Nigerians it is said are akin to asking rather silly questions when the answers are either very obvious or the questions themselves do not need any answer. For instance, a husband returns from a hard day’s work and the wife asks “honey, are you back”? Or someone is evidently busy in a convenience and another asks “what are you doing there”? I suppose the gentleman or lady is having a hard time defending his/her thesis. But no question amazes and infuriates me than that whose recipe is a seemingly confident bank account statement, rich phone contact list, wonder on wheels (sometimes),
garish attire and sunglasses to match – “do you know who I am”?
This remark has become a reflex response for many with some kind of social prestige – real or imagined – to be brandished at police pullover, minor road traffic accidents or whatever slight provocation. In fact, it is often followed with a promise to deal with the other. Fascinatingly, in most cases all the parties in the disagreement are quick to utter same expression.
As far as it goes, “do you know who I am”? is an euphemism for intimidation, harassment and evasion of the blemish of wrong-doing. It purports to confer on the speaker some sort of status and power which the other must tremble at even without knowing if the fellow is worth jack. It intends to divide the society into classes such as – ‘do you know who I am’ and Í don’t know who you are’’.
It is bewildering how we manage to hold on to such a pervasive rhetoric in the face of the maladies that have time and again put us in the world map. Nigeria, with a population of about 170 million contributes about 110 million people to the global population of people living below the poverty line ($1 per day). So when we ask “do you know who I am”? could we be inferring that we are chairmen or owners of poverty?
Nigeria, according to transparency international scored 26 points out of 100 (0 being very corrupt and 100 very clean) on the 2015 corruption perceptions index and have only managed an all time high of 27 points in 2008. Again, when we say “do you know who I am”? could we be asserting our authority as the Kings and Queens of corruption.
Recently, Dr Mohammed Alkali, UNESCO’s National Programme Advisor on Education revealed that according to its recent survey 65 million Nigerians remain illiterate (Vanguard, 17th December, 2015). So once again when we delightfully render that line I wonder if it is our own way of saying that we are CEOs of illiterates?
This unfortunate syndrome is undoubtedly at the core of the many tensions we suffer and the anguish that has become the lot of many in our time. It is reflective of a deep-seated culture of pride and ego, crassness and savagery, impunity and social decadence that we have seemed to embrace with arms wide stretched. This brazen show of an exaggerated sense of self has inspired many unfortunate paths – corruption, advanced free fraud (419), ritual killings, kidnapping, armed robbery, exam malpractice, cultism etc that we now grapple with. This is sad to say the least.
The next time someone dare ask you “do you know who I am”? remind them that they are nothing but a moving lump of sand waiting to join the rest on the ground. Remind them that gold needs no introduction. Remind them that pride goes before a fall but the humble is exalted. Remind them that a person’s true worth rests in the greater good they do unto others and how much they affect the world around them positively.
written by Agunwa Martin