Saturday, April 01, 2006

a little bilious..

Went to the Ikoyi guest house last night. Bibi was not well so we stayed in. I didnt want to watch CNN and I didnt fancy reading my book (The God of Small Things). Listless, I read two local papers and glanced through some crap new interior home mag. After an hour, I was black with bile at the gross stupidity of what I found in the two rags - from Soludo's N50m bash (each of the remaining 25 banks were charged 2million naira to fund it) to the usual political shenanigans. Its important to develop a well insulated protection mechanism when opening Nigerian newspapers, otherwise one might just go mad or start barking or howling.

Why do people get celebrated here for just doing their job? It creates a vicious circle of downward spiralling mediocrity: something ordinary is done that no one would notice elsewhere, everyone claps and blows ghanamusgo amounts of dosh on an owambe. Then another owambe is expected for half the result. Idea la need. Everything is splashed in the papers - the same tired old faces. Meanwhile, heroes of everday life carry on unsung, and class oppression mounts. As someone said the other day, a project in Nigeria is completed when it appears in the newspapers. Whether anything actually got finished is quite besides the point.

But life for the elite is not one fortress to fortress air-conditioned cruise along a smoothly paved road. For example, the roads of Ikoyi, the zone of oldest money in the city (no money here is that old - 50 years tops) are martian; none of the street lights work. Driving Ikoyi at night is like driving in a village off grid in outer Mongolia - darkness, shadows, dogs and chickens. Everyone drives with their lights on full beam, so one cannot see anything when a car approaches. Meanwhile, behind those high walls, Sheik-esque cash is banked up. As a Nigerian guy said to me a couple of days ago (he's moving back soon), Lagos has not changed in the 15 years he's been coming back on business. Can there be a greater indictment?

Then I consoled myself with the fact that even the best-selling papers sell only 20,000 copies a day - ie the newspapers have nothing to do with 98% of the population. As my good friend K has said all along, the potential of Nigeria lies with engaging with the bottom of the pyramid; the elite will continue to party as Rome burns, so its best to forget about them for the most part and focus on creative engagement.


oo,  8:05 pm  

Hi Jeremy,

On point with your observation that we Naija people like to celebrate mediocrity, congratulate people for doing what they are being *paid* to do. I . really. don't. get. it. I suppose some of it is a a twisted psychological variant of Stockholm syndrome at best (after so many years with no expectations whatsoever) or just plain stupidity at its worst. Real proper idea la need, my broda, de ting tire me. Love the blog btw, jisi ike :)

Anonymous,  11:05 pm  

Emm, Jeremy, since you are presently working in Nigeria, and in the spirit of usual trend in Nigerian society, I will nominate your name to the elders of my father's village to give you a chieftaincy title. If you ask me what have you done to deserve the title, my response will be in honour of having you an oyinbo man work in Nigeria!

On a more serious note, you made some good points. The "money-bags" get celebrated for doing their jobs - be dem governors, minister, VC, etc. It is even so bad to the extent that people give police officers money on the street when they dont even ask!! (not talking of when they ask now o).

I remember my experience at Nigerian airport some months ago, upon arrival, whilst checking out, the immigration lady asked me wetin I bring come, and I just smiled and answered "anxiety!!!" She was like "anxiety ke?" and continued "I beg dip you hand in your pocket and treat us fine, we've been working hard today". My head busted and I was like "can I have my passport back, please?" She said "no, not until you treat us o". That was when I decided to let her know, I really dont have a dime to give to her, and she need to be careful so she does not create a problem for herself. She gave me my passport and I'm sure she must have had an impression that "this young man might be an influencial personality pikin and ..."

God help Nigeria. Is that a prayer?

Anonymous,  6:36 am  

the potential of Nigeria lies with engaging with the bottom of the pyramid; the elite will continue to party as Rome burns, so its best to forget about them for the most part and focus on creative engagement.

Well said. This has been my philosophy to Nigeria since. The owambe politicians will never bulge better deal directly with the common people.

adefunke 7:11 am  

'Naira spoil naira spoil' 50 Billion is not a small child of money at all! Pray tell what was on the menu? did they give tokunbo cars as party favors? I learned that the contributions made for this (for lack of a better word) party have not been accounted for. Could it be that the remainder has gone into a fund towards sending Soludo's kids to school, or perhaps to help him finish his house in Lekki? It can't be that, he has finally managed to complete that one! So what if the man is doing a good job, hello thats what he is being paid for! A plaque would do just fine, presented to him in the ante room of his offices between meetings, not some lavish party. There is a popular Yoruba saying that goes thus 'Eni ba da omi si iwaju a te ile tutu' (he who wets the ground will step on moist earth). Is this what the Bankers committee is hoping to achieve? Mr Soludo remember that one is usually beholden to the giver of gifts.

Styl Council 7:26 pm  

As i for a Big multi-national in the Uk...I do belive in People Recognition and Awards..I make every effort to make recommnedations at given oppourtunity. And moreover, I only make this recommendations when the siad person is a lower rank or thereabouts, when a such a recommnedatiosn can make a bigs differnce to their Annual Payment Review.
However,i also strongly believe that such awards should only be bestowed onto individuals who have gone BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY...A concept that which i believe is NEVER practiced in Nigeria...I'm happy to stand corrected...
Actually on second thoughts(whilst writing this comment), The name General Idiagbon (circa 1982/83) perhaps the only Polictian that steps even close!!! Sadly he wasn't allowed to truly implement his (aurguably autocratic but effective) ideas to complete fruiton.
Lets keep praying..perhaps there's another Idiagbon out there!!!

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