­fessors, members of the bar and the bench. I include the latter be­cause if you are to take the word to their learned justices for interpre­tation, you are likely to get multi­ple meanings, resulting in a major­ity and minority judgement.
Our learned lawyers never seem to agree on a single, seemingly simple phrase; otherwise there would be no need for court cas­es if they all agree on what some­thing really means. Those of us left on the other side – average, ordi­nary, common citizens –fare no better as we are also not in agree­ment as to what that word ‘coordi­nate’ connotes. Even, the common dictionary meaning is not explic­it enough for Nigerians; sever­al dictionaries are quoted, from the simplest to the sophisticated with their many authors. The re­sult is a cacophony of arguments, each seeking to drown the other’s voice. In the meantime, little or no thought is given to the ailing and ‘suffering’ president who ob­viously needs our loving thoughts as he waddles through the physi­cal and emotional pain of medical treatment. Talk of arguing while President Buhari ails. Nowhere is this argument more fierce than in the social media – the new, in­teractive platform with no holds barred that admits all, both under aged and adults and where insults are traded.
And it is possible that the author of that letter himself has a differ­ent meaning of that vexed phrase than what we have all been bandy­ing about. It is only his interpreta­tion that can be considered cor­rect. He alone can tell us what he had in mind or what he meant to convey in that phrase. We cannot think for him. It could be that the word he used conveyed a differ­ent conception to us than what he had in mind. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt and follow­ing a straight, simple line. Some might say that I am playing the devil’s advocate. Apparently, per­haps, he did not take into full cog­nisance the fact that we now live in the 21st century, in a complicated world where human beings over think and over analyse everything; they could dig into one innocu­ous word, dissecting it with the full weight of their intellect, viewing it from as many prisms as there are literally human beings.
In today’s hyperactive Nige­ria, every decision, policy, move is viewed with suspicion and col­oured with as many conspiracy theories as you can possibly think of. The age of innocence is gone. The years of yore can be compared to childhood era when the child out of good naturedness, swal­lows hook, line and sinker what­ever comes its way, relying more on its intuition. Today’s era can be likened to adult years where we are jettisoning our childlike character and wanting to analyse the why, what and how of everything, albeit not with a good volition generally.
The lesson for all letter writers in public and private sectors is to be aware that their chosen words or phrases would be scrutinised. They should therefore be more diligent in their choice, putting themselves in the shoes of ‘con­spiracy theorists’, avoiding any misinterpretations or clouding. Keep it simple, sticking mainly to facts and figures.
– Ikeano writes via vikeano@yahoo.co.uk

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