On the 11th of November, my phone was stolen at a restaurant in Lagos. This is a brief audio narration of what happened and how I recovered the phone.
I woke up on the morning of Easter Monday, floating back to earthly life from deep thoughts on unspoken matters. I had just been re-energised by simple meditations on beautiful and uncomplicated things, inspiring my heart with a positive outlook to life. My mind was on fire with all the songs I had just finished singing from the previous nights’ concert, and I still could literally feel the bellows of the Church organ resonating in my bowels. Still longing for my bed, I had to wake early to go see my sister, whose birthday it was. I didn’t mind. My legs were tired, but my mind was alive.
I’m usually alert to spoilers, but not on this morning. I was revelling in unguarded pleasantness, until I scanned through my Twitter feed. Usually, I search specifically for informative content, particularly from individuals who have a history of tweeting articles and following it up with a great conversation. Sadly, my feed was plastered with commentaries on a recent statement made by a traditional ruler, which set Nigeria’s Tweetosphere ablaze. So many tweets were flying around the subject matter that I had to carefully trace what exactly prompted all the vitriol. Unfortunately I followed the Rabbit trail (all in a few minutes of siting in the car waiting for my sister) and realised later that I had squeezed out almost every ounce of joy in my heart.
How did that happen? While I sat there amazed at how people turned on each other over someone else’ comment, I was ignorant of how the bile had seeped into my mind and cast a dark showdown over my thoughts. I was now thinking on how this might spark electoral violence, ethnic rivalry, and a series of unfortunate events in Lagos. By the time I arrived at the local Catholic church with my sister for the Mass, I was a different man. I had lost the sense of the beautiful I woke up with. I sat in church contemplating Nigeria’s troubles, rather than enjoy the strange art of worship I wasn’t used to. I had just swallowed the bitter pill that online social media serves us daily.
6:30am: Left a friend’s house for the airport
7:15am: Arrived at the airport and collected my boarding pass and proceeded to clear immigration
7:23am: A boarding call for Accra to Lagos on Aero Contractor flight
7:45am: Flight fully boarded and waiting for take off (7:55am departure time)
7:55am: Engaged flight attendant on why take off has not been announced and was told they were waiting for some documentation.
8:05am: Pilot announces all passengers to disembark due to a flat tire.
A few years ago, I went on a short family trip to Costa Rica. One of the instructive things that I noticed was how that little country managed its resources. Right at the airport, you are told plainly that for every tax you pay at the airport, one dollar is meant for upgrading and maintenance of the facilities. Not only that, the entire development plan and its timed phases were boldly and transparently displayed around the airport to give a quick snapshot of what was to be achieved. I saw a similar case in the Johannesburg International Airport in South Africa with even more detailed development plans. At the Dubai Airport, frequent travelers will agree that about 3 years ago, Lagos bound passengers had to board their flights from the tarmac, after being conveyed on a bus. However, today that is not the case because they have fully implemented a plan, which was public knowledge about creating new boarding terminals.
Every time I have the rare privilege of traveling and seeing these possibilities in other countries, it simply points to the fact these countries are working and precious hard-working people make it so. Development is not difficult if those responsible are willing to mire their hands in the very difficult task of planning and working the plan DELIBERATELY till it is thoroughly executed to the last detail. If we have this in Nigeria, without noise our infrastructures will flourish with relative ease because people are doing what they have to do behind the scene.
I have visited many Ministries, Departments, and Agencies and sadly you can smell the culture of sloth all around. Several people come in and pursue their private initiative and have very little concern for the Ministry goals, neither do they have a ‘jig’ or ‘saw’ to complete organizational ‘puzzle’. This tells you the kind of deliverables that will come out of these government establishments. For everything that works well, check it, there are efficient people behind the scenes making the positive outcomes possible. When this is not the case, check it, it might be as seemingly insignificant as a secretary not expediting action on a simple letter of reference.
It is always a thing of joy and pride to visit the Abuja city. Some years back, a special CNN coverage of the growth of Nigeria’s capital city pronounced it as like one of the most promising 21st century cities in terms of beauty. I couldn’t agree less, as it is easy to perceive the great thought that went into planning its structure and order. Sprawling around scenic rocks, it is totally different from a city like Ibadan, which is “flung and scattered among seven hills like broken China in the sun”. While Ibadan, like Lagos grew organically over the years, Abuja is a deliberate imagination of men. It was given birth to by an idea and that has so provided for the primacy of its design. From the city’s entrance, whether from the airport or other doors, you can tell of the systematic allocation of resources and literally draw your movement on paper to trail the city’s concept. It is always a relief to be in an ordered environment, far away from the confusion of ethnic and economic settlements where stress is allocated to its dwellers.
But like the case of any good thing, there are certain spoilers of the vine. For Abuja, almost everyone who drives a car is like a Fox
trying to outwit another. Unlike Lagos, which has one popular race track, Abuja is the Grand Prix all by itself. Once a driver hold the steering, all lanes merge into one and it boils down to who arrives at their destination first, even though we aren’t all going to the same place. I often wondered who exactly gave these kamikaze drivers a license to hit the road. I am beginning to suspect that the case of Abuja is like Calabar city – after Okadas (commercial bikes) were banned, it seems the operators graduated to cab drivers – and this probably is one reason the city’s taxi drivers seem perpetually high. Abuja drivers have no regard for simple traffic rules and flout them with such relish that bewilders a city newbie.
This is one of those rants I cannot but punish you with because I am getting really sick and tired of its frequency. Almost anywhere you go in Nigeria, you are faced with beggars begging right up to your face and totally crowding your space that you feel your only escape is to settle them. I am not talking about the poor, haggard, and destitute soul on the street without a home to go back to; not the physically maimed citizen crisscrossing go-slows to tap on your car’s window screen for their sustenance. It is not even the poor person in the neighbourhood who has genuine need and shows up at your gate on a weekend. If it were just these, I would understand for even Jesus said we will always have the poor with us.
My concern is with the pervasiveness of subtle beggars who trudge our corridors of service, demanding privileges that they do not exactly deserve. They are everywhere from the supermarket you frequent to the professional offices where they don the most formal attires. Anywhere you go it seems you are bound to encounter what feels like an organized mob of commercial inducers, asking for settlements for all kinds of spurious reasons ranging from ‘weekend money’ to ‘big man status money’. The latter is very upsetting because you now have to pay for looking affluent, as though it were indicative on the flesh.
The matter has become very embarrassing (or ‘embarazzing’ for emphasis) to the point that I am suddenly put on the offensive every time I request a simple service. Even when I am not asking for any services, usually some freelancer suddenly appears and imposes a service for which you have to cough out something. I drive into the parking lot of a public facility and the security man directs the parking process, a role for which he is also employed along with securing the vehicle. The profuse greetings you get from the security man on alighting your vehicle has its cost implication. The doorman usually almost prostrates before opening the door even though he sees your fully functional limbs. You have to factor all these into the expense to be disbursed at your location – of course not forgetting the tips you have already given for services in the inner sanctum.
I have been in Lagos for over ten days now and cannot but admire the resilience of the people. Admittedly, a lot of Nigerians are very aware and Lagos is filled with highly educated people who are hopeful of a change given the amount of hard work already imputed into the rusty system. Here, people work very hard in productive labour, despite the fact that there is a lot of disorder that inherently promotes corrupt practices even within glossy financial institutions. Looking at all the bus drivers, the okada riders, the budding bankers, the street traders, and the mid to senior executives on the streets, you get a sense of an economy on the move. Although it is still very questionable or debatable what exactly our economy produces, if intensity of work spells productivity, then by all means our streets will be soon paved with gold.
Flowing from this, every time I see Lagosians party heavily, I always make an excuse for them in my heart that a lot of the people at these parties work very hard, thereby find consoling such social escapes. Even though such gatherings are spiced with overkill of apparel, music, wine and food, you get a sense of satisfaction in the air of celebration as a reward for diligence to duty. I attended one of such society events a few days ago as an accomplice to grandiose living. I must add that it was due to filial respect and promissory servanthood that I acceded to the demands of socializing. On location at Ahmadu Bello way, we were cramped into a hall that didn’t respect the laws of space economics. The food was good I must admit and was well-organized in terms of distribution. Wine flowed like water and the dancing was without mercy, especially being to the beat of the legendary King Sunny Ade, who is known to jazz his audience with mid-tempo rhythms that spell-binds the hearer into a legal tender spraying frenzy. Interestingly, to add colour to the proceedings, a full representation of the clergy was present in their full regalia and conspicuous emblems of religion. Of course they were escorted to the choicest of seats, closer to the noise ready sound emitters and I asked myself the question if this was a proof of God’s endorsement.