Okay…it is embarrassing but we will all agree that Nigeria has a lot of problems. From the educational standpoint, to the political scene, to the economic market and to the agricultural sector and even the sports field, problem seems to rear in its ugly head everywhere and nothing seems to be working.And now…there’s even the problem of Boko Haram.
But won’t it be foolhardy to qualify mere sectors, markets and industries as problematic? Such transferred epithet would be ridiculously funny. The people that constitute the population of Nigeria constitute the problem in these areas…and I am not sorry to affirm.
It is indisputable that the Great Nation of Nigeria has Good People…afterall that is what we mouth as our slogan. But a little yeast leaveneth the whole lump, don’t you think? We applaud the people and blame the government…but isn’t the government itself a part of the people? And who put them there anyway…isn’t it the people? And come to think of it, how sure are we that it is the little yeast of the government that leavens the whole lump of Nigeria? What is the proportion of our yeast to the whole lump of bread in any case? Are we sure we don’t even have more yeast than we do have flour?
We are wont to say that many leaders are not legitimate in the real sense of it. True! There is the indefatigable problem of election rigging. But then, one man cannot rig an election all by himself. He must have had need of people! People to cause commotion at various voting centers, people to cart away ballot boxes, people to thumb-print on numerous ballot papers, people to manipulate election results, people to convince judges that these actions did not happen …and people to close their eyes and believe them; upholding the elections. So, you see…it takes more than one politician to successfully rig an election; it takes a good crop of the “good” people of Nigeria.
Corruption is undoubtedly a major reference point in Nigeria, sticking out its sore thumb in every sector. But you would agree with me that it is not Nigeria that is corrupt but it is the people of Nigeria; it is the youth that decides to scam the white population because there is no admission, it is the market woman that manipulates the size of her measuring cups because rice is now expensive; it is the lecturer that thinks his grades are not worth more than a one-night-stand; it is the contractor that decides to receive funds for contracts without implementing them; it is the bus conductor that says “there is no change” because he wants commuters to forget it with him; it is the civil servant that would not do his work except he is tipped.
It is the jobless graduate who organizes special centers for JAMB candidates and the JAMB invigilator who co-ordinates nothing but examination malpractice.
Indeed, it is the family that rejoices at the election of their own in a government position-not because of his legitimate salary but because they expect already that he has access to government funds and thus, should solve the problems of all the family members with it. People! People! People!
At this stage, it becomes not only obvious that the people are the real problem of Nigeria but also necessary to identify the real problem with the people!
Again, this means that there are several problems with them. One is probably the fact that everyone loves to lay blame on others as a reason for their unbecoming actions. The policemen blame the government’s poor remuneration as a reason for the “50 Naira” road pass they have set at both legal and illegal road points, the government blames the militants at the creeks for the fact that they can’t maximize production and thereby increase workers’ salaries, the militant in-turn blame the government’s indifference to their needs as a cause of their vandalization…and the circle goes on and on. Unfortunately, it is difficult to ascertain the starting point of any circle, where do we then start fixing the problems that beset Nigeria? We’d start from the people.
If everyone decides to do the right thing irrespective of whether some other person is doing the wrong thing, a lot would be achieved. If Nigerians begin to take responsibility for their actions without blaming anyone, progress would be made. Really, if Nigerians stop defining leadership as tantamount to government, maybe we would begin to see that leadership starts with us…and maybe when the good eggs become significantly more than the bad eggs, it would become easier to sort out and dispose of the latter.
Yes, here’s the point: Everyone should make Christ a way of life and not just a religion or statistical information. Christians should stand up to the task and preach the gospel!
When Christianity stops being a million miles wide and just an inch deep, issues would be in better perspective. If everyone was like Him… oh my…!
When Nigerians begin to look out for one another and propagate virtue, the chord that binds us would become stronger. And when the good man realizes that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, not even pray, we can then begin to build this great nation of ours!
As I prepared for work one early morning, I began to hum a primary rhyme that had been very popular when I was smaller. The rhyme was somewhat the favourite of school pupils because of the rhythmic flow of the response lines and the interesting peculiarity of the story line.
Old Ronger is dead and gone to his grave…
Uhm, ahh, gone to his grave
They planted a mango tree over his head…
Uhm, ahh, over his head
The mangoes grew ripe and ready to burst…
Uhm, ahh, ready to burst
There came a high wind to blow them all of…
Uhm, ahh, blow them all off
There came an old woman to pick them all up
Uhm,ah, pick them all up
Old Roger rose up and gave her a knock…
I stopped short. Gave her a knock? How ridiculous! Pray, what would have made the old woman to suffer such a fate from old Roger who was supposed to be long dead and gone? Old Roger and old woman must have had some issues to settle…or maybe the mango tree had been the issue and the old woman just happened to be the scapegoat. What was the morale of the poem? To watch out for old Roger before picking up fruits? It just did not add up. My only deduction was that the buffoonery Old Roger must have been an Old Soldier before his departure.
I remember we always finished reading the English Textbook before resumption…did I say textbook? Sorry, I meant interesting passages, that is, textbook minus exercises, grammar lessons and of course, anything that seemed boring or tasking. Introductory passages seemed to attract better attention and of course, rhythmic flow borne out of continuous repetition. This one comes to mind:
Agbo lives in the town of Lagoon which is not far from Ibadan. Every morning, he goes to school. He was in Primary four. Everyone liked Agbo because he was always happy and friendly. His father gave him a wristwatch and he was very proud of it. One day, he woke up late…
Any kid that could not recite this passage, at least the first paragraph, off-hand probably had received double promotion and did not have to read the Macmillan text for that year. It is very funny how we all seemed to know how to read those passages observing the same speed, intonation, pitch and stress. At least, as far as I know. Perhaps more interesting are the songs we sang at playtime.
Our grandmother likes to wear skirt
We don’t know what we can do
Our time says six’O clock
We are ready to brush our teeth
We are ready to comb our ear
Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, na you!
Although the initial build-up of sentences did not quite make sense, one would have thought that they were just declarative sentences. But stupid?… where did that come from! I then began to review all the songs we sang during playtime and realized that majority of them made no sense. Some had story lines that were incomplete:
Early in the morning, when I woke up,
I saw Mary and Joy ready to go out
Mary has a one leg, one leg, one leg (sic)
Mary has a two leg, two leg, two leg (sic)
…and so, a song that would have been a perfect story ended up in a bundle of phrases, devoid of meaning and full of grammatical blunders. Perhaps, this category of songs was the worst: those that had no decipherable meaning at all but still remained the most popular.
Agada my sofamy
Agada my sofamy
Is this Portuguese or Spanish? Looking back, I can’t believe I ever sang this song and clapped my hands to its rhythm…omode sha! Okay, maybe that particular song wasn’t so popular, how about this:
Tinko, tinko, tinkonko, tinko,
Tinko, tinko, tinkonko, tinko…
As I type this, I seem to hear the rhythm of the tinko clap in my sub-conscious. Tinko was indeed a very popular one those days. Only “Ten, ten”, another play song which is tantamount to a bundle of gibberish could stand its popularity. What were we saying? Who formed these songs? How come they transcend from generations to generations?
In a society where Primary School Pupils do not seem to have come to terms yet with the words of the national anthem despite reciting it every morning, it is funny to think that every average pupil can sing these songs that do not seem to bear any meaning- even those that seem to be in elusive languages- without missing a line.
Isn’t it high time someone redefined the songs that Nigerianchildren sing at playtime since it seems to stick to their minds the most? Imagine how edifying it would be for children to play with songs that are morally good, grammatically sound and logically coherent …or, is this anomaly only peculiar to the annals of Agege where I grew up?
Pray, somebody talk to me…
In this locality of ours called Situation, I get so many epithets for the immutability of my ubiquitous self…
At the boutique, I once lurked behind two young lovers holding hands and occasionally whispering sweet words into each other’s ears. “What sweet romance!” I thought to myself. But just then, girl picked up a shoe that boy could not afford and then I knew I was in trouble. My heart skipped at the sound of each sentence for the mention of my name …words heaped upon words in screaming decibels-I heard *love* *money* *too expensive my foot!* *insult me?* *rubbish!*…I was just about heaving a sigh of relief when the expected happened.
“I don’t blame you, I blame Condition for this arrant nonsense!” girl shouted.
“If not for Condition, would I have dated you in the first place?” boy retorted.
I looked out for my twin sister but she was not anywhere near. Bereft of protection, I quickly hid behind one of the mannequins where no one would spot me. As if bitten by a snake, girl releases a reverberating hiss with the simultaneous unbuckling of her diamond wristwatch which boy had bought for her last Valentine. I saw the trajectory motion coming but did not have the feet of Hussein Bolt… Gbam! The projectile wristwatch had landed on my forehead.
This attitude is driving me insane!!! On the streets, I watched as traders screamed invitations to buyers to purchase their wares. Some sang songs detailing all that they had and all that you could do with them. I could not but marvel at their musical creativity. In the scorching sun, a recharge card seller itched from the discomfort of the rays. I looked and realized that her small yellow umbrella now housed items different from what the benevolent telecoms network had given her the umbrella for. From a distance, I could see coolers of soft drinks and a show glass of snacks. Boy! No wonder she was now “unhoused” herself by the canopy of the umbrella.
I saw her mouth open to complain and I trembled, I caught a glimpse of my sister as she advances to embrace the woman with outstretched arms. Yet once again, the reaction was expected; she ignored her and pointed accusing fingers at me. I did not wait to hear the words as I knew what they were all about. She seems to think I am the cause for her inability to get a kiosk…now, how could I be so wicked knowing that Nature birthed us all!
My twin sister soon found me where I scampered to for safety. Reality is not like me. She is tall and heavily built and this probably accounts for why many fear her. They run away at the sight of her, ignoring her permanently outstretched arms which mother explains was a birth condition. Here, my name comes up again! They say I must have consumed all the food as a foetus, leaving no nutrients for the proper development of my sister’s arms. As I grew up, I began to wonder why they did not praise me for her good stature or blame her for my frail body. I never seem to get answers to these questions…or maybe I just do not press hard enough.
But Reality, for whom she is, does not blame me, neither is she ashamed of me. Rather, she accepts me, lurking by my side…without her help; maybe I would have been mobbed by the motley crowds that gather in the stalls everyday thinking I am the cause of all their troubles.
I enjoy her company. One day, we boarded a bus and beheld a funny scene. Man on suit (looking educated) was standing in a bus and conductor had asked him to close up the space between him and the next standing person in order to accommodate other standing passengers but there was no movement. “Na you I dey talk to…I say make you shift inside, make other people fit see space stand!” but there was no response. The next question of the conductor was justified as that was my quick assumption too…”U dey deaf?” he asked pensively. “And then Man on Suit retorted “I no blame you now, if no be for Condition, se I go dey for inside Molue…mtschewww!”
No…that must be a big fat joke…why will people shirk responsibility for their actions and point accusing fingers at me? I stifled a laugh…but with the benefit of foresight, maybe I wouldn’t have. A big fat slap it would have earned me in return as the man angrily turned to face me. “You, why are you laugh ha me?” he asked in a menacing voice. But this obvious *gbagaun* elicited an echo of laughter in the bus. One man stood up “Mr. Man, so you are not even educated and you are forming business executive for us here…” There was another round of laughter and at this point, I expected the man to take the anger out on me. He seemed to be hurt by something…I was later to know that Reality had dealt him a fatal blow in my defense.
Indeed, my sister was their terror; but really, they just do not understand her…she stretches forth her hands for such a long while waiting for their warm embrace but they ignore her until she deals them a blow to get their attention…and then they say she’s wicked. Some shy away while others go as far as disguising to hide from her. As we passed the streets one fateful day, trying to hide from the drizzle of the fast-approaching rain, a woman soon passed us, probably in her mid-20s judging by the way she was dressed.
Reality soon pinches me…”That’s the old black woman; she is into these entire disguise just to hide from me!” I wondered why someone would go through all the trouble just to deceive my sister. I then turned to stare at her…did Reality just say “black woman”? At best, I saw a mixture of yellow, red and chocolate as her green veins stuck out beneath her skin. Her decaying body reeked of deception and her carriage suggested pretence.
I looked and saw the woman struggle to jump over a gutter with the agility of a youth…and then thump! Down she went into the dirty gutter as people ran to bring her out… My sister advanced towards her too but recognizing her, the woman braced herself, ostensibly unhurt, and whisks away from her embrace. Pity party soon begun and shouts of “eeya…” “sorry…” punctuated the soft pellets of the rain on the concrete. And then, the accusing finger came again…”If not for condition that made me trek in the first place, wouldn’t I have been cruising in a jeep at this stage of my life?” Just a warm embrace from my sister would probably have reminded her that at 60, she was not supposed to be on 6-inch heels in the first instance.
The smell of freshly fried crayfish soon filled the air…the crayfish seller had just arrived the scene, pouring out her own pitiful remarks too. The sight of the crayfish reminded me that I was hungry but just as I looked up at the folded darlings, I soon became irritated. Tears streamed in my eyes as the saying “Na condition make crayfish bend” came to mind. These people even think I am the one that bent these lovely creatures. How ridiculous!
I can’t take this anymore!!! I have to find mum fast!!! Maybe she could explain to me why our family is so…why our forefathers bequeathed them with so much, yet us so little. I was really angry at them this time…but my sister is quick to whisper again: “You can’t fight our forefathers, you can’t fight Nature!” The brief silence that followed provided a hiatus for introspection.
But, why me? Why does mum enjoy so much trust from them? I mean, they all seem to resign to her so easily even after all the rumour that she had killed her own son who was supposed to be the golden answer to Situation’s problems. Solution had been named since conception but had never been given birth to. “Fate aborted him at few months old”, they all say…but I don’t believe my mum could have been so wicked. I have often marveled as I watch my dad, Action, stroll beside them, enjoying their commendations and justifications. At their forte, they smile and tap his back…at their bad luck, they decline responsibility for my dad and resign to my mother…while at their faults, they point accusing fingers at me and ignore my sister…All this nonsense must stop!!! Maybe it’s time I heard the home truth from home!!!
So, I ran past the market and past the stalls, past the beggars on the streets and the widows on their verandah. I seemed to feel the penetration of their accusing fingers but this time, I just didn’t care. I passed the students as they strolled in groups on their way from school and the bored university undergrad that seemed to think I was responsible for his sojourn in the public university where Internal Strike was the order of the day. I ran past all of them and did not care at all what they thought of me… I just wanted to get home and rest on my mother’s bosom- those which I often found solace in times like this.
I soon got home and became conscious of Reality standing beside me. Seeing my surprise, she said “I ran beside you all along…” “I wonder why I did not notice you beside me; I must have been deep in thoughts” I answered. “They all are…” she replied. But the reality of her words had not yet struck my consciousness as I sighted my mum in the passage.
Quick, I ran to her and she seemed to understand all that was going on in my mind. As I resigned to my mum’s bosom, Reality’s words struck me deeper. “They all were always lost in thoughts and that is why they sometimes did not see her outstretched arms…” Come to think of it, I am like one of these people! I have tread with reality for years without embracing her…! I drew her closer with my other free arm and all three of us were engaged in a large warm embrace.
Just then, I felt the fog that had been haunting me all my life dissipate as I began to understand myself better. As I resigned to Fate, she taught me the difference between things that are changeable and things that are not. Fate taught me to resign to her for the former and examine my dad for the latter. I didn’t seem to find a category for the latter as hard as I tried….Just as I was about to give up, something struck.
Did I say at the beginning that I was immutable? Of course not! There are so many things that I can change about my present state… .Examining my actions, I realized I could learn to dress finer, run faster and write better. I could improve upon myself!!!
As I embraced Reality, she taught me to come to terms with what Nature had bequeathed me. Just then, I felt a pinch on my back…it was Reality’s characteristic way of seeking my attention. Our eyes met but this time, I could not quite fathom what she was trying to picture. Then it struck yet again!!! Fate carries Solution in her bowels still for those who cared enough not only to resign to her but also to examine their action- those who are conscious enough to embrace Reality and stop blaming Condition.
I know this because I felt a kick from my little brother who seemed happy to meet me. I know because that kick created a series of chemical processes that went through my body right to my brain and brought about chain reactions. I know because realizing that time is not subjective, my hands began to move and words began to pour out as I put down my pen to write this…
One of the most popular songs that have made waves in the Nigerian music industry is probably “Danfo Drivers” in which many Nigerians moved to the rhythm of the “swo” dance while the talented duo of the musicians happily smiled to the bank. What is perhaps amazing is how they got so many people (even doctors, lawyers and communicators) to affiliate with the yellow and black profession as they excitedly answered in affirmative to the question posed in the chorus:
“Sebi u be danfo driver, swo?”
“I am a danfo driver, swo!”
Okay, maybe that was just for fun…but I am not a danfo driver! (Not a matter of prestige now, but I do not envy them!) Having boarded so many danfo buses in my sojourn in this metropolitan state of Lagos, I opine that one of the most challenging professions to practice is the danfo profession (yes, and I mean profession). I don’t know anything about the standards for recruitment but boy, we commuters can so frustrate them! I know this is a departure from the usual condemnations that pour out on these people but permit me as I make bold to laud them in this article (and I stand to be corrected too…)
Have you ever boarded a bus where everyone seems to know how to drive better than the driver? Even pregnant women who have not experienced handling the steering all their lives shout at the tops of their voices, giving “more experienced advice” on which route to take and which lane to ply.
“Useless driver, you see express for there, u no take am…na narrow road you come take us…”
The driver in the above scenario had obviously tried to avoid traffic on the express and taken a short cut in the best interest of himself and of course, the commuters too. If that decision is then in the wrong fate, it is my opinion that he should not be made to swallow all those bitter pills of insults…after all, don’t we all make unwise decisions ourselves? Sometimes, we push these innocent people to break the rules and then walk away when a LASTMA official (or any other official for that matter) intercepts them…we quickly jump down from the bus and leave them to the hands of the Naira-eating officials. And remember that they pay so many fees just to get us across to our destination, some legal, some illegal, some documented, others to obtain the good will of some officers in black.
“If I don’t pay transport fare, se u fit carry your moto waka for road?”
So what? Why should we display so much ego over a meager fare…and for our mind, we are their employers abi? If I hear! It is just an indication of how inflated our egos would be if we happened to be employers of labour. As far as I am concerned, the relationship between commuters and danfo drivers is a symbiotic relationship. If you are too important to be in a danfo bus, please board a taxi!
And talk about the many abuses we haul at them! I have been in danfo buses in which the driver was on the right side of the argument but everybody’s mind had been so stereotyped to support the commuter at the instance of any of such arguments…and so, that very day, everyone teamed up to abuse the driver and laugh at him… (Eeya, o ma se o!). Trust Lagosians to co-operate in this type of assignments…if you ask them to come out for environmental sanitation now, their team spirit will disappear as fast as it has appeared. Mtschew….!
And talk about all those brouhaha over change as if the Central Bank of Nigeria dispatches different denominations of Naira notes to them every morning. Hey, I know they trickily want us to forget the change sometimes but then, we can be very over-careful and over-dramatic in making sure that this does not happen. In fact, many of us have our minds already set on them as “dubious people who don’t want to release our change” that we fail to see reason with them that it is difficult to find change for 8-10 people who present 500N or 1000N for a 70N journey early in the morning.
They apologize to us so many times to buy fuel into the vehicle and we abuse them for as much times for lacking the foresightedness to have bought the fuel earlier. But, tell me, how many of us that own personal vehicles would drive all the way from home to the filling station and then back just to get fuel for a journey via the same route? (I know some of us are that meticulous and it’s good, but then how many?) One commuter once made a joke that these people buy fuel in pints…so when the driver parked at the filling station, he said “See him o, he will buy 100N petrol now…” I laughed!
And when the bus breaks down half way… the danfo driver sweats profusely in anticipation for the hot words from the fire-laden tongues of angry (?) commuters who would not just collect their money back without showing him the stuff that their mouths are made of! No wonder these people consume heavy food in order to ensure that there is no more space to stomach aggressive words that have become synonymous with the profession. Of a truth, I am not a danfo driver and I do not wish to be one!
PS: It is good to give people excuses for their misdemeanors and look at the positive side of things you know (kinda makes life less complicated). Someone once said that if you are to judge anyone, judge them based on their best and not their worst…I am learning to do just that!
If a poll were to be taken on the favourite word of lagosians, you may not find the result in the dictionary. This is because the word would probably be “awoof”, a colloquial term that refers to any good or service that is enjoyed for free as exemplified by the free transportation of commuters via the BRT buses on public holidays such as the Eid-il-Mubarak, Eid-il-Filtri, Easter, Christmas and New Year holidays.
As BRT buses were boarded for free during the Eid-il Filtri, I could not help but notice that the impatient retreats to board the yellow buses were missing as commuters waited patiently on the long queues for the arrival of the buses (me inclusive…!). Take it or leave it, many lagosians had decided to go on visits that holiday only because their destinations were BRT courses and of course, transport fare became “done away with”. Mr. Ibrahim Lawal, a commuter commended the efforts of the government in putting a smile on the faces of lagosians as the free initiative has reduced his expenditure during the celebration period.
Although commuters had waited patiently for the buses there seemed to have been fewer of them irrespective of the fact that there was less traffic on the road. Also, buses that were plying the specific destinations had passed without waiting to pick up the passengers. Angry commuters had almost resorted to flagging down empty BRT buses that passed by.
A man on red shirt at the Oshodi bus terminus heaped abuses at the driver of the bus as he finally arrived. Monday Ajanaku, a commuter suspected that the passengers were being taken for granted because of the fact that it is free. Another commuter noted that the number of standing passengers had sky-rocketed thereby leading to over-population in the bus.
However, Austin Wat, a pilot, asserted that the increase in the population of passengers was the major cause of the delay as there was always a crowd at the bus terminus irrespective of the speed with which he got there. Ogunniran Toyin, a Station Officer also noted that many passengers do not note that the maximum number of standing passengers in a BRT bus according to the regulation is 36 and at no circumstance will the number be exceeded. “Many passengers do not ordinarily want to stand and that is why we hardly have the maximum number of standing passengers except during holiday periods as these when the service is free”, she said.
She also noted that some public holidays such as the Children’s Day is not covered by the free initiative although children in uniform are normally allowed to board the buses for free.
Pilots and ticket sellers not smiling
Pilots however lament the fact that they are not free during public holidays. Nonetheless, they commend the initiative of the Lagos State Government to have two shifts of eight hours each everyday for them. Commenting on the endless queue at the Oshodi axis of the state, Mr. Awosanya, a bus pilot, reserved that this is unavoidable as Oshodi is the “headquarters of Lagos State”. General Humphrey, another bus pilot lamented that there were no incentives for them during holidays and complained about deductions from their salaries whenever they were absent. He opined generally that the payment is poor although regular and attributed this to the fact that they are clients contracted by agents who receive commission on their salaries instead of being directly employed by the Lagos State Government. He called on the Lagos State Government to do something about it. Ticket sellers also receive reduced commission during holiday periods due to a reduction in the number of stories sold.
Collect money but give us good services?
Some passengers had angrily retorted that the transport fare should have been retained in order to ensure good services. Nevertheless, on closer examination, majority had supported the free initiative. Mrs Abisola Adewoyin, another commuter said that it is very commendable that the welfare of the masses is taken into consideration by the masses at celebration periods. Ajanaku also noted that since the holidays are once in a while, imbibing patience in the boarding of BRT buses on these days is not too much to ask for.
Just for a day!
Passengers that boarded the BRT buses on Wednesday (expecting not to pay) were however, disappointed as the ticket sellers were not absent on the BRT Stop Structures. Some looked stupefied as the bus pilots demanded for their tickets before entering the bus. Was the holiday not supposed to be for two days? (I asked myself…*winks*). I was so vexed that I decided to use my journalism prowess (I hope these people are not cheating us!!!) and decided to ask one of the drivers whose name was Mr. Toye Idowu.The man explained that it was just for a day out of the holidays. “If the free BRT is for the whole holiday, how will my salary be paid?” he asked rhetorically.
For a city hitherto known for lawlessness and disorder, the BRT scheme of Babatunde Raji Fashola, introduced on March 17 2008, has proven to be a be a success, improving the commute of thousands of people without the synonymous fights, pilfering and arguments. Furthermore, the BRT has decreased fares by 40 percent and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 13 percent. The system also resulted in direct and indirect employment, contributing to economic growth and poverty reduction.