Much ado have been made of late about the manner in which Nigerians were unsafely deported, like bad dog food being removed from store shelves, from South Africa. The excuse of course was that perennial creeping disease of the Nigerian: bad reputation for corruption. Safe to say the South Africans who by themselves suffer epidemic of Babylonian proportions like HIV/AIDS, will not try to mess with Nigerians henceforth. It appears at least for now, the South African Affair, as this episode is now being called will now settle in lore, as one time that our government actually stood for something!
The lessons of that episode having been learnt have to be extended to areas beyond our foreign affairs. How about the reality of our reputation? Why could a foreign government have the audacity to deport law-abiding citizens of Nigerians? Well, the answer is staring us in the face! Even our government doesn’t do much better!
A country where citizens die like common animals in the hands of others perpetrating acts of terror in churches, stadiums and police headquarters across the land is definitely not one with a functioning government. One where, law enforcement routinely harasses and kills citizens for not giving bribe is definitely not worth calling homeland. What will you call a country where every contact with your government is a nightmare of bureaucratic boorishness and tempestuous audacity of civil servants? Well, I call that nation: Nigeria.
A trip to Nigerian immigration under the guise of getting a broken passport chip replaced, convinced me early this year. Supposedly, the numerous sub-standard passports our dear government had issued some citizen had broken chip that required free replacement of such. Upon arrival at the dingy called International Airport in Lagos, my passport was essentially seized and I was told to proceed to obtain a new one from the passport office on the next business day.
This simple procedure soon translated into an exercise in extortion upon my appearance, with various immigration officers demanding payments between fifteen thousand naira and hundred thousand naira to replace my passport! “My God, it doesn’t even that much to get a new one”. After repeated visits and observation of long lines to obtain passports at the Ikoyi office, my inquiring mind soon uncovered an uncanny plot by these hooligans in government to ensure that innocent Nigerians continue to get this “crap treatment” all in a bid to obtain a passport.
First, the Immigration “cartel”, have devised a system of multiple layers of applications that is designed to frustrate any first time applicant. Next, even when applicants obtain the help of an insider to navigate them through this process they are confronted by one nasty reality: one data capturing machine available for the due process, and many more machines now used by the cartel to expedite their business beyond the immediate walls of the Nigeria Immigration Service.
Yes, you heard that right. Government security equipment and computers: occupy sheds just outside the gate of the Immigration office in Ikoyi. This of course is ongoing while hundreds of legitimate applicants are told to wait or be extorted by the cartel to obtain passports. Just so that the Nigeria Immigration Service cannot deny this, my secret cam of this incident is attached and is uploaded on YouTube of this illegal passport issuing centers. The names of some members of the cartel are visible from my video and you can upload yours if you have any too!
After much ado, I obtained my passport (old and new) back after two weeks. Well, my experience could even have been marginally better than many that have to deal with the most insolent of Nigerian government agencies: the Nigeria Police Force. Yes, you heard that right: Force. My question is on whom? Who is the police forcing? Are they forcing the same citizen that purchase the gun, and trust their safety and security in their hands? It definitely appears we are treated like crap by our government because they only seem to have replaced the colonial masters and not the system the Brits had in place! Changing this system requires a mental sheet, and wholesome examination of governance.
Last year alone, hundreds of Nigerians were victims of police brutality and many more languish in police cases of circumstance just to satisfy the gluttonous appetite of our decaying security apparatus. Of course, this is going on while the biggest policing challenges confronting the Nigeria Police in a decade are not met i.e. terrorism. How does your government respond to this? Well, they make empty statements and declare police reforms committees! Like we do not know what ail the police.
Policing like governance in Nigeria is stuck on the colonial mentality of government as masters. It was Fela Anikulapo Kuti in his rendition of “Zombie” and “Beast of no Nation” that explored the idiocy of this colonial concept. The police of Nigeria quartered in barracks, and devoid of meaningful interactions with the public: acts and behave like an occupying force. A third of Nigeria’s policing problems will be solved if these goons in barracks are redeployed to live within the communities they work at. The other sensible reforms will be a sanitization of the rank and file, and the provision of nimble and efficient modern equipment of policing (no armored tanks and AK-47s please!).
First, it immediately shifts their mentality as it is hard to be disrespectful to your neighbor and get away with it. Second, it forces them to secure their immediate communities and wards off the bad guys. Third, it potentially provides an avenue to replace the dehumanizing conditions of barracks, often backed by many government contracts on rehabilitation that never happens, with direct salary enhancements to the average policeman that flows into the economy and make us all better for it. Couple this with redeploying the rank and file to their state of origin, and Boko Haram will find it very difficult to thrive!
The government today dominates every sector of the economy, and prevents the rise of free enterprise to enable the Nigerian, getting in the way of innovation and prosperity: all in the name of revenue sourcing and control. Even in the later, it does a very horrible job at it! Why should any state or federal government control mineral resources below the ground? Why does every land title not come with mineral rights? Does it make any sense why a land owner should not reap the benefit of his title, and pay appropriate taxes to the government of the land? What does a government bureaucrat know about exploration, production and refinement?
What Nigerians should rightfully be demanding is not a change in the system of government or a change of guard among our politicians. Fundamentally, what needs to change in Nigeria is the attitude of government. Nigerians must demand that governance be rethought; from a colonial mentality of occupation and domination, to an indigenous form of service and providing localized solutions to simple problems. It is time to rethink government. Government should be nimbler, smarter and get out of the way of free enterprise; and out of our lives: and should stop treating us like crap!