Monday, June 21, 2010
Gains of being Nigerian
As Nigerians, we subsist in a country that grants us more headaches than broad-lipped smiles. Many here try to live above board, try to be different, but the society makes that very difficult, throwing numerous fetters across the road they tread.
For a country that have over the years fought – even if only by proclamations – to extradite itself from the negative image it has somehow managed to garner over the years, Nigeria appears to be losing more credibility than it garners as the days go by.
The reasons for this is not as simple as most people think. Though it is easy to point accusing fingers at the ruling elite that have undeniably held the country to ransom for years the fact remains that even the accuser is guilty of some form of illegality or another.
In seeking scapegoats, people overlook a very important factor that serve the entrenchment of corruption, those acts of illegality that though widespread, have come to be accepted as the norm by a society that has, in effect, become as lawless as the fictional banana republic.
In any society governed by the rule of law, it is illegal to do anything outside the law. In Nigeria reverse is the case, here the law is tilted easily by people to suit whatever suits them in a particular time. Here the constitution exists only as a means to the self serving ends of the ruling cabal, who juggle its interpretation at whim. The masses that are expected to checkmate the excesses of the leaders are either too complacent or after their own pockets – without access to the national cake, they loot their brother poor, who left with no option, succumb to the dictates of a disjointed society, either that or go to blazes.
It may baffle foreigners how easily people here set their own rules and appears to get away from it, but it is as normal as breathing exhaust fumes in the city. Here, transport fares fluctuate according to the transporters’ whim, having little to do with the petrol price they base their assertions on or the distance travelled. Also, it has become fashionable to hike transport fares during religious holidays, sometimes by as much as 700 percent – Those who have cause to travel to the east during the Christmas period are very familiar with this.
Then there is the question deregulation that though not yet signed into law is already common place at filling stations. Even when the elusive regular supply of petroleum products is obtainable, the petrol stations subject customers to extra costs that have no bearing to their purchase. One wonders where the now popular ‘nozzle money’ originated from (nozzle money refers the extra N20, N50 or N100 pump attendants charge customers before or after selling products to them. This nozzle fee is usually higher when you are buying in a lower middle class or ‘poor’ areas. The filling stations also charge about N50 extra for those who are buying with a gallon. No explanation is given for these extra charges other than ‘na moni fo nozzle now’)
Perhaps more confusing is the strange tenancy rates that effectively make it impossible for anybody below the middle class range to afford a decent accommodation. This is truer of Lagos where a single room with a small bathroom/toilet attached goes for about N100, 000 a year, and the tenant is required to pay two-three years rent advance and an between N50, 000-N70, 000 for what is commonly referred to as agent and agreement fee. At a total cost of N400, 000, one wonders how a fresh graduate earning the current minimum wage can afford it.
At the moment, the Lagos state house of assembly is considering a bill that is expected to check the excesses of landlords, but the bill have received knocks from stakeholders for being defective in some key aspects like: amount charged a new tenant, number of years advance for a new tenant and the vexing issue of agent and agreement fees that are usually collected by the same person, the landlord.
The antics of Nigerian Police are another issue that the Nigerian masses have had to contend with. The police are known for their almost fanatical hatred for the man on the street, the very people they are paid to protect. While they fawn on the rich, answering their every whim, including arbitrary arrest of the poor and brutalization of any perceived enemy, they fail continually to protect the masses from oppressors, looking the other way while the poor are milked dry by transporters, filling stations, landlords and the ruling class. They only stretch forth their hands for the usual egunje that the Okada and bus drivers are forced to proffer then look the other way. The only thing that strikes one as funny is the fact that the majority of the police also subsist in abject want, at par with those whose suffering they aid. It has been said that they too are victims of the same oppressors.
We exist day by day, wondering when the change will come, when we can worry only about mundane things. We ask questions, but get no reply, because our answers only echo in the air, to rebound off the ears of those who are supposed to make a difference.
Will Nigeria survive without the common man, the man on the street, the salt of the earth? I doubt it, and I am sure even the greedy politicians do too. If we can’t get even a decent one room apartment, if we can’t exist without been subjected to the whims of corrupt people, if we can’t get a little protection from those assigned that duty, then it may be time for us to take our affairs into our own hands.