Metaphors like proverbs and other figurative expressions have a way of revealing hidden truths. Because metaphors come with images, they also create lasting impressions in the subconscious mind.
For metaphors to achieve these, that is, reveal hidden truths and create lasting memories, they must be based on the subject matter, or topic of discussion.
Let us examine some metaphors and their relationship within the contexts they were applied:
“I have begun to plant thee, and will endevour to make thee full of growing.”—King Ducan
“There if I grow, the harvest is yours.”—Banquo
Both quotations were from Shakespeare’s Macbeth and were spoken by King Duncan and Banquo, two of Shakespeare’s notable characters. They are known as gardening, or farming metaphors because they evoked images that had to do with planting and harvesting.
King Duncan had uttered his metaphor in appreciation of Banquo who together with Macbeth had defended Duncan’s homeland Scotland against Norway which wanted to overrun it. Duncan’s metaphor meant he had started early to nurture Banquo and would eventually build him to a matured and successful adult. When Banquo responded, “There if I grow, the harvest is yours”, he was echoing the norm in England then when whatever business operations a subject carried out, it was meant for the benefit of the king. What Banquo implied by his responsorial metaphor was that whatever successes he achieved as a result of King Duncan’s guidance and nurture would ultimately be for the King to apply at his disposal. These metaphors were uttered at the right moment and fittingly connected to the discussions at hand. King Duncan was so enamoured of the victory achieved for him by Banquo and Macbeth at the hands of Norwegian Armies, hence he felt justified to describe Banquo, one of the generals of his Army in superlative terms, hence the gardening metaphor he uttered. In return to Duncan’s eulogies on him, Banquo in his metaphorical response which was derived from Duncan’s gardening metaphor, adhered to the norm of humility which Elizabethan subjects had for their kings. “There if I grow, the harvest is yours,” meaning whatsoever he produced as a result of his toil would be entirely for King Duncan.
“Caged with sex:” This is a metaphor I put in the mouth of a character in my yet to be published novel, “The Triumph of Aririeri” This was exactly how I expressed it in the novel: “In order to prevent Eze Umuaja from having anything to do with the other wives, Nmaenweagwa decided to cage him with sex.” While I would not like to divulge information about the yet to be published novel, I would want the reader to however note that Eze Umuaja had four wives, and Nmaenweagwa the last one who was a paragon of beauty had a hold on the king against the will of the other wives. In her wickedness to corner everything in the household, Nmaenweagwa decided to use sex as a bait. She used it so well to trap the king, so much so that Eze Umuaja shunned the other wives, concentrating entirely on his ravishing wicked beauty, Nmaenweagwa. It was in that context that I applied the metaphor, “Nmaenweagwa decided to cage Eze Umuaja with sex.” This is a zoological metaphor because it conjures up the image of a wild, or dangerous animal confined in a cage in the zoo, or any other places to prevent it from coming out to harm people. In the same vein, if Nmaenweagwa successfully caged Eze Umuaja with sex, he would not go out to meet the other wives. Again, the metaphor fitted superbly in the context in which it was used.
The most beautiful metaphors ever heard in Nigeria were spoken by two former late presidents of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. I had planted these metaphors into my subconscious memory because of their beauty and memorable images they evoked. At the thick of the 1983,or thereabout presidential political campaigns, Alhaji Shehu Shagari had mockingly described Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as, “The beautiful bride of Nigerian politics.” In his response, Zik had sought to ridicule Shagari by elevating the marriage metaphor to sarcasm. Hear Zik: “At 85, I have refused to marry you.” Alhaji Shehu Shagari knew that Zik was a charismatic politician who everybody wanted to be associated with, but Zik had rejected any alliances with all of them. Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s metaphor of beautiful bride was therefore a kind of frustration he expressed over his inability to get Zik to join and work for the NPN where he, Shagari belonged. Zik was a staunch member of the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP). The political juggernaut knowing his pedigree, had told Shagari in his metaphorical response that he Shagari was a baby politician whom he could not associate with even at 85 years of age. “At 85, I have refused to marry you.” Note that Zik’s reference to marriage does not connote physical union of two opposite sexes, but an attempt to ridicule Shagari by telling him that he could not condescend so low to work with someone who was far below his political pedigree.
However, despite that the metaphors was not connected to physical union, mischievous cartoonists had gone to town depicting Dr. Azikiwe as a beautiful sophisticated woman wearing lady’s clothes and psychedelic shoes, waiting to be courted by prospective suitors. One particular cartoon stood out: It was the beautiful drawing of Nnamdi Azikiwe dressed in a flowing gown, with his lips painted red with lipsticks, long ear rings were hung on his ears, with a four layer lady’s high-heeled shoes to match. Another mischievous cartoon was one in which Zik tied Dutch wrapper with a blouse and head tie to match. The psychedelic shoes they put on his feet, the gold earrings and attractive lady’s wrist watch he wore, made Zik looked like an elegant beauty queen waiting to be crowned Miss World.
While talking about metaphors, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu the APC Presidential candidate recently came out with a metaphor. Tinubu’s choice of metaphor scandalized the Christian world, particularly the Catholics in Nigeria because he had taken it from the holy sanctuary of God- the Church. Nigerian Christians had understood Tinubu’s metaphor as a continuation of his hatred for Christians, which they said started with his Muslim-Muslim ticket, a reference to his choice of Kashim Shettima, a fellow Muslim as his vice presidential candidate.
Here is Tinubu’s metaphor: “How do you prevent a church rat from eating poisoned Holy Communion?” Tinubu uttered his metaphor during a conference hosted by the Arewa Community in Kaduna. The APC Presidential flag bearer was asked how he would deal with climate change in Nigeria if he became President. He had responded with a metaphor thus: “How do you prevent a church rat from eating poisoned Holy Communion?” One thing to note first is that Tinubu’s metaphor was completely unrelated to the question asked, or the issue being discussed. The issue being deliberated was the effect of climate change on the environment, especially as regards to the wave of floods that had ravaged Nigerian communities. Tinubu, so sure of himself, while responding to the question decided to dazzle his audience with the analogy of the church rat eating poisoned Holy Communion, a metaphor that had nothing whatsoever to do with what was asked. The APC presidential candidate should have taken his analogy from the environment, or something related to the topic under discussion. For instance, he would have said: “Deforestation is a monster that is causing irreparable damage to the environment.” Or better still, “felling of trees is one way of killing the environment.” These are metaphors that would have suited the question asked instead of the scandalizing poisoned Holy Communion metaphor Tinubu served us with. If Tinubu had toed the lines prescribed for him above, they would have given him the background to continue with the discussion, and as he progressed, more relevant information on the topic would have cropped up naturally. Instead, he came up with his church rat eating poisoned Holy Communion which caused a stir at the auditorium and elicited condemnations from Christians. And to speak of poisoned Holy Communion is an abomination, that was why the Christian community mobbed the APC Presidential Candidate with criticisms when his inelegant metaphor came to the public gallery. You know Holy Communion is like a covenant Christians entered into with God through Jesus Christ, so when somebody came out and begin to disparage it, it would draw the ire of faithful Christians, which was why they attacked Tinubu when his horrifying metaphor came out. And while we were talking about the Christians’ criticisms of Tinubu’s gory metaphor, some people were reasoning that by the way the presidential candidate of the APC has been speaking incoherently and uncoordinatedly of late, he could be suffering from a medical condition known as dementia, or even retrograde amnesia. Both conditions involve loss of memory.
Although, I do not agree with them on this, especially as it has not been confirmed by medical experts, could it however be responsible for the meaningless verbiages the former Lagos Governor has been entertaining us with?