Are You a Chopping Baboon or a Working Monkey?

Penny Wisdom

By Emeka Uzoatu

Telling the world about things Nigerian is no walk in the park. You know, like the kind of you’d be doing holding hands – with the opposite sex – and perhaps reminiscing.

But even then it tends to get all the more messy when it concerns the nation’s symbiotic relationship with animalia. And it’s not as it concerns those of them ardoning our coat of arms – an eagle and two horses.

After all, upon a time, a losing presidential candidate promised that his compatriots’ would be swimming in blood if he lost. Of course he did not mention any of us in person but our animal equivalents.

Surely, he only succeed in confusing foreigners. Not pure bona fides like us. Even hard-boiled visitors never suffer the condition. Already acclimatized, they are even the ones to opine that the country is no zoo. Like one of us is risking his neck to prove.

But not all of them infiltrators know this, though. The more so when the person involved has not been in the country long. Like this guy I ran into the other day. Yet standing on a leg like the proverbial JJC, he was just fixated on our wise sayings. Already attuned to some of them, he was however taken in by one.

Like turned out, he had just come across this resounding Nigerian street saying about monkeys and baboons. A sure pointer that he has not been up and about enough, he could not align it to that call by that, well, disgruntled politician.

A chopping baboon.

Ordinarily it’s about monkeys working the hell out of themselves only to be left out when baboons congregate to enjoy. But like all are agreed, there are a lot to it than it presents the senses. Unless seen from the angle of what a congregation of baboons are called. I no know book o!

Yes, because even as plaintive as it comes across to the ears, it just as well encapsulates everything that is supposedly wrong with our labour and compensation laws. Put cross- and otherwise, it denotes the reality that what everyone earns in this country is oftentimes inversely proportional to the energy expended on the job.

Yet as close as it sounds, it remains far from another of the many of such suppositions traceable to the crucible of a certain Okafor of unknown pedigree. As far, I dare say, as Ogoja town is from where I am presently situated. And that’s as far as distances can be to elicit wonder to these selfsame ears of mine – if not yours.

What with the way and manner most of our compatriots have fallen for the acquisition of easy lucre. And why not, when all you need to be recognised in society is to make the killing. Chieftaincy titles and all the other trappings of a made human will surely follow you all the days of your life. Till perhaps you hit rock bottom again.

But sha, by then there would have been palatial mansions put up in all the state capitals and Abuja. A private jet for easy malingering and the latest rides for effect.

Initially it had white-collar jobs being the cock of the pack. You just get allocated a small desk in a miniscule office and your bread is buttered for life.

Here certain occupations are chosen over the rest. First choice here remain the uniformed cadres. Though the police ends up drawing the most flak, the others do not fare any better in the abuse of privilege. After all, the members of the police force most vilified about this remain the lowly in rank seeking no more than a little change to make ends jam!

Their officers with the more exquisite epaulettes on their shoulders are more often than not exempted from the blame game. Not unlike their colleagues in the Custom and Excise Department and even the military. So much that it’s no more hearsay in the country that with the armed forces corruption gets cooler the higher you rise in rank.

Of course, without mincing words, at the peak of the pyramid sits our politicians. Whether of the executive, legislature or judiciary. Yes, here the three arms of government are as stewed in the game as the other. In doubt, ask the common man who bears the brunt of all their mounting malfeasances.

But after all is said and done, it all comes to a matter of choice. Like all else in this terrible life we lead. Prompting the question whether anyone could willingly opt to line up with the monkeys rather than their alter egos. After all, like limned in another wisecrack, ‘come chop’ is differently complexioned from ‘come work’.

Emeka Uzoatu, a seasoned journalist and writer, is the editor of He writes the occasional column, Penny Wisdom.