By Alhazai Baban-Sumayya
When one is in a sticky situation, there are no shortages of options for seeking inspiration and solace. In a society like ours which no one will lose his capital to fire or burglary without blaming adversaries in the village, or a lady won’t have a miscarriage without finding a scapegoat in her husband’s ex, nothing dilutes the bitterness of “tragedy syrup” than magic water of conspiracy theory.
Like other Nigerians, I also indulge in consuming from the bottle of this aged wine. It tastes so sweet. It also works like the magic it’s supposed be. Conspiracy theory also comes in form of a miracle pill, capable of drowning the torment of even the most self-inflicted misfortune.
Thus with specialists like Doctor Conspiracy Theory around, the services of psychologists are only candidates for the back burner. Such is his genius, capable of solving the puzzle of even the most complex of all the problems bedevilling individuals and societies. Conspiracy theory is the diagnosis, as he’s the prescription.
But there’s something even more intriguing about conspiracy theories. The more illogical they are, the greater their believability. Conspiracy theory often displays a gargantuan disdain to congruity. Yet there’s a strong feel-good factor in embracing it wholeheartedly.
This reminds of a lesson of a story, “Ali and the angel”, in our primary school text book in the 1980s.
Exceptionally clever Ali built a hut, put an empty chair and shoes, to con everybody into confessing to seeing his angel in the room. According to Ali, no one could see the angel sitting on that chair, except if he or she was good enough. But who would surrender to the reality of being seen as bad in the society?
In the case of conspiracy theories too, only the great minds in the midst of us are capable of propounding them. And only equally discerning among us are competent of appreciating them. Yet only the courageous and principled ones can openly alert the rest of us about the clear dangers of certain conspiracies staring us in the face. They are, understandably, regarded as our heroes, and our saviours.
These kinds of great thinkers have succeeded in removing us from harm’s way in the past. My first son had to battle a childhood killer disease to survive when Governor Ibrahim Shekarau suspended immunisations in my state, Kano. But it wasn’t Shekarau’s feat alone. I genuinely wanted to save my son’s reproductive organs against the machination of anti-population’s proponents.
Murtala Nyako (pictured), a retired Navy Admiral and farmer, holding sway as Adamawa State governor, is one such a man imbued with both the high Intelligence Quotient (IQ) to propound the most plausible of conspiracy theories, and the rare guts to raise alarm over them. If you are in doubt, see a copy of his acclaimed Boko Haram’s operation dissertation (the original was torn to pieces by his jealous colleagues at a widely reported ceremony).
But even Nyako with all his celebrated extraordinary IQ, could not see that it was actually the American billionaire, Bill Gates, that’s paying Boko Haram and “Fulani marauders” to reduce the population of people and cows in northern Nigeria. It took more gifted theorists to come up with this superior angle, days after his famous memo was fed to the shredding machine of the National Security Council meeting in Abuja.
And to my chagrin, Nyako was earlier in the US to do a preliminary defence of his thesis, raising all sorts of posers but why did Americans predict our demise as a nation, long ago? I know I can be forgiven for expecting a super intelligent and acclaimed naval strategist of Nyako’s calibre to look the Americans in the eye and ask: “What clairvoyant told you we only had up to next year, 2015, to balkanise?”
If there was no convincing response, he could press further and say: “In the literature review part of my great dissertation, I copiously quoted from Dan Brown’s Inferno (the only book in history that sold more copies than Nasiru el-Rufai’s APS) to establish the fact that there’s conspiracy to reduce the population of this world. And since my people are breeding like cockroaches, did you send Bill Gates with both the vaccines to sterilise our boys and girls, and the RPGs for Boko Haram to reduce the number of their parents?”
This would have been the mother of all bravery. Perhaps it would have saved me the agony of reading uninspiring Dele Momudu pontificating about the conspiracy of using Boko Haram to negotiate power back to the north.
And maybe Femi Fani-Kayode would have been saved the trouble of his further mathematics practice with the religion of abducted Chibok girls and look at the other side of the calculus. And maybe the garrulous Christian Association Nigeria (CAN) in the north would have seen clearly the fact that even the people of Chibok were producing so many girls that would contribute to over-populating the world.
Please don’t see this as a pun, as it’s just an effort to illustrate that elastic quality of conspiracy theory. Yes, conspiracy theory’s biggest asset is in its infinite adjustability and the fact it’s never subjected rigours of any rule and regulation. You are allowed to shift the goal post at any point in time – if you permit the use of cliché.
This is the leverage that some of us who defied rain to march on the streets and use their twitter handles to “hashtag” BringBackOurGirls, are exploiting, when the Americans, the Chinese, and the Israeli agreed to send Harrison Ford and “the Expendables” to rescue the girls. It quickly dawned on some of them that “they are here for our oil”. Some, however, even started hallucinating the road to Damascus for the north. “They are coming to turn northern Nigeria into Syria, pray, please pray”.
Yet what they have forgotten is that it was the pressure they helped to build globally that culminated into this. You can’t have the CNN, BBC, Aljazeera reporting the abduction of Chibok girls every five seconds and expect the Obamas to fold their arms and watch from the sideline.
But to our collective disappointment, even the Americans, after hyping their promised supports only sent in a few “good men”, “Seven Yankees” as Mahmud Jega call them.
However, the message they are sending with this stinginess of theirs is clear: at this crucial stage of Bringbackourgirls operation, they trust the negotiation skills of the seven Yankees more than the valour and the number of the Tom Cruises in their marines. It doesn’t matter though as this also presents us with a fresh angle to weave the fabric of latest conspiracy theory.
The reality is that as long as Boko Haram is not crushed, theories will continue to come up, and all sorts of criminals will exploit the situation to their advantage. But can we succeed in crushing Boko Haram with the expert prescriptions of our conspiracy theorists?
Baban-Sumayya, an educationist, lives in Kano