The other day, I was stuck in traffic at the Old Enugu-Onitsha road. There were lots of vehicular movement on the narrow road because of the decrepit situation of the expansive New Enugu-Onitsha road, which has become a death trap to vehicles and humans due to government’s consistency in neglecting the road. Frustrated in the gridlock, hoping to get out of it as soon as possible, a Toyota Hilux with a government official as the passenger passed through; siren blaring.
A police escort had managed to create enough space that they navigated through. Our organisation’s driver was furious, he complained about the insensitivity and selfishness of the government official and the policeman. He was of the view that the police officer could have helped control the traffic to ease the heavy congestion, rather he decided to be selfish and give special treatment to his boss.
He equally lambasted the government official who could have asked the policemen to be of help to everyone instead of enjoying special privileges. His eyes were full of anger; he could have confronted the policeman if not for the obvious recklessness of the Nigerian Police Force with guns. We spent another hour in the traffic jam.
The following week, we plied the same road again for another reason with an expatriate and we had two policemen as escorts this time. On the same road, we met another traffic jam. The two policemen disembarked from the vehicle and cleared the road for our vehicle to move.
Our driver smiled brightly, nodded his head in approval and applauded the policemen. He promised them two bottles of lager beer as a prize for the job well done. I looked back as we exited the traffic jam, I saw a similar type of anger I saw in our driver’s eye last week in the eyes of other motorists. Their faces clearly showed the frustration and hopelessness they felt.
They, like our driver last week, could only be angry and do nothing. I reminded our driver of his complaint last week. Still basking in the euphoria, retaining the bright smile, he said: “Man has to move on brother. No time.” Our quick-fire exit from the traffic jam will further complicate things and keep those unprivileged Nigerians there for more time.
Our accountant came to a branch of a new generation bank, where our company is one of the biggest customers. It was after the Sallah holidays, unsurprisingly, there were numerous customers in the bank. I was in the long queue with others waiting patiently to be attended to, when he walked in majestically, he went straight to the counter and was promptly attended to.
The security man at the bank, who was controlling the queue, didn’t blink an eye as he broke protocols. Other people on the queue protested unsuccessfully. When he was leaving the bank, our eyes met, he told me, I could have signaled him, so he would have equally facilitated quick services for me. He left happy and fulfilled.
A few days later, he came back to the office disgruntled that he couldn’t achieve what took him to another bank due to a long queue coupled with bank staff, giving special treatment to certain individuals, ignoring those at the queue. “This country is totally messed up and nothing works.” He added. I sympathized with him and replied, “This is Nigeria.”
These events remind me of the saying that the majority of people who moan about corruption in Nigeria only do so because they are not blessed to be part of those looting our treasury. The Nigerian civic space is shrinking, because many activists who were criticizing Nigerian governments have learned the Nigerian table manners whenever they have the opportunity to dine at the table of the looters.
We have seen what has become of respected activists like Adams Oshiomole of the NLC, Festus Keyamo, Prof Itse Sagay, among others, who have forgotten what they were fighting for once they became members of the government. Even President Buhari, who called on Nigerians to learn from the Egyptian Revolution during the Arab Spring, has not hesitated to crack down on the proponents of #RevolutionNow who started protesting against bad governance, poor economic policies and insecurity. Invariably, the majority of Nigerians only complain about privileges when they are not among the privileged.