Like every concerned Nigerian, I responded to Mike Awoyinfa’s article titled ‘Reflections inside a Nigerian restaurant in London’; the article appeared in the Saturday Sun of June17, 2006. Since he has failed to publish my reaction after I had sent it to his email address several times, I decided to send it to you.
The article exhumed certain issues, which have constantly agitated my consciousness: what exactly are the responsibilities of a columnist to his society? Is he expected to rationalize? Is he required to present the fact as he saw it and allow his readers to judge? Is it part of his responsibilities to appeal to the human in his readers? As an elite member of the social order, is it not part of his responsibilities to condemn mediocrity when he sees one? Is he not expected to highlight those things that will lift his immediate environment from the cesspool of squalor to the realm of near egalitarianism?
What brought bile rushing into my mouth was not the frustration Mike made us believe Nigerians in England face on daily basis: ‘the feeling is that of alienation. Here the freedom you have in Nigeria is gone. Here it is work, work, and work. You have to work for your last money.’ This is his position in support of his views that England is not worth the comfort and luxury the Nigerian emigrants have alluded to the tiny Island. Why, you should have made clear to us, is it that in spite of the workaholic nature of the British society, Nigerians of all shades and callings are always ready to bear all sorts of indignity to visit the country? Many Nigerians will do anything, just about anything to become British citizens. Why is it fashionable among Nigerians today to have their babies delivered in Britain or America? For goodness sake why is it that in spite of the over 40 years of Nigeria’s romance with petro-dollar, we still need to import fuel and measure our development using the parameters of the Western world?What economic theory or formula has been propounded and applied by any Nigerian to solve the gargantuan economic trauma of not only Nigeria but also Africa? All we have taken pride in is to run to Western economic and social institutions represented by Britain and America in search of solutions to our social, political and economic dislocations. What yardstick or parameter has any individual in Nigeria or Africa been able to establish as the standard for countering the multitude of uncertainties confronting us as a continent? Has it not always been our pride to shop for Europe or America trained African ‘experts’ to apply their esoteric ‘expertise’ in solving our peculiar problems? Why is it that African footballers become celebrities only after they must have made their mark in Europe? Why is it that all the economic theories patented by western economic gurus and which had been applied to solve Western economic logjam have flatly refused to work when applied in our environment?
In furtherance of your focus on the English environment, you made us believe that a worker in Britain cannot answer phone calls while on duty. ‘If he does so and he is caught he is either suspended or has his wage cut.’
One may ask what Mike’s reaction will be if he walks intoone of the offices ofThe Sun newspaper and sees one of his subordinates, an office assistant or his receptionist, answering his or herphone when he should be attending to customers?
The impression you created in that article is that of gloom; it is as if all Nigerians in Britain are living in hell, the sort of which only their return to Nigeria will see the end of their hellish incarceration.
The truth of the case is that, those attitudes that make Britain and other developed economies what they are today is everything you said in that article. On the flip side, what will make Nigeria and other African countries remain prostrate is everything that has made the other world developed. In other words your ‘work, work, work’ theory is what has made Britain one of the most sort after nations in the world. The lack of the spirit of ‘work work and work’ with its attendant negativities is what has been pulling Nigeria backwards.Until we have elites who are discerning enough to constructively analyze issues bothering on the prosperity of the country, we may never be let out of this perilous living called Nigeria.
Nigeria will begin to have a new lease of life when the Nigerian worker realizes that his place of work is not a place of gossip. That he must report to duty at the right time, and once he signs in it has to be work, work, and work, and not gossip, gossip and gossip. Every worker irrespective of his clime, time and color has a bit to contribute to the overall wellbeing of his countries. So, if he chooses to gossip his time away in his workplace where is his contribution to his society’s growth? Britain will not allow her prosperity to be ‘talked’ away by anybody so, the rule is ‘no answering phone calls, no newspaper reading once you are on duty.’
Brother Mike, you actually have this sharp eye for details. Therefore, you also realized that the tax system of Britain is heavy: ‘the bigger the car the bigger the tax’, you wanted Nigerians to know.I am very sure you are aware that taxes are veritable means of government funds all over the world. If you desire to fight crime, provide sound and effective health, housing, pension and other policies, then tax must be paid; it has to be paid. An average Nigerian does not care two hoots about taxes. What makes the issue pathetic is that those who should ensure that a credible tax deductionpolicy is entrenched in the polity are contented with the current arrangement. What happens is that, since our system is oblivious of the culture of tax paying coupled with lack of the necessary will to enforce a system ensuring that the Nigerian, irrespective of his class and status, pays his taxes, only government employed persons and companies pay any form of taxes in Nigeria. Therefore, the Iyaloja in Isale-Eko, the beer joint owner in Port Harcourt, or the cattle seller in Kano who makes huge profits everyday does not think it is part of his social responsibility to pay taxes; sadly, nobody asks questions. And sadly, it is this form of economic criminality you chose to celebrate in your popular column; it is very sad.
Your portrayal of Britain’s system of motoring and ensuring sanity on her roads highlights the criminal neglect and the insensitivity of the Nigerian authorities to the well-being of Nigerians. For reasons only you can substantiate, you regard Britain as giving liberty with one hand and taking it away with the other because ‘as you drive around the city, there are ubiquitous Big Brother cameras monitoring you from pole to pole. You dare not speed. If you speed, a camera will record you. And you better report yourself immediately, otherwise you are in soup’
If, as you pointed out in the article, this is how Britain has been ‘giving with one hand and taking away with the other’; I think I will want to live forever in such a controlled environment. How do you describe a system that increased workers’ salary, only for the same environment to turn around and increase the pump price of fuel astronomically because ‘I don’t want you to be on the road all the time.’ Here is a system that claims to have spent several billions of naira on improving electricity generation and supply in the last seven years yet the commodity remains epileptic in supply and generation so much so that every home in Nigeria is now a ‘proud’ owner of one kind of electricity generation devise or the other? An environment where graduates of five years or more are mere scavengers and parasites deserves some form of sobriquet worthy of a hall of furnace.
Maybe if Nigeria has the kind of British traffic monitoring and controlling system you described in the article, the likes of General Ab
udulkarim Adisa, the wife of the former speaker of the House of Representatives, Senator A. T. Ahmed and other prominent Nigerians whose lives had been prematurely terminated on our roads, would still have been alive and kicking.