The straw that finally broke my camel’s back and compelled me to write the article “The Religion called Nigeria”, occurred when one day, I simply became overwhelmed by the hypocrisy, idiotic followership, lack of will and excusery (is that a word?) that characterizes my dear country, Nigeria.
Not too long ago, after reading numerous blog posts and articles and listening to various radio commentaries, I again found myself contemplating the average Nigerian’s behavioral pattern. My conclusion was once again that this creature called Nigeria is a well-defined amoeba. We have, in the very recent past, had more than our fair share (if there’s such a thing as a ‘fair’ share) of sorrow, tears and blood and, to add to the late Abami Eda’s list, unnecessary and painful death. Whether from Fulani herdsmen, or Boko Haram or Niger Delta militants, the fact is that Nigerians are ALL terrorized.
In layman’s terms, to terrorize is to “create and maintain a state of extreme fear and distress”. And just so that we are all on the same page, DISTRESS is extreme anxiety, sorrow or pain. Since we live in an atmosphere of extreme anxiety, sorrow, pain and fear, we certainly qualify as being terrorized and goodness gracious; all Nigerians are in extreme distress.
Now, let me let you in on a little Nigerian fact even we are unaware of: we don’t know how to identify terrorist situations. It’s true. It’s not only when one cowers before gun-toting mad men or a bomb goes off that we are terrorized. Let me tell you; whenever you feel distressed or extremely anxious about an unsavory event but cannot exactly pinpoint where to cast the blame or who to even report to, you’ve been terrorized. However, in such a situation, we usually find a generic name to label the causative factor of the anxiety. This generic label is our placebo as it ensures that no one will ever be held responsible but we gain some warped psychological reprieve and satisfaction simply from the label. And our labels are many! From ‘Area boys’ and ‘danfo drivers’ to ‘Fulani herdsmen’, ‘Boko Haram’, ‘Niger Delta militants’, even ‘Gofment’ itself, the point is that we are terrorized in far many more ways than we realize.
I sincerely thank the Good Lord that I have never come across Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen or Niger-Delta militants. But this doesn’t mean I’m not in extreme distress. I’m afraid to leave work early for home because although I am privileged to own a diesel-powered generator, the mere thought of burning diesel during the day gives me palpitations. Sadly however I have, along with most Nigerians, bumped into almighty NEPA (apologies, PHCN!) and the formidable area boys. If by some miracle you haven’t, you’ve surely tripped over our amorphous ‘government’. Please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying that any of these ‘respectable’ institutions are terrorists. I’m just saying the mere thought of encountering them terrorizes me (and I speak strictly for myself).
And shall I mention why I dread leaving the triangular ‘safety’ of Lekki, VI and Ikoyi? It’s simply in fear of the Police and our penicillin-colored LASTMA ogas! They are both very efficient at conjuring reasons why I should not be driving what I am driving, the manner in which I am driving and even where I’m driving! They are eagle-eyed and vigilant about catching me out when I dare commit a crime like my front tire overshooting the white painted line on the road by half an inch! And if you dare “argue” with them, gbagaun, the matter will have to be concluded “at the station!” unless of course, you revise your audacity with some notes. Oh, I don’t mean a written statement at the station, rather the kind of notes bearing dead prominent heads! (you should read “Of Bribes, Gifts and Extortion” to understand)
I had to stop reading newspapers a long time ago for health reasons. Since then, my blood pressure has been fine and my stress levels have significantly reduced. No, this is not a TGIF joke. When my doctor first recommended I take a long holiday and break from work, news and newspapers as a remedy to my various spontaneous and seemingly unrelated ailments, I thought he was jesting. However, since that magic diagnosis and prescription, I am glad to say that, even with the prescribed holiday, my wallet has experienced an upward swing, and I no longer pay tithe to the temple that is the doctor’s practice. Ah well, one man’s good fortune is another’s “not so good” one.
However, since we “changed” atmospheric pressure in and around Aso Rock, reading newspapers has once again raised my anxiety levels, mentally incapacitated me and left me without cognitive ability for large numbers. How else am I supposed to react when I’m told that a single man (one man!) cannot account for how he spent over N3,400,000,000,000? The only time I have seen so many zeros is when we were trying to calculate earth’s distance from the sun. By the way, I just confirmed that even that distance is 152,000,000km. Worse, the distance to Pluto is only 7,500,000,000km. Are you as befuddled as I am? Because that number of zeros beats my human comprehension! As a child, anything with more than 6 zeros in it fell into the realm of “uncountable” for me. Therefore, any number with 7 to 20 zeros was simply abstract. However, these are very, very real 11 zeros.
By my definition, merely existing within the geographical concept called Nigeria means I am a victim of terrorism. The Nigerian existence just happens to be the terrorist. Consider my elevated anxiety levels caused by simple activities such as reading a newspaper, or my extreme sorrow at the thought of spending 10% of my life looking for the means (petrol) to squander another 25% in traffic where I have learnt to carry my car on my head when the ‘sirened’ royals blast by. An existence where we live in fear of having no electricity and having to watch our children concede ‘skin estate’ to heat rash and other heat-induced skin conditions.
At this point, I must highlight the ACTIVE terrorism by those I consider to be the greatest source of my anxiety and fear. No, not armed robbers. Not even Boko Haram or even Fulani herdsmen. No, that honor belongs to our very own elected officials and their subsequent appointees. Let me illustrate. An Honorable, within the grounds of the hallowed chambers, almost had her dentition rearranged and her makeup ‘dis’applied, for daring to overtake an appointee civil servant. If it can happen to her in the hallowed chambers, then who on earth are you? But you elected them into office, I hear you say. So? Or consider the story of a lawyer I read about who must have inhaled the smoke from his rolled up and torched legal books because for some strange reason, he believes we are all equal under the law. The story states that he dared to question some uniformed ‘ogas’ for causing traffic and well, I think he’s still in hospital. If you hear sirens and you dare stand in the way, even if it is just a ram being chauffeured to the slaughterhouse, by Jove, count yourself lucky if all you get is facial reconstruction without surgery.
Those whom I elected to serve me have done everything possible to become my lord and master. And as we have recently seen, they think it a huge favor to speak to me and/or even take my calls. Woe betides the unlucky fellow who doesn’t immediately proceed to kiss the floor they walk on should serendipity ever bring them face to face.
Okay, let me be fair and just and credit them with doing a lot to placate my terror through a variety of methods. They all just seem to include huge doses of ‘active inertia’.
I will not attempt to list all the things in this country that cause me anxiety or fear or distress; the list is inexhaustible. I will rather attempt to think of things that give me peace… and sleep. My happy place if you will. Well that is until I started dreaming of my generator catching fire and said fire being the only source of light for me to chase petrol tankers while I was being chased by Fulani herdsmen. Sigh.
My people, when next you encounter one another at work, at the airport, on the street or anywhere within this geographical misconception called Nigeria, especially in this backyard-of-hell called Lagos traffic, whenever you can, give one another a hug and wish each other well for we are all Nigerians and we are all terrorized.