• Monday, May 20, 2024
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Preaching to the deaf, dumb and blind



It was the last Saturday of the month, and Taiwo, Ogbuagu and I—the Three Happy Cheers!—were due at the The Old Hide Out, our favorite peppersoup joint in Surulere. But for some odd reason Ogbuagu insisted we spend the evening in the restaurant by the lagoon. “It’s so scenic out there,” he pleaded.

“Well, I can tell you one thing,” I said, “our fans will be disappointed. We haven’t missed a date with them in six months. They look forward to our antics on the last Saturday of every month.” “We must play the prima donna from time to time,” said Oguagu, “otherwise they’ll start taking us for granted.” “Last time we missed, it took us three months to gain them back,” I said. “It’s the Madam I’m worried about,” said Taiwo. “When we come next time she will punish us with excess pepper in our peppersoup. She’s done it before.”

Taiwo was notorious for his fear of pepper. “You sef!” I chided him. “Wetin kind yeye Yoruba man where no fit chop better pepper?” Anyway, to the lagoon we went. And there, beside the still waters sparkling with lights from the distant shore—Lagos may be ugly by day but sure can be beautiful at night!—we let our minds and mouths run all over this nation with its anomalous history, passive populace, and fatuous leadership. A people so gifted, but so un-successful!

“Failed evangelism! That’s what all you preachers and teachers are suffering from.” That was Ogbuagu—or was it Taiwo?
“Jesus failed just as woefully in his generation. Christianity was almost stillborn were it not for a handful of crazy true believers who carried the spark of hot charcoal, fanned it desperately to flame, until, three centuries later, it burst into a conflagaration that enveloped the globe.”

“The Prophet Mohammed (the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was luckier: with the sword he conquered power in his home peninsula, and, within decades of his death, through wars without end, his message inundated three continents.” “We are talking of nation building, not religion.”

“As in religion, so in nation building. You don’t give up just because no one seems to be listening . . . .” “You choose the path of suffering without end—or you pick up the sword.”

We ate in silence for a while. Slowly, words reclaimed us. “Preaching to the deaf, dumb and blind! Can anything be more wasteful?” “It all depends.”
“The physically deaf cannot hear a word you are saying. But they can see you clearly, observe your gestures, feel the vibrations of your voice and the thunder of your passion, and sense something of your message.”

“What if your message is written out on paper for them.” “Have you ever watched a deaf person read a message on paper? He looks up and studies your face with incredulity and wonder: could all this be true? A sheepish smile spreads all over his features, followed by rabid excitement—or downcast sullen silence.”

“Meaning what?” “His subsequent actions will decide.” “The dumb will hear you, but their only response is a clenched fist and an incoherent gurgle.” “In agreement, or in dumb disagreement?” “Their subsequent actions will decide.” “As for the blind, they will hear every word. They can follow but they cannot lead, anymore than they can drive a car.” “It is a mistake to underestimate the blind. What they lack in physical sight they may have in copious abundance in intelligence, cunning, and will.”

“But even if they cannot hear you, see you, speak to you or understand your message, the physically deaf, dumb and blind can be mobilized, organized, and fielded to fight.” “They can fight you and defeat you everytime . . .”

“Or, if they are so minded, they can be valuable allies in the struggle for change.” “But there are so few of them. The physically deaf, dumb and blind are statistically insignificant. Our problem is with the mentally deaf, dumb and blind who seem to constitute 90 percent of the populace and 100 percent of the leadership.”

“A leadership quite beyond the reach of reason.” “Immovable. Vowed to defeat every positive effort.” “ Dedicated to darkness and death.” “The blind leading the blind?”

“Leading the people off a cliff and down a canyon.” “We are staggering toward a historic catastrophe. Neither leader nor led appear to have learned anything from recent history.” “Whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mentally deaf, dumb and blind.” “The hunter’s dog heading for disaster will not hear the hunter’s whistle . . . .”

“These waters are too depressing,” declared Ogbuagu suddenly. “I’m sorry I made us come down here. Let’s get back to Surulere. I think we’re still in time to catch the DJ’s final numbers . . . .”