Tola Adeniyi is the legendary Nigerian Columnist of over 40 years. JSD is proud to have him as a guest columnist.
There are so many fallacies, so many clichés, and so many age-old expressions and phrases which repetition and usage have made to appear true and aphoristic. And examples are many. In this category falls a common saying that “We are born equal”. Another saying is “We are all equal before the law” or ‘We are all equal in the eyes of God”. In common statements in Nigeria, we hear people talk of ‘Hausa-Fulani’ whereas there is no known human being called Hausa-Fulani just as we do not have any Nigerian called Gwari-Nupe, or Efik-Ibibio or even Ijebu-Egba. It is either you are a Fulani or a Hausa, an Efik or an Ibibio, or an Ijebu or an Egba.
Of course, we are not born equal. Yes, we all undergo the process of birth; that is every human being must be born either through the vagina or by caesarian operation. What is common is that a human being must be born. It is the commonality of birth that has been stretched to imply equality. Even the treatment given to each unborn baby is not equal, and the moment a child staggers into life his/her reception is not equal to that of another child. Throughout life, we strive to attain equality with the next person. It is a battle of struggles and strives and that is what defines individual efforts. At the very beginning, at birth, a child born to a billionaire is not equal to any parameter to a child born to a pauper, the world does not even receive them in equal measure. What is prevalent is the commonality of birth; not equality.
Equal before the law? Would I deceive myself that I am equal before the law when I am in a contest with Dangote? Dangote comes to the court with a thousand SANs while I manage to appear with a ‘Charge &Bail’ lawyer with his outworn oversized second-hand jacket. Even without saying a word, the court knows and recognises two unequal personages.
When God looks at an elephant and an ant, does He or She see equal creatures? Are the two creatures of equal size? Of course not. What is on the ground is the commonality of a breath of life; the fact that the two creatures breathe air to live, but even at that the air that an elephant gulps in a split second is more that the total amount of air an ant feeds on in a year! God created the fingers, and for sure the fingers are not equal!
This is the topic for another day, possibly next week.
Many expressions over the years have come into use to deceive, cajole, confuse, or out rightly to play politics with people’s perception. One of the commonest of such assumed aphorisms is Truth is bitter!
‘Truth’ according to Wikiquote ‘is a term used to indicate various forms of accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal. The opposite of truth is falsehood, which, correspondingly, can also take on logical, factual, or ethical meanings. Language and words are a means by which humans convey information to one another in semiotic associations, and the method used to recognise a truth is termed a criterion of truth. There are differing claims as to what constitutes truth, what things are truthbearers capable of being true or false, how to define and identify truth, the roles that revealed and acquired knowledge play, and whether truth is subjective or objective, relative or absolute.’
The truth is supposed to free man from a web of ignorance and deceit. The truth is supposed to equip one with knowledge and know-how. The truth is supposed to be the bedrock of an association, a union, a bond and all that makes for superb understanding between two people or amongst people in a given society.
The question then arises: how can a constant that is supposed to be the cement of understanding be bitter? How can something that is expected to give knowledge be considered bitter?
Truth should not be considered bitter. Politicians, religious leaders, traditional leaders and all other leaders in a position of authority are expected to be guided by Truth, and absolute truth in all their dealings with those placed under their watch by Providence. It is when leaders feed their followers and all those under them with falsehood, lies and deceit that people end up feeling bitter and disappointed.
Husbands and wives find sweetness in the truth with which they live their daily lives. Truth gives them peace of mind. Truth gives them trust and confidence in each other. Truth energises each party to the union. Such a feeling or concept cannot be considered bitter.
Teachers expect their pupils and students to tell the truth always. Employers want their employees to be truthful. Those who employ the services of contractors expect nothing else than the truth from the said contractors charged with supervision and delivery of building and construction projects, or even supplies to end users. If that is expected, and it is the desired norm, why should old usage brand it bitter?
What is bitter is the falsehood. Lying, cheating, deceit, hypocrisy, and all layers of untruth are bitter. It, therefore, cannot and should not be the truth that should be considered bitter or clothed in the toga of bitter leaf.
I am aware that most people do not like to be told the truth about themselves, about their character, about their dressing, about their manners, and about their excesses. That is when the truth may be considered bitter to the ears of the person being told the truth of his personal worth. A drunkard may not want his wife or his friends refer to him as such. It sounds unpalatable to his ears to be called an irresponsible husband to the bottle. It is the blunt, unadulterated truth that leaves a bitter taste in his mouth. The singular example of saying it as it is should not be sufficient to brand truth as bitter.
If one’s mother is a witch and an observer says so, calls a spade a spade, such statement of fact if already proven should be not be considered bitter.
Society must embrace the truth, and in so doing change its attitude to and branding of truth.