Ghanaian writer, Ayi Kwei Armah, published the pillory, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, in 1968, to mock his society of the postcolonial era. It is a savage attack providing no redeeming feature, except for one puny protagonist who is derided for his high moral grounds. All around us in the book is putrefaction, literally and figuratively. Everyone is polluted and corrupted. The anonymous ‘man’ is the unstained figure who can’t understand why his countrymen and women are steeped in the sleaze enterprise. He can’t come to terms with a society where no one seems to care for his or her compatriot, as long as they can make some make merchandise of them, as long as they can fleece the government and smile to the bank. So, in a word, there are no beautyful ones to find their way into this first novel by Ayi Kwei Armah.
Now, more than three decades earlier English science writer, Herbert George Wells, worried about man’s moral decay, sought refuge in a book he titled, Star-Begotten. He wrote of equally disturbed Martians infiltrating our planet to purify us and move us up to their standard. H. G. Wells also looked around and finding no earth-bound solution, ran to Mars.
In the contemporary Nigeria, we may also despair at what we behold or read in the media: self-seeking leaders breeding more of their ilk, corrupt politicians, sharp practices in interpersonal and intrapersonal ties, violence, killing to make money, marital infidelity, divorce, breakdown of mores that underpin relationships etc. It is an overwhelmingly defiled environment! Enough to return us to Ayi Kwei Armah?
Not quite so! Because I ran into a Daily Trust report last week that suggested that some beautyful ones are in our midst in Nigeria at last! The story runs like a tale under the moonlight or fiction from a master storyteller like Chinua Achebe because we hardly get fed on such in our society these days. According to the paper, 25-year-old Durojaye Abiodun
He didn’t. The report continues:” The driver stopped, picked him up and brought him to the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta, ’’ It was gathered that the victim had a severely fractured leg. It would take some hundreds of thousands of naira to fix, which neither the driver nor a broken Abiodun could afford.
The story then goes on to say the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, Boboye Oyeyemi, through the much maligned social media, got wind of the plight of the man writhing in pain at the federal health facility in the Ogun State capital. Moved by the spirit of Easter that celebrates God’s Mercy towards man, Oyeyemi directed the Ogun Sector Commander of FRSC, Clement Oladele, to investigate the matter to see what the Corps could do if it was true.
The medical centre put the bill at N300000 . But a plea for discount by Oladele brought it down to N200000. Boboyecoughed out the cash and readily transferred it to the Ogun Sector Commander who has since presented it to the authorities at the hospital for the treatment of Abiodun.
Surely, beautyful ones have sprung forth from the report. A driver who rejected the beaten path. The CEO of a government agency who refused to play the ostrich. His sector commander who was diligent to investigate a matter and came up with unpadded figures. The boss of a reputed medical facility who honoured the Hippocratic Oath and ignored the urge to turn the accident victim away. And finally Abiodun who acknowledged that indeed hope isn’t lost for the emergence of Nigeria’s beautyful ones.
HG Wells and Ayi Kwei Armah who despaired of the possibility of puritanically moral humanity as expressed in their works can’t be faulted when all we see around us is depravity akin to what obtained in Sodom and Gomorrah. The Church isn’t spared. The politicians fighting state corruption are themselves a study in financial malfeasances. The academia are in a race to outclass those they’ve written tomes to lash as philistine. The judiciary is no longer the last hope of the common man. Its guardian, the blindfolded lady, has freed herself from the veil. She has dropped the scales and the sword to enable her behold illicit lucre and grab it with the two hands that used to grip the sword and the scales. The capitalist millionaires and billions are locked in mortal wars to empty the national till. There’s also a deadly combat among the bottom class to grab the crumbs. Are the youth and the embryo of the future left out? No. They are watching and biding their time. They are scheming to shove us aside to allow them play the game and put their fingers in the bottomless cookie jar. Who says the days of petrodollars are numbered? So we’re in the rat race to outdo each other and survive. It’s a dog-eat-dog affair.
If we have such extant pall of dejection cast over us, threatening to consume us, we must celebrate when a few stand out in rebellion. It is the action of ‘rebels’ like them that has tamed and nurtured the society.