Africa’s Old Men, Youths and the Meaning of Respect

Published on 17th April 2018

I am an African and he is an old man without a brain but because he is old, I am obliged to respect him. He is old with evil thoughts and deeds but because he is an old man, a good boy must show him respect. He killed us in hundreds of thousands and destroyed the psyche of millions but because he is an old man, any good human being is to show him respect. He is a murderer, a criminal, a rapist, a kidnapper, an evil leader but because he is an old man, I must respect him so that I may live a long life. He is in the National Assembly legislating atomic bombs and blinding common sense but he is an old man and if I respect elders, I must show him some respect.

He is in Aso Villa showing the country uncommon evil, grand stupidity with a hand that killed a million foetus and fetal dreams but because he is an old man, it takes a disrespectful and dumb youth to call him a murderer. He is on the roadside harassing bloody civilians and forcing them to part with money but he is an older man and on National duty, calling him a thief is an insult and disrespect to his age and country. They elected him Local Government Chairman, vini, vidi, he siphoned their dreams and allocations but as per the old man that he is, showing him disdain or calling him a shrimp is not a proper compliment. What is wrong with calling a shrimp a shrimp? What is wrong calling mad people mad people? What is wrong with calling a murderer a murderer? Damn you!

In Africa, in the eyes of the majority, you are gifted intelligence and wisdom simply by growing grey hairs. You don’t have to be wise or smart but the moment you become old, your words and deeds are revered and anyone from the next generation who asks why or disagrees is asking for an untimely death. The truth is, getting old doesn’t gift anyone intelligence. In fact, almost all the men, if not all, who are ruining, and ruined Africa, are old men. They are grandpas and grandmas who never loved their people or knew the meaning of negritude or why the African Union was formed. They are men and women with their brains strapped in their anus and have lost the biological function of sound thought. Their years are wasted and they succeeded in etching their names in that beautiful Hall Of Shame. No good person should show them respect.

About one month ago I was accused of blasphemy and of trying to make the lesser argument defeat the stronger argument. I was accused of trying to change the circle of nature and warned to retrace my step and be like a real African. I was accused by a Nigerian Youth who felt calling an old man what he is, insults the old man and humanity. I was accused of littering the place with emotional rants when I reacted to the brutal torture of some Nigerians. The devil was around when he spoke but rather than hush the devil, he turned to me instead and warned of disobedience. He wasn’t alone. On the same page were young people who felt that an old thief, an old murderer or an old scumbag should be called a wise man and using the right adjectives to qualify him is not just okay. To these youths the old deserve respect no matter the circumstance. My crime: calling out the President for been rudderless.

The typical Nigerian youth is sunk in confusion and trapped in the gutter infested education he received from the system built by those terrible old men. He doesn’t know the meaning of respect, the nature of respect, the texture of respect or how or when to apply it. When the Zaria Massacre and Operation Python Dance happened, these same youths were laughing at the Nigerians who were killed by the army for blocking the road of the Chief of the Army Staff and those who said they wanted Biafra. They mocked them and posted photos of their dead bodies on their walls. They laughed at the folly of the people seeking for their own country. They wondered where such foolishness could have come from and justified the death they were rewarded with. They weren’t moved by the deaths or crude response of the military and humour was the meal. These same youths who mocked the killed, the humiliated and downtrodden are asking for respect for foolish old people. In Nigeria, many are mad, many are roaming.

The problem isn’t new or hard to decipher. The problem is, the typical Nigerian Youth is mentally incapacitated, brainwashed by a system created and upheld by pseudointellectuals, the ability for critical and analytical thinking striped, the intellect watered down by dis(organised) religion and traditions built on landslides. He follows culture without questioning and when he questions and thinks he finds it hard to allow reasoning to happen. He just thinks…no reasoning. He has all the tools to explore the world but society and culture created a limit of awareness. Respecting old men guarantees long life and long life is good just because it is long life. Asking why old men should be respected is considered a foolish question. Asking why old men are always right is considered taboo. So, knowledge is feared and ignorance embraced by this youth. Ironically, you’ll also find many in this group asking for a Youth President. His intellectual base and managerial skill is not even necessary. He just needs to be a youth and automatically he’d perform well. Now, how do you explain this?

The day anyone starts respecting foolish old men that day they begin to shrink and if you take a look at the faces and hearts of Nigerians you will see penury lines a century old. Age doesn’t dwarf the impact of foolishness on the society or environment. Because youths look up to the elders around them for approval and guidance, old men who create penury lines must be punished in double portion. The culture that old people deserve respect just because they became old must be done away with for sounder thoughts. No one gets wise just by getting old. An experience is not enough for wisdom and learning to happen. Encountering problems does not stop one from encountering similar problems. Seeing different tragedies is not enough for sense to happen. So, while old age provides opportunity to have gone through problems, experiences and tragedies, old age doesn’t teach you how to survive next time. Learning is a choice and old age has no power to develop that choice in any man. Look at the foolish old men ruling Africa and you will see what I am talking about.

If old age makes anyone wise, Africa would have been proof. If getting old makes the man smarter or morally upright, we wouldn’t have fools and warlocks ruining Africa today. If experience gained from passing time is enough to positively transform a people, Africa would have been transformed a long time ago. We have seen old murderers, old criminals, old fools, old scumbags and old prisoners in spirit, in charge and there is no reason to keep holding unto that calamitous doctrine. Having children is not responsibility either. Having great-grand children and a large family tree doesn’t grant you wisdom or eradicate the stupidity you grew up with either. Wisdom is not longevity. Wisdom is wisdom, longevity is longevity. So, when I call that old thief a criminal, stop reminding me how many children and great-grand children he’s got. When I call that old leader who ordered the massacre of his people a murderer, he is indeed a murderer because only a murderer will do what he did.

What is this fuss about respecting old men so you can live long? What is so great about getting old? Just living long? What does it mean to live long? The coward lived a hundred years, died and was forgotten in a week but the brave who died in his late twenties, two centuries ago, was immortalized. The old fool lived 200 years, died and was forgotten in two hours but the revolutionary died at 40 and for five decades we still appreciate the massage he gave the world. Martin Luther, Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey died young but till this day you will find them in the hearts of the living. They didn’t just settle in men’s heart like dead woods, they move around like electrons to activate and bring alive more life. The rapper 2Pac died at 25 but we have seen that he is immortal. We have seen that his spirit still hovers around. Just like getting old doesn’t make you wise, it doesn’t give your life meaning or take away from it either. It is a choice you make and old age doesn’t grant this choice by default.

It is evil to defend evil old men in the name of respecting them. Calling a murderer what he is is what any society that wants progress pray for. Despite all the Sir’s, Ma’s, greetings and salutations, common in our society, there is little improvement. If these respect yielded anything, it is the support for familial corruption, rudderlessness, dearth of commonsense and a blunting of sound thoughts and behaviour. The people ruining Nigeria right now are old people and finding one worthy of respect is like trying to find a living cadaver. Governments in Africa have failed and the youths, on whose shoulders they place their dirty feet, are struck with Stockholm Syndrome. We have been tortured, raped and shamed by these foolish old men but because they are old, some of us want us to deny rape, torture or the shame they got us. We have been starved but pointing at these men is lack of respect, says the ‘respectful’ youths. We have had our eyes literally plucked out, our tongues have been tied and we keep singing songs for the men in the human abattoir. Our visions are impaired and we live reality in nightmares. This place is too hot and it seems the last Nigerian that entered Hell left the door open and…we are close. I respect commonsense not old age. We have seen Mandela, we have seen Nyerere, we have seen Nkrumah, we have seen Lumumba but is there any African leader today who will live forever?

By Rey Alaetuo

The author is a  conscious Poet and health care professional living in Lagos, Nigeria who is deeply interested in the propagation of positive human values and behaviour.

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