By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
The first time I heard the quaint expression ‘monkey tail’ some twenty odd years ago, I was genuinely puzzled about its meaning because of the prevailing circumstances and how one can innocently stumble into something that could be big. I had asked after a young man who used to be around the compound back in Warri, doing menial work and serving like a factotum in the compound and I was casually told that he had been taken to a mental home for treatment after he ran amok and threatened people with a cutlass.
When I asked how such a meek-looking fellow could break down so easily I got a ready answer ‘Oga, the guy dey take monkey tail like water! Monkey tail? What is monkey tail, I asked? Laughter followed. ‘Oga, no tell us say you no know monkey tail o! Monkey tail na! I wondered if someone had eaten the tail of a monkey and went crazy as a result. ‘You mean he cooked and ate the tail of a monkey? More laughter. No brother.
I soon found out the truth about Monkey tail. Monkey tail is a deadly concoction; it is a ‘locally brewed cannabis and ogogoro liquor, commonly sold by skilled herbal mixologists, usually female, who either have ‘Agbo’ stations by the roadside or are conveniently mobile! I even found a definition for it on Google! If you look carefully those traders are ubiquitous. They are found in motor parks, roadside kiosks, and anywhere there is a small band of traders. Okada and Keke riders patronize them too. This accounts for the crazy speeds at which those bats-from-hell fly their vehicles along our roads.
Monkey tail! How does it sound to you? This precious concoction came into focus recently as the striking ASUU had rambunctious negotiations with the federal government, which dragged on for some eight months and we witnessed some strange actions and words from one of the principal negotiators on the government side, so bad that the usually reticent Professor Attahiru Jega complained that the Minister was being personal about the official matter that was ASUU strike. Someone commented on a WhatsApp platform that this ‘man dey take too much Monkey tail naim make am dey take the matter like fight between him and the gods of Okija! Hahahahaha! Of course, Okija shrine has deep connotations with the cantankerous days of governance in Anambra State when a serving governor was abducted.
Some highly placed persons swim in stimulants to function properly. Alcohol for some is routine. There are some who must take shots of whiskey or brandy before heading out for any serious meeting especially if they are dealing with their superiors. Late Prime Minister Winston Churchill is on record in alcohol abuse, though it made him perform at optimum. Some step up the stimulant level by taking weeds or other hard drugs to be able to coordinate their thoughts. To be sure there are many of such substances in the market these days. The senses of such persons have become dependent on these substances. As we know, either in the short or long term, such substances affect one’s sense of judgment.
How does a man who has taken on the high responsibilities of State indulge in hard drugs, remain sane, and think that he can fool the public? I remember the lyrics of Peter Tosh’s Legalize it when he says ‘Doctors smoke it/Nurses smoke it/ Judges smoke it/ Even lawyer too!’ So, it is not strange to read that men in power, men of power routinely take monkey tail. Marijuana as medication has been legalized in America and to be sure access is better. Yet, if it were to come to the public that a sitting governor in America depends on marijuana to perform, there would be no end to the smell of the scandal! A high court judge who smokes weed before coming to court would have impaired judgment. A minister who takes drugs would be permanently impaired when dealing with affairs of State.
It is against this background that we must examine the actions of some government officials when they deal with the public. Some of them need to go for psychiatric evaluation. How can any sane human being occupying a government position treat university professors like daily paid workers by paying them on prorate basis? In all the years of military dictatorship, the government never did that. Now that we have pseudo-democrats in the temporary confines of the powerhouse in Abuja, the ridiculous has become the norm. Road traffic managers in Lagos once sent errant drivers to ‘Yaba Left’ for mental evaluation. For example, a man who drove against traffic or on a one-way lane was sent for psychiatric evaluation. Those state officials who allowed the last ASUU strike to drag on for eight months and finally refused to pay salaries need to go for mental evaluation. It is an abnormal situation. It is digging the pit of the public university system. Such persons are dangerous to the survival of the Nigerian State.
Sadly, across the country state officials harass petty traders who have stations where they sell Monkey tail in motor parks. They often pounce on those hapless, poor women and seize their wares routinely, later collecting a bribe and returning the stuff to the owners. Their excuse is that such hard drugs endanger the lives of passengers. The truth is that one Minister or Governor or President who takes hard drugs before policy decision or implementation is more dangerous to the polity than all the drivers who consume weed before sitting behind the steering wheel. We should be more worried about them than danfo drivers! State House, Government House Monkey Tail is more dangerous to our national survival than Motor Park Monkey tail. And if we believe that power is an aphrodisiac that intoxicates, the amount of power exercised by the rulers of Nigeria over the citizenry is the equivalent of flying the national aircraft while under the influence. The time has come for non-Igbo smokers to take their destiny into their hands! The treatment meted out to ASUU by this government is the result of too much Monkey Tail!
Prof Hope Eghagha writes from the University of Lagos (UNILAG). His syndicated column appears in The Dream Daily Newspaper on Mondays.