When George Orwell wrote his timeless book, Animal Farm, he was consumed by thoughts about the ills of communism and the events surrounding the Russian Revolution of 1917.
In the satirical work published in 1945, Orwell imagined a dystopia where the masses, represented by farm animals, unite to topple their tyrannical overlords, chiefly represented by the human character of “Mr Jones,” the owner of the dystopian “Manor Farm.” The farm was then re-christened Animal Farm by the animals following their revolution. Thick in timeless satire about equality and the designs of oppressive leadership, the book remains one of the greatest literary works of the 20th century.
After Orwell’s dystopian farm animals successfully rebel against their owner, Mr Jones, by chasing him and his men out of the farm, “Napoleon,” the pig, became the de facto leader. And with the aid of propaganda, perpetually modified laws and a band of dogs trained to kill, he brings the animals under harsh rule that sees the pigs, like Mr Jones, enjoy the spoils of the new farm. In the end, the “laws of animalism” are subsumed into a single law – that “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
Animal Farm provokes thoughts about real problems of oppression and inequality in virtually every society. However, what many have never contemplated, and perhaps, beyond most people’s wildest imaginations, is an actual uprising of animals in society. Odd as it may seem, Nigeria now appears to be as close to this unfathomable experience as possible, especially as our cattle seem to have already acquired human vassals to do their bidding and enforce their will on us humans.
In recent times, allusions have been made to Nigeria being a zoo full of animals. One imagines what an animal government would look like in this ‘zoo.’ Of course, cattle will run the show, due to their already immeasurable contributions and efforts towards colonisation of humans as we have it in Nigeria today.
The first order of business for the animal government might be to suspend our laws and systems, to be replaced by a cattle-cracy, governed by the law of repercussion. This will ensure that cattle will be “more equal than other mammals” and one cow’s life will be worth several human lives as it is now happening in modern day Nigeria.
Since the cattle are mostly from the north, there would be a need for some measure of balance to assuage other animals. The South-West, being the enjoyment or owambe capital of Nigeria and the most cattle-loving region (never mind the nature of this love) would be a beneficiary in this regard. A worthy goat from the extensive stock of asun goats in the South West would suffice as the deputy head. As we all know by now, if you put yam where a goat is, the goat will eat the yam. The Head Cow will ensure that there is plenty of yam to keep the deputy head goat occupied so he won’t interfere in the enjoyment of the cattle.
One imagines that there will also be strategic appointments into military and other security positions in the Animals’ Republic. Crocodiles from the Niger Delta will serve as marine guards in the inland waters and creeks, while great white sharks of the Atlantic, also found in the Niger Delta, will man territorial seas. The Chief of Air Staff will, of course, be a guinea fowl from the North East, to command a fleet of eagles and vultures. The Chief of Army Staff may be a ram, chosen by nepotism, also from the north, to command more qualified animals like tigers, lions and leopards. And dogs, who enjoy a good treat but can be quite ferocious at other times, will make good policemen under the new dispensation.
The inner caucus of the Head Cow at the Federal Cattle Territory (FCT), including the Chief of Staff and others, will most likely consist of hyenas, who will also populate the cattle secret police. An assortment of snakes and pigs will be in charge of ministries and the states, while some humans will be kept on as vassals and foot soldiers. One is only thankful that majority of these animals are herbivores. However, in a world of acquired tastes, as Napoleon and the other pigs prove in Animal Farm, one ought to be cautious with expectations.
The very first description of Napoleon in Animal Farm paints him as a “fierce looking” boar “with a reputation for getting his own way.” In like manner, the cattle-cratic code imposed by the Head Cow, one expects, will be quite simple when it comes to voting in elections. Whoever the cattle vote for, wins an election, although other animals would be allowed to vote. To keep up appearances as well, a true, unruly parliament of many animals will be created to engage in useless debates, which will end up in fights as they devour each other.
Now, let us wake up from this cattle-cratic nightmare. It is scary that, were we in a world where animals have the intelligence to think up such elaborate schemes, the present situation of mindless killings in the country and the proposition of absurd laws do, in fact, seem like a preparation for such eventuality. Scarier still is the feeling of helplessness that has been fostered by the inaction of the security forces.
We may not be subject to any cattle-cratic codes now, and never will, but it is the symbolism that matters. Truth is, we are not far removed from the Orwellian dystopia of Animal Farm. In the past, we have switched from the kleptocratic oppression of one regime to another. Today, our country is caught in the throes of totalitarian oppression, the ramifications of which we are yet to fully grasp. Unfortunately, there are no messiahs in waiting or in hiding for that matter to rescue us. We are only availed with more lecherous and serpentine boogeymen openly flirting with power and dwarfing all would-be champions of the people.
Since the first military coup in Nigeria in 1966, the country has been replicating Orwellian leadership in every form and system of government it has adopted. For this reason, many have been enticed away to other countries like the sugar-loving character of “Mollie” the mare (female horse) in Animal Farm that is enticed away from the farm with the promise of sugar, ribbons and other fineries. Many that remain, are also like Mollie, concerned about themselves alone and their material wants.
Also in Animal Farm, there is a hardworking but impressionable horse named “Boxer.” Of very low intelligence, Boxer works tirelessly with naïve belief in Napoleon until he is eventually sold away to his death when he becomes old and sick and is no longer of value to Napoleon’s regime. Boxer is like many Nigerians with blind loyalty, including Fulani herdsmen, all other militant groups and even working professionals that allow cunning Napoleons all over the place to exploit them for selfish gains.
It seems we are a country of Mollies and Boxers, ruled by Napoleons who are wolves in sheep’s clothing and pigs at heart. The result of this mix is what we are experiencing at present. The answer is surely not in transforming the country into one giant cattle colony. Nigeria should not be overrun by cattle in the name of accommodating a tiny spec in the visible economy of the country. The cattle trade is an inadequately taxed cash business, and giving pride of place to a trade that generates little or nothing to the national purse is unsound reasoning, especially when it comes at the cost of human life.
Going into an election year, if the issue of cattle continues to dominate national discourse, we may find ourselves in a situation where it becomes an important factor in swinging votes. With the numbers of Fulani and other northerners involved in the cattle trade, and with the rhetoric coming from those quarters, we may eventually find ourselves in an actual cattle-cracy. Too bad!
• Agekameh wrote in from Lagos. For comments SMS (only) to: 08058354382