By Bob Anikwe
I SAT in a popular fast-food joint the other day and listened to two friends argue over â€œofficeâ€ matters. It was obvious that the two were close friends, and from the nicknames they shared, it was also apparent that they knew each other well, long before they came to settle in Abuja and work in the same office.
Those of us seated near their table listened to the conversation, because one of the parties wanted everyone to hear and presumably drink from his book of Abuja wisdom.
The man, whom I shall call Mr. Ojionu, looked dashing, well groomed, and prosperous. His friend, whom I shall call Mr. Oyibo (because he had the affectations of an Oyinbo gentleman) looked lean and gaunt, evidence of a constant struggle to come to terms with the high cost of living in the capital city. Oyibo was also beginning to sprout grey hairs.
Everyone in our corner of the restaurant took notice of this odd couple when Ojionu hit his fist on a restaurant table and shouted at his friend in exasperation:
â€œHow many times have I told you that you donâ€™t speak truth to power in Abuja?â€ he shouted.
â€œMany times, but this wonâ€™t stop me. You have forgotten what they say? The man dies who keeps silent in the face of tyranny? I donâ€™t like the manâ€™s attitude and you know it. How could I be the one to tell him who his enemies are? Do I look like someone who loves gossiping or backbiting people?â€
â€œNa you sabi,â€ Ojionu shot back. â€œThe man is looking for his enemies. Why donâ€™t you help him find them? Youâ€™ve missed a golden opportunity; the man wants you to be his confidantâ€¦â€
â€œâ€¦His spy, damnit! Why do you change the meaning of words? This is wicked and amoral.â€
â€œMe, wicked and amorous? And I am paying for your food and beer?â€
â€œNot amorous; amoral â€“ unethical, dishonourable, unscrupulous. And I donâ€™t mean you. I mean the way you dress bad things with noble words.â€
â€œNow you are the one using big words to confuse; not me but my way â€“ whatâ€™s the difference? Anyway, you need to learn a few things about how to get along in this town.â€
â€œOk, teacher, fire on. Iâ€™m all ears.â€
â€œI can reel out ten things that make people successful in Abuja. Never speak truth to power; help powerful people find or confirm their â€œenemiesâ€; everybody is stealing from Nigeria, so always ask for something before doing anyone a favour.
If you wait until after you have rendered excellent service, you will be the mumu because they will dash you peanuts. You are going around looking like Mr. Suffering himself. Put on a bold, prosperous front â€“ drive the best car in town, leave that hamlet from where you suffer everyday to come to work; come and live in the city; put your children in elite schools here in Abuja; register with a big clubâ€¦â€
â€œAll that on my salary?â€
â€œYou are thinking like a poor man, and donâ€™t interrupt me please. Poor people like you always put the money first, rather than the dream and a plan. When you dream big, youâ€™ll be presented with the motivation to go beyond this â€œholyâ€ attitude that is keeping you in agony.â€
â€œThereâ€™s something wrong with trying to be holy?â€
â€œNo, nothing wrong; Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ll make it to heaven, Iâ€™m sure of that. The way things look, you might even make it sooner than you wish, because the journey has started in your body.â€
â€œNow, youâ€™re beginning to insult me.â€
â€œI havenâ€™t started yet. I may not speak truth to power, but I do to my friends. So, Iâ€™m telling you: leave your morality and fine principles at home. They will not train your children. They will not give you a life here. I am tired of listening to you moan about those who cheat you. Cheating is an Abuja way. How many have you cheated?
You are a brilliant man, always full of ideas. Donâ€™t you know that your ideas have made millionaires in this town? The people you leave documents with use the same documents to get ahead, while telling you that they were not approved, not so?
Remember the day you came out of our meeting crying that the ideas you discussed with (name withheld) was what he came to present as his own? I sometimes feel guilty because I also make use of your ideas. But, in my own case, I make sure I pay you back with my friendshipâ€¦
â€œSo thatâ€™s why you buy me lunch and beer? You feel better for stealing my ideas after you make me eat your food?â€
â€œForget about that. You are my friend. Iâ€™m telling you that you need to learn how to get ahead. You come to work every day and dive straight to your task â€“ you donâ€™t remember to go greet our Oga, ask how his family is doing, smile to make his dayâ€¦â€
â€œHow does that fit into my job description?â€
â€œHahaha! I get the joke. But seriously, my friend, you need to be at the beck and call of your Oga. That is why he is the Oga.
He expects absolute loyalty from you; you must be able to satisfy him in all respects with your committed service â€¦â€
â€œSpeaking of which I must tell you this â€“ since we are speaking the truth to frienship. Do you know what the latest office gossip is?
Itâ€™s about you and the man. They say that he â€œservicesâ€ you and this is why you are getting accelerated promotions and all the other perks that are making you live like a prince.â€
â€œBe careful now. You may be my friend but in this Abuja, mugu dey go far, and you donâ€™t cross a mugu.â€
â€œMugu? You mean you act a fool to get what you want?â€
â€œYou are not versed in Hausa. Mugu does not mean a fool. It means something else and the nearest I can explain it to you is that a mugu is an extremely wicked and dangerous person. You may be my friend but be careful what you go about telling those who are successful in this town. Iâ€™ve paid for your food and beer; letâ€™s go.â€
â€œI donâ€™t understand. You mean you could actually harm me? Is this a threat?â€
â€œYou are my friend; at least for now. Letâ€™s leave here.â€