Never a day goes by that I don’t shake my head in disbelief. Never a day goes by that my jaw doesn’t drop. There are just too many of these “whoa moments” – moments that make me wonder how, and why, the vast majority of Nigerians are still alive and trudging. I see and hear incredulous and heart-wrenching things — things that make me shed a little tear every now and then.
I also see and hear things that affirm my belief in the resilience, ingenuity and goodness of Nigerians. It is impossible to miss the contradictions. Under these circumstances therefore, it is difficult, if not impossible to not belief in miracle and in the existence of a higher power. Indeed, it is impossible not to belief that someone or something is watching over Nigerians.
Some of the food handling techniques I witnessed in Nigeria would have killed 15% or more of Americans. Eggs are allowed to sit in the sun for days on end. Expired can foods and drinks are sold. I am not even sure if anyone pays attention to the expiration dates. The slaughterhouses are a mess, and so are the handling and storage of raw meat. From morning until closing time or until when the meat are sold, all types of flies and other creatures congregate on the meat.
Flies and other creeping creatures can also be found trysting and defecating on the fishes, vegetables, seafood, and other foodstuff. Some of the food items are even displayed on the ground. It is as if no one is aware of food borne infections caused by such bacteria as salmonella, ecoli, campylobacter, listeria, yersinia, and the Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses.
Most street-side restaurants (Buka) are filthy! A woman could be sweating and at the same time pounding yam or eba or fufu or whatever else. All the while, her sweat and spit are streaming into the food she is preparing. The human sweat and spit is then mixed with the food for customers to eat. Beyond that is the spoons and plates and glasses customers use.
Hundreds and hundreds of customers, every single day, uses the same cutlery without subjecting those cutleries to any measure of hygiene. In that sweltering heat, and under unhygienic conditions, millions of Nigerians, go out every single day to eat and drink. Every time I walk past such bukas, I feel my stomach turn, I feel sorry for the patrons.
The average Nigerian does not have access to healthcare; and even in places when heath services are available, most can not afford it. It is therefore not a surprise that hundreds of Nigerians die every single day on Nigerian roads. Some just drop dead from exhaustions, hypertension, and other diseases that were left undiagnosed or untreated.
And very many others are either poorly treated or improperly diagnosed. Those not dropping dead from health conditions are killed by government agents, armed robbers, assassins, or by street urchins. If you escape any of the aforesaid, the poor condition of Nigerian roads and bridges, and the poor driving ability of drivers along with poor maintenance of vehicles will be the cause of death.
It is said that inflation rate is about 11% and unemployment is at about 6% and some 60% of the population live below poverty line. I am not sure those figures are correct. It is more like 45% unemployment, 35% inflation and 80% of the people live below the poverty line. A keen observer will notice that there are two types of poor people: the miserable and the abject poor.
As far as I can tell, there are more miserable people in Nigeria. It also seems to me as though more than 80% of the country is made up of ghettoes and slums. Some of the well-planned neighborhoods look like maximum security complexes with houses surrounded by barbed wires and high fences to keep away armed robbers and unwanted guests. It must be really difficult to have a good night sleep in such houses.
I sometimes wonder why there has not been a revolution or some sort of popular uprising in Nigeria. It amazes me how millions and millions of Nigerians take this nonsense year after year after year. They must have thick skin and an enduring ability to bear hardship, pain, poverty and misery. Americans complain about every little inconvenience; but not so Nigerians, most of whom just walk around like the living dead.
Their ability to take it in, to stomach things, to look the other way, to forgive their leaders, to seek earthly solution in the heaven is amazing. How they endure such great inconveniences is beyond my wits. I am beginning to lose my mind, but my friends and family act as though it is nothing, as though all is well. It is amazing! It is a totally different mindset.
One other thing I have noticed: it must be good, really good to be a White man in Nigeria. You may have any type of skin, not just the black skin. One.s skin color could be an asset or a hindrance. The way I see it, most Nigerians seems to have great respect for the “white skin,” while they despise their own skin. Someday, some white fellow is going to casually walk into Aso Rock and claim to be the president of Nigeria. I won’t be surprised if Nigerians believe and accept him.