The cab man gently turned towards him and delivered the solemn but embarrassing message: “You must be a Nigerian”.
The story was told of a Nigerian journalist who was posted to Ghana by his newspaper. On his first day in office, he worked late. Journalists work late; that’s no problem. Tired and worn out, he hurled himself into a cab for a short cruise to his hotel. And suddenly, they got to the traffic light. The Ghanaian cab man dutifully waited for the red light to switch to green. That’s a lawful thing to do. Because it was late, traffic was lean and no vehicle was in sight from any direction. Yet, he obeyed simple traffic rule.
Such ‘silly’ behaviour of obeying traffic light even when the road was free angered our Nigerian brother whereupon he yelled at the cab driver to “move now!” In his country, Nigeria, it is ridiculous to obey a silly machine called traffic light at night when there are no vehicles in view. But not in Ghana. After our brother had finished yelling at the driver to ‘move now’, the cab man gently turned towards him and delivered the solemn but embarrassing message: “You must be a Nigerian”. It was at that point that our brother came to himself. He realized that he was not in Nigeria, in Lagos or anywhere in the country where laws are stood on their head. He became a heap of embarrassment right inside the cab and never uttered a word until he hopped off at his hotel. The journalist is a university graduate with many years’ experience on the job. The cab driver is not a university graduate but he was more law-abiding than the man who should be educating him on basic etiquettes and laws.
But this has been the lot of Nigerians. We tend to do things differently even when it is both absurd and unlawful. Let’s just consider a few of the many things that make us Nigerians.
If you are the type that obeys laws including traffic rules in other countries but spurn the same in your own country then you must be a Nigerian. If you are a youth and all you do politically is to drain yourself of youthful energy campaigning for those in the winter of their lives, grandpas and grandmas, who in saner communes ought to have retired to old people’s home, then you’re a Nigerian.
If you are a wailer bemoaning the looting of your national treasury but end up still supporting and rooting for the same company of looters who stole your future and that of generations to come, please take a bow, you’re a Nigerian.
And if you are a hailer, very adept at hailing leaders whose obvious incompetence and cluelessness has kept you tethered to the stump of underdevelopment, yet you have not ceased to hail them, take a seat, you must be a Nigerian. If you are a man or woman of great learning, scholarship and cerebral gravitas but you conspired with your ilk to elect a leader whose secondary school certificate is still a subject of debate, clap for yourself, you’re a true Nigerian.
If you are a youth with knowledge of good and bad but you spend all your energy and time defending the tribe of thieves who stole blindly from the national till, buy up estates in exotic places around the world with money meant for roads, hospitals and basic amenities and you’re actively engaged on social media defending them, you’re a true Nigerian.
If your president is frail, weak, sickly and has been on hospital bed more than he has been in his office but you’re still stuck to him fanatically defending and supporting him, I rejoice with you for you must be a real Nigerian. If you’re a youth, in the prime of your life and you cannot team up with your fellow youths to take back power from an underperforming horde of geriatrics but dissipate energy fighting among yourselves to the joy of the clan of grey-haired grumpy oldies in power, shout for joy my dear, you’re all Nigerians.
Yes, yes, if you are the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the chief security officer of the nation with unfettered access to the very best and most modern arms, ammunition and weaponry but you cannot tame a ragtag army of Islamic insurgents and killer herdsmen but tells us to pray for national security, then you must be a Nigerian.
Peradventure you are the type that endlessly complains about poor leadership but on the day of election, the only day you have the power to boot out bad leadership and all you do is sit at home, TV remote in hand, sip a drink and scour through all the channels on your TV, you must be a Nigerian.
Again, if you’re a hailer or wailer in a country where you should all be angry mourners with collective fury and zeal to break from a roguish past and an even more roguish present with a tinge of bloodiness, you deserve your diadem of a free-born Nigerian. You really are.
If you’re reading this and you feel in a sense convicted for your vicarious conspiracy to tolerate bad leadership for a good 58 years after independence, then you’re a Nigerian. The good news is that you can do something about it.
Get up, gird your loins and join the train of angry, willing and determined youths working the anvil to rescue their dear nation from the nadir of retrogression.
For as it is now clear, neither the ruling party, the APC, nor the grieving party, the PDP, has the capacity to beget a new order. They are just six and half a dozen: same of same. It’s like flipping through the closing chapters of George Orwell’s classic, Animal Farm, where it became difficult to tell the difference between the pigs and man, between wailers and hailers, between animals with two legs and animals with four legs. For at the end all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.
A corollary: All politicians are the same, whether APC or PDP or ADP, it’s just that some are more cunning and craftier than others. The only loser is the one who keeps wailing and hailing while the politicians dance animatedly on the people’s early grave.
Nigerians are a peculiar lot, they cry when they should laugh and laugh when they ought to cry. It is what makes us Nigerians; a people of contradictions and quirky incongruities. But all said, I still love my country; the people, the food, the laughter, the noise, the vastness of land, the cadence of variegated cultures, the drive, the incredible capacity to cling to hope in the face of despair, the energy in the streets. What a country, what a mishmash of the poor and the rich, of the comical and serio-comic. I love Nigeria. I will always do, dearly.