Three days ago, I was in an uber – from Eleganza in Lekki – home.
Ordinarily, using the services of a ride-hailing platform in Lagos Nigeria, should not be worthy of mention, however, the conversation I had with my uber driver made the ride a memorable yet thought-provoking one.
The ride was without drama until we got to the traffic light at Jakande. As we tried turning into Osapa London on our right, a white minibus blocked our entrance as it waited for the traffic light to turn green. There is an unholy alliance between disorderliness and public transport drivers in Lagos state.
My Uber driver, who seemed to be a middle-aged, educated man, got out of the car to have a word with the driver. I was almost embarrassed because such a ‘necessary’ act will only serve as an attention-drawing tool toward the red Toyota Camry and the person sitting behind. And if you know me, I don’t like attention, I enjoy being in my own bubble and getting the job – whatever it may be per time, done.
When he got back into the car, I was of the opinion (which I shared with him) that he shouldn’t have gone down to have a conversation (read as ‘exchange words in a heated manner’) with the minibus driver.
“Why not?” he asked.
“It won’t make any difference”, I replied. “He will do the same thing at the next traffic junction without a care about the results of his actions to others and himself.”
“So, do we just let people do whatever they want without making an effort? This is exactly how Nigeria has become what it is today. Everybody does things just as they want, whether right or wrong without consequences and no one to guide or caution them as the case may be,” he said.
The above was the beginning of a very meaningful rant from a concerned, passionate, and frustrated Nigerian. He spoke about what Nigeria used to be and what it is now, which he described as a shadow of itself.
“Do you have a PVC (Permanent Voters Card)?” I asked.
“I have never voted in my life,” he responded. “But this time, something in me wanted to vote and play my part. To be part of this movement led by the youths. Maybe there might be hope for the country,” he continued.
“But my sister, I am discouraged. These people are not ready to give us our PVC and I am not ready to leave my daily bread for days just because of a PVC. Man must work if man go chop,” he added.
In his opinion, there seems to be a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise voters. And if I am completely honest, the same thought has crossed my mind. To get an idea of where his sentiments came from, I asked him why his new found urge to exercise his democratic right was fast waning.
He described how he once dedicated a day to register for a voter’s card. According to him, he got to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) registration point by 7 am and was told to write his name on a list with a couple of other people he met.
The list was to be the order in which they would be attended to. But he spent the whole day at the registration unit without being attended to. He also noticed that a few people who were familiar with the INEC agents came in later on and were attended to. People like himself who didn’t know anyone waited in vain. He said as he walked out of the INEC registration unit at about 5 pm, he vowed never to waste his time trying to get a voters card, again.
I heard and understood him. He typifies the average Nigerian. We are a resilient people and over the years, have put so much effort into work and productivity which has inadvertently made the idea of work and the workplace a trench of suffocation to prove relevance.
Like clockwork, you have to be busy, or no one will see you as being productive. So, when a Nigerian tells you they do not have time, they really do not. So, our faulty system thrives on the idea of Nigerians not having time to live or to pursue any civic activity including getting their voter’s card
Although, some Non-Governmental organizations are organizing conferences and concerts to encourage voter registration, and estates and communities are collaborating with INEC officials to register residents on weekends.
The spotlight is still on INEC, whether it has the capacity to let people decide? Whether it will allow as many Nigerians as possible to vote, and choose the set of leaders who will steer the Nigerian ship for the next 4 – 8 years?
Are we really taking back power in 2023 or should these efforts be seen as a long game for the time that we can truly take back power? Are we playing the right cards and do we have the right incentives for the desired result?
Ultimately, like my uber driver, the onus is on us as Nigerians to be ready to play our part in removing reckless minibus drivers trying to obstruct Nigeria’s path to progress.