Man is an animal(1)

It  has been said that man is only an animal with intelligence, distinguished from other animals by the ability to make intelligible communication, while a lot of people will argue otherwise, the line between man and his animal companions keeps getting thinner every day. This series of articles based on reai life events would focus on how close to animals we really are. the series is going to be looking at characteristics of animals that is found in their  so called “upright and intelligent cousin”


Beavers have a pair of anal scent glands, called castors that secrete a musk-like substance called castoreum, probably for marking territories.


Hornets will without fail try to kill you if you threaten their nest. outside their territory,they are practically harmless


“Daddy, Bimpe has started again,” she would scream from the backseat. My Dad would let go a sigh of exasperation: “so what has he done this time?” he would ask. “He won’t stay on his side of the back seat” She would reply.  Dad would shake his head and say  “this is much serious than I thought, so you mean both of you cannot sit at the backseat of a Mercedes Benz saloon car, big as it is, without quarrelling”  she would mutter under her breath “we won’t have to argue if he would stay on his own side of the seat.”

These exchanges between  my two younger siblings took place with amazing regularity until a few  years ago (the Bimpe in question now spends most of his car time in the driving seat, guess you can’t argue over that, can you?) and  they really gave me an insight into just how territorial human beings can get. While the issue of staking territory in cars is all but buried in our family, the issue of who sits where on the settee is still ingrained in our subconscious. If you are ever lucky enough to catch us during devotion in the morning as each person comes out of the room he/she marches to his/her place. I doubt if the arrangement ever changes. Even now that four of the five children are now usually absent on an average devotion day. I can still guess how the seating arrangement will look like with my eyes closed. There was a time my two sisters had a fight over someone sitting in someone’s place during devotion. (You can laugh only if something like that has not happened in your own house before). Looks like lions still have something to learn about defending territory.

Our house of course was unique, it is the kind of the house you get when you have five children under the age of fifteen and you have only one Volkswagen Beetle car to carry them in. tension inevitably boils from the car into the house.

Frankly, Lions should come to church, if not for the spiritual value, at least they can get one or two tips about defending their territory. Some people are perpetual back benchers. No matter how early they arrive on Sunday, they march to the back pew. Nothing short of a direct threat from the pastor, that anyone who sits at the back will not receive any blessings from God and will also go directly to hell will make them move. At least we can live with that.  The kind of public address systems that our churches use these days ensures that nobody ever really gets left out in church. But what do we say about people who won’t talk to each other because one came and met the other in her seat, or about people who changed churches because they came to church one day and the person who sat in their seat refused to stand up or move. As an usher I have been the object of several grumblings and complaints when I’d asked people to stand up from their seats and move somewhere else. As an usher I have also see people who are willing to stand up for an entire row of twelve people to go into the pew rather than give up their space at the entrance of the pew.

Before you begin to wonder what I have against churches, let me inform you that I schools it is the same. When I was in the university, we usually had large classes. Those are the times when you spy a seat with a good view of the lecturer, only to see it already occupied by a single sheet of paper, followed by a terse and sullen “somebody is there already. If you are peaceable (like me), you find another seat, and if there is none you make yourself comfortable on the floor. However if you are not so cooperative, you fling the sheet of paper away and sit on the seat anyway, but let me warn you that the resulting battle will make Armageddon look like a simple video game. I have seen it before.

The fight over territory is older than human beings. Ever since God fought with the devil in heaven over who should control what, as a result of which the devil was sent out of  heaven and sent to control earth, territory has become a legitimate excuse for humans to fight and kill themselves. All the wars that have been fought in history have been on the basis of someone wanting more territory than he has, someone not wanting someone else to take more territory than should be due to him, or someone trying to drive someone else out of his territory. The body count goes up to billions,(I’m not sure crocodiles and lions, no matter how ferocious they are can manage that feat). All the leaders king David, Adolf Hitler, Otto Von Bismarck, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln , Joshua, Saddam Hussein, Saladin and all the other leaders, mytical, physical and spiritual all had to fight over territory at one time or the other

Next to seats, the mobile phone ranks next as the ultimate territory marker. I will tell you of the running battles I had with my sister over “handling my phone and answering my calls without my permission.”  Needless to say of how many marriages have collapsed due to the fact somebody answered somebody’s phone without his/her permission. Now answering calls aside, most people are averse to touching their phone at all. Till today when my mum sees you touch her phone she snatches it from you with all the agility of a hawk snatching a chick from its mother’s protective bosom.

Between us guys, we are terribly protective of our sisters. A lot of guys will say this is not true. If you are among the people who say you are not, then you must either be a bald-faced liar and hypocrite, or you don’t have a sister. Even the most corrupt of guys will still regard his sister is still a trophy to be protected. I guess it is a guy thing.  The other day, I was with one of my friends whom I went to secondary school with. Then I saw a picture of his younger sister, a girl our junior by four or five years. “hm!” I said “your sister is looking good now, any chance I can get her number?” from the way he replied you would have thought he was Winston Churchill himself, defending the free world from Adolf Hitler’s expansionist tendencies “sorry to disappoint you, but the answer is no” “but you of all people should know I’m a good boy, I’ll take good care off her I promise” I teased further: “the answer is still no thank you.”  By this time his voice was rising higher than usual. “Okay, in that case, if you don’t give me her number, then I’m going to get it from her, myself.” He did not need to reply. His expression told me everything. “You try that, I’ll kill you with my bare hands, then I’ll burn your dead body with acid, before I burn the remainder with fire.”

I did not understand why he took the issue so personally until sometime later when a roommate tried the same routine with me. He was scrolling through my phone when he saw the picture of my younger sister. He exclaimed with all the glee of somebody who had just been informed that he won five million naira on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. “Oh! Do you know that your sister is very beautiful?”  “Really!” I said trying to affect a disinterested voice “but too bad she is already married to a soldier, he’s just waiting for her to finish school so that they can celebrate a proper wedding ceremony. But if you can fight sha, you can try your luck.” He replied “why do you have to tell such an unconvincing lie?  She’s not married and we both know it.”  “It’s all about money, how much do you have in your account that will make her look in your direction?” I quickly parried back. “that is no issue” he replied with a smile “love is the most important thing, I love her and she will soon love me back.”  By this time I could barely suppressed the urge to give him a wallop “she will not love you, so just forget it” “oh yes! She will” he replied. “will not” , “will too” , “will not.”   We were on the verge of blows when another third roommate interjected that  the solution to the problem was to bring my sister over and test the theory. “not until Michael Jackson returns to being black” I shouted. They both laughed. “so can we talk about something else?” they  looked at each other “no we want to talk about your sister.” I looked at them with barely concealed anger, “you are both mad”

Okay, maybe I took things too personally in that case, but let me tell you that human beings were created to be naturally selfish or does the holy book not say: “love your neighbour as yourself (which implies that you have to love yourself to a degree before you think about loving your neighbour). Erma Bombeck has a name for the condition, she calls it  possessionitis too much of it which is called the Acute, is not good and a total absence of it which is called the Null, is not good either, one might become that young lady in the popular Nigerian film Games Women Play  who felt magnanimous enough to lend her boyfriend to her best friend for sometime, but who learnt too late that her best friend had begun to enjoy the guy and had decided not to return him to her. She learnt with tears that there are things that you simply have to mark your territory over, things which you cannot just share another person, no matter how close that person is to you. That is human beings for you give them an inch, sometimes they take a kilometer. And here is one for the guys.  As for the Nile crocodile, every female who happens to fall into the territory he has marked out belongs to him.  So the fact that he is ready to fight so fiercely over his territory to the extent of sustaining serious   injuries is something every human guy can relate with. Women! What is the precise power they have to make us fight? we fight over them, we fight for them, and a lot of times, we fight with them.

But everything we have discussed so far is child’s play compared to the biggest of all, the football fan. Ever since the English Premiership enteredNigeria, the face of sports in the country has changed considerably. Soccer fans have changed from people who go to watch matches because they have no ceremonies to attend on Saturday, to pit bulls with an attitude.  The avid Nigerian soccer fan is not difficult to spot and I’m not talking about the squeamish (usually female) fans who sit around plasma screen TVs with bowls of popcorn in front of them, I’m talking about the middle aged man who pops in just as the match is about to begin, wearing a Jersey that the club he supports last wore ten years ago. This is intended to show potential opponents how long he has been a fan of the club, so that they would take care not to argue with him. This is so much like Nile Crocodiles staking a claim to territory.  By the time the match begins our football fan is hammering away. As far as he is concerned he is the club captain, fan, manager, chairman and owner all rolled into one. If you happen to be directly beside him, and you make a side comment, the first question he will ask you is “whom do you support?” in other words “who are you” (talk about lions being territorial). If you support his club, then you belong to his side of the line, and you will find out how amiable he can be. He will shower you with attention and affection throughout the game. He does not need to know your name, that you support his club is enough.

But if you are unfortunate enough to support a rival club, then you are his enemy. He becomes hostile to you, you are not fit to talk if he is talking, he will recount the number of times his club has beaten yours in the last ten meetings. His objective is to cow you into silence (so much for lions roaring at opponents). He will describe every comment you make as sentimental, especially if you make such comments when his team is losing. Every avid football fan will tell you that it is better to be roared at by a lion defending its territory, than to be shouted than to be shouted at by a fellow football fan when his team is losing. Nile Crocodiles often sustain serious and sometimes fatal injuries while competing for territory in a no holds barred contest of ferociousness, it is sad that I lost a very good friend and colleague f mine in an argument that originated in a public football viewing house. This is also going out to everybody who has been permanently disabled or who has lost a friend or relative in a football related matter.  It brings out the bestiality in human beings to be able to kill over a club separated from where you are by an ocean. In the last ten years foreign soccer has become a way of life and there seems to be no end to the football craze. For me, however the “madness” is as normal as life itself while we complain that that foreign soccer  has brought a lot of harm to the country, we should just try to imagine what would  happen if it were not there. Watching soccer games in plush armchairs and plasma screen TVs, compared to going to a public viewing house filled with nothing but wooden benches and passionate, howling fans is like watching the Egyptian protest on CNN and being at theIndependence SquareinCairo.

I started this piece with my younger brother and sister and I should end it on them. So what was it I wanted to say on them again? Nothing much except that my brother’s idea of a joke was to jump on my sister’s bed and grab her phone when she is not looking. To which the latter would respond by screaming all over the house like a siren.

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