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YES, NO DOUBT!

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Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Say, have you heard about the tragic tale of King Sisyphus? …No? Well not a problem, I’ll tell you all about it. Sisyphus was the King of Ephyra known to be very crafty and avaricious. He committed a lot of misdeeds including an attempted overthrow, homicides and a ghostly escape from the underworld after his death. To make matters worse, this cunning King even once deceived Thanatos (death) and tied him up, thus preventing anyone on Earth from dying for a long time. And so for his trickery, Zeus condemned King Sisyphus to endlessly roll a huge boulder up a steep hill. For me, a world of scholarship where all you do is wake up, rush for lectures, bury your head in homework and get hypertensive about one book of life is simply boring. It may be likened to the travail of Sisyphus. And the best antidote for this zombifying jogtrot remains an occasional dose of Aro. This drug, by the way, comes in varying shapes and colour but the distinguishing feature is always that tinge of seeming eccentricity manifesting in conduct.

Milords, as I stated earlier, aro is indeed a potent and natural anti-depressant. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure if a psychological study were to be conducted, the suburbia of U.I. would be found to be generally happier than the campus metropolitans simply because they appreciate and apply the Aro custom religiously. If all students live a bibliomaniac life devoid of comic reliefs (effectively provided by aro), then we will simply end up like Chinese students who, due to their great suicidal obsession, are prevented from diving into the spirit world via anti-suicide barriers. What is more, aro gives a sense of relief which is witty and natural. And unlike other means of relaxation like watching soccer matches, drinking chilled zobo and attending AWO101 nocturnal tutorials, it causes no demonstrable side-effect. To top it all, it is absolutely free! All you need to benefit is a little creativity, some courage and on occasion a loud voice.

To further substantiate my point, permit me to call to the witness box, Mr Adelaja Ajayi, the Chairman of UNILAG’s Mariere Hall in 2013. After catching a glimpse of ‘aroism’ in U.I. during that year’s Clash of the Sages, Mr Ajayi said thus: to the Ife boys, your display was nice. But you cannot do this in UNILAG and go scot-free. They would think you want to do aluta. Campus has been turned into a graveyard forgetting that one needs to rest after academic stress. I hope to bring this culture into our school.

Moreover, I must mention that engaging in aro is a good way to transform a cowardly snail into a roaring lion, discarding its shell of timidity and skin of hypersensitivity. A momma’s boy who spends a year in Nnamdi Azikiwe Hall for instance will never remain the same thereafter. He will feel a gradual surge in self-esteem and bodacious audacity. He will feel capable of challenging any worldly authority. If afforded the opportunity, he might even walk up to Queen Elizabeth II so as to ignite a relationship. Milords, that is how powerful the spirit of aro is. When it enters upon a man, no matter how unripe, his tongue will be liberated, his wit will be sharpened and his chest expanded.

If anyone claims that aroists are often ne’er do wells who do not excel academically, then I urge you, please hear what Aristotle has to say: there is no great genius without some touch of madness. I’m not saying all aroists are geniuses though, or that you can be super-brilliant simply by flinging sarcasms at passers-by. I’m only saying that that touch of madness which Aristotle referred to may well find demonstration in aro. Ms. Rahmat Oseni, from Obafemi Awolowo University, nailed it more succinctly when she said – male graduates that come out with good grades are usually residents of Awo Hall. More interestingly, they are the ones who lead the fun/aro … they’re always at the forefront of fun and merrymaking and they’re usually the most brilliant.

Asides the aforementioned, aro also makes any event which features it lively and memorable. Several decades after, you find that you can still flash back to it in clear pixels. Additionally, we must not lose sight of the fact that it equally curbs the excessive migration of females to male halls of residence (and its concomitant ills) through verbal discouragement. It is thus evident from the foregoing that the good in aro far outweighs the bad (if any) just as the rays from the Sun far outweigh anything a torch can offer. I mean, even the supposed victims benefit. Finally milords, old men in the days of yore used to tell us that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. But they forgot to add that it may equally jerk Jack to Jaja. And you know what they say about Jaja – o lewu o (it is risky o)!

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NO, IT HASN’T!

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“What is bad is bad. It has no other name.” – Yoruba adage.

Any bonafide resident of this campus would be as familiar with the Aro culture as the back of his hand. For the uninitiated, it is that tradition which encourages the verbal desecration of our shrines of dignity and respect for (wo)men. Ladies are often the victims of this harmful culture and it presents this campus as a microcosm of the larger misogynist Nigerian society.
The most obvious demerit to me has to be the barbaric objectification of women and sexual harassment that it symbolises. Beholding the act of “aroism”, a keen eye would notice that girls when passing by are no longer seen as human beings worth being respected, but as objects of unfounded insults and gross sexual advances. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines sexual harassment as “uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behaviour of a sexual nature.” Are we now going to say this is not present in our Aro culture? Are we now going to say that this is not a degenerative act? Are we going to pretend it is not harmful to the intellectual health of the future leaders of Nigeria?

My Lords, some may argue that it is nothing but an avenue to catch fun and that those girls, the ones on the receiving end, do enjoy it too. But this is a very dangerous view to hold. Even rapists use that as the justification of their deeds. Now, I’m definitely not comparing “aroists” to rapists. That would be ridiculous. But my Yoruba forefathers used to pray, “Olorun maje ki oun buruku mo wa lara,” meaning, “May we not become familiar with bad things.” Forgive the layman interpretation but to become overly ambitious with the translation would sterilise the point I aim to pass across. The Boko Haram bomb blasts used to cause terror and extreme sorrow all over the country in the early days of their occurrences when thousands of dead bodies were fused into five-word newspaper headlines. But today, the emotions it elicits is not as strong anymore. In fact, it no longer feels like news. Why? Because people have become used to the evil happenings and are consequently less intolerant. But does that now mean the Boko Haram bombings have become less inhumane because they have generated less public outcry nowadays? Definitely not! The same goes for the Aro culture. Just because these ladies have become weary of being averse towards it does not in any way validate the culture.

Furthermore, we need to put into consideration those ladies who have refused to embrace it with open arms. There are ladies who still feel disgusted by the unnecessary vulgarity that spews from the mouths of these perpetrators and lands on the ears of anyone passing by. We need to mind their feelings too and not rob them of their rights just because we want to have “fun”. What does that fun mean anyway? When did students of the University of Ibadan -I repeat, student of the University of Ibadan- become thuggish ghetto hood rats whose only conception of fun is the primitive utterance of unedifying words? I have been a first-hand witness to scenarios in which ladies are addressed with loud voices about their private parts. To borrow from Niyi Osundare’s words, they litter the streets of our ears with their dungs of abuse! It is like using curse words in a family-rated TV show. It is not only offensive, but irresponsible!

No matter the good sides my adversary may present before you, my esteemed Lords, it does not cater for the destruction of the self-confidence of ladies. By making the Aro culture the standard for measuring the attention ladies get, it makes the ladies that go unnoticed feel really bad about themselves. Because of the Aro culture, ladies especially now leave their sense of self-worth at the mercy of random strangers. Sometimes, mild cases become the harshest threats to self-confidence. Here is a representative picture:  two ladies were walking by in a male hall last semester. A guy called at them, “pretty girl, how are you?” One turned around and replied, “I’m fine.” The guy said, “Aunty, not you o. I said pretty girl. It’s not you naa.” I saw the girl’s face drop. She had just been indirectly told she was not pretty. If this is not a harmful effect of Aro, I don’t know what is.
The Aro culture, if to be maintained at all, needs to be reformed. The characteristics that engender it: sexism, harassment, vulgarity, anti-intellectualism and verbal bullying, should be eradicated if it is to be continued. We need not act like touts. Aro culture is not positive in anyway and we should not let it corrupt our society.

CONCLUSION: This column is about you, it presents the two sides of a case courtesy of two writers from different schools of thought. “Audi alteram partem” means hear the other side before passing your judgment. Take the gavel, make your decision and slam because you are the judge in this courtroom.

HAS THE STUDENT CULTURE OF ARO CAUSED MORE GOOD THAN HARM?
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