“Don’t tell me anything, what kind of corruption are they fighting?” he hissed as he began to adjust his fila. His face wore a mixture of anger and confusion as he gave up on the fila and placed his hands on the railings in front of him.
He looked at the dark-skinned portly man in front of him who was drinking sachet water. Till this day, watching someone drink water had never irritated him this much. Finally, the portly man cleared his throat and looked straight.
“Listen, it is hard to clean out a system and this country has so much debris to wipe away. You see the lawmakers are not even helping matters. One man cannot cleanse this….”
“Cleanse what? Oga no talk that thing at all,” a conductor, who before now had been shouting ‘Berger, Wuse – Wuse, Berger’, cut in rudely, transferring his occupational aggressiveness to Mr. Portly.
The conductor continued, “Oga, no need to speak English. Make them thief if they want. So far them feed us, e dey okay.” He moved away, swiftly resuming his Berger, Wuse – Wuse, Berger; leaving shouts of agreements and disapproving murmurs.
“Abi o, which kind yeye thing them dey fight since? During past tenures, them thief but the money dey go round. We want money to go round, make them thief. This suffer too much,” a chocolate skinned woman who was cradling a baby with a running nose said so vehemently that one would begin to think she had personal issues with the government.
Her comment increased the murmurs. One could now hear a blasting debate on the grounds under which stealing public funds can be permitted.
A stranger would get lost in this conversation for he would be quick to condemn the supporters of corruption and hurriedly tag them ‘enemies of the state’.
But Nigeria is no ordinary country. The people have too much pain that spews out of their words and actions.
They had been hurt and cheated by strangers who in turn taught the art to their own brothers and sisters. The stranger would need preamble, a sort of history to fully appreciate the weight of this argument.
To understand this history, he would need to be told of how almost five hundred ethnic groups with a jaw dropping a similar number of dialects were married together at the time they were still trying to sort out their individual civilisations.
Two heads may be better than one, but five hundred heads of millions of heads?! People like the conductor would never come to terms with it. The stranger may call it diversity but let Nigerians name it themselves.
By now, Mr. Portly had realised that he would never get enough followers on his side. He began to wonder when things went this bad, so bad that the people push for you to steal as long as the loot gets to the man on the streets.
Later, he would continue this discussion in his office and hope that professionals reason better than these uneducated folks, but he would realise that hurt and disappointed have no respect for degrees and work experience.
With so much disgust that his face contorted, he looked at a new entrant who had successfully taken the matter upon himself such that one would think that he began the argument. The tall bespectacled man who was wearing a green caftan stood tall in the midst of all the people saying ‘exactly’ ‘na true’ around him.
Mr. Portly watched him as he gave his ‘corruption supporting’ speech, clearly enjoying his new found fame.
The bespectacled man was beaming now as he surveyed his followers, even the conductor abandoned his passengers who craned their necks through the windows of the bus to catch the discussion.
He continued, “See ehn, let them loot all they want but feed us. We know the country is hard for everybody, don’t be deceived o, even the man in the Villa does not find it easy o. We understand that man must care for himself first but please o, feed us. Let the money go round. This one that is there now just block everywhere, wetin him dey talk money do?”
Chants of ‘I wonder’ began to fill the air edging the man to continue his speech.
“All of us here now, we need money for something. Everywhere don too tight. Too tight o, too tight. How can you be in office and not care if your citizens have spending money? Nigeria is a special country o. We can’t be following other countries. We wont hold them but they should let the money flow. What is there? In fact, you steal more when you do more projects and give your cabinet free hand. If not, things will be hard o. Who will bring rice and chicken to share during Christmas when they don’t even have their own money? Leave us and our corruption, at least we had money when nobody was using EFCC to chase us about. See…”
He stopped dramatically and turned on the spot to face an old man who was leaning against the bus.
“Daddy, during your time was there no corruption?”
The old man smiled knowingly as he reminisced the old times before he answered, “There were reports of corruption, you know, with the hulaballo between the colonizers and the then young country and lets not forget the military tussle…”
‘hmmmm’ filled the air again and the bespectacled speaker began to get impatient. Old man had talked for too long. Without warning, he took over.
“Daddy, with the corruption, did they not beg you people to take jobs?”
The old man simply said “yes”, apparently he realised he talked too much the first time.
The bespectacled man started speaking now with full force. “O-ho, what are we saying? Corruption is not our problem. Make them theif o, we dey ok if they feed us.
“In correct oyinbo, Loot! But feed us,” he said with an air of finality.
The crowd began to murmur loudly again, with some people patting the man and shaking his hand.
Mr. Portly hissed loudly but the sound was drowned in the talks going on. He turned and began to walk. Maybe his co-workers would think differently. He made a mental note to raise the issue at work.
About “The Nigerian”:
The Nigerian is a satirical series that explores the thinking she and mindset of Nigerians across board. It uses the perspective of a portly man who is also not exonerated from the thinking. Watch out for more subsequent editions…
Written by: Anita E. Eboigbe, an Abuja based Journalist/Storyteller and Business Content Developer who believes Africans can do better for themselves.