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GO TO HELL:“Shrug your shoulders”

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By Kola Animashaun
When things happen, you look for precedents. Just as the case of the subsidy removal from the petrol. You would think its not done. But there are lots of that before.

I went to the archive and without effort I lighted on an offering by the ancient columnist, Alade Odunewu. In his book, Winner takes all published in 2007, of 25 March 1984, he wrote of “Just shrug your shoulders!”.

“Mainly because there is nothing they can do about it, most Nigerians it seems to me, have now injected a shock absorber into their systems and are therefore not crestfallen when things go haywire these days.

Recent observations by this reporter indicate that most people regard non-performance, or shoddy performance by our public utilities and institutions in the way the journalists reacts to the event of a dog biting a man, or a man biting a dog. The first incident, a curb reporter will tell you, is no news; the second is big news – man biting a dog?

Disappointments, especially in these times of irritation and jaded nerves are absorbed with philosophical calm. No fussing around no flexing of muscles, no curses and abuses heaped on those responsible for the let –down. We just shrug our shoulders when things go wrong, a contemptuous, but rather loud way of saying that we didn’t expect things to go right anyway, and why should we inflict high blood pressure on ourselves.

Let it be emphasized, once again, that we are talking about agonies caused by failure of public utilities etc.; not the bad tempers and scurrilous exchanges on the highway without which driving in the city loses its fun and jollity.

Come to think of it, what pleasure is there in driving your car in lagos and no opportunity offers itself to roll up your sleeves, shout at the other fellow in order that the little matter of who has the right of way can be amicably settled? No, we are not talking about that and similar irritations.

Maybe we should illustrate. When NEPA “strikes” at a time you must need it, at home or in the office, you don’t reach for the telephone to call the District Office or the ‘Despatch’, as they call it.

Not anymore. You just shrug your shoulders and improvise with the candle or the Japanese machine that has since reduced NEPA to a standby generating plant.

When your telephone is suddenly hit by “convulsion”, you don’t wince or scream aloud for help. Not anymore. All you do is shrug your shoulders, because all that has happened is a little matter of the dog behaving correctly by biting a man. No news. If you go to the bank to deposit your move, and the lady cashier frowns sorely, well, just shrug your shoulders, pay in your money and vanish from her sight.

What I saw at the domestic terminal of the Nigeria Airways two weeks ago drove home the virtue in shoulder-shrugging. And there is no better public place to observe frustrations than the Airport.

Many years ago, before irate passengers came to appreciate that shouting and brandishing of fists at officials solved nothing, the fashion was to pace up and down the hall yelling and cursing when a plane’s take-off was delayed by so so hours. Not these days. Passengers simply shrug their shoulders; not even a murmur, not a whisper.

The flight to Makurdi that morning was delayed by three hours. The announcer conveyed the news to passengers with routine nonchalance. No hue and cry; passengers understood and simply greeted the news with shrugging of the shoulders.

One expatriate who seemed to know the shock resistance against our public utilities went straight to the bar, bought himself a bottle of beer and sipped slowly, almost timing the gulping down the throat to end at exactly three hours.

Our own plane was Flight 106 to Port Harcourt and scheduled departure time was 11 a.m. when no announcement came at that hour, no one bothered, apparently because it would have amounted to a case of man biting dog if we departed on schedule! Meanwhile Flight 252 to Enugu was announced for boarding. And so the passengers, in the customary manner, raced to the tarmac higgledy-piggledy, and formed a queue to board.

The Flight 106 was called and, again in accordance with tradition, passengers ran as if they sighted the pilot threatening to fly off without them. Passengers for Flight 252 were now all on board, so were passengers for Flight 106.

Then a stand still both ways. Both pilots greeted their passengers and announced they couldn’t take off because they needed more fuel. Some shrugging and sweating more profusely for one hour in the plane.

This reporter had earlier exchanged greetings with his lordship Justice Adenekan Ademola before he boarded Flight 252 to enugu.

And my mind went to him; as if his lordship knew, he wore a casual French suit and therefore not likely to perspire too much. But I felt for him all the same because I knew he was heading for a session of the Federal Court of Appeal to help sort out which candidate snatched the other’s votes during one of the general elections.

Surely, and I speak as a layman, no one can balance probabilities and resolve doubts, reasonably or shadowy with that type of heat for a start. I don’t think so.

Back to Flight 106. As this reporter sweated torturingly on board I browsed through the boarding card and it said to me unabashedly: You have made the best choice by flying Nigeria Airways! My reaction? What else but another shrug of the shoulders. It is about the best antidote going berserk these days”.

This government behaves so insensitively say some of the people. They say it is “playing the cards of same cartel”. One of them said they are asking us to “go to hell!”. We have always gone to hell.

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