Sometimes life surprises us with strange happenings that bear no similarity to the everyday happenings around us, to the once-upon-a-time things starting their strangeness upon our habitation and upon the horizon of make-belief.
When things happen or strange happenings take hold of our habitation, they either wow or confound us, or move us to tears and scare the bejesus out of us.
The sense of strangeness of things happening around us also makes us marvel, stand in awe, or makes us want to denounce their moments.
The either or sense of denunciation and astonishment serves only as a counterbalance to those moments that do not connect with our everyday reality, do not elicit our empathy or invite us to think about how strange happenings press in upon our moments, our realities and alter our understanding of those moments and realities.
What does not form part of our understanding so often stays inside and outside the boundaries of our reality.
When strange happenings around us take hold of our reality, those who make them happen inhabit our reality and become not only strangers among us, but the occupiers of the new stranger-hood we constantly struggle to make sense of, recognize, struggle to welcome as our own reality or accept. Yet, we are thrust into their new stranger-hood because we all live in the same space with them.
The boundaries that separate us from stranger-hood are often blurred. We cross and recross the boundaries of our existence to mingle with those strange ones who inhabit where we live in.
Let truth be told: the reality of strangeness isn’t always about the reality of the strange other or others- who are strangers to our lifestyles, our ideologies, beliefs, philosophies and sociology- that aren’t like us, it is about us and how we cross from the familiar to the unfamiliar, from who we were yesterday to the complex strangers we become today. While we go on living our strange lives, we invent our own beliefs and philosophies, we become strangers of the shared space just as the shared space becomes strangers to us.
Strange happenings are the acts of will – as Governor Ayo Fayose exemplifies – the will of an individual who enters his old familiar existence only to emerge from a strange existence and who moves from a profound sense of strangeness into the verdant forest of strangeness- the response of the individual to the strangeness of the shared space.
Let me make myself clear here.
The shared space that seeks to ostracize the other for not “belonging”, that makes one feels out of place so much so that one becomes aware of his status is as strange as the one who starts strange happenings on it.
There is a certain public strangeness about Governor Ayo Fayose.
His strange public displays as deliberate acts of will set him apart from public servants of his status who are expected to be decorous, measured and responsible in their public outings and dealings.
Decorum is not an attribute of strangeness, neither is responsibility the hallmark of otherness, so when Governor Fayose seeks to subvert the shared political space by foisting a certain stranger-hood of political otherness- which he aspires to and eventually occupies – upon the shared political space, he pays scant attention to decorum and to the responsibility that comes with his high office. He becomes the action of his own words where he pronounces his strangeness and his otherness. And the stranger-hood he occupies becomes the strange place.
“Strangeness made sense”, the iconic English poet, Philip Larkin famously exclaimed in his poem, “The Importance of Elsewhere”. While Larkin merely highlighted the importance of elsewhere and how strangeness made sense, he neglected to explain how strangers made sense of their stranger-hoods.
How can one discern sense in Governor Fayose’s strangeness or stranger-hood?
The true instinct of genius to discern in his strangeness is how his twists and turns on matters of state policy, how his letter to the Chinese and how his infamous appearance at a China Shopping Mall to woo investors ultimately raise the question: is Governor Fayose okay?
His stranger-hood is an entirely different subject.
But, then, nothing detracts from the truth, nothing exposes the non-sense of his consciousness than the metaphors of the letter and the appearance: strangeness and its sad representation – Fayose.
When public institutions are caught in the orbit of strangeness, strange happenings are bound to happen. Public institutions aren’t immune to strangeness. They are capable of being inflicted with strangeness. In fact, they express the acts and wills of men and women who manage them. They fit into stranger-hood and become the stranger-hood.
Where the acts of the public institutions don’t match the wills of the managers, the managers simply invent “strangenesses” for them and present them as perfect identities of their strangenesses, the messy contingencies of their creation and the sad happenings around us.
This week the management of General Hospital, Potiskum did the unthinkable- it rejected hospital equipment donated by an opposition stalwart, Honourable Sabo Garba? This is one newspaper headline: ” Hospital rejects PDP law maker’s donation in Yobe state”. “We don’t want to be punished by the state government”, an anonymous staff told the newspaper. Isn’t it strange?
Hospitals have always been places where known and unknown, mysterious and strange illnesses are treated and cured, where love and mirth are served by caring hearts. Hospitals are places of compassion.
From the early Egyptian temples, Sivikasotthi- Sala of India and Sri Lanka, Greek Asclepieia, African shrines, Bimaristan of Baghdad, Roman Valetudinaria, the Basilias of Byzantine, hotel-Dieu of Medieval Europe to the hospices and hospitals of the modern era, hospitals have always been places where psychological and physical comfort, rest and care are provided to the sick.
The modern hospital is not a place for dying. The modern hospital is the place where the Nightingalean love is measured by the commitment of nurses who ensure fighting chance for those at the departure lounge of life. The modern hospital is an institution dedicated to medical innovation and health care, education and knowledge.
When citizens like Honourable Sabo Garba who donate their resources to transforming patients care at our hospitals bedsides are turned away, when charitable donations are turned down by the jesters of our imperial court of power, we run the risk of turning the bedsides of care, the place of healing into the place of dying.
The substitution of the hospital for a political ball highlights a certain strangeness, a non-sense that threatens patients lying between life and death.
There are strange happenings around us.
Here is one example of such strange happenings witnessed by my friend and online publisher, Ojugo Onyeluka: ” a madman at Kaduna Psychiatric Hospital climbed on a tree and spent half day on a branch. All of a sudden, he let go the branch and fell straight to the ground with full force. One of the psychiatrists rushed to the scene and asked him, “Udeme, what’s the matter with you?”.
The madman replied, “I don overripe”.