Ruth Tene Natsa
Abuja – Indeed if there is one topic that has made one question what Nigerians worry about, it is the story of the failure of an unnamed young man who had asked Nigerian Octogenarian and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka to vacate his (the young mans) allotted seat on a flight.
According to the story, which was narrated and made public by Oil Mogul Tonye Patrick Cole on his Instagram page “I met one of the greatest Nigerians walking the earth today and as with other times, he was genteel, witty, forthright and humble. My smile gives me away as he permitted the picture whereas he would have preferred to get back to his newspapers”.
“Then we boarded the flight and after assisting him with his bags, he took the window seat and promptly started reading again.
A few minutes later this young man, baseball cap, t-shirt to show his muscled chest and tattooed biceps boards the plane and tells Prof ‘he is on his seat’’ (which he was). Those of us including the cabin crew tried to reason with Bobo Fine to let the old man be but the chap refused. He insisted Prof should vacate his window seat, which the old man quietly did for his original aisle seat next to him”.
Tonye Cole ended his diatribe by saying” I couldn’t understand how we got to this point where we no longer have respect for elders, even if we are so ignorant of the great global personalities in our midst. Is it too much to ask that an elderly man be allowed to remain in a seat allotted to you in the same business class cabin and the same row? Na wa o!
While the post did not indicate whether it was a local or international flight, the story however posted on Sunday has elicited all manner of reactions, from outrage and condemnation of the young man, for not honoring, one of Nigeria’s best, to anger by many who blamed the likes of Wole Soyinka for placing Nigeria where it is today.
Others hailed the young man’s right to stand up for his right and for claiming his seat without recourse to etiquettes of tradition which demands respect for elders. As though that was enough, others blamed the Prof. for not seating on his own allotted seat, thereby giving the young man the chance to disrespect him in the first place.
As though all of that was not enough, a Tosin Odunfa went on his page and crafted a story claiming to be the unnamed young man. In his words “I am the young guy! Yes, the one in question with a baseball cap and t-shirt, I am unashamed to be at the prime of my youth, in fact, I blushed a little bit after reading your description of my chest and muscles. It’s thanks to strong discipline that I live a fit life and I am able to go to the gym o my tight schedule.
“Prof. didn’t mind getting up and in fact, he confided in me as we chatted later on the flight that he would have done the same and that he was more embarrassed by the undue attention. Prof and I actually have few things in common, we are both in academia. I have a Ph.D in Electrical Engineering and teach Nano Electromagnetic Theory at the University of Mannittawiw.
“He said to me that he thinks that Nigerian youths need to stand up more for themselves than we do and he spoke to me about the ideals they tried to promote when he co-founded a secret society in his youth. I have read up on him now and know for sure that Wole Soyinka is a great man but I sadly was not taught about him in school. We exchanged contact information and I will certainly stay in touch.
“Please, note that I am on the Autism spectrum and need the view from the window to keep me from getting sick on the plane, hence my insisting on taking the window seat. Finally, Brother Tonye, the words on your lap are very inspiring, “everything you want is on the other side of not giving up,”
Following how much this issue trended on social media, many Nigerians faulted the young man for not honoring the Prof, if not for his accomplishment but rather for his age. The E-Rats totally forgot that Nigeria is one country, deliberately disregarding of its aged and elderly. We totally ignored that until recently, many pensioners died while struggling to access their pension payments
We totally ignored a society which permits the abuse of its aged and elderly who are often abused physically and emotionally by society and yet judged the young man for demanding his right.
While we may choose to take sides on this matter, it behooves us as a nation to return to the drawing board and access what has gone wrong with us as a people. While many of us do not know, history tells us that there was a time the aged in society were valued, such that they enjoyed free social and medical benefits including transportation. Nigeria must return to that place where she values her aged else we lose the custodians of our history. (Leadership).