“Mama, sell akara for me now… I have been standing here since… you no wan make I chop ni?”, rants Raji, a student of the University of Ibadan, and a member of the hall of Mellanby. Raji, on this very night, around 09:30pm, is at the front of a long queue of students who are waiting to buy the quite popular bread and akara of Mellanby hall. He uses every means available to convince the elderly lady at the centre of attraction. He would shout, plead and even argue against the others by telling those belonging to other halls of residence to return to their halls and buy akara there. Why must he queue with them as he is a stakeholder in the premier hall, he says. However, despite all these, the akara vendor refused to attend to him. Why? Because he jumped the queue. Not just this, but because he does so, every night.
A few minutes before this time, coming from a programme, I arrived at the hall. I decided to branch at the stand, to get a space, before proceeding to my room. I had to do this because it was of utmost importance to me to charge my cell-phones and laptop, due to the unpredictable and sporadic nature of our electric supply.
While going to my room, I saw the same Raji just moving towards the gate, that is, towards the akara seller. I did all I needed to and headed back to the place. There, I met the situation earlier described.
Raji was relentlessly demanding that he be attended to, and the “mama” kept refusing, firmly I must say. Everybody thought there was no way she would give in to his request, there was no way she would unfairly attend to him before others who have patiently stood up for several minutes, for the same purpose. I could hear the individual staying behind me saying if the akara vendor sells to Raji, then he would be vexed as ‘ese ni o’ i.e. ‘it is a sin’.
But we were wrong.
In a little more than no time, what I can say was anticipated but still is to everybody’s amazement, she eventually gave in, and sold akara to him. Adding that if he behaves the same way the next night, he will not get the same result.
Raji got what he wanted; he succeeded in breaking the protocols, delaying the others and infringing on their equitable rights. YET, nothing was done about it. Nobody got angry, or at least, nobody showed it. Nobody strongly protested it. Nobody said anything or did anything to correct the corruption which has just been committed with impunity.
This got me thinking.
The truth is that, in every country, there are dominant traits. Traits that seem to define the people of that country. Traits that are inextricable from the actual existence of the people. Once these traits are observable in the all the affairs of the people, they will get to the centre, the leadership. And once they are seen at the centre, know that they originated from the grassroots.
In Nigeria, these traits unfortunately include lateness (African time), nonchalance with things that are not ours, the spirit of forgiveness (which does not always work for us), the belief that ‘laws are made to be broken’ and of course, corruption.
The word Nigeria is today synonymous with corruption; this is because it is so widespread in the economy that those in the government are nothing but advocates of corruption and selfish interests. It is now thought that anybody going into politics, no matter how saintly, is automatically going there to fill his pockets. We now find youths publicly asserting that if they find themselves in the seat of power, they would not “dull” themselves, they also would not hesitate to have a long-lasting taste of the symbolic national cake.
Just like Raji, politicians, who are established monsters, incessantly demand to buy the masses’ votes and mandate. And just like the akara vendor, the electorates always eventually give in, mostly due to their forgetfulness, ignorance and spirit of forgiveness. Even those who promise hell if this happens, are in one way or the other, silenced. This cycle of corruption getting rewarded with forgiveness by its victims, keeps rolling and things keep getting worse. This will indubitably go on until somebody rises to the task of breaking this vicious cycle, until ‘mama alakara’ stands her ground and refuses to sell her akara to criminals and deceitful persons, until Raji realises that you cannot always get what you want by whatever means you utilise, you cannot ‘fool all the people, all the time!’
* * * * * * *
OBITER: YOU CAN FOLLOW THE PRODIGY’S RATIOCINATIONS ON FACEBOOK HERE!