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 arrived Lagos like an Israelite carrying the half-baked dough into a determined exodus. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, particularly how I will react to the weather, coming from extreme conditions like we saw this year in the Northeast US. Nothing really changed about the humid conditions, even at 8pm the wind was warm and slightly noxious. But hey! I am used to this, just have to acclimatize a bit. Err…I will dare not talk about Murtala Mohammed Airport, else it will be the rantings of a raving lunatic. Lekki Airport to the rescue!!!!!!!!!!
The road from the airport still is the famished road. It is fast becoming a bush path and reminds me of the road from Onitsha to Owerri in the late 1980s into early 1990s, It may soon need the kind of old Mercedes-Benz 9-11 trucks to ply it. It still amazes me that the government expects people to encounter that road first on a visit to the country through Lagos. Again it may be one of those roads that fall into the grey divide of Federal and State roads and no one is responsible for it. Very soon I will get dangerously upset to code red levels and will fix it. If the government refuses, private business making a fortune refuses, very rich men whole have stolen us blind also refuse to act socially responsible (at least to save face and the impending anger of the State), mere men like me will one day carry a digger and shovel to repair the road. At least beyond our children traveling safely, the police checkpoints will run smoothly and not be afraid to stop more vehicles and harass tired travelers. I have an idea, I will first start by asking my neighbour from Borno, who owns an active barn in his backyard (suitable to shoot a medieval movie), to lend me his cattle so they can graze the weeds shooting from the islands on the entire stretch of the airport road.
I agree to a certain extent with the analysis of some who claim a Ribadu-Adeola (Muslim-Muslim) ticket will not fly because of the primitive tendencies of the voting population. This is political realism in Nigeria due to the abuse ordinary Nigerians have suffered from our early politicians who chose to play ethnic and religious politics rather than on ideals and purpose. Its no surprise then that at a time when we should be allowing the intellectual likes of Pat Utomi and Donald Duke create a niche for idea-politik, we are still grappling with ancient and tactless strategies.
For those who premise the similarity of this ticket to the Abiola/Kingibe ticket of 1993, they forget too soon that the political reality then is far removed from what it is today. Every Nigerian was united in booting out the military by any means; even if it meant a Gorilla from the forested slopes of the hinterland was to be presented on a party platform, we were ready to vote it in. So we are in a different season, when the heterogeneous filaments and antennae of the average voter is hyper-sensitive (as some commentaries have already sounded the marginalization of Ibos). Things are different now and we shouldn’t ignore this reality.
But since I assume that everyone in this localized cyberspace is rich in comprehending matters of higher concern to the nation, we must never at any time be tempted to disregard the ideal and trade it for existential issues. Yes Ribadu and Adeola are both Muslim, but does that really matter? Shouldn’t we in this heavy discourse be analyzing thoroughly what their manifestos contain to see how strategic these men are in articulating the desire of the common Nigerian? Since our universities have failed to exert influence on the system by organizing national debates as done in other countries, then we as verified loyalist to Nigeria’s cause must raise this issue to the fore and educate ourselves before we make choices based on cosmetic ratings.
The fundamental challenge for leadership in any country with a disparate collection of nationalities is how to articulate the desires and aspirations of such Peoples and design a grand concept which satisfactorily meets the expectations of everyone. It is even more complex when one cannot trace a central ideology within each of such heterogeneous groups. How then does the leadership begin to conceive of and to interpret what each group wants, and how does each need become the balancing ingredient to concoct a national broth? This is probably one of the great challenges of the Nigerian state since it began striding the paths of nationhood.
The country is beleaguered by several issues top of which is corruption. However, it is the inability of the country, through its leadership to draft a common cause, and to imprint or implant that into the minds of every citizen that has cost us much more than the price of corruption and bad leadership.
When there is no defined vision within a specific group, it is a truism that people will craft what is acceptable to them and pursue that without regard to its encroaching effect on others without. What also is a given is that people perish without vision. They may not perish as in men falling on the streets and dying of asphyxiation, like a scene from an apocalyptic movie. But if we carefully prognosticate on the likely trajectory of a vision-less people, the eventual picture would not be far from one similar to the outcome of the Mayan civilization. Or perhaps it could be safer to say that what may result could likely be the brutish society for which a social contract was needful to escape.
While my analogies may be quixotic, it still borders on sensible possibilities given the history of human extremities. I keep thinking to myself what will become of the country Nigeria in the next thousand years. Those who are students of history would probably be able to play with such thoughts as human activity overtime has provided a laboratory through which they can test existential issues against past realities. Will Nigeria stand as a strong, prosperous and flourishing country in ages to come or will it become the playground of archaeologists longing to weave theories of why societies fail?
Sometime ago I wrote something on money politics in Nigeria. It can be accessed at http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=24419185782 I was very concerned at the way money was the single determinant of the ascension to any political position rather than a commitment to public service. This way, the rich or those who had access to the rich found their way into the corridors of power to perpetuate the interest of their pockets, or their masters as the case may be. I did note that when a country’s future or destiny is placed into the hands of such men, what results is a rogue economy and a collapse of national values.