Someone once told me a story about some contractors who were supposed to work on a project in one of the villages in the Niger Delta. I cannot remember what the project was about but l remember that he told me that In the area earmarked for the project, a family shrine stood. The contractors needed to clear the area for work to begin. So they paid some compensation to the family that owned the shrine and then pulled it down.
The next time they got back to that area, where there was one shrine initially, several other shrines had sprung up overnight. Each shrine had an owner claiming it was a family heritage and therefore compensation must be paid to them before any work would start. The more they paid, the more shrines sprung up. The contractors became frustrated and abandoned whatever project it was they were supposed to have started. Whether the project was for the greater good of the community, the villagers didn’t care. All they wanted was immediate financial gratification.
Back in school, a Dangote truck had killed a student. This led to a sort of ‘aluta’ among the angry students. A situation that was soon hijacked by hoodlums to ferment more trouble.
To avoid a repeat of such incident, the govt built speed breakers along the school road and also built an overhead bridge for pedestrians. The first time l walked on that bridge, I swore it would be my last. Instead of a bridge that would form a Safeway for students against fast moving vehicles, It had been turned into a public toilet. The aim of its creation, defeated.
I remember sometime in 2008 in Jos, JMDB had provided a number of waste bins along strategic points. Instead of throwing rubbish on the street, all one had to do was turn around and locate a nearby bin where one could dispose of dirt. Guess what? They didn’t last two weeks. At least the ones on Tafawa Balewa street and west of mines junction to around polo field, did not. They disappeared. Apparently stolen by people who either felt the bins were better off in their houses or who felt the metal used in making them, could be melted and formed into something else that could be sold. It wasn’t long before l noticed that the bins in other parts of Town that l usually frequented, had also disappeared. Those behind their disappearance, must have thought that dirt on the streets of Jos would add a form of beautiful ugliness to the Tin city. It didn’t matter to them that providing those waste bins, was one of govt’s way of keeping the city clean.
I remember the first time l came to Lafia. One of the few things l liked about the town was the way it lighted up beautifully at night, courtesy of the streetlights. It didn’t take long for the lights to stop working. Some hoodlums under the cover of darkness, would little by little, loosen the bolts supporting the lights. They would do this night after night until one day, the bolts would give way and the lights would fall down. I hear there is something they contain ( either the bulbs or the solar panels, l can’t remember which now). Once those things are sold, they bring alot of money to the seller.
Those behind such theft did not care that apart from adding to the aesthetics of a place, the lights also provided Some sort of security for road users at night.
Each time I am on a bike going somewhere, there’s a prayer on my lips. The reason is because some okadas over here, do not obey traffic lights. For some of them, ‘yellow’ which ordinarily means ‘get ready to stop’ is a motivation for them to increase speed and get to the other side before traffic on the green side begins to move rapidly. On the other hand, those whose turn it is to move, don’t even wait for the lights to turn green. Once the timer is some numbers away from one, they just begin to move. Hence you see okada men struggling not to hit each other in the melee that follows. Sometimes they are not so lucky and accidents occur.
The only time they behave themselves is when a traffic warden or a police man stands by the roadside with a whip in hand, ready to flog any traffic offender. When there is none, the traffic lights are as good as invisible. So one finds that, the reason for which the lights were set up in the first place, cannot work if there is no whip carrying official in sight. Mind you, these are full grown adults yet they cannot maintain traffic laws unless they are threatened with a whip like small children. So rather than heave a sigh of relief that with the presence of traffic lights, there would be less chaos and accidents, the opposite has become the sad reality.
My landlord had to create an alternative drainage system when some tenants complained that the one that passed behind their windows, made their rooms smell. This alternative drainage is supposed to be used to dispose of only dirty water but it has become a dustbin of some sort for a couple of female corpers in the compound. That’s where they dispose of their used sanitary pads, their empty bottles, their empty packets of soap and detergent, just name it. Now the drainage is blocked. Water barely passes through. I cleaned it out one time but when it got blocked again, l didn’t bother. The stench from that drainage makes me wonder how some of those girls with rooms close by, manage to breathe. It also makes me wonder whether it was necessary at all for my landlord to bother his head about creating another drainage in the first place. Seeing how the present one has been bastardly abused.
The same set of girls have almost turned our side of the compound into a refuse dump. Almost every corner, is a ground on which to throw dirt. There is a waste bin in front of the compound. Yet they prefer to litter the whole place rather than walk a few metres to dispose of their rubbish.
Someone told me how some Nigerian US based doctors from his state decided to get medical equipment that were no longer in use in their various hospitals, to send to Nigeria. When they arrived Nigeria, they handed over the equipment to an association of doctors in his state. Rather than keep them in govt owned hospitals as agreed, the doctors turned round and sold the equipment to the highest bidders. They put the money in their pockets. These were equipment that were supposed to be of benefit to Nigerians who couldn’t afford to patronise private hospitals.
We all know how messed up PHCN is, right? But do you also know that even with the epileptic power supply, some Nigerians find their way into transformers to steal things?
The other day, my area was thrown into darkness for months. On enquiry, we were told that the transformer had been vandalised. l even hear that sometimes such acts of vandalism are carried out with the connivance of PHCN staff. It doesn’t matter to such thieves that by virtue of their actions, many people will not be able to enjoy even the little light that PHCN manages to supply every now and then.
Only the other day, some pictures made the rounds on social media. They were pictures of the dilapidated state of one of the toilets in the Nigerian High Commission, London. Seeing those pictures, was a sad indication that even outside the country, in saner climes, the poor maintenance attitude of Nigerians sticks out like a sore thumb.
I could go on and on and on. See, l have arrived at the conclusion that, there is something wrong with Nigerians. Something that stops us from doing the right thing as long as we are not negatively affected on an individual level. How else does one explain this desire to abuse and misuse facilities set up to make life easier for us? Everywhere you turn in this country, unless there is a fine or punishment attached, one is sure to find Nigerians eight out of ten times, doing the wrong thing and without any pinch of conscience whatsoever.
There is something really wrong with Nigerians. I wonder exactly what it is but unfortunately l can’t put a name to it. On this period of the celebration of our 58 years of independence, If anything, it is time once again, to look inwards, time to consider rewiring ourselves to understand that our lackadaisical attitude towards the maintenance of public property and law and order, is one of the banes of national development and one reason why we are still where we are 58 years after independence from colonialism. If we are serious about making Nigeria a better place for all, then the time for rethink and repentance, is now.
Happy independence day Nigeria.