By Tabia Princwill
I STUMBLEDon an article on public outrage and fury when a disabled BBC reporter tweeted he was left on a plane after “wheel chair assistance”, the crew tasked with helping passengers with mobility issues to leave the aircraft, failed to show up to assist him, despite obviously knowing he was on board.
His complaint didn’t come across as the vitriol of a disgruntled VIP feeling slighted, rather, he was simply a human being, a passenger, a customer, advocating for better treatment of persons with disabilities during their travels.
The response from strangers was immediate and overwhelming. The airline offered an immediate apology and pledged to work with the airport authorities to ensure no repeats of this event occur. It was one of those events that make you wonder about the “Western” spirit.
How does one achieve a society where individuals seemingly care for one another even when they’ve never met, might never meet and in short, don’t stand to gain anything from associating with one another beyond self-affirming positivity, or the pleasure of displaying kindness due to the knowledge of one’s shared humanity?
How do you build a society where service providers don’t just take your money but are grateful for your continued patronage? One where said providers are willing, moreover, to accept criticism and improve on services? How does such a society come to be?
One where business owners and their employees, no matter how high or low on the corporate organigram, value what they do, understand their role as well as its purpose and want to give their best?
Selfishness and perpetual greed
I have said many times in this column that until we fix our educational system, the Nigerian mind-set we so often complain about, its avowed selfishness and perpetual greed, is here to stay. Yet, little is done, year in, year out, to change or improve upon the content of what Nigerian youths study.
Togetherness, social harmony, even basic things such as politeness, do not occur by chance. Our country is frozen, fused with bad behaviour, caught in corruption like a trap.
We pontificate over the same issues, kidding ourselves over our progress—that Nigeria still has to include rural electrification in its budget in 2017 is a disgrace to the idea of democracy and makes one wonder what happened to the funds allocated to the development of rural areas since the days of the military and its First Ladies who convinced us it was enough for rich women to distribute aso ebi in villages for progress to occur. Nothing has changed since then. Things have only got worse.
Nigeria is a country constantly teetering on the brink of self-destruction, with many willing apologists ready to excuse the misdeeds of the same people responsible for countless missed opportunities.
The life of the average Nigerian is cut short by the evil of a few, whom paradoxically, he is paid to support and to praise. There’s been another string of political weddings in the North, accompanied by the usual handouts to the poor. There has never been any study or investigation to see just how much money out of state coffers goes towards entertaining rich and powerful revellers at these semi-official functions where every “heavy weight” politician, be he friend or foe, is expected to show up to maintain relevance.
Like in ancient Rome where circus games dulled the pain of the masses, these extravagant, morally dubious parties, hosted by the chief executives of states where most citizens cannot afford to feed themselves, let alone get an education, exist solely to impress (and therefore oppress) the people whose senses are dulled by the expensive jewellery and cars on display.
So, at every level in society, men and women begin to dream of the lavish, ostentatious, and even criminal lifestyle on display. It is difficult, in a country such as ours, to believe that no lines are crossed and that personal, normally private amusements aren’t billed as state functions.
After all, before government house, many politicians are unknown entities till suddenly, government turns them into gods, idols who need to be adorned with finery to prove their realness and power to the people, the power to vanquish poverty that is.
Material poverty compounded by poverty of the mind pushes Nigerians to idolise corrupt, idealess individuals, in the hopes of gaining a crumb or two. To paraphrase a Yoruba proverb, in order to eat meat, we’ve been willing to call malus “Sir!” Money goes only one way in Nigeria: it flows up and never down. Who will offer real change? Sadly, that remains to be seen.
Former leaders’ karaoke video
THE Nigerian story is unfortunately one of bad ideas, poorly executed strategies and puerile attempts at gaining attention (even forgiveness) or the masses’ interest.
The video released over the Christmas period, of former Presidents and a few deputies singing and wishing blessings unto Nigeria, is the kind of sentimental, simplistic action we need to do away with in Nigeria. It’s all well and good to pray for Nigeria and present an angelic face, now that one is no longer in charge, but the question of how past leaders contributed to making Nigeria the ungovernable mess of contradictions it is today, remains.
Our leaders prey on the religious zeal with which people forgive anyone who claims to repent. Nigeria is rich in former leaders and moralists yet poor in individuals willing to speak the truth.
Obasanjo who sang with pride and gusto believes Nigerians have already forgotten that he hand-picked the now ostracised Jonathan for office. The Code of Conduct Bureau attempted to investigate the same Jonathan for false declaration of assets in 2006 and allegedly, Obasanjo intervened to stop the exercise.
Part of today’s issues in the banking system can be traced to the Shagari/Ekwueme era where bank licences were given out on a whim to associates and well-wishers.
It is up to the Nigerian people to take Nigeria where it needs to go. Many leaders, both past and present, will not (and cannot, for lack of creativity and ideas) on their own, without our pushing and insisting, concretise the dreams we have for our country.