“DID you read that stuff yesterday?” I asked my friend, who answered slowly, head bowed, that she did. ‘It was our sad story.’ “Beeni,” I told her, and for almost one hour afterwards we went through the piece again. It was an expatriate, Tim Newman’s last line on his assignment in Nigeria. From the piece, the writer was obviously an engineer in the oil sector. He encountered corruption on a scale he had never seen in all his years working across countries of the world.
“The corruption, theft, and graft [in Nigeria] can take many forms,” he wrote with the rare insight of a genius. “… falsifying a CV (I don’t mean enhancing, I mean pretending you’re a Lead Piping Engineer of 12 years experience when actually, until yesterday, you were a fisherman); selling positions in a company; stealing diesel from the storage tanks you’re paid to protect.” – That one sounds very poetic, metaphoric. Look around you, how many day guards turn up at night to steal what they protected firmly in daytime? And I mean ‘guards’ as in ALL who have the nation’s nod to protect the general spring head from being poisoned. Have they not ALL turned up to be bearers of hemlock?
My friend asked that we read again the white man’s piece: “… selling land which isn’t yours” (This one is common, where are the omo onile?). Now this: “…deliberately running down the country’s refining capacity in order to partake in the lucrative import of fuels; falsifying delivery notes of said refined fuels in order to receive greater government subsidies; deliberately restricting the country’s power generation capacity in order to benefit from the importation of generators (which must be run on imported fuel); theft of half-eaten sandwiches and opened drink containers from the office fridge; tinkering with fuel gauges at petrol stations to sell customers short; conspiring with company drivers to issue false receipts indicating more fuel was supplied than actually was; supplying counterfeit safety equipment; falsifying certificates related to professional competence (e.g. rope access work); paying employees less than stipulated in their contract (or not at all); cloning satellite TV cards, meaning the legitimate user gets their service cut off when the other card is in use (the cards are cloned by the same people who issue the genuine cards); the list is literally endless. There is no beginning or end to corruption in Nigeria, it is a permanent fixture.” Judgement from abroad! Very shameful.
Quite intriguing in the white man’s clinical analysis is the assertion that Nigeria’s super-rich wants even the crumbs for himself. Very tragically true.
‘It’s a curse,’ my friend said.
“Really? You think so.”
‘Yes. When an abominable trend is established, it becomes a curse.’
“So, that means the nation and its people need deliverance? Abi? So, who does it and where…?” ‘Baaad boy!’ My friend fired back with a look suggesting she knew I was aiming a dart at our pastors and Imams who have turned religion over to the power class. My friend knew I had very deep disdain for these characters who think only the super-rich have NAFDAC stamps for deliverance unto the benevolent laps of the Creator. ‘Never mind. God Himself will visit soon to cleanse the land. The rich, the poor will die, the powerful will go, then God will prove to us that only He remains forever,’ my friend waxed philosophical. It has to be, she said, because like the white man noticed, Nigeria is the only country in the whole world where there is no social class; a queer, weird, classless society where everyone thinks alike, craves the same items, has same values, dream same dreams… Hear him: “I came to the conclusion about two years into my assignment that Nigeria is probably the only genuinely classless society I have seen. Class is very different from wealth. Upper class people can be dirt poor (bankrupt dukes) and lower class people can be fabulously rich (Russian oligarchs).
Class is about behaviour and attitudes, not wealth (a point made very well in Kate Fox’s excellent book Watching the English). And insofar as behaviour goes, I didn’t see a shred of difference between the top politicians, down through the officials in the national authorities, through the middle class professionals, through the service providers, right down to the area boys. The behaviour was identical across all strata: I want more money, and I will do absolutely anything to get it…”
Hmmm. ‘The guy is mad!’ My friend exclaimed at the razor-sharp precision of the white man’s analysis of the nation.
Are we condemned to go on like this? When is that divine visitation? My people say God’s coming is not in 20 years? Before then, my friend added, ‘We all need to go through a process of rebirth. That process will be birthed by God Himself.’
Then, there shall be no more pain? I asked, but got no reply from my friend. She looked away, fiddling with the crime pages of the day’s newspapers.
I wrote the above in August 2013, exactly three years ago.
Apart from the 2015 change in the colour of the bottle, the brew has maintained its flavour. Nothing else has changed. The country has remained a wow experiment in impossibility. The journey to a perfect ‘classless’ enclave continues. Dreams still are the same. No matter the life positions or job schedules, we all want those things Dangote owns. And we all think all things are possible. Foul is fair, contentment is nil. You were made a king yet you are trying your hand on money rituals. Do you want to become God? Imagine, presidents and kings, like the lucky fisherman, want control over everything, including holding the sun’s remote control, commanding its rising and the setting. Governors compete with presidents for absolute powers over everything. The law is an impediment, we want it suspended, they say. We dream big, even when awake doing nothing. Drivers of bank owners want ownership of the cars they drive. Gatemen want in their bed, that right type of women their bosses cuddle and smuggle in at midnight. We are a country of 170 million billionaires – in fact or in dreams. A nation of anything goes, everything is possible.
There is no fair, no foul. Like the secondary school girl who wonders why anyone would say she could be poor in life. “Why will I be poor?” She asks and adds with a determined smile “so what will I be doing with the hole between my legs?” It is the same mindset all through the rungs. Dire straits. So, is the situation absolutely irredeemable? I do not think so. We are a praying nation. We work hard too. So, what is the problem? Where did we go wrong? Who did we offend? My people say when a man’s world is spinning out of control, he turns to God. Even when we are turning slowly to the Creator, He is taking charge – soon…And there will be no more pain.