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Opinion

George Floyd’s Murder, A Professor’s Exoneration and the Many Shades of Nepotism

Around 2012, just when I pulled off my secondary school gown, I became a staunch student of English language, always trying to increase my vocabulary and improve on my English language grammar, and eventually, that made me a student of dictionaries as a result. That time, you’d see me constantly in romance with dictionaries, searching for new words. No, no! It wasn’t intended to bamboozle anyone, the effort was purely for my self-growth as far as the language is concerned. In fact, congenitally, my oral linguistic performance was — still is — quite abased. But really that wouldn’t kneel on the neck of my overall linguistic performance, I have got to circumvent this barrier, after all, there are a couple of ways to put language to use, either orally or through writing — both ways, as well, is possible. However, that oral form is defective, not so my written form, it swelled.

While this went on, I became familiar with words like ÉCLAT (heretofore became my pseudonym), TRAVESTY, EXONERATE, CHAUVINISM, ELAN, NEGRITUDE, MEAGRENESS, RENAISSANCE, and many more like that alongside their syn/antonyms.

But as much as I was enthusiastic about building my vocabulary, there was a section I didn’t pay attention to, and that was the etymology aspect of most of these words. It was when I got into the university that I started paying attention to how words come to being, their origin, their different forms of derivations, first usage, by who, within what context and many more. And indeed meanings of some words are best understood when taking into cognisance their origin and the circumstances that birth them. This since my undergraduate sojourn, I’ve taken a keen interest in, and indeed it’s really helping in shaping my thoughts linguistically, and polishing — to an extent — my language use, English language specifically.

So this week when my university’s weekly bulletin came out, the first word that caught my attention happened to be one of those I’ve experimented growing up. Going by the mandate the bulletin holds of the university, I didn’t bother reading further: one word had already explained the whole gist. And what’s that magic word? ‘EXONERATE’!

It’s couched in such a way that even a blind will see it and deaf will hear it. So loud and catchy! EXONERATE is colloquial in language use. Though quite elevated, paradigmatically and looking at it from the axis of the chain, too, it not only eloquently echoes the whole gist, it makes the front page lush and goes further to spot the writer. Every other element present in the front page — the news bite — of course, became inconsequential in so much as a darling word is conspicuous. But what is ‘EXONERATE’ used for in the bulletin? Don’t think further, it was used in the weekly journal to absolve one consultant who’s a professor of Infectious and Non-infectious Pulmonary Disease (thus consider to know better) from his alleged complicity and involvement in a conspiracy that weaved around the index case of Covid-19 in Kwara state. If you’re an ardent consumer of news items, that story won’t sound new.

So in legal terms, the ‘exonerated’ Professor is acquitted of any faults pertaining to any heresy surrounding the Covid-19 index case in Kwara state. But since this allegation did not go beyond a virtual round table of a committee of friends — sorry committee of co-workers, and in addition, since none of the panellists wears wig known of a jury and the panel members are not adjudged to be legal beagles, then the use of EXONERATE instead of ACQUIT became excusable. Nonetheless, in my search for the rationale behind this civil perlocutionary injunction for the summary cleansing of the erstwhile consultant who had earlier been accused and suspended by the same board that now EXONERATED him, my thought then brings an answer in form of another word I had encountered in the cause of my self-training on linguistic performance, and the word is CHAUVINISM.

Jingoism, favouritism, bigotry, tribalism, unwarranted bias and patriotism blended with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) are amongst many synonyms for the word CHAUVINISM. And etymologically it is a borrowed word from French ‘chauvinisme’ coined from the name of one of the French legends, Nicolas Chauvin, who as a soldier of French First Republic was popular for his legendary and excessive patriotic attitude towards his country, and by implication, his fellow countrymen. Coming to the knowledge of this, my querying mind became watered down, settled.

In African parlance, there’s a popular aphorism that underscores an inseparable linkage between the signified and the signifier or their interdependence, linguistically speaking. That is, for instance, a child’s fate is explicitly a reflection or manifestation of his name. Or you could have it that a child grows up to become what his name implies.

But why all this linguistic tutelage? Well, to know where I’m coming from, it will interest you if you’ve been part of the unfolding event surrounding the cold-blooded murder of Black American George Floyd by a hatred-filled Minneapolis police corp, Derek Chauvin. And remember Chauvin is a derivation of CHAUVINISM. If you get this, then you’ll understand my heresy. Or better still, read again but this time around, start from the African aphorism in relation to the naming of children.

That brutal and inhumane killing has for a while now reawakened the global campaign against racism which hitherto had been on a low-key. This time around the campaign has witnessed a surge of protests, locally and amongst International communities with everyone that matters not only condemning the killing but also reminding the world that #BlackLivesMatter, too.

The wave of the protest has reached the black nations and in their units, the ventriloquist civil society organisations domiciled in these countries, and those individual personalities who genuinely feel so concerned and touched by the inhumane action of Chauvin against the entire black race, have taken to the streets to register their grievances, and to lend our voices in support of the LiveAndLetLive campaign. And of course, many Nigerians are not left out in these humanitarian activities.

However, regardless of how patriotic some people can be, stemming from their genuine concerns for the poor Floyd, the blood that flows in them is no way better than this hatred-filled American Chauvin. If you ask me, CHAUVINISM and this form of ‘EXONERATISM’ especially by a ‘virtual’, I won’t term it kangaroo, the board of enquiry are both incidental to NEPOTISM, a travesty of racism.

Chauvin, by his inhumane action, has brought to the psych of the world yet again the menace of a malady called racism; the same way the outcome of UITH’s Virtual Board Meeting has included perhaps the unrestrained jingoism that is well embedded in our bureaucracy. By our own ways of reasoning, we have not only knelt on fellow human’s necks, but we have also destroyed the Ubuntu philosophy or spirit of brotherhood — the Bible says: ‘Be your brother’s Keeper’.

Chauvin’s action was undermined by sheer hatred for black nations and excessive love for his colour, nothing more. Ironically, however, this form of racism manifests in many subtle ways amongst and within the same black race. Only that here it might not take the form of an outright hatred per se but of excessive love for that which belongs to oneself or that which one treasures and protects. This further manifests in many other subtle forms — favouritism, bigotry, tribalism, nepotism, aversion, maliciousness and of course travesty of the values, everyone holds dearly to. All this is either against our fellow black men or in most cases, against our perceived enemies. Contrarily as well, we always use it to cover up for our shady deals; and in cases such as the one that exonerated the professor, we use it to circumvent justice.

Thus, to downstream to our respective domain, these are the realities everyone comes to terms with. We have several manifestations of racism tendencies — CHAUVINISM or FAVOURITISM. If not, the exoneration of any official who has been accused of abetting a heinous prejudice by way of concealing information that is, to a larger extent, capable of endangering the entire kinsmen could have only happened in our wildest imaginations. But the reality of this attests to our different manifestations of CHAUVINISM and NEPOTISM which are inherent byproducts of RACISM.

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