His name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, the American singer, record producer, and songwriter popularly known as R. Kelly. He is one of those who redefined R&B in the 1990s across the world. Through a combination of sonorous rendition and a deep sensuous baritone, R. Kelly held the world spellbound with his music. His songs entertain and rip through the soul while maintaining an enduring aesthetic matrix. They bear underlying philosophical messages conveyed through lyrical rhapsody which caress the mind, cascade the ears, and generally titillate the sensibilities. Although he is presently enmeshed in allegations of sexual crime which he has denied, the world will not forget him in a hurry. When he released his song “I believe I can fly” in 1996, it shot through the heart of the depressed among us. Youths and the young at heart still view the song as a motivating paradigm which revives a dwindling mindset, challenging it to achieve success. “I believe I can fly” is indeed an inspirational anthem of ability, hope, and faith.
Human beings do not have the natural endowment to fly. Only birds do. In our part of the world, anybody who claims to fly naturally is immediately labelled an agent of witchcraft. When humans say they can fly, they are speaking metaphorically which, if interpreted further, could mean that they possess the ability to surmount challenges and attain success. Flying among humans is not the same thing as flying among birds. Among the birds of the air, some are nimble, elusive, and quick-footed. They may not fly so high like the eagle, but they easily fly away at the approach of a perceived snare, many times human presence. Pigeons fall into that category. They signify peace, love, and happiness. But they also fly. What happens when pigeons stubbornly refuse to fly? Those who are knowledgeable in the art of spiritual engineering will attest that no ritual of peace or success is complete without a pigeon. When pigeons refuse to fly, then something is definitely wrong. In the times of yore, the refusal of pigeons to fly will certainly provoke an enquiry from the gods and other spiritual essences. Efforts must be made to unravel the significance of such animalistic impudence. Yet, before the whole world, pigeons in Nigeria, in the hands of Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, the President, and Hope Uzodinma, the Imo State governor, refused to fly. Since then, Nigerians are asking the important question, why did the pigeons refuse to fly?
In Abuja last week, during the Armed Forces Remembrance Day, the President and other government officials honoured active members of the armed forces who are tirelessly fighting to protect our country. Also honoured were force members who died in the line of duty. As a part of the ceremony, Mr. President was required to release white pigeons and let them fly into the boundless horizon to symbolize peace and unity in the land. But the white, well-nurtured pigeons had other ideas. They simply refused to fly. All efforts by Nigeria’s number one citizen to make the pigeons fly were fruitless. Even when other assistants intervened, those who think they can make human beings cringe in fear, the birds didn’t move, they simply refused to fly. The sight of guns or the stern faces of all the soldiers did not deter them, they were not scared, and they just wouldn’t fly.
Since the events of last week, social media and other media outlets have been agog. Millions of people are postulating why ordinary pigeons refused to leave the hands of the President and the governor of Imo State. One of Mr President’s aides said that the pigeons didn’t fly because they loved Mr President so much and didn’t want to leave his hands. Nothing could be more ridiculous. Since the media aide to Mr. President was quick to proffer a lame reason why the pigeons didn’t fly, people are therefore emboldened to comment on this matter of national importance. The same also happened in Imo state, South East of Nigeria where pigeons didn’t want to leave Hope Uzodinma’s hands possibly because they loved him too much and wanted his company a little longer. Indeed, dementia is real in these parts.
I am not superstitious by any stretch of the imagination. My inclinations to superstition have been taken care of by Western education and research. But I believe in omens. That pigeons, generally believed to symbolize peace and unity, refused to fly is indeed a very bad omen for Nigeria. When we identify the many deteriorating aspects of our society, when we speak out against multiple anomalies in our country, some people think we are playing politics. But we only speak truth to power. The pigeons possess perceptive and sensory ability to decipher that the land they inhabit is riddled with abnormalities. The land is flowing with the blood of people mauled down daily by terrorists, herdsmen, and bandits. The pigeons were protesting insecurity. Or could it be that the pigeons were angry at the injustice of pardoning the same terrorists who kill soldiers and bury Nigerians alive while the families of the soldiers and those buried alive suffer indignity?
Were the pigeons angry because the same terrorists are dressed in honours and sent abroad to school while our young soldiers populate the graveyards? Could the pigeons have known why the Nigerian army has not defeated Boko Haram and were protesting? Were the pigeons in sympathy with our soldiers who face the terrorists with rag-tag armoury as revealed by a former commander of the Nigerian army troops fighting Boko Haram? Were the pigeons angry that Nigeria’s external debt has hit the roof and they foresee another recession when many Nigerians will, unfortunately, be admitted into the poverty clan? In my estimation, there were more than ten pigeons in that cage, yet none of them exempted to fly. They were all in agreement that the land is oozing with unscrupulous, fetid atmosphere.
There could be many more reasons why the white pigeons in the hands of Mr. President and the Imo State governor refused to fly. The pigeons may have refused to fly because they were aware of the negating conditions in Nigeria which do not and cannot enable flying. Perhaps the pigeons were too pure to fly in a polluted clime, or they were weighed down by the foul atmosphere which choked and suffocated them to no end. Is it possible that the pigeons were protesting the activities of herdsmen who kill Nigerian farmers and confiscate their farmlands while the government look away? The truth must lie somewhere. This is another opportunity for our magicians and sorcerers to endear themselves to the presidency by finding out why ordinary pigeons chose not to fly when they were enabled by a presidential touch and a governor’s prodding hands. While the pigeons in Abuja were embarrassing Mr President, the pigeons in Imo State were also embarrassing Hope Uzodinma. The pigeons defiantly remained in the cage and refused to fly. Could it be a signpost of something more sinister in the beautiful state of Imo, my place of origin? Was the attitude of the pigeons an indictment on the governor for assuming office through subterfuge? Na question I ask o !!!
The events in Abuja and Owerri are a national embarrassment. R. Kelly’s song “I believe I can fly” will not appeal to Nigerians now because they do not believe they can fly and the pigeons are in agreement with them. Last week, we knew the minds of the pigeons. But we do not know the minds of other animals. Who knows whether the cows will revolt soon and refuse to be killed for our meat? Who knows what our domesticated dogs will do soon? I fear that one day the dogs will join the pigeons and revolt. The goats, the fowls, the rams, the pigs, and different kinds of animals may revolt soon. I understand that Buratai has a domesticated snake that he plays with as a toy. Please, sir, be careful with it in these days of animal revolt. Welcome to George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Perhaps, the animals want to take over from the #ENDSARS promoters to make a statement. Pigeons can only fly in a country where the masses believe they can fly. If people can’t fly because they are crippled by poor governance, the pigeons will never fly. The pigeons were only showing solidarity with impoverished Nigerians and decided not to betray the course. Leadership in Nigeria at all levels is in dire comatose and the pigeons are aware. The attitude of the pigeons should be a source of worry to the Nigerian power protocol. All is not well in the land. Nigerians are gnashing their teeth under the weight of a wavering economy. Let our leaders look inwards, go into the inner chambers and make amends. Perhaps the pigeons will fly by the next national celebration.
Dr Adiele teaches in the Department of English, Mountain Top University email@example.com
Daily Times Nigeria20th January 2021