The parable of the shoe shiner

Olumide Iyanda

Buzz by Olumide Iyanda

Email: Twitter: @mightyng

Then he spoke to them in parable, saying:

“The kingdom of men is like a secret service officer at an official ceremony in the capital of a country that had lost its soul. While the ceremony was going on, the fully kitted officer – gun holstered and a handkerchief in hand – approached his ‘Oga at the top’ who was sitting among other VIPs.

“Without missing a step, the officer walked towards the boss – a serving cabinet minister who was once the country’s army chief. Bending down, he proceeded to wipe the shoes of the former army boss who traded his uniform for an elaborate agbada five years ago. Satisfied with the shining of his right shoe, the retired military chief brought forth his left leg and the servant in uniform did a good job of making both shoes glow in the afternoon sun.

“All this happened while members of the country’s security and civil defence corps marched to songs coming from a band. A few days after the incident, the video of the shoe shining exercise was posted on the internet by an online newspaper.

“What followed was outrage by pestle-wielding, Facebooking, Twittering and Instagramming activists who demanded the subtle (an apology) to the radical (sack of the ‘shinee’). They were angry that after almost 17 years of civilian rule, those who govern over them still act like beasts of no nation.

“But the security and civil defence corps (one of the government agencies under the minister) quickly rose in defence of their boss. According to a statement from the agency, the ‘Oga’ had earned the right to have his shoes shined by a junior officer and what the man in uniform did was a show of respect.

“That statement further angered critics of the government which had come to power preaching CHANGE.

“Whoever has internet access, let them find out the rest of the story.”

The disciples later came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parable?”

And he said, “Because they have been given all the tools to decode my words. Those who came before now did not have the benefit of social media and citizen journalism. Much has been given to this generation by way of knowledge and access to information. That is why I speak to them in parables.

“But in Facebooking they do not see; though Googling, they do not understand.

“Listen then to what the parable of the shoe shiner means:

“The secret service officer represents the oppressed and desensitised in the society. He also represents those who have chosen the path of sycophancy to get what they want.

“When anyone serves in an oppressive system, he is often reduced to shoe shining as coping mechanism. A system where men are stronger than institutions will see people suck up to their leaders in offices and even in places of worship.

“People have been reduced to bag carriers and errand boys even when that is not in their job description. Many, like orderlies to ex-military men, are publicly treated like indentured slaves by those who should look after their physical and spiritual wellbeing.

“The shoe shiners are those who are either unequipped or too lazy to meet impossible targets set by those with authority over them. With no talent or equipment to carry out what is required of them, they either shine shoes or shine ‘Congo’ to get by. They will give anything in a desperate desire to join the in-crowd. The handkerchief is anything from their bodies to the tithes offered in sacrifice to leaders who have made themselves gods of men.

“The minister represents everything that keeps a country tied to jackboot dictatorship. These people honour democracy with their lips but their hearts are far from it. That is why the system sees nothing wrong with an “orderly” cleaning the shoes of a born again democrat in public. With cameras everywhere! They just don’t give a damn.

“Like an emperor, the leader does not see anything wrong in a faux pas that is obvious to the deaf, dumb and blind. Instead of an apology, he gets another errand boy to shine his shoes by issuing a statement justifying what does not belong in civilised culture.

“The minister does not fear reprimand from a government that is righteous in what is big but unrighteous in what is small. A government whose body language is all about fighting corruption with scant regard for the right of law-abiding citizens to be treated decently.

“It does not matter that the very minister involved in the national embarrassment is in charge of the police force which says, ‘those of you who are posted to VIPs, on no account should you carry their bags and on no account should you act as domestic servants to them.’

“The minister is every boss who gets out of his car and hands his bag over to the first sycophant who offers to carry it. The minister is that manager who can’t leave the comfort of his office, but asks his subordinates to buy food for him at the nearest eatery. Mind you, I am not referring to office messengers; I am talking about officers just one or two levels below the boss.

“The online newspaper is the new face of journalism that has evolved from the guerrilla model practised under the military. It is the more liberal form championed by the likes of Linda Ikeji and Premium Times. Thanks to the new media, news now travels faster and farther. Truly I say unto you, no anti-social media bill can stop this revolution.

“Those who reacted negatively to the shoe-shining video are the restless but quick-to-forget social media activists. They make a meal of whatever is trending on Twitter but can’t wait to move on to the next hashtag. They are the butt of the minister’s jokes; for he knows that just like it happened with Sugabelly and Aluu 4, this too shall soon be forgotten. Besides, he knows that some social media warriors make noise in public but shine shoes and some other things in private.”

Soon, it was time to go to bed.

Before closing his eyes, he turned to his disciples one more time and added, “Take heed unto thyself and unto what I have told you. Watch and pray lest the change you desperately desire becomes one chance.