At the risk of projecting pessimism, I fear for my fatherland.
The above view articulately encapsulates the apprehension and distress evidently imprinted in the heart and mind of every patriotic citizen of Nigeria. This fear isn’t necessarily expressed by words at every opportunity; however, it inhabits and reposes luxuriously in a vibrant section of our brains and the hidden vestiges of our hearts. Subconsciously we accommodate this pain, develop it, nurture it, until eventually it reveals itself by our actions… resulting in the decadence we all behold.
“Balanced on Horseback is the only way to view the splendor of the state of Texas, USA.” So goes the famous American cliché. However I have coined it to suit the Nigerian Terrain… “Seated in a DANFO or MOLUE, is the best way to observe the deteriorating state of her territory”. You cannot understand the pain of her people, when you relax in the comfort of your private jet or better still in the sheer affluence of your endless convoy. You cannot relate with the desolate atmosphere which pervades the entire community when you aren’t within her once ample bosom of surplus milk. But I can! Thus, I enjoin you to take a trip with me, I do not promise an easy ride, I guarantee an enlightening one.
DANFO is the title given to the common and often rickety commuter buses which ply STATE roads. Although, it can hardly be termed luxurious however it is essential for the everyday hustle of transporting oneself to the various and desirable ends of the state. From the windows of my habitual “DANFO”, I can vividly behold FILTH in all its glory!!! . “Potholed” streets brimming with endless rows of shanties peaked with rusted corrugated iron roof tops and furnished with bare floors. These shanties are filled with the exuberance of laughing occupants, haggling with customers and chatting at the top of their voices, oblivious to any surreptitious observation from Pries. Not far off, there is a continuous stream of refuse, clogged with the mashed remains of improperly disposed “pure water sachets” and hashed with other condiments of waste, giving off a tantalizing stench to the hapless souls living around the vicinity.
Nearby, overflowing gutters languidly spill forth septic water which seeps into neighboring homes, warmly greeted by the toothless grins of crawling infants who derive so much fun from swimming within its diseased morbid depths… for all too soon, we lose our babies to the epidemic of decay.
As though the murky depth of filth isn’t sufficient disaster, NOISE is an all too familiar nuisance. Its deafening sound is attributed to salient sources like commercial stereos … obviously another gimmick by the vendors of musical CD’s to improve sales. Noise, from loudspeakers belonging to our ever faithful social and religious homes overtly resonates, as the righteous seem to be calling on the supreme to intervene in the societal situation which they are probably benefiting from! Whatever the source of the deafening noise, the inhabitants seem to derive a certain unexplainable joy from the familiar debris surrounding their immediate environs and so they couldn’t care less. Ironically in this despicable environment , I am granted ,by the rusty sheets of the bus’s window, glimpses of political posters of aspiring statesmen, praising themselves for a job “not” done and promising more of the on-slaught if voted in for a second term! I shake my head in despair.
The convulsive jerking of the vehicle disrupts my reverie as I lift up my head just in time to see the driver struggling with the brakes in an attempt to avoid the huge craters on the road. He finally comes to a cough spluttering stop behind another bus. Irate passengers’ rain curses upon the tired looking old man who should have been within the confines of a socially maintained old people’s home, had the authorities been sane enough to provide one. He defends himself by advocating that it is no fault of his that the road is beyond redemption and rather than continuously flogging a dead horse, they should all prepare their buttocks to sit out the traffic jam. Well, that’s one advantage of BAD ROADS, at least it causes such a snail speed traffic which will enable us look out the window once more to see more of the derelict terrain. I turn my concentration outside again and this time around we are on a different street.
This street however seems slightly different, as it exudes a modicum of affluence which is noticeably absent in the previous street visited. One common feature possessed here is the vast array of buildings and undoubted reverence given to the supreme being as it is manifested in letterings boldly written on storey buildings … “GOD IS GOOD”: “IN GOD WE TRUST” however in the midst of this passable wealth and evident reverence of the most high, there still lies traces of POVERTY and “slum like” characters showcased by the poor living amongst the middle class. One can only wonder if there are any brothers’ keepers’ around as instructed by the holy books!
I can’t help but notice that, although arranged in an unconscious manner, there seems to be an orderly assemblage of buildings which earmark the distinctions in the societal classes…for beside every tall, well built structure lies another erection which is laughable in contrast (little wonder it is popularly known as “face me I face you” as it is burdened with pitiable living conditions. The imposing buildings almost always possess high quality security brass gates and tall fences to keep the thieves away while the latter revel in the knowledge that “he that is down needs fear no fall”. It is obvious that the middle class owners of these impressive structures strive to display their wealth, and ironically, it is done in the midst of undeniable penury and such lack, that their efforts seem trivial. This view bespeaks the desire of all and sundry to adopt not just the bank accounts of the Rich, but also their lifestyle …whether it is done in sheer stupidity or total ignorance of the fact that wealth in the midst of poverty is Poverty itself!!! .
Crudely, I am again forced back to the present as there is an atmosphere of heightening excitement in the bus. The High-schoolgirls amongst us giggle excitedly and their pointed fingers direct my roving eyes to the crisis taking place outside. Nothing prepared me for the shock I witnessed as secondary school students like an army of vengeful ants confidently thronged across the express road, violently brandishing weapons and threats at the unfortunate drivers ordering them to stop and forcefully collecting money from them, at the same time other students in various uniforms seem to delight in this rising frenzy as the passengers of the affected buses, including mine rush out, in search of refuge. If not for their uniforms, I would have ultimately assumed them to be the usual MOTOR PARK TOUTS popularly called “agbero” who always harass bus drivers for a certain unexplainable levy. However their demand is usually characterized with screams of ‘owo mi da! Owo mi da!” meaning ‘where is my money , where is my money” which often made me wonder if there was a secret agreement between the drivers and these touts that the drivers would hold or keep money meant for these miscreants! , but upon further investigation done on foot, realization dawns on me that there are no high pitched cries of “owo mi da”, rather the traders around seem unfazed as they relay to me that, this is a normal occurrence and nothing for me to get worried about, as the young students are merely organizing a street carnival soon and they needed funds for it! CARNIVAL???!! CARNIVAL! What? Pray tell, occurs at these silly carnivals that would be beneficial to these youths? …Beneficial enough to cost their lives if such casualty had occurred in the process of getting funds? Has decadence finally arrived at the doorsteps of our educational system or has it already been ushered in…? Methinks the latter has occurred! For what then would obviously result when these “leaders of tomorrow” find themselves idle as they are wont to be, given the endless strikes that disfigure the once buoyant tertiary education system in the country? Again , I shake my head in despair and as is commanded bibilically I shake the dust off my feet as I quickly navigate my way out of this hellhole called a street in search of another danfo to continue my journey…for there are Certainly no brothers’ keepers to be found on this street!
It’s pretty difficult to get another danfo and I have been advised to walk down a straight path before I may be opportuned to join another commuter. Since I’m in no particular hurry, I begin my stroll. On this particular path, lying conspicuously on the mud –streaked ground are miles and miles of snake-like power cables and I am careful to avoid its morbid coil. Looking up, it’s easy to know that these cables have been detached from their countless mother poles by the staff of the power company conventionally called NEPA (even though they have long discarded with that name). As my ever voracious and hungry eyes take in the scenery, the line of cable appears to stop at a certain pole. However, my sigh of relief is cut short as it turns out that, the line doesn’t just end, there is a staff of the company upon that specific pole threatening to continue his business amidst pleadings and overtures from the defaulting consumers of electricity.
“We will pay, we promise , Oga”,they chime. The man in question looks adamant and holds his ground defying the pretentious woe-be-gone expressions. “Na so una they talk”, he replies. His frowning face is suddenly wreathed in smiles as he cunningly “shakes hands” with the people and hurriedly climbs back on the pole, the reason behind his abrupt glee isn’t hard to find as shouts of UP NEPA!! UP NEPA!!! rent the air. No further discussion is needed, no trivial explanation expected, for what has just gone down is the common phenomenon of BRIBERY for services temporarily supplied. Bribery, one cankerworm that has effectively eaten up the thread of society’s clothing, is a menace that prevails in every sector and is pervasive amongst the classes. Illegal road blocks are mounted indiscriminately as money exchange…, swifter than the speed of light, are carried out between drivers and our uniformed officials; illegal contracts are awarded to non meritorious members of the public following another exchange of benefits while our “ogas at the top” snap blind eyes shut and cover already deaf ears!
No one cares to know whether it is a crime or not, it is sufficient if it guarantees a temporary solace. And for those who even care, they are powerless against its ubiquitous fame as Bribery is a common error, one which is often made and has become the norm thus we have embraced its evil tentacles!
But then we may choose to exalt ourselves in the art of tom-foolery and pure deceit by asking each other who really is corrupt amongst us… I mean, I’m not, are you? None of us ever is, yet we reap the fruits of our hand-sown seeds of corruption…,
For every time we lift our eyes and direct our gazes to the people, campaigning for the next sorry political administration as our entertainers are usually paid handsomely to do…;
Every time we falsify state figures to enlarge our lean pockets;
Every time we convince ourselves that we are too weak to fight against the tempting lure of corruption… we ultimately remove the tightly bolted nails in the coffin of DECADENCE, for we may irreversibly resurrect a mummified motherland.
Think about it, and while you’re at it, I remain THE AMAZON and my amazing quill loves you *winks*
At the risk of projecting pessimism, I fear for my fatherland.