BURNING POT BY PRINCE CHARLES DICKSON
My encounter with the stripped taxi driver in Abuja
"How nice you are to a loaf of bread depends on our hungry you are"
I was in Abuja recently, and took a taxi that had a man with tribal marks; he was wearing a stripped shirt, interestingly a stripped trouser, and had a stripped tie. He reminded me of a wrestling referee, or umpire. Before I could ask further questions he slotted in a CD and alas it was playing an old Sunny Ade Classic.
I knew he was Yoruba, we know ourselves very well, naturally we started discussing Nigeria, before long, the blame game started, he thought it was the Hausa man, or the Igbo man, I thought it was the Christian, he blamed the Muslims.
I told him I would never vote Buhari, he said he will never vote Jonathan, I told him I do not like Atiku, he said, “god forbid” anything with Amaechi or kwankwanso.
What is wrong with us as a people, is there hope, any way forward for Nigeria? The taxi driver told me that while a sizable number only saw hopelessness and despair, a good number viewed everything with a sense of optimism.
For me though, beyond being a cautious optimist, the fundamental issue and intriguing matter was how hungry were Nigerians for change. He hissed like an umpire that had noticed a boxing infringement. We are a nation of huge potentials, he said, but even those potentials seem to be eroding realization with each turn of event.
As the taxi driver talked away, I decided to listen to him without interruption with Sunny Ade providing what movie people call score music, and below are my notes or admonition as I call it.
On an average Nigeria is good, her people are a bunch of good Bananas, only that a few rotten, gives the whole bunch a bad look and that particular rotten smells.
In Nigeria you can urinate anywhere and not get fined or arrested, you can get a ladder and climb the Power poles and effect a change of power phases, which is if the problem is not from the nearby power transformer which anybody can repair with dry wood.
We as a nation need to restore national pride, a lot of us have lost hope in the system, the structure, the leadership, but with each passing day, with each day a realization that Nigeria may be just an empty plastic cup, to light to hold a cup of coffee cold or hot.
It is difficult to write or say nice stuffs about Nigeria, or Nigerians. Everyone criticizes a lot and hardly give solutions.
But the truth is that there are enough solutions to Nigeria's multi-dimensional problems, enough to fill an American Congressional Library, well prepared by committees, panels, commissions and bodies of expert. Name the field or area and I will refer you to a paper, a report that should ordinarily have solved that problem long time ago.
In recent times I have watched us reminded of the successes of Malaysia, a success that was championed and achieved simply because of purposeful leadership, leadership that had the confidence of the governed. That leadership brought about economic prosperity, industrial strength, intellectual pride and dynamism. Unfortunately we have a circus of PDP, the governing party and APC the opposition.
A new Nigeria cannot unfold, with fast paced infrastructural development, rapid push in human resource development, healthcare delivery, when of the approximately 130,000 graduates expected out this year, only 10% possess a chance of a job, with time the remaining 90% slowly became an unemployable bunch with redundant qualifications and there is no plan to put a halt to this.
Today's Nigeria, lacks education, health and development with all the wealth, we are breeding terrorists, frustrated young men, sad mothers, senior citizens that daily curse the nation because we have refused to give them their dues.
Being a Nigerian requires a tricky trait; there is a distinction to being a Nigerian and being in Nigeria. The Nigerian big man makes a law, those in Nigeria proceeds immediately to look for a way to break the law, exploring loopholes and escape clauses. Ordinary Citizens would do it their own way, they will jump queues on no excuse, they will do u-turns on an expressway, stop in the middle of the road to say hello to a long lost friend without parking...correct them, and they will abuse your dog.
In Nigeria, it takes a lot, you have to be noisy, music is not danceable if it is not loud, big is sweet and good, so the Japanese supply us with boom boxes as big as my village masquerade just for a radio cassette player, a Nigerian buys a 10, 20, 30 loader CD and he lives in one room in Ajegunle.
In power we love affluence and will do anything to stay put. In religious matters, we will fake it; in business, our cheques bounce. In the civil service, your files will miss and only reappear at the right price. We ban the importation of lace fabrics, yet our wives, concubines and mistresses will die the day they cannot wear one.
In Nigeria you need to understand how a complainant can suddenly become suspect and in the end witness yet still land in Jail for a crime that was committed against him. That is the rule of law.
The pain of the taxi driver’s assertion is that despite all the exhaustive bad traits that we battle everyday, Nigerians abound in their millions that want to be Nigerians for the right reasons.
These Nigerians are not easily understood because they will not give bribes, all their actions are in line with tradition, society's good norms and rationality. They largely are old now and most times reside in rural areas, although a few still stay in urban areas. They are generally good and untribalized, they believe in the principles of live and let live.
These Nigerians are neither the bottom power women nor the moneybag men. They strive daily to remain patriotic and committed to the Nigerian dream despite the reality, they are disciplined and are hardworking, and they battle the stark reality that as patient dogs they may never have any bone left.
These set of Nigerians suffer the Nigerian experiment because of the larger majority's inability to curb greed, inability for us to be fair and rational towards other people's perspectives, opinions, positions and interest. The continuous inability to make sacrifices for the common good, an unwillingness to respect our institutions...like, the abuse of our health and educational institutions in the name of na government property and so its nobody's own.
I end this with this encounter, a politician was charged with profanity for calling an opponent a bastard: the politician retorted, "When I call him s.o.b, I am not using profanity. I am only referring to the circumstances of his birth". Will the Nigerian circumstance change--only time will tell