It was Sigmund Freud that stated that “every man has a right over his own life” and that majority of conflicts stem from an inordinate impulsion of a way of life over another’s. It is against this backdrop that Nigerians and indeed the world over are furious over the detention of Mr. Joe Fortemose Chinakwe, otherwise known as Joe Iroko, for christening his personal dog “Buhari.”
In writing this piece about the needless and diversionary ruckus generated by the naming of the dog, “Buhari, it is pertinent to state that I have had (still have) dogs whom I named after great men, women, places and things I admire. I had, therefore, named my dogs, Gaddafi, Idi Ami, Nkurumah, Obama, Mandela, Margaret Thatcher, Justice, Lioness, Tiger, Lagos, Abuja, Prince, Princess, Alhaji, Alhaja, Mimi, Timi, Law, etc. Dogs have fascinated me even from when I was a child and as soon as I could afford owning one, I never hesitated. There is no time anyone will visit me in my home without coming across a dog with a fanciful name. One of the things that fascinates me about dogs is their innate ability to be completely loyal to their masters and antagonistic to intruders. As Sigmund Freud also stated: “Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate.”
Dogs, have been severally described as “man’s best friend”. Permit me to deviate a little to explain the origin of this phrase. In his trilogy written in the 8th century BC, the Greek Poet, Homer, described the scene where on Odysseus return from the Greek war with Troy, his dog, Agros, was the only one to see beyond his disguise and instantly recognised him. Not only was Argos now over 20-years-old (since the war in Troy was fought for 10 years and Poseidon punished Odysseus for another 10 years for his arrogance towards the gods), but in his master’s absence he had been neglected and forgotten, relegated to sleep on a pile of manure. When Odysseus returned, he was heartbroken to find what was only a shell of the dog he left behind.
Because of the hoard of the unruly suitors moving in on his wife, Odysseus had to remain disguised, as a beggar. While he was able to fool all of the people from his past, there was no fooling his beloved best friend. Argos had been waiting all of those years to see the safe return of his master and, when he finally did, he was too weak to stand. He did, however, manage to drop his ears and wag his tail. Odysseus, for fear of being discovered, couldn’t even greet the one true friend he had ever known. He let slip a single tear, entered his hall, and with that, Argos died.
Dogs’ popularity as companion animals with, perhaps, ability for extra-sensory perception, began growing in the 18th Century, intensified in the 19th, and finally full-blown, flourished in the 20th Century, as man began to manipulate breeding to emphasise and diminish certain traits. Over time, what man once viewed as a wild animal became his friend. But the first recorded instance of the phrase “man’s best friend” came from King Frederick of Prussia, who, in 1789, was quoted as saying “dog is man’s best friend,” apparently in reference to his beloved Italian Greyhound.
In the late 19th Century, an American, named Burden, had a dog named “Old Drum”. Old Drum was a black and tan Hound dog. On October 28, 1869, Old Drum wandered into a neighbour’s yard and was shot on sight. Burden heard the gunshot and called his dogs in, they all came running… all except for his favourite. He ventured next door but his neighbour, Leonidas Hornsby, denied having ever seen Old Drum. After a brief search, Burden found his dog lying dead and looking as though he’d been placed by the side of a creek. Enraged that he was lied to and that his best friend in the world had been killed, Burden sued Hornsby for $100 in a case that would eventually travel all the way up to the Supreme Court. In addressing the Jury during closing submission, Burden’s Attorney, George G. Vest, stated strongly in the following words:
“Gentlemen of the jury: The best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps, when he needs it the most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honour when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog…”
“…Gentlemen of the jury: A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master, as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation fall to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens. If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.”
Burden won the case (the jury awarded $50 to the dog’s owner) and also won its appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court. A statue of the dog stands in front of the Warrensburg, Missouri, courthouse and a bust of the dog resides in the Missouri Supreme Court building in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Coming back home, Mr. Iroko was said to have named and hung “Buhari” over his dog within the Hausa section of Ketere market, Sango, Ogun State, on 13th of August, 2016. It was reported that this caused pandemonium within the market, leading ultimately to the swift arrest and subsequent charging of Iroko to the magisterial court by the Nigeria Police. Iroko was charged for committing an offence contrary to and punishable under section 249 of the Criminal Code of Ogun State, with the prosecutor stating that his action is an innuendo targeted to breach public peace! Is it not astounding how the police investigate “crimes”?
In a somewhat different version, it was also reported that Iroko’s neighbour, an Hausa man, had reported him to the police for naming his dog, Buhari, after his own father, Alhaji Buhari. To him, that was an innuendo targeted at him. Iroko was then swiftly arrested and taken to Sango Police Station, from where he was taken to Police Command, Eleweran, Abeokuta. He was charged to the Magistrate Court and subsequently granted bail and released after cooling of his heels for a few days at the Ibara prison, Ogun State, due to his initial inability to perfect his bail conditions. Sadly, the dog in question was, afterwards, said to have been killed by the Hausa community within the Ketere market, Sango, while Iroko was undergoing the ordeal of detention.
The question on the lips of many Nigerians is: What is the proprietary of charging a man to court for naming his own dog “Buhari”? Was Iroko right in the naming of his dog “Buhari”? Is it indeed, a crime to name a person’s own dog after any person, living or dead? Is it wrong to do so in law? A right is said to be an entitlement or justified claim to a certain kind of positive and (or) negative treatment from others, to assistance from others or non-interference from others. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, makes this point clearer by defining “right” as “legal, social or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory”.
To be continued.