Man: You dey go Maryland?
Keke Driver: Make we dey go.
Man: How much?
Keke Driver: (Scans him and realizes he is new to the city): #1,500.
Teacher to Students: As you know, your Chemistry exam is coming up next week. If you want to pass in flying colours, all that is required of you is to pay the sum of #1,000. If you want to fail, don’t comply. By the time WAEC result is out and you see others making A, you will wish you could turn back the hands of time.
Student: Mom, we were asked to pay #1,000 for our chemistry teacher to help us during Chemistry exam next week.
Mom: That is great. That is what the teachers are supposed to do. Are you paying for Chemistry alone? What of other subjects?
Driver: Na who get this load?
Woman: It is mine.
Driver: Madam you go pay for this load o.
Woman: Haba! Na clothes full that bag, driver.
Driver: Na only clothes full am and the bag dey heavy like this. Madam, abeg pay.
Woman: How much?
Driver: Your money na #2,000.
Woman: For bag wey clothes full?
The three scenarios depicted above is not strange to us. In the first instance, the tricycle (keke) driver wanted to extort money from the man solely because he is new to the city and was ignorant of the right cost from Holy Ghost park to Maryland, Enugu. I am certain the man fell for it and was taken on a rendezvous drive before getting to his destination to make the journey seem worth the amount he was charged. In the second instance, the teacher is encouraging examination malpractice. He probably thinks he is offering a great help whereas he is inadvertently helping the students cultivate the culture of examination malpractice because they would believe examination malpractice is a prerequisite to passing any exam in future. Parents even encourage this yet we wonder why the reading culture is going into extinction. Do you now see the reason for the high rate of examination malpractice among students? In the third story, the driver charges an exorbitant fee of #2,000 for a luggage. I would love to ask: is the boot not meant for luggage? Why do we need to pay for the boot to serve its purpose? Is that not a mild form of extortion?
I watched a video of a man addressing a crowd. He asked, “Who wants change?” Everyone’s hand was raised. He then asked, “Who wants to change?” No hand was raised this time. It is ironic that everyone wants change but no one is willing to change. This may be due to ignorance – we do not know that change begins with us. We want an end to extortion yet we extort from people in silly ways. We want students to take their studies seriously yet we expose them to examination malpractice at an early age in their educational background. We criticize and put the blame on the government officials for the mess we are into, forgetting that we also contribute to this in our own little ways – we are as bad as the government officials!
Our desire for change made us vote the APC into power in 2015, thinking Nigeria would be better. Is it any better? Answer for yourself! We desire change but we do not intend this change to happen. Our actions often betray our intentions. We say we do not want bad politicians but we still collect money from them and vote them in. If a politician gives out money for the mobilization of thugs, he finds more thugs more than he actually paid for. If he gives out money for an election to be rigged, it will be done and he will emerge the winner. Are we not his accomplices? I once followed a discussion on a certain Facebook group. The question asked was: If you become the governor of your state, what would you do? I am sure you will not be surprised to know that everyone’s comment revolved around, “the kind money I go pack no be here”. That is the mindset of the supposed leaders of tomorrow. Are we not as bad as the politicians we criticize and condemn daily? Little wonder, our criticisms does not yield any positive result. It is the case of the kettle calling the pot black!
We are opportunists. We are always on the lookout for an opportunity to exploit others, infecting the society with greed and inordinate desires. Transport managers inflate transport fare during festive seasons. Drivers would demand hundred naira for a journey of fifty naira once it is raining. Policemen enforce the giving the fifty naira on drivers not minding whether or not they perform their basic duties. A manager of a company would increase his/her earnings by manipulating figures. Yet we want change!
I was once told the story of a man who tied his donkey to a tree with a rope and afterwards tries to pull it forward. The donkey refused to move. He thought the donkey was resisting to move and he started to hit it with it a stick. “The man is a fool”, you might say and you are probably right. And we, Nigerians, can be likened to that foolish man. We want Nigeria to move forward whereas we are also pulling it backwards, hindering progress. Afterwards, we wonder why the country is not progressing and lament.
The change beings with me. The change begins with you. Building the Nigeria of our dream is our collective responsibility. When you do your part and I do mine, we will have a Nigeria we would be happy to bequeath to generations after us.
The change begins with the man in the mirror. With united effort, sincere commitment and patriotism, we can evolve a better society. Nigeria will become great if we all do the right thing. The ultimate power to effect positive change lies with us and us alone.
Ezinwanne Onwuka writes Cross River State. She is a graduate of Philosophy from University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She may be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and +2348164505628.