Nigeria--Defying Expectations (Washington DC Notes)
"There's corruption everywhere, 'cept in DC, it is professional". Anonymous
We are driving to Virginia, and my friend, whom I 'll just call Karim tells me this story--"I love Nigeria, I remember when I was a kid in Nigeria, my father and I were traveling to Ibadan from Lagos" he said.
"We hit this guy in an accident, and the crowd pulls on us, its getting rowdy. And then the police comes, my father comes down, ...gives the man some notes...the whole report changes, infact he tells the people that they are lucky, and we were nice people because it was the man who actually hit us (our car)..., I 'll never understand how a man on foot hit a mobile car".
That encounter happened lots of years ago, if only he knew its got really worse, now the guy they hit either would disappear or we talk in about it in 'ghost mode'.
And okay he's also telling me 75% of his clients in DC are Nigerians...He explains Nigerians are the big boys at the District and they get things done. Like mtn everywhere you go we run things, its just a case of how we choose to run it.
I am writing my column this week from inside a restaurant in Washington DC, its called the COSI, on the Mills Building, in Nigerian parlance same street with the WHITE HOUSE opposite the administrative building.
I had picked some muffins in a paperbag and written on it was 'earth matters', telling me its 100% recycled material. I just couldn't help thinking all the recycled problems--not so much of corruption but how we are plagued with same problems, same people...blaming leadership, forgetting our leadership has often evolved from followership.
Now to my admonition, while I was missing home, I had been following the debate or uninformed argument called 'Yerimasquare', how underage girl marriage thing had pitched again, north/south, muslim/christian. I followed the curses and abuses on social media and the sign this and that petition. And could not understand how a nation was virile about a bill that never was passed--a nation of distractions.
Rivers was still on, ACN and its cohorts still Tinubu-ing and CPC with the APC thing still a long way far from freedom.
Back here in Washington, I kept pinching myself that Nigeria would get here, please do share my optimism, and for those pessimist--you would sure be asking where is there or here?
I believe there in Nigeria, we can defy expectation, but sincerely how I don't know.
While at the Lincoln Memorial, standing at the spot Martin Luther stood and looked in the horizon, I wondered if as a nation we had the character to defy expectation by dreaming hope. I reflected as I walked in from the Vietnam memorial--two things took me in, first, is it the Biafran memorial, or the wild-wild west memorial or june 12 memorial, or boko haram or kidnap memorial--what do Nigerians remember, what are the sacrifices we are willing to make, as a people, what is Nigeria giving to Nigerians?
The second thing was critical, I asked my American teacher, who by the way rather than do the Vietnam war chose community service, if the US wasn't making the same error in Afghan, Iraq, and other conflicts/wars. He said yes and maybe. While he tried to explain, my wife sent in an sms from jos, "its been five days, no light...and then I got a call from ijebu ode, as we were speaking I heard the shout at the background 'up nepa'. They had no electricity for three days.
Don't ask me if they took the light or if there was that blaring generator noise everywhere. Or need I tell you of how fuel stations sold three grades/types of fuel and in Nigeria, at every turning penguins of pengassan are threatening everyone.
The system here in DC simply was working or worked. We needed to do food, mexican, italian, Ethiopian, it was all by the button of the phone and the maps were too good, I regret failing geography, it kept taking me to the FCT ministry and minister, more scandals than work.
In Georgetown, the most expensive part of DC, the old looks have remained, one of the council guys me told that a former mayor was an ex-con and there was corruption and long bureaucracy, but that's fair enough, afterall they are professional and it has taken then somewhere, we have an entire political party of cons not even ex and hey we have lootocracy in its crude form and painfully it works for us in Nigeria.
Nigeria can work, we can defy expectations, I am sure there is more money in Abuja than in Washington, whether oil, or borrowed chinese money.
We can defy expectations, but will Abuja beyond all the drama really work. In Washington DC, the bicycles are more safe than Nigerians in Yobe or parts of Lagos and Aba, and no one had to remove one type of mass transit for the other. The entire DC has more zebra crossings than Nigeria and I see more traffic organization and you ask what is our road safety marshals doing?
There's that taxation with representation issue, you see it on number plates, as a capital, it has those Abuja problems, which I will discuss at a later date, but its the kind of problems you would gladly pay to have in any part of Nigeria. You see everyone with his hood, Koreans, Mexicans, Iraqis, name it, really its a city of immigrants, everyone fighting something yet contributing a thing, in Nigeria its a country with everyone fighting without contributing.
Did I add that, there are more flags in DC, Maryland, Virginia than the whole of Nigeria, or better put you probably see more pictures of governors, military personnel in Nigeria than our flags, and you wonder whether there really is a nation.
I want to end this admonition by saying Nigeria is as blessed and more blessed than America, sadly we cursed by...don't ask me. If we are to move, we need to start defying expectations--sadly the questions remain, can we, only time will tell.
Prince Charles Dickson