BT COLUMNIST: The Awkward Truth With Stanley Nwabia
African and Nigerian folklore have for ages inspired generations with stories of the supernatural human – mere mortals that attained divinity and remained so till date. However, most times, these mythical tales, though inspirational were designed to cow its vulnerable audience into some form of submission. Lots of ancient storytellers often claimed to be messengers from our ancestors, but in reality they were messengers of the high and mighty mortals in society, given the task of institutionalizing ignorance.
Today, we no longer have ancient story tellers in our midst but dissemination of supernatural tales have not stopped, because almost anyone can be a supernatural storyteller; many do it for a fee. The ‘ancestors and principalities’ that require the services of these storytellers are still very much around.
In western nations, fascination with supernatural stories and most especially tales of individuals with super-human abilities has remained intact till this day. On the other hand, rather than use it to under develop the mental capacity of their people, they commercialized it and used its core substance for genuine nation building. Super Heroes were either born, or created.
One of the world’s most popular super heroes is of course the character known as Superman. American writers, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created superman in 1938, just before World War II broke out. Most Children and adults from many generations and nations grew up idolizing Superman as an ideal symbol of strength, even Nigerians and Africans were not left out. I too grew up being infatuated about ‘Superman’; it took me many years to realize that the message behind Superman was not about some alien with special powers from planet krypton. The core message behind Superman was the portrayal of supremacy of both the United States of America and the American ‘white’ male.
In 1938’s America, such a message was definitely not out of place; the world at that time did not know America’s true strength; the Germans, British and Soviets seemed on top of the global-political food chain. Racial segregation was still a norm during that period of America’s history and with the threat of war constantly knocking on America’s doors; the nation needed several morale boosters, something to inspire her people to have courage, confidence and pride. Superman was one of such patriotic tools, with his uniform adorning red and blue colors of the America flag. After Superman, several other American Super heroes emerged with varied degrees of American national colors adorning their respective costumes, the likes of Spider-man, Wonder woman and Captain America to mention a few.
At the end of Second World War in 1945, the British were more or less a broken people. Yes, the allied forces had defeated Adolf Hitler but everyone knew that but for the participation of America and the Soviets, Germany would have literarily kicked Great Britain’s butt. So, the war was over, Americans and Soviets were now the dominant world powers. The British that relied heavily on past glory seemed to be fast losing grip. British colonies began to agitate for independence; India and many other colonies were on their way out of the common wealth. How would the British shore up her peoples’ self esteem and patriotism? In 1953, a British writer called Ian Fleming threw up an ideal opportunity; he created a fiction character known as James Bond.
James Bond brought something different and ‘British’ to the table; he did not have special powers like the Americans, but he had Witt, charms and a fine dose of action. It is no coincidence that in many James Bond adventure novels; a lot of the Bond characters’ exploits took place in a Russia, Germany or Asia, basically regions that the British considered unfriendly during World War II. As it were, even though in real life, Winston Churchill’s Britain failed to curtail the Germans, Russians or Japanese – a fictitious James Bond always managed to single handedly penetrate a secret ‘Russian military base’ to destroy everything. Also, he gets to keep his sexy female Russian spy.
In Nigeria, the closest we’ve had to using the Super Hero mantra for national mobilization has to be the just concluded 2015 general elections. Our main Super Hero character was (is) called General Muhammadu Buhari, and his special power(s) was “killing corruption”. During the APC campaigns, many Nigerians, including grey-haired intellectuals, spiritual leaders and the frustrated youth were made to believe that everything evil about Nigeria falls into submission at the mere mention of the name ‘Buhari’. In many parts of Northern Nigeria, fanatical support for the General became a religious obligation. At the peak of the campaigns, if APC had sold the narrative that Buhari could walk on water, many Nigerians would’ve believed. After General Buhari’s victory at the polls, most of his supporters experienced awe, excitement and euphoria all rolled up into one, “Finally, a real life Super Hero will become Nigeria’s President and upon inauguration, the gates of Kirikiri Prison shall open and all corrupt Nigerians from 1960 till date will start flying inside.”
Most great nations of the world have successfully used their history, arts, culture and creative fiction to psyche up their peoples and subtly instill a deep sense of national pride, principle and patriotism. The Chinese and Indians for instance have used Martial arts and Bollywood respectively for this purpose.
In Nigeria, the All Progressive Congress used candidate Buhari to sell a dream, to create a utopian perception of one-man’s supernatural ability to turn national and personal lives around, for the better. Sixty days or so into Super Hero Buhari’s administration, a lot of his fans are being jolted towards reality daily but many are still holding forth, believing against all odds that their Hero will save the day. Optimism is good and it is actually in the best interest of all Nigerians irrespective of political affiliation if our Super Hero President does in fact ‘save the day.’
Unfortunately, we must also come to terms with the fact that all Super Heroes have their core weakness; for Superman it’s Kryptonite; with James Bond it’s beautiful women; as for our own Buhari, it’s Age.
Another twist to this plot is the reality that for every Super Hero, there must be an antagonistic Super Villain that makes life miserable for him and all good citizens of the city. Superman’s arch enemy was Lex Luthor, Batman’s the Joker and for Super Hero Buhari, two arch enemies have been identified – they are known as the “Evil” Wailing Wailer and the Five Percent. These two villains are Super Hero Buhari’s nemesis and they control an army of over 12 million minions that once tried to ‘destroy’ our protagonist with their most powerful weapon – the Voters Card.
About Stanley Nwabia:
He is the Chief Executive Officer of Firewood Media, owners of IkengaTV. He is a Television and Radio content producer. Connect with him on Twitter via @MrStanleyNwabia.
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