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Bello: National amnesia whitewashes the White Lion

By Tunde Odesola

Sleep is the next-door neighbour to good memory. This is the view of neurologist Andrew Budson and neuroscientist Elizabeth Kensinger in their book, “Why We Forget and How to Remember Better: The Science Behind Memory,” published in 2023 by Oxford University Press.

It’s my considered view that lack of sleep can twist the head backwards, like Humpty Dumpty-headed Nigerian leaders, who amass fleeting riches, little realising that life is a transient journey exemplified by the birth of Solomon Grundy on Monday, christening on Tuesday, marriage on Wednesday, sickness on Thursday, worsened on Friday, death on Saturday, and burial on Sunday.

Macbeth murdered sleep and he slept no more; Nigerian leaders murder sleep, yet they snore even more because hell lives here.

Both Budson and Kensinger believe that memory isn’t a bank that just sits somewhere in the brain. They aver memory is an active and effortful process. Using FOUR as a mnemonic for things to do to get information encrusted into memory, both researchers opined that the mind must (F)ocus attention, (O)rganise the information, (U)nderstand the information and (R)elate the information to something the brain already knows.

According to the authors, when someone goes to a party and can’t remember anybody they met or when a student studies for an exam and can’t recollect the content they know, such an individual cannot focus attention. When struggling to retrieve information from memory, the scholars advise the individual to avoid the urge to generate possible answers, saying in those trying moments, the individual should use retrieval cues such as remembering events at the party or what he read the last time he studied for the exam, ‘the context, and the possible connections’.

To store up information in memory for longer-term access, getting enough sleep is one of the most important things to do, counsel Budson and Kensinger, adding that, “Sleep helps information to move from being briefly accessible to being stored in long-term ways.” Eating right, engaging in regular exercise, keeping a healthy body weight and being socially active are other ways of keeping the brain healthy, says the researchers.

Budson, a Professor at Harvard Medical School, contends, “There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing your memory or using memory aids. I offload my memory as much as possible. I have all my passwords written down in a secure digital place. I use calendars, planners, and lists.”

Kensinger has a piece of advice for the student studying for an examination: Do not cram! She explains that the need for sleep and the time it takes to reach understanding make it important for students to start their preparation early and keep it going throughout the semester rather than cramming right before a big test.

Chair of Psychology and Neuroscience, Boston College, Professor Kensinger says when the individual is aging, and not struck with Alzheimer’s disease or age-related diseases or disorders, the brain prioritises the gist of events by embracing the similarities across events rather than trying to hold on to each individualised event.

In an article, “Why We Have to Forget to Remember,” written in The Sunday Magazine, a psychologist, Oliver Hardt, says: “If we lost the ability to forget, we might also lose the ability to remember.” Hardt, an assistant professor at McGill University, explains the brain needs to free up space to make room for new memories.

Hardt, who specialises in cognitive neurosciences, says, “The brain is some form of promiscuous encoding device. It just forms memories of basically anything you pay attention to. If that goes on unchecked for days and days, the brain will be flooded with an army, almost, of useless memory demons that distract you in any way possible. That’s where the brain’s automatic forgetting process comes in.”

Furthermore, Hardt says ‘neuromodulatory events’ help the brain figure out which experiences are important. “If you get excited, or afraid, or you have a moment of surprise, or there’s something novel in it you didn’t expect, these experiences cause the release of certain substances in the brain (like dopamine and norepinephrine). They improve the memory-making process that is going on in the moment. If there is a strong emotion associated with a memory, there’s a greater chance it will withstand the brain’s natural forgetting process,” he explains.

Although none of Budson, Kensinger or Hardt links brain health to corruption, the way Nigerian leaders loot the treasury while the populace hail will, no doubt, reveal profound research findings. Essentially, corruption is a function of the mind, with Nigeria being the rich farmland, where Òkété, the pouched rat, shoots at the farmer; ignoring the folkloric song, Òkété o ma yin’bon s’oloko, popularised by senior citizen Tunji Oyelana. With mouths full of palm kernels, pouched rats in government aim the bullets of inflation at the skulls of the masses as prices of goods and services soaraway.

Nigeria’s òkété leaders ignore the fate that made Macbeth describe life as ‘a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’.

If you read George Orwell’s Animal Farm, you will understand there’s nothing humans can do that animals can’t do when the ink in the quill of a writer is drawn from the well of creativity. Also, if you listened to Fela Anikulapo’s evergreen belter, Beast of No Nation, you can recollect the ‘egbékégbé’ atrocities performed by ‘òturúgbeké’ ‘animals in human skin’.

Once upon a time in Kogiland, there lived a little òkété called Bello. Due to its insatiable greed, the òkété could store plenty of palm kernels in its mouth for days and watch other òkétés’ children and aged òkétés starve to death. Inasmuch as its own children, family and friends eat and live well, it doesn’t matter whatever happens to all other òkétés. Because of its agility, the òkété can also store palm kernels in holes and treetops. It doesn’t matter if the palm kernels rot away, it’s okay insofar Òkété Bello’s family and friends have enough to feed and waste.

Òkété Bello soon grew big and arrogant. One day, it saw its reflection in the mirror inside the farmhouse. Òkété Bello didn’t see a pouched rat in the mirror, it saw a lion, a White Lion! It shouted, “Wow! Na mi bi dis!?” It took many steps away from the mirror, looked at itself fully, shook its white mane, and suddenly dashed forward, like a lion after a prey, stopping just an inch from the mirror, and roaring at the mirror, “I am a lion, a white lion!”

In a dark corner, the Tortoise cleared its throat, startling the òkété, who let out a squeak.

Tortoise: I bow and tremble, the White Lion.

White Lion: Are you talking to me, Tortoise?

Tortoise: Are you not the White Lion?

White Lion: Ehm, yes, I am.

Tortoise: Why don’t you go to Kutuwenji to join your fellow lions? I can lead you there.

White Lion: Sure? When?

Tortoise: We can go right away, I hate procrastination.

White Lion: I won’t devour you, don’t be afraid.

Tortoise: Thank you, sir.

They trekked for three days and three nights, arriving at a wild plain by dawn. “You see that Iroko tree?” asked the Tortoise, pointing at a lone tree on the horizon, “Yes, I see it,” answered the White Lion. “Beneath it is the den of lions,” said Tortoise in a nasal tone, “Go and join your kindred, stop eating palm kernels, go and eat fresh meat and crack fresh bones.”

“Are you going back?” the White Lion asked Tortoise, who said, “Yes, I’m going back to Surulere to oversee the palm kernels on your behalf.”

There was a fierce battle for power when White Lion reached the den. Nobody noticed it. The aging lion from Katsina was abdicating the throne and aspiring lions were jostling to take over. The ferocious fight raised a cloud of dust. The den quaked. White Lion watched and pitched its tent with the Katsina pride against the Lagos pride.

The Katsina pride needed to bind the pinned-down Lion of Bourdillon, but the paws of the lion couldn’t hold the rope, so the white Lion strutted forward, “My claws and mouth can do the job. I’m the White Lion!” The Katsina lions looked at one another, they kept silent. White Lion, using its claws and mouth, ran the rope tight around the Lion of Bourdillon, calling the leader of the Lagos pride names. The Lion of Bourdillon kept silent, calculating.

At the last minute, the Lion of Bourdillon roared to life, shattering the rope and launching an onslaught. Lagos and Katsina lions fought all through the night and victory swung the way of Lagos in the morning. After the dust settled, the aging Katsina Lion retired to Daura. EmefieLion was the first casualty, White Lion is the second, and there will be more to go. In the winner-takes-all jungle, lesser animals mustn’t toy with the lion’s share. Lions don’t forget, only humans do.

The White Lion has transformed back to òkété aje lójú onílé, and has run into a hole. Nigeria’ll forget this drama very soon.

Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.com

Facebook: @Tunde Odesola

X: @Tunde_Odesola

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