An Open Letter From Small Nigeria

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Yes, we have accepted that Nigeria is a developing country and hasn’t even been in existence as long as some of the greater world powers we compare ourselves to. However, does this mean that we should remain in our developing state forever, does this mean we should be in a state of stagnant growth? If we see or notice a problem, shouldn’t we try to do something about it, if not by ourselves, then we can alert an organization about it. This soliloquy is brought on by a personal experience last night through this morning that really portrayed what goes on in Nigeria today.

It was 7 pm already, the usual time when the generator in my hostel came on. Sure enough, it did. Jennifer, my roommate bakes and she looks forward to the moments of assured electricity so she can bake her cakes in peace on an electric cooker in a big aluminum pot filled with salt…..creative or what? Anyways, this was a cake baking evening, and although I didn’t exactly like cake, I looked forward to perceiving the aroma and biting into Jenny’s fluffy cakes. This was however not to be as at 7:30, moments after the first batch had just gone on the fire, we were left in a state of utter darkness. Shouts could be heard from the windows of various rooms, ‘amethyst, put on the gen’. Really, what was this, I thought to myself as I put on the very dim lamp which had not been charged all day and went on arranging my locker. Jenny burst into the room and just landed on her bed, this was not the first time that the generator was going to be messing up her cakes. I could see through the dim light that she was seething with anger, I felt sorry for her.

We went out to ask the porters what the problem was, the usual story, the gen was bad. Really, you don’t say, I thought to myself. They had been preaching this for the past one month, however, we will find out in the wee hours that girls had had enough. Things were calm, tensions were building. I could see people taking out extensions so as to charge their phones at the gateman’s post. Apparently, this is what the high amount of money we were paying got us. I couldn’t care less, I thought. My reasoning being that they must have resolved the issue by the time I got back to my hostel from Yomi’s birthday party.

The party was dead (no offense Yomi). Probably because it was billed to start later, however I came earlier because no music is worth my sleep. For some reason, I took two packs of food, instead of one to console my bored senses. I couldn’t eat before leaving, so I ended up taking the two packs to the hostel. We took an okada to go back to the hostel. Before I knew what was happening, there was a danfo in front of us and people telling the okada man to stop. Stop for what, I thought. They were police men. Mschew, I thought, what do these ones want now? Apparently, okada’s are not supposed to operate after 10.

In a country where the rule of law obtains, should anybody be above the law? Equality before the law is after all what the rule of law preaches. To my uttermost surprise, the driver of the okada, was a soldier. Apparently, being a soldier is the answer to any problem in Nigeria. As in, the way the guy said it self, like being a soldier meant a total disregard for laid down rules and regulations. I was glad they didn’t arrest him, I was however also sorry for the guy who was not a soldier and was sitting hopelessly in the back of the bus, holding his okada to prevent it from falling out the boot.

On getting to the hostel, it was still plagued with darkness, with the occasional beam of a torchlight in one or two rooms that one could see from the road. More people had even kept turns to charge their phones. My door was very welcoming to all the mosquitoes and all sorts of creepy crawlies as my roommate had left the doors and windows wide open. There were about 3 other people in the room with her, guess the first thing she asked me. Eniola, did you bring food? Ha……I thought in my mind. This must be the reason I suddenly developed roguish tendencies. She and her friends shared a plate while I ate the other plate with Tomi. Then I started hearing amethyst’s national anthem; ‘porter no water, porter no water, porter no water ooo’ in a crescendo-like fashion. I loved hearing it because water never seemed to finish in my room. Last night was not an exception. I even took a shower on the advice of the Afro kid; totally worth it. Usually, the hostel doors close at 12:30, today; exception. Girls were still trooping around, getting in sync with nature and all. Little groups here and there with rechargeable fans. By 1 am though, the girls had no choice as there was an alarm of the presence of a snake; false or not, I knew not.

As I drifted in and out of my reverie as I couldn’t figure out whether I was awake or asleep, I could hear people airing their grievances still. 5:30 AM ushered in the party goers and all those in that category; people who unlike me, didn’t have a close relationship with sleep. In their sleep deprived state, they were livid that there still was no light and water was still a problem. Tensions erupted, and an alarm of fire was raised that pierced even through the deep sleep of Ismailia in the room across from ours. It felt as though there was an earthquake as I could feel the vibrations from people scampering to tie their wrappers under their armpits and for the ones that could bear the heat and wore clothes; lucky them I thought. If I was in doubt as to whether it was a false alarm; the next words confirmed my suspicions. Early morning activists had come to preach their gospel. It didn’t go so well.

Later in the morning before I went for my meeting, as I sat on my bed facing the window that looked outward towards the walkway, I got wind of the rancid smell that was the sewage. Heck, it smelt like they hadn’t emptied it in ages. As though the feaces was complaining of overcrowding. They were having a revolution of their own. That, friends is the genesis of this whole write up. Why would the management wait until things are in a total state of disrepair and we start to inhale toxic chemicals? Why would they continue to be-labor a generator set that had obviously outlived its life span? Why would they want to fumigate on a Saturday? Do they really think that we go to school throughout the week only for us to be kicked out on the weekend also? It’s really amusing, who thought about doing that?

This questions draw my attention to the state of our country and in particular our maintenance culture. Why does the government not feel the need to take care of things while they are still functioning? They would rather wait till it spoils then try to repair the spoilt thing. This a culture that has got to stop. If we all wait for things to be in the worst conditions, then we will not be practicing sustainable development; and Nigeria will really not come out of the developing stage. Sustainable development will begin in our country when people start to realize the long term effects of their actions today on society tomorrow. Yes, it’s good to build bridges and construct roads and build hospitals and universities, but how sustainable are these projects, what measures have been put in place to ensure that this structures are kept in a state of use till they reach maximum utility. Capitalizing on the just concluded elections, the incoming governments both at the federal level and state level have their work cut out for them. If they identify the maintenance problem of this country and decide to fix it, they will be pioneering this development and because they have nothing to build on, they would have to start from scratch. Planning, strategizing, proactive actions, engagement of experts. When contracts are awarded, the same company should be charged with the responsibility of coming up with a maintenance plan. Start small, start somewhere.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Nice write up,
    The maintenance culture starts with the consciousness as citizens that it begins with us, that is key to starting small. It becomes easier for such an individual who has built up a maintenance culture as a mere citizen to in-cooperate same when in government or in any place of authority.
    Lol @ “as though the faeces were complaining of over crowding”

  2. Uhmm..soldiers should be “above Lil road laws” they law down their lives for us and should be respected. The okada law prob had something to do with ppl’s safety. When I left Nigeria most thieves were using okadas. A soldier is one that is sworn to protect so of course he is exempted from a such a rule. The guy clutching his okada at the bk of the danfo does not deserve to be compared to the soldier as he was fully aware of the law before he set out.
    My point is: try to take a more respectable tone towards soldiers as they lay down their lives for u.
    Sorry I didn’t read the whole thing. Just started from the gen part and ended at the soldier bit (cuz I just had to comment on that bit) and what kind of parties do u guys HV over there? Where u take food to a party and leave with them

    • Little road laws? A law is a law and nobody should be above the law, if of course he was on official duty on his okada by that time, fine. He was carrying out commercial activities. Nobody should be above the laws. It’s just like saying the president should not be subject to anti-corruption laws because he represents us on the international scene. But you’re entitled to your opinion though. Thanks for the comment and ps:I didn’t take food to the party, I just took food away. Come back home quickly.

  3. Soldiers are not civilians doll. U need to research the way the world works. Soldiers do not pay at toll gates either. They are given certain privileges. Their privileges are limited and considerate. A soldier doesn’t get off for committing a serious crime. Politicians are given diplomatic immunity internationally. Which means that they could commit murder and get away with it.
    But my statement still stands. U should accord a Lil respect to the peeps that lay down their lives for u. Arguably the general frustrated tone of ur write up could be the cause of that statement…but…it’s still not ok

  4. @Mirian, I do agree that soldiers receive certain privileges. Some are statutory and some are not. This however doesn’t give them any right to violate law without sanction. Secondly, immunity given to even politicians lapses when they leave office subject to the particular office and the ambit of protection / immunity given.

    I think it’s a case of what powers they have and what powers they don’t have. So as to whether soldiers “should be above little road laws”, your opinion (and mine) is irrelevant. Law is law.

    Nevertheless, Eni… Soldiers are trying. Their job isn’t the most attractive in these times. Cut em some slack. Nice piece by the way.

  5. Hmm, I agree with you. Surely Nigeria is the giant of Africa by size if she has continued to maintain a stagnated state of development and growth. Can we really call it stagnated, I think diminishing would better qualify it. However, with the surge of the very much anticipated wave of change, I believe things will get better for good. Your writeup is a true representation of the reality as of today. We hope tomorrow holds the kind of change we look forward to. Good job Eniola

  6. A beautiful write-up..I can totally relate to the experience on d peculiar ‘special treatment’ these soldiers receive.It’ll be fine.soon enough.As we’ve always heard.:)

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