‘We have scorched the snake, not killed it…’ (Act 3, scene 2) Shakespeare’s Macbeth
This conversation takes place between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth after Macbeth has killed Duncan, the king of Scotland. He was convinced to do so by Lady Macbeth. Once king, Macbeth is not satisfied. He decides that Banquo, a general in the Scottish army, is a threat, because he knows about the witches’ prophesies that his sons will be king after Macbeth.
In this scene, Macbeth is worried that Banquo will betray him, or even that he might be suspicious that Macbeth killed king Duncan. Lady Macbeth tells her husband “What’s done is done”. She is convinced that all they need to do is killing Duncan and then everything would be fine. But Macbeth is still worried. When he tells her they have “scotched” the snake and not “killed” it, he is using the snake as a metaphor for the threat to his being king. They might have killed Duncan, but they are still not safe. The “former tooth” can come back to get them. There are people who are a threat to them, and they have to be dealt with. Simplified: Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth that, by killing Duncan, they have not put the matter of the throne to rest. By scorching the snake but not killing it, Macbeth means that they still have threats to face, even with Duncan out of the picture. He also references that they have put Duncan to rest in peace, while they must still suffer through challenges so long as they are alive. Macbeth’s mounting guilt has made him increasingly paranoid, and he worries that his place on the throne, as well as his life, is not secure.
So, Macbeth is still quite worried. But Lady Macbeth still does not know how much. She finds out during a dinner, when Macbeth acts strangely seeing Banquo’s ghost. She begins to doubt their actions, leading to her eventual downfall into madness. Macbeth’s reaction to becoming king is indicative of his personality. He has what he wanted, but he is afraid to lose it. Lady Macbeth assumes that they are fine. They have what they want. She has underestimated her husband’s arrogance, greed, and paranoia. He is about to go on a killing spree to eliminate these so-called threats, and in the end, it destroys both of them. She succumbs to guilt and loses her mind, eventually killing herself. Macbeth’s murder of Macduff’s family causes the man to get his revenge at all costs, and Macbeth loses his head—literally.
Let’s learn here: Scorched snake means wounded snake. And so it can be more dangerous. When the image of the snake is used again, it is used to represent Banquo. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth see Banquo as the deceitful one; the person who could ruin their well-established place; the enemy who could wreck their lives as king and queen in their Garden of Eden. It is easier for Macbeth to kill Banquo because Banquo is the snake. Their Royal Majesty thinks it is not sinful to kill what the snake is representing.
Here is the real lesson for all of us at this perilous time. We should not sleep soundly yet that the #EndSARS momentum has been defeated with the seemingly orchestrated pollution of the campaign by some loud ‘militants’ we call ‘hoodlums’. Some of the so-called ‘hoodlums’ were also seeing re-looting some Covid-19 loot in some warehouses in some capital cities across the country. Who own those warehouses where Covid-19 labelled palliatives have been kept by state thieves amid hunger in the land? Have the custodians of the warehouses been waiting for the second wave of Covid-19 in the country before distributing the packages? The answers to these questions should not be allowed to blow in the wind even as we condemn massive looting of genuine shops in many cities.
Now back to the brass tacks: as the dust on the #EndSARS “loud and clear message” is settling, our leaders and elders at all levels should not return comfortably to their usual ‘hibernation mode’ yet. This is clearly a time of reflection on how all of us have contributed to the socio-economic condition that triggered the #EndSARS campaign by our resourceful youth, we glibly call our ‘leaders of tomorrow’ we work hard to paralyse today. Where is that elder, who is that leader who does not understand the “loud and clear message” of the #EndSARS Messengers of Hope? Here again is the thing, as we are looking for pieces of evidence on whether there were gunshots, blood- thirstiness, blood stain or camera switch-off and allied pieces on that landmark ‘Bloody Tuesday’ (#20-10-2020) the deep among our elders should reflect deeply on the sound of lyrics of the National Anthem our young ones were said to be rendering and the significance of National Flags they reportedly raised before the sound of gunshots still being disputed. Where did the blood-stained Nigerian flag emerge from that day? Whose blood stained that flag? Was it a photo-shop too? These pieces of truth we can’t hide in a grave for too long: They won’t stay there. As I have repeated noted here: once upon a time, some ancient political leaders hid one truth in a grave, the truth, yes that truth stayed there for only three days – before resurrection! And so certainly, the truth out of the claims of #20-10-2020 ‘Bloody Tuesday’ at Lekki Toll Gate will come out of the grave and the consequences and significance of that monument will set us free! Yes, our political leaders can set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on #20-10-2020 ‘Bloody Tuesday’, but that should not take any steam out of the significance of the message of #EndSARS campaigners that so many right-thinking members of the public have been analysing, contextualising and deconstructing. The loud and clear message connotes just one thing: that our leaders have been eating sour grapes and their children’s teeth are set on edge!
The children are saying clearly that enough-is-enough of eating of sour grapes by our fathers. The young ones who can’t see any ‘hope of a better tomorrow’, which Ngugi wa’Thiong’o, a Kenyan iconic writer says, ‘is the only comfort you can give to a weeping child’, are weeping that the deadly operatives inside SARS are not the trouble with Nigeria. They are saying rather the operatives too are victims of a broken system that has produced a corrupt police service. The young ones are therefore saying the federal police system, a by-product of a unitary system the military establishment imposed since 1966, should be reformed to reflect what obtains in all political systems operating federalism in global context. Nigeria is a member of ‘Forum of Federations’ based in Canada. Yet Nigeria is the only member of the (FOF) that operates a central police system that covers 36 federating units and 774 local government councils. The young ones’ message is: let us legally decentralise the operations of the Nigerian police system. The central authorities in Abuja cannot continue to operate a federal police system. The young ones are saying, we are not mentally lazy: we know enough to know that the present policing system is the reason all the reforms proposed so far for SARS since 2018 have not worked.
In the same vein, the governors including those that have established judicial commissions of enquiries to probe the extent of SARS alleged atrocities in their states as directed by Abuja should note that they can only submit their reports to Abuja and they may not get any response and review until June 1, 2023 when the current commander-in-chief must have returned to Daura. The 36 governors should therefore reflect on what they can do henceforth to engage the angry young ones (both the organic protesters and the so-called hoodlums) beyond the meretricious three-months job opportunities their elder brother and Minister, Festus Keyamo has been directed to give them from Abuja. The governors should not allow the young ones to be looking up to the hills in Abuja all the time ‘whence cometh their help’. Their help should come from their governors and local government councillors! Our leaders at all levels should deepen their understanding that these agitating young ones are not looking for money that can’t satisfy and prepare them to benefit from what 21st century offers. They are not looking for settlements that can’t prepare them to take over as ‘leaders of tomorrow’. They want the presiding officers and members of the national and state legislatures, for instance, to note that Nigeria cannot afford to pay them what even the economy cannot absorb. They want the legislators to explain what they mean by ‘hardship allowance’ among other frivolous allowances awarded to them. Who actually needs hardship allowance? The #EndSARS brand ambassadors are also asking when the current political class will reform the political system to prepare them to be ‘leaders of tomorrow’.
The deliverable on this #EndSARS challenge is that our leaders should quickly reset and update their governance action plans to include how to engage the creative energies of the young ones. Despite the curious disruptions by the wonders called ‘hoodlums’, the youth of Nigeria under the aegis of the #EndSARS Movement have demonstrated that they can manage the affairs of Nigeria. They know too that they have a country. We now know that the young ones know that they are not too young to rule. They have demonstrated that they know that Nigeria is the only country they can call their own. There is a sense in which we can claim too that the young ones now know the meaning of reform. They have asked for the reform of even their tormentors, the police. They know that Nigeria hasn’t come of age now more than sixty years after independence. So, they want an enabling environment in which they can use their brainpower to proper. They want to thrive in an environment that empowers its universities as centres of research and innovation for the most populous black nation in the world.
And so, our leaders and elders should not allow the gloom created by the past chaotic weeks to complicate our sense of purpose and responsibility. We should note specifically that the retreat that the angry youth have beaten can be likened to a danger that can be posed by the snake the Macbeths are contextualising as only wounded, and not killed. I hope we can absorb a concomitant message from Shakespeare that if our leaders ignore the message from #EndSARS challenge, they will murder sleep and so they will sleep no more – from now!
▪︎Inside Stuff With MARTINS OLOJA publushed in “The Guardian”, Sunday, October 25, 2020 (Back Page)