By Anie Sunny Udo

Curiosity is the fuel for discovery, inquiry, and learning.’

Man and the apple fruit have a long history. Not entirely pleasant. The Biblical account of

the early encounter of man (woman I should say) with the apple fruit leaves a sour taste.

The eventual downfall of mankind – from a Godly tended Garden to the austere terrain of

plain and bare earth – is traced to the fact of man’s disobedience to his Creator. The first

man, Adam, ate the apple fruit following a sneaky encounter between Eve (Adam’s

helpmate) and the deceptive serpent. Eve was tricked to eat the apple in utter disregard to

God’s command forbidding the very act. She passed it on to Adam who followed suit in an

epic letdown moment. The consequence of that indiscretion led to the eviction of Adam

and Eve from the Garden of Eden and a life of relative ease. They were banished from the

comfort of the Garden and set forth to the outer part of the Earth to wander in toil and pain.

 

This unpleasant outcome from the Bible story remains an eternal albatross for man with

much regret. The woman, the serpent, and the apple are often viewed with suspicion,

trepidation and anger. Examined in this Scriptural context, some extremists refuse to make

a decent distinction between the woman and the beguiling enemy the serpent, perhaps till

this day. We shall proceed no further on that path riddled with potential heated controversy.

I have no interest in igniting a furnace that could be fanned by the descendants of Eve.

 

Despite the mis-steps of Adam and Eve, and a rather displeasing outcome, man still keeps

tasting and eating the apple. Some accord the fruit a premium status. It has featured

prominently in many folklores and mythologies. As the apple falls, not far from the tree as

the saying goes, man continues to find uses for it. The tainted and tragic role of the apple

in the fall of mankind makes it difficult to imagine a redeeming feature for an otherwise

appealing fruit. In the year 1666, the dim perception of the apple brightened when curiosity

got the better part of Isaac Newton (1642-1727). Newton was a British mathematician and physicist famous for his formulation of the three laws of gravity and motion – the basic

principles of modern physics. As reported in the Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s

Life written by William Stukeley and published in 1752, “the notion of gravitation came

into his mind…occasioned by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a contemplative mood.”

Newton was curious to know “why the apple always descends perpendicular to the

ground.” His curiosity eventually birthed his famous laws of gravity and motion to give

mankind tremendous lift in many areas of modern science. That is the essence of science:

an impertinent question births a pertinent answer. Think of a fully loaded airplane taking

to the sky with ease and cruising to various destinations across the globe. Contrast with a

man that leaps into the air or an object thrown skywards that is suddenly forced back to

earth by gravitational force. Knowing that the origin of that scientific breakthrough, to defy

gravitational force, was sparked by an innocuous falling apple must be a redeeming and

uplifting moment for the otherwise despised apple fruit. Newton’s curiosity in a falling

apple changed the way we understand the Universe, for good.

 

This brings us to our subject of interest: curiosity! It’s been established that ‘curiosity is

the essence of human existence.’ I should revise that to read, ‘curiosity is a critical driver

and enabler in human development.’ But for curiosity, man will still be limited to a cave

existence. Curiosity caused the caveman to ignite fire from stone, which inspired

other discoveries, inquiries, and learning. The trajectory of human existence and

development continues to maintain a progressive curve and is still rising. In Nigeria, we

seem to be carrying on with a low propensity for curiosity in our national development matrix. The culture of curiosity seems to be dormant or dying. We have stopped asking

questions. Such questions that pricks the conscience, probes the mind and sparks the

intellect.

 

There was a time Nigerians were keen at asking questions. Indeed, provoking questions to

gear the citizens to possible remedial actions to salvage the menacing ills in our society. A

prominent citizen once berated the cowardly docility among us at the eve of General Sani

Abacha’s demise with some rasping and touchy questions. Hear him: “Nigeria is full of

paradoxes. While individual Nigerians may provide the best specimen of the most strongly

willed persons around, we nonetheless display unbelievable passiveness in the face of

injustice. Society displays little opposition against wrong policies. Why is this? What is the

reason for this apparent docility? What has happened to the social and political conscience

of the people of this country? What has happened to our people’s sense of justice and desire

for choice?”

 

Wait for it! Those were questions from General Muhammadu Buhari then. A fitting follow

up question would be what happened to him, between then and now? The answer is loudly

blowing across a harassed and suppressed country with people gone mute. As a society, we are receding back in time. We seem set on a gradual descent into the Stone Age with life

in Nigeria sliding into the Hobbesian state of “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” It’s

a certain outcome for a society that stops questioning particularly the absurd, the bad, and

the ugly. That this bizarre turn of events is happening under the watch of President

Muhammadu Buhari is a truly baffling paradox.

 

The instinct and challenge for survival provokes curiosity. Such as Vijay Mahajan, an

Indian scholar and author in his book, AFRICA RISING provides compelling reasons for

the driving force for the curious minds. According to him, “There will soon be a billion

consumers on the continent of Africa…Every day, they need to eat. They need shelter. They

want education for their children. They would like to have soaps to wash their clothes.

They desire cell phones, metal roofs for their homes, televisions, music, computers, movies,

bicycles, cosmetics, medicines, cars, and loans to start businesses. They celebrate

marriages, births, and religious holidays and commemorate death.” When one

contemplates these life essentials, the spark to get curious on how to deliver in our

individual capacities and stations becomes eager, urgent and real. It should get one up and

out from bed. It should drive one to find work for productive engagement as a means of

acquiring the building blocks for critical “stomach infrastructure.” Every human needs this

to survive and stay healthy and alive. Mahajan compilation constitutes a robust assortment

of opportunities for thought provoking tasks and missions to accomplish.

 

Considering the fact that Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, about 200 million

people (one of five Africans), then our task is cut out for us. We may pretend all we can

and try to shirk our seemingly manifest responsibilities to ourselves, our people, Nigeria

and Africa. We may in ignorance and disguised laziness “pray for things God had given us

the capacity to do,” hence neglect doing them. One thing is certain, like the late radical

nationalist Mallam Aminu Kano rightly warned that “Nigeria will know no peace until the

child of nobody can become somebody without knowing anybody.” Simply put, until

Nigeria takes up her manifest role and responsibility to her citizens, Africans and the black

race, the country will not rise and shine. Prof Tunji Olaopa, puzzled by the perennial under

performance of the country, once posed a self-probing question: “when will Nigeria help

itself or be successfully helped, to take itself sufficiently seriously to stem the tide of these

disturbing and dismal generational wastages and desecration?” Nigeria can sanitize her

soiled reputation and shade her battered image. We can transform our country to a

redeeming, responsible and glittering nation. Yes, we can! If only we can recognize and

act on our Newton moment. Recall the falling apple and Newton’s curiosity.

The leadership recruitment exercise in the year 2023 is such an auspicious moment for

Nigeria. We ought to be reminded that the highest calling of leadership is to challenge the status quo and unlock the potential of others. Nigeria needs leaders who will lead the

resurgence of this great nation to unlock and unleash its potentials to become the true giant

she ought to be. The riskiest thing we can do is to miss this moment of transition and

maintain the status quo, which has inherent combustive materials for self-destruction.

Martin Luther King, (Jr.), the late American civil right king had cautioned that “Every

society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of indifferent who are notorious

for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay

awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”

Curiosity may have killed the cat. The lack of ennobling curiosity is equally fatal for a

people, a society and a country that continues to wobble and fumble. It risks sliding into

irrelevance and extinction. A stitch in time saves nine. A word to the wise, they say, is

sufficient. “He, who has ears, let him hear.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.