4th June, 2012
I wrote this the day after the Dana Air crash where we lost 153 people, five of whom I knew back in Zaria.
There are two things we need to stop doing if we don’t want a repeat occurrence of yesterday’s sadness, (a) praying, praying and praying with absolutely no change in our character and (b) castigating the government and absolving ourselves of all the blame. Let me explain.
I’ll share four scenarios with you, some from my own experience and some from experiences of friends. None of these scenarios involves someone in government, no, it is all us, the common man, who is supposedly innocently suffering under our evil government.
- This is my personal favourite. The owner of a small private business once refused to pay the salaries of his staff for three weeks. Why? Because he had a quarrel with his second in command. Now do tell me, what makes him any different from the government that didn’t pay Corpers last month? If we decide to revolutionize and topple the existing government and put him in charge will we see any difference? Isn’t he responsible then for whatever illegal or dangerous ventures his staff get involved in in order to provide for their families? Did I mention he was a pastor daily praying for change for the country?
- An entire graduating class missed their NYSC batch. Why? Because when their class rep submitted the list of names to the secretary he didn’t greet her properly so she decided to sit on the file for a few days before passing it on to her boss. But when these young people are forced to stay idle for a full year possibly becoming the devil’s workshop everyone will shout “this Government, sef!!!!!”
- This one I’m sure we’ve heard about a million times. Teachers writing WAEC and JAMB for their students in return for payment. These kids will graduate and since they know absolute zero they’ll go ahead to pay another set of teachers to get through Uni. Maybe one of them pays his way through Med School and then becomes a surgeon and kills 90% of his patients. Who should his teachers really blame for the problem? Do you think that after this child has paid his way through so much of his life he will have any qualms collecting a bribe to allow an airplane that’s not air worthy fly? Maybe the teacher had to take the bribe because his employer in number 1 didn’t pay his salary?
- And I saved this for last. A young man I know once lost his job. Why? He was part of a team of structural engineers building a road here in our Nigeria. He noticed that though his bosses were getting paid for high quality materials they were buying and using inferior stuff and pocketing the difference. He asked them questions and they offered to give him a cut. This is what he told me, “It was very tempting because I really needed that money, but I also knew that if I closed my eyes to what they were doing the blood of the people that would die on this road would be on my hands”. So he reported it to higher authorities and they had to do the right thing, but as soon as the coast was clear he was fired. But there is a bit of road somewhere in Nigeria that isn’t killing entire families.
Now, I’m not pointing fingers because I’m guilty of some of this stuff, all I’m trying to say here after rambling on for a page is that this corruption we say is killing Nigeria isn’t at the top alone. It happens when we bribe the security man at the bank to take our withdrawal book to the front of the line. I mean, come and see the ‘big boys and girls’ who are too busy to join queues in Naija humbly queuing up here in obodo oyinbo. Do we think God came down from heaven to make the UK what it is? The people did it. I think if we do the right things AND refrain from doing the wrong things (which we all know) then we may be able to one day get out of this rut we find ourselves in.
I mean, are these our leaders that we castigate everyday from Mars? Aren’t they Nigerians like us? They didn’t start out stealing billions, they probably started by inflating the cost of office equipment they were sent to buy in their NYSC days. And don’t say it’s because it’s the old Brigade in power, we have tried young people and they weren’t any better to be honest (by the way, where is Dimeji Bankole these days).
The issue here is responsibility. Each of us is in a way equally responsible for making or marring this country. When you don’t do what you should you start a ripple effect that eventually comes back to break your heart like our collective heart was broken yesterday. The question is how do we handle our little, ‘irrelevant’ responsibilities? After all, the Good Book says that he that is faithful in little is faithful in much and he that is unfaithful in little… So if we are unfaithful in our little jobs and daily lives we are exactly as guilty as those politicians we curse daily and that means that those curses will catch us as well. Did I hear an amen? (remember what you all said when Jona refused to say amen the other day, oh).
Do leave a comment, and talk to me on twitter @zeenike