A few days ago I had to dash into Sainsburys (other supermarkets are available) after work. It is a pretty precise operation, going shopping after 5pm. I have about a 5 minute window to do any actual shopping. The real uphill task is being able to buy the items you have chosen. The place is filled with people trying to do the end of the day shop. Since, I have to drop off my shopping at home and go and pick little one before nursery closes at 6pm, this calls for some fancy footwork. Of which, I am not too good at. So I do my shopping and get on the back of this queue that seems to go twice around the store, but it is moving. I probably spent 3 minutes on the queue, so I am very relieved. Because, my experience of queues in Nigeria is vastly different. Queues in petrol stations that extend for 3 days; the one at the Supreme Court that looked and felt like the road to hell; queues at OAU Bursary, or anytime we wanted to register for a unit, or the one at the OAU health centre – I spent over a month on that one. (That is not a joke, by the way.)
You may well ask me why those queues were so long. Ah! Because they never moved. And why did they never move? Because people kept on jumping into them. You would arrive at the Bursar’s office at 7am in the morning, first on the queue. By the time the staff arrived at 8am, they would be 20 people ahead of you. Someone who knows the bursar’s neighbour has said ‘please help this person’. The helped person has brought 5 friends. Can they not say no? Well they can. But then they are labelled a bad person, marked for destruction by the peer pressure of a commutarian society that is supposedly built on brotherly love. One classmate of mine in secondary school was targeted for failure because his father refused to give our teachers lifts.
Yet we sit in our houses and rain abuses on our government officials for doing what we do everyday.
‘Please help my son’
‘Give my daughter a job’
‘Put his name on the list, please’
‘Forgive her this one time’
Each time we bend the rules, we bend our moral fibre. Each time we close our eyes to misdimeanours, we close our eyes to treasonous felonies. Our brotherly love is a myth, a hideous untruth that blinds our minds to the horrible reality of our hate. Nigerians can love, but most of the time we refuse to. We refuse to accept that corruption is what we all do and not what some politicians do. So we refuse to stop being corrupt. We refuse to accept that we are all violent, when we turn our back on sufferers of domestic violence, when we allow people to cut corners as long as they give us some of the fruit of their villainy. We then accept wicked lies as absolute truths. For some reason we believe that people we think are brothers will become saints when they assume elective office, though we have a mountain of history books and the proof of our own eyes to contradict this. We believe that meritocracy is a sham and then wallow in mediocrity, oblivious to our own collusion in our sorry state. We want to eat the national cake, but forget to realise that hard work goes into cake baking first. So we turn reality on its head and bring the country to a standstill.
Our country is not moving, just like our queues.