Thursday, September 17, 2009


There is something about cats that’s appealing to some and not so compelling to others.

Coming right down to it, the basic instinct of we humans is for companionship. The cat can be relied upon to deliver on this need without asking much in return. Then again there is the cat’s valuable service to rid the home environment of vermin and pests. And cats are very good at what they do. The basic instinct of cats is to chase birds and catch mice and they are one of nature’s most successful predators. No wonder the cat is classed as the most popular pet in the world. And there I was thinking it was the dogs. Certainly not of the specie described by one of our frontline statesmen so many years ago as the “mad” variant.

I am sure you must be wondering by now ‘what is it with cats anyway’?

Well, like you, I find that anytime I think about this construct called Nigeria, my mind always settles on the popular saying relating to the cat and the bell. Surely, something must have prompted the coinage of that age old phrase that connects the bell and the cat. I did some research and found that when the dexterity of the cat at doing what it does best (catching mice) became too effective the mice-in-council met to decide upon a strategy to put a stop to the evil reign and they happened on a fine suggestion – ‘put a bell on the cat.’ That way, anytime the cat was around, the hapless victims will be notified by the jingling of the bell now around the cat’s neck and they can retreat to safety.

Nice idea it seemed to most in the supreme council. The question however arose, ‘who will bell the cat.’ I am not sure what the decision of the mice-in-council was at that stage but at some point cat owners also thought it wise to put a bell on their cats, mostly to be able to know where the cat was around the house any time it moves and for conservationists to warn some specie of birds before the cat could pounce on them. Of course this has not stopped cats from doing what they do totally, only reduced their effectiveness by about half the kill rate. Pretty good result for conservationists but for the prey, dead is dead. Cats introduced onto small isolated islands can significantly diminish the numbers of native birds and small mammals? It can be heartbreaking to see a beloved cat destroy a beautiful bird and the harm inflicted on the local bird population may be irredeemable.

So what do cats, Nigeria and the bell have in common, you ponder?

Our nation, I find, is like the home or environment to which the cat has been introduced. Our band of cats can be likened to leaders(and I must add followers) - people in high and low places who have been brought in and entrusted with the duty of alleviating certain conditions and to rid the environment of pests. Pests are your everyday scoundrel, social misfits, treasury looters, pen robbers, and the likes. You know the type. They are all over us. Inflicting grievous damage on stored grain, supplies and the national psyche. And the bell? Must stand for any instrument that can be employed to keep the plundering in check.

Unlike the ‘mice-in-council’ it appears we are yet to come up with a sound solution to checkmate the decimation. Not for lack of bright young and gifted people. For indeed as a nation we are home to some of the worlds finest and brightest. However, whilst most developed societies have found that the individual good can only be promoted by protecting common good, we continue in the folly of festering individual nests and stashing away resources for generations yet unborn.

And the hapless victims, the unintended sufferers of introducing the cat seem to have no answer to things. After all those entrusted with making decisions on their behalf have all capitulated. Our national watchword is if you can’t beat them, join them. So, more people join the bands of looters or abettors daily. But the question continues to beg an answer, "who will bell our cats?

Isn’t it funny after almost 49 years we have been going around in circles and we still do not know who will bell our cats?

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