“Have You Smiled Today?”
or The Enigmato-Political Pursuit of Airborne Happiness
Going into the end of the year, one finds out that 2017 has been a very weird year. A good number of these weird things have resulted to calamitous responses and even more overwhelmingly incongruent actions taken to calm the situations (Brexit’s non-terminating spiral, Donald Trump, Catalonia, Las Vegas shooting, Charlesville, Libya’s slave trade, Mugabe to Mnangagwa, Bobrisky, Davido vs. Wizkid, Banky W, and the list goes on and on). All of these persons, or places, or events, have been at one time or the other, publicity vortexes, either starkly showing us the truth of the world we live in today, or brazenly operating as the perfect smokescreen to hide, at that given time, the bitterer things that went on while they took centre stage. I really shouldn’t be taken by surprise saying this next part, but, the weirdest of all these vortexes is someone from an erstwhile nondescript (as far as world geopolitical zoning is concerned) section of the universe, the acclaimed leader of the people in this section, none other than Owelle himself, Gov. Rochas Okorocha.
This article is not about Rochas’ government or how the masses, since his resumption of office for the second tenure, have loudly bewailed his inhumanity towards his own subjects. It is not a political piece, at all. I do my best to stay out of those. It is a simple deliberation to understanding—or at least attempt an understanding at—the drive behind the enigma he has surrounded his recent governorship with and how one can smile in the midst of this state of not-knowing. How one—especially Imolites—can afford to purchase what he aims to purvey as motivation towards happiness when so much bitterness leaves the air toxic and polluted.
Having his achievements appear twice as headlines in major world news outlets is saying so little of what has become of news and gist concerning Gov. Okorocha. There are memes now, and once you get memes that spread like wildfire in seconds, you’ve got the public talking. Take care, as much as these all feel like publicity stunts, they cannot be because the man in question has been in the limelight, especially for his magnanimity and philanthropy as the patron and founder of the Rochas Foundation years before the mantle of governorship was placed upon his head. So, one gets to ask, why? What is the drive behind pulling the South African president to commission a statue of himself (receiving traditional and state accolades alongside, and as well signing treaties to merge his foundation’s operations with Rochas’) in a city that has zero social or historical connections with South Africa? Or of revealing more statues to unveil, with that of Liberia’s past president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as one of them? Or of going out on a limb and appointing his sister as the commissioner for Happiness and Purpose Fulfilment (let’s leave the typographical error bedlam for now)? Is it really ideal for Imo State, and the Imo People? Is he existing on a plane of delusion of grandeur as many persons have purposed? Have we in our hands our own version of Donald J Trump, or is it more of a Nicolas Maduro situation?
In the back and forth online fights and banter that has gone on since the creation of this ministry portfolio making its debut in Nigeria, references have been made by the commissioner for Happiness herself, Mrs. Ogechi Ololo, to the United Arab Emirates and how the ministry already exists there.
The United Arab Emirates, since the late 90s, have matured into a city which has the most liberal adherence to Islam, despite being a predominantly Islamic nation. This is because the current traditional ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, of the region (and ruler of Dubai) and the president (ruler of Abu Dhabi), Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nayhan, both have global tourism in their land as an interest and political (and personal) goal, and have made giant strides to see it to accomplishment. Today, just about anybody can travel to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or Sharjah, and have a long, peaceful, relaxing time, devoid of religious radicalism or even prejudice of the tiniest degree. This is what the Ministry of Happiness created last year helped see through. This ministry has a clear and well-defined purpose, and is established at the national level, thus signifying a united interest among the citizens of the emirates.
An alleged parody account of the commissioner for happiness has these to say as the job description of the office as it exists in Imo State:
- To ensure citizens of Imo remain happy despite the economic meltdown and Biafran fiasco.
- To ensure couples in Imo State have a reduced divorce rate and better fulfilled marriages.
- To cater for the welfare of the average Imo indigene.
If we exclude the benefit of the doubt that this is not the truly the commissioner herself saying these words—and as far as new commissions go this is all we have and know thus far—it becomes really difficult to not see the obvious ambiguity in these goals meant to indistinctly validate the creation of another enigmatic property in the Rochas administration.
The mention of the ‘Biafran fiasco’ as it is so astutely put, brings to mind the most pressing indicator that people are not happy and cannot have more political mind-twisting quench their distaste for the political state of things in the country. My honest opinion is that, if at all there is verity and altruistic intentions behind all these, then masking your true intentions is simply not the way to go. It is inciting fire on a half-lit pyre with burning embers. It just reminds me of when I listened to the 1969 Trout Mask Replica album by Captain Beefhart after I learned it was added to the United States National Recording Registry and marked as a masterpiece. The thing just sounded like awful crazed music to me.
Another goof of this entire shebang is the typographical error. I mean, first it was ‘Couples’ Fulfillment’, now it’s ‘Purpose Fulfillment’? How do I replace P-U-R-P-O-S-E with C-O-U-P-L-E-S, really? But I’m not one to judge. We can but only take things at face value. Say it was really couple’s fulfillment, it would not still be the strangest national ministry I’ve ever heard. Meet Edelmira Barreira, Spain’s Minister of Sex. Yes, you heard me right—minister of sex.
But hold on. Spain is a country that has, since 2008, witnessed the number of births plunge by a whopping 18%. For an already small country, that is a mighty lot. Not only this, the number of childless couples have tripled from 1.5 million in 1977 to 4.4 million in 2015. Most Spanish women leave having children till they are about 32. As purely medical this condition may sound, it is also psychological, and so, bizarre as it may sound, the government had all rights and go-ahead to act and put in place something they felt would help remedy the situation. This came in the form of the ministry of sex in February this year 2017. I might have done it differently, but if any Spaniard would rise to speak against such a ministry (who, mind you has the job of sensitization and encouragement alone, sensitizing and encouraging young people to accept copulation and gestation in the twenties of their lives), he or she, would get shut up immediately. Because there is a purpose, and there is no abuse of intention. It’s another weird vortex, but it’s the kind that exposes life as it is today on planet earth.
So, in attempting to understand the value and essence of all of this, I have indeed come up empty. I can bet so will everyone who reads these stories about Imo State’s 2017 and gives enough damn to dig a little deeper to find out why. All one can hope for is that the governor proves us all wrong. Shows us, months before the expiration of his time as governor, that his cryptic near-Machiavellian style leadership really had a benign and ‘arrive-able’ bus stop, and sets up way forward once at arrival.
But before then, all we can do whenever we find ourselves in the state is to meet the nearest person next to us, take up his or her hand, shake, and ask, ‘Have you smiled today?’ Ichikwala ochi taa?