Let me start by stating that prior to my brief visit, I have been very doubtful with the possibility of Nigeria becoming better in the future. Each time cynicism gets a better part of me, my friend Okafor C. Udoka would always say something that would keep the light of hope burning though very deem. Now I know for sure that Nigeria will not be good not to talk of better in this generation nor in the next 100 years. Now before you crucify me read this and see if in your patriotism you have been a victim of exploitation all your life in Nigeria.
1. Impression is everything. On arrival at the Muritala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, I was shocked to my marrows and that shock dampened my emotions and I never recovered from it till now. If you travel you would agree with me that every nation brings out their best at the airports. Impression is everything because through the first people you saw on arrival you begin to imagine how nice the people in the city would be. You see curvy ladies, smiling faces of young men well dressed and welcoming with a smile. Clean and beautiful women, always smiling showing you their willingness to assist you should you need help.
I was shocked to see first the heat at the airport arrival part. No air-condition-the heat that greeted you first is a minus. Then the first group of Nigerians you would see are people looking like kwashiokor survors. Ugly, malnutrition, dirty with parched trousers and dress. Some looking like baby lizards, baby monkeys, sickly no smiles and no friendliness in their faces. I perceived the image of a dirty, poor stricken, and hungry people. My expectations dropped to zero. Unfortunately I saw every Nigeria lady on the streets as dirty, and unkempt. I know I might be wrong but that is how the images I saw at the airport affected me. I tried very hard to overcome this perception but I could not. It is very bad that at our airports our best are touts, beggars, loafers, baby lizards, and those who have never smiled before and never have reason to be happy or express happiness.
As I was cleared to enter my country, while waiting for my luggage to arrive, I went to get a trolley. I wanted a big one that would carry all my bags. I was told the big trolley is 2,500 naira, and the small ones was 250 naira. That was the first trouble. The second after that I was so pissed. On my way out I met about four ugly looking ladies dressed in customs uniform. They stopped me. The leader asked to search my bags. I said go ahead and opened the bags for her. As she was flipping through my stuff, I said to her, ”ma’m can I ask you a question?, “Sure ask” she said. Then I asked, ”are you a thief’? ”No o. shebi I’m doing my job”, her hands in the air. I asked her, and what the hell is your job? To violate my privacy and flipping through my personal stuff? IS THAT YOUR JOB? Now all of them had become angry. I continued, I have passed through all security, certified to go and here you are searching me again and throwing my stuff. I said you have no right to do this and I believe you are a thief. This how people get robbed at the airport. You are searching people to see who has what so you can send your men to check me out. At this point my voice was loud and people had gathered. Other visitors were in support of me and they too started complaining swearing and cursing. I told the woman to bring her boss, the person she is working for. Her boss came and denied sending anybody to search people. He apologized and promised to handle the situation. I planned to spend 2days in Lagos, but the experience made everything repulsive to me.
2. NIGERIANS EXPLOITATED PEOPLE.
In Abuja and even in my 12hours stay in Lagos, you can perceive the exploitation of the people by organizations. The PHCN, NEPA, forcing citizens to pay for services they did not receive. It does not matter whether you had electricity or not, you must pay your bill. There is no government agent to complain to. Your government does not care about you. The telephone companies are there robbing everybody through poor services. No one to complain to. No government to protect the people from exploitations. Are you using public transport to work? Your government has no plans for you. You are not considered when the roads were constructed, so no pedestrian crossing. You are at the mercy of drivers. Bus drivers are free to pack you like the slave ship five in a seat meant for three. You can’t complain. Every car, keke napep or motorcycle that passes you blows the horn into your ears. Every minute it’s all pee peem peeeee peem peem pee pee pee. Haba, are passengers that daft?
Where and how would Nigeria change? I doubt and I sympathize with those who hope. There is no order or organization. Everybody is robbing everybody. The government is even robbing her citizens. I weep for the country called Nigeria. The worst of it all are the drivers. They are thoughtless and selfish. They have no respect for pedestrians. You make me the president today, the first thing I would do is seize the licenses of all Nigerians and no one gets it back till they go for a 4days driving school and passed it. It is horrible. Where do we start to make it better? Nowhere!
Onyema Uche writes from the United States.