With Anote Ajeluorou of The Nigerian Guardian, Chuma Nwokolo discusses the P.A.S.S. and a few other subjects:
“Chuma Nwokolo is a lawyer, but a consummate writer, whose short stories have a huge appeal, especially with a natural humour built into them that beguiles. He has written many works, but his two most recent, Diaries of a Dead African and The Ghost of Sanni Abacha explore the many contradictions that [characterises] Nigeria’s modern-day society. In this online conversation, he gives an insight into the short fiction and how he has [deployed] it to analyse what he termed Post-Autocratic Stress Syndrome (PASS) among Nigeria’s political elite.
IT is simple really: I looked for a rational explanation for our contradictions. We have an open, democratic society but autocratic election heists like ‘June 12’ are still rampant. We have a society governed by the Rule of Law, but well-connected plutocrats routinely get away with murder. We have a society where constitutionally guaranteed human rights are aborted every time ‘Might’ collides with ‘Right’ — or a soldier pulls out another citizen from a car for a public flogging.
The Post Autocratic Stress Syndrome explains it to my mind. I am obviously paralleling the well-known Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSDs), which are anxiety disorders that often cause behavioural problems. So soldiers, for instance, could suffer PTSD after leaving a war zone, making them unable to fit properly into normal society.
In a similar way, I am suggesting that as a society, we have emerged from three decades of dictatorship with serious problems. Our society’s Post Autocratic Stress Syndrome affects different people in different ways. A politician with a bad case of PASS will play the dictator lording it over his subjects. He will think that ordinary laws do not apply to him, that he is above the constitution.
As a governor, he might go a bit mental — try to steal more than the dictators themselves. He will forget he is a servant who is accountable to his employers. Individuals suffering from PASS will meekly accept all manner of humiliations from ‘public servants’. They have a ‘head knowledge’ of their constitutional rights, but they are so psychologically damaged by their lives under the dictators that they have a permanent inferiority complex. They have no heart knowledge of their own authority.
It is a whole spectrum of dysfunction and it is possible to locate sufferers on the scale, based on their behaviour. Yet, by focusing on appropriate behaviour, we can also begin to turn things around.
So in my book, The Ghost of Sani Abacha, I present a collection of 26 stories set in the aftermath of dictatorship. They are today’s stories; so they are not dominated by politics and oppression and dictatorships… Politics is there in the background alright, but our characters live and love in a free society, with varying shades of that emasculation that is the legacy of the Post Autocratic Stress Syndrome.”
The interview continues here.