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 firstname.lastname@example.org