Freedom and Human Rights
Ibadan is a mega-village of about five million Yoruba people, excellent people without a scratch. It is the capital of Oyo State, Nigeria, for those whom are yet to hear that name.
Recreation Club at Onireke is a very famous place around and across Ibadan and very popular among the 'who's who' of Ibadan and also by the Oyinbos (peeled people) and it is a very interesting position because Ibadan is a place without any 'who's who' whatsoever. At least, until that evening, which I am telling you about, when Chief Balogun Ajanlakoko and I arrived to Recreation Club and "extra-large" Johnny, the Lebanese owner, welcomes us with a huge Lebanese smile.
Chief Ajanlakoko ordered, right-on, I must say, his usual Black Label in a big glass with ice and I take Chapman with cucumber, when one who's, VIP style, came to our table, and asked politely if he can join our table. He grabbed a chair, before anyone could formulate a reasonable answer like - no.
There is no time for embarrassment since Mister 'who's' immediately started running the discussion. He is one of those guys that has no objection to hear himself talking, and actually he looks like he enjoys very much to hear what he has to say.
He tells the chief that the Black Label is on his bill and ordered one Black Label for himself. He looked at me, having Chapman. I hate whiskey.
The guy introduces himself as Vincentius Bonaccorso- call me Din – and he is a businessman and a contractor, originally from Sicily. He goes with the name Din because Din is shorter, and he likes it.
His grandfather started the construction business in Sicily about eighty years ago and became one of the biggest contractors around that island. But - he said – "I have other different businesses all over the world, and in particular he is always on the look for a good illegal business."
Because of the smoke, I wasn't sure if I heard well, because of the smoke, so I asked him what exactly type of business does he refer to. I never met a guy that 'is on the look for a good illegal business,' although, I'm aware, mainly from the American movies, that wise and intelligent guys are very successful, sometimes, doing good illegal businesses. Provided, there is a demand in the public for those illegal products and services. Because, once there is a demand, there is a good business. Legal or Illegal.
He has a house here, in Ibadan, around Ring Road. In addition, he also has a house in Sicily and also in New York. With emphasis on the house in New York. It is critical for Din to mention his house in New York to get our attention, for the level of respect, he believes that he is entitled to.
Clearly, every time Din hit a successful transaction, his rating is going up and more friends seek his company and this is very important to Din.
The entire Lebanese community know all about the businesses Din is involved in, such as the lottery games in Mokola and in Dugbe Market (G is not pronounced). Many other items around Nigeria were imported by Din, and he sells some items even in Okitipupa, because many such items in Nigeria are illegal to import.
The Nigerian government prohibit the importation of such items since they must protect the local industry, exactly as the British are doing to protect the British industries.
Of course, those days, there is almost no local industry in Nigeria. Every banned item is prohibited mainly to give the custom officers some room to negotiate with the importers at the port. Such authority in the custom officers' hands is quickly translated to Naira and the Naira is translated to Dollar and all are very happy with the arrangement, especially Din.
Some prohibited items are food items from Europe. Of course, Oyinbo's food. Many Yoruba's youths, especially the ladies, believe that if they shall eat Oyinbo's food they might become a bit Oyinbo too, and if not, they will use body cream to become whiter or brighter.
Chief Balogun Ajanlakoko mentioned that most Nigerians like alcohol beverages, like beer or cognac, but they are not cigarette smokers nor they are Oyinbo's drugs' users.
He says - we have our own herbs, for our own rituals, for our tradition, and no one shall tell us, Nigerians, what to use, or for what to use it. This is our tradition. We, Nigerians are free in our free land. Land of freedom – he says – Plus, Nigerians afraid of needles or sniffing anyway.
Din takes a vocal 'schlook' of the Black Label and looks at Chief Balogun Ajanlakoko and says - you know - around 1920 the good people of America couldn’t legally drink Black Label. The American congress preferred that good people shall drink alcohol illegally. By law! Imagine! The land of freedom! They called it the "Prohibition Law."
Din said to the Chief – such prohibition laws are very important for the business of intelligent guys. These intelligent guys are simply people with good understanding of the reality.
The intelligent guys try to help honest citizens to enjoy from, what the government define as, 'immoral' enjoyments or unhealthy enjoyments.
Prohibition laws, such as those laws prohibiting the use of alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or gambling, are very important for the business of the intelligent guys, since these laws provide the intelligent guys with a good income.
Of course, managing such big industries come with a big responsibility. The intelligent guys have no choice, since the congress decided that the government shouldn’t manage those industries and prefer to give that responsibility to the intelligent guys.
Din says - freedom and human rights include also the freedom of good and honest citizens to enjoy, as long as they don't hurt other good citizens. Capiche?
Ah-Ah, but those people, that are doing drugs, are killing themselves. No-be-so? Both their body and mind. Someone must stop them from destroying themselves, no!? Chief say.
Din agrees. But that is their life, their money, their decisions, their choices, their freedom and their rights.
Chief Balogun says – Na-Wawu, we in Nigeria, we respect the freedom of people more than those Oyinbos' democracies, with their funny laws.
So, what happened with that Wahala Law? – Chief asked Din
Well, after the congress decided that the government shouldn't manage the alcohol industry, since drinking alcohol is 'immoral' and unhealthy, the wise people took over the responsibility for the supply of alcohol and started manufacture, distribute and sell alcohol beverages to the good citizens of America.
Consequently, the wise people accumulated money and power and with those plenty, they could persuade some government guys to help them from time-to-time with the management of the alcohol industry.
Din's uncle arrived at New York on 1921 to help his family in the business. The workload was too much.
On one hand, the Congress left the management of the industry to the intelligent guys, and on the other hand, some officials interrupt and disrupt the management efforts all the time. You can't really understand them – Din says.
The Chief says – we, the Yoruba, have a proverb that say - even if those in the congress are right, it doesn't mean they are wise. Because such prohibition laws don't stop good citizens from using drugs; it just makes the use of drugs illegal. That's all. Ah-Be.
Chief Balogun quickly list on a napkin, some consequences of such laws, prohibiting the freedom of good people to enjoy unhealthy habits.
Decent people continue to enjoy, but illegally.
Quality of the products (drinks or drugs) is bad. Increasing Health-Risk.
No regulations by proper authorities. More risks.
Cost is higher.
Intelligent guys benefit with dollars and power.
Intelligent guys make the system work for them.
Who are the winners?
Who are the losers?
More good people get hurt. For different reasons.
What about the taxes?
Tax money could finance "help centers" and education.
Citizens don't trust the congress to make a wise decision.
What about freedom and human rights?
I asked Din if the law prohibiting Euthanasia is included. Since I heard of Dr. Kevorkian, a hero of humanity. As a Medical Doctor, Dr. Kevorkian puts his license and freedom on the line, helping others to end their terrible suffering and endless pain.
Anyway, it's funny, who determines what is unhealthy or 'immoral'? the Church? the media? the Politicians? Corporates financial interests? – the Chief asked – Do you mean that decision makers don’t understand what you are telling us here? Na-Lie! E-No-Be-So!
Some of those Reps understand – Din replied – but once they get to power, their hidden little "hitler" comes out and they forget all about "freedom and human rights."
There was even one madam minister that suggested to prohibit the use of salt, because salt increase blood pressure. It is not a joke.
Ah-Ah, what happened to these congress people? what about freedom? Asked the Chief. It is like North-Korea and China. When the government want, they just lock good citizens in their houses.
Din says – don’t worry, one day, even in America they will find reasons to lockdown good citizens in their houses.
When this hidden little "hitler" comes out, they forget all about "freedom and human rights."
Na-Wawu - Chief Balogun says – in our beloved Nigeria land, we allow good people to enjoy. Of course, if they shouldn't harm others. That's our system here. We have freedom in Nigeria. Chief sounds very proud.
Chief Balogun Ajanlakoko says - Most people, including those Reps, manage well without brain, without capabilities to understand the reality and without data and knowledge. They manage well only with emotions, beliefs and intuitions. I can see their difficulties, after all, "understanding" is a very difficult process and learning the facts and data takes too much time.
Since that evening, I wonder – it's looks like the good guys lose and the bad guys win. Can't those governments manage unhealthy habits and still allow freedom and basic human rights? Why once they get to power, their hidden little "hitler" comes out and they forget all about "freedom and human rights."
Eventually, that meeting was over and it was the end of the story, except that five months later Chief Balogun Ajanlakoko tells me that Din has contacted him for assistance. Din asked the Chief if he knows someone in UTC - a big grocery store in Nigeria.
Din imported eight containers of Oyinbo's chocolate cookies from Denmark, mainly because importing chocolate cookies is illegal in Nigeria.
But Din can't sell them. Nigerians hates sweets. Everything must be spicy. No demand for sweet things in Yoruba land. Especially if it is from Denmark.
Chief Balogun Ajanlakoko told Din – Na-Wowu-You, good business needs public demand. Illegal is not enough. Anyway, at least, we now have the freedom to eat excellent chocolate cookies from Denmark.