By Mark Lekan Lalude
The Nigerian is a special breed of a race of humans well-adjusted to the quirkiness of prejudices and biases. If uneducated, he touts them as aggressive notions, as the only meaningful facts of its kind. When educated, he would have learnt how to artfully conceal such biases and prejudices in sophisticated arguments and fancy rhetoric. This is the Nigerian. When he is truly emancipated in his thinking, he is the most resilient African you can ever happen upon. There is a social dilemma that comes very carefully tucked in the social contract of being Nigerian, and it manifests in the scourge that is eating away at the hems of society: be corrupt or die trying to survive. This conference, that seminar, corruption is the subject, and it’s always elaborately treated as a subject, so considered in all sobriety.
Many a time, the Nigerian, among other Africans is the alley cat, familiar with the ways of the world. He quickly finds a connection with his instinct for self preservation. It is this streak of nature that makes him so despised, for in finding that peculiar connection with his instinct for survival, he becomes ruthless in ensuring his well-being, if he is godless, and most importantly, when he has no conviction in values beyond material possessions.
In Nigeria, Saturdays are for Bacchus, Fridays and Sundays are for other gods. On Saturdays, the parties are scattered in their noisome glamor all over the country, from fuchsia pink to tomato red, it is either a wedding or a burial, and on some occasion, it is the birthday of some senator or the house warming of a director. The colors of the celebrations most always come with first names. The narratives are not always very different; the splurges are always a metaphorical trope for the social philosophy of the people: as a people given to a hedonist culture, a culture of mindless consumption. It also projects the non-reflectiveness of a people who measure their worth with the number of people they can feed, or the many shiny, sleek cars that would grace their event. The son of a governor and the daughter of a minister are getting married, and the shocking, attendant news of the extravagance of the occasion would hit the pleb with the jolting force of spiteful behavior. The wealth displayed would hurt the eyes in its obscene assertion.
Did you hear that the man gave out costumized smartphones?
Also that the world would spin on the tales of the mythic celebrations and of the crisp bank notes, and foreign money that found their way to the dance floor. One is supposed to spray it with a straight-faced expression, the better way is not to join in the dancing. On the other side of the social divide, celebrations and events of such kinds have a forced glamor, and if it’s a wedding and one looks clearly, one would find that the groom has a plastic smile and is generally distracted. That is the sign of a man who bled himself to meet with the expectations of society. And so young men aspire to get married when they have made the kind of money that would be enough to impress their in-laws. And so they wake up one day to middle-age, and still they hope that they get that kind of money that would make them men.
Corruption began with the curse of the easy money, the oil money. That the wealth should go round without setting up any the rationale for sharing of the wealth, sounds like the sharing of plunder, and increasingly as it looks like plunder, it eventually becomes plunder. In this mode, a cold war ensues. This cold war is one between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; the proverbial land owners and the hapless vassals. The ordinary Nigerian who sees corruption from the perspective of the inopportune commoner: that it is only the politicians that can be corrupt because they have been empowered to loot the public treasury with the mandate of the people. He doesn’t see that the dishonest trick he played on his passengers at the motor park, the bribe he took to obliterate evidence of a crime on his watch, and the lie he told to cover up another’s misdeeds at the work place, are the very definition of corruption, and graft is just one of its many manifestations.
The Nigerian is a very religious human. Many times he can’t think of a world without the intervention of a god. Even with religion, he is as recklessly extravagant. He tells himself that he must worship God by placing the man who has professed to be able to speak the mind of God on a pedestal. He must serve such a man with slavish devotion. God must be pleased, and the logic follows, that to please God, you must please his mouthpiece. And so religious institutions have evolved from the place of faith to become multi-million dollar corporations that peddle motivation for the acquisition of wealth. One shouldn’t be surprised since the society is largely pre-occupied with money and its manifestations.
Insecurity is what makes living in Nigeria a gamble, a lot cast in favor of the odds. If to make the wrong move of visiting certain places, or being at some place at the wrong time, misfortune is bound to happen. The country, from the time of the Biafran war, still finds itself in the merciless grip of ethnic sentiments. The type that could rupture the seams of society. And today, it appears that the vultures are gathering for a feast.
Patriotism is a forgotten virtue in the nation, but it is vital for the survival of any nation. The American comedienne, Kathleen Madigan, closing one of her appearances smiled and said, ‘I love America.’ As against this image, the picture comes to mind often of the young Nigerian woman in the youth service uniform, expressing her love to her father, and explicitly not to Nigeria, and that was an instructive instance of how the nation has fallen. A nation without the goodwill of its people is an incongruous society, such a nation is a dangerous social experiment.
For the Nigerian, the open road is the way to financial liberation, to earn the foreign currency. To save himself from the violence of being swept under the tide. For all the idiosyncrasies that has evolved in the making of the Nigerian society, one thing stands at fault, and it is the creation of stark contrasts in the social reality: that a man in one part of a metropolis would live in wanton abundance, while another starves to death. The Nigerian is a progressive and resolute being, if not afflicted with godlessness and tunnel vision. However he must resolve to become a better person if he must redeem his image in his sojourn in the world.
Mark Lekan Lalude is a lawyer, an essayist, short story writer, novelist and arts enthusiast. He has been published by African writer, Kalahari Review, Saraba Magazine and Will this Be a Problem anthology.