“Sir, this year no balance o. There were only six months this year so I will pay half rent…Don’t worry sir, you can’t take me to court or call the police for me or even call the army because all of them are not working now.”
That was the banter I had with my landlord’s lawyer some days ago when he called to remind me that my rent will soon be due. We laughed over it and made more silly jokes about the current situation of things in the “post-protest-and-looting” Nigerian era. We actually had a lot of stories to tell concerning this point in time.
But I stopped laughing about our predicament when I left my house for my office. I stayed in a gridlock for about an hour and began to curse the absence of the traffic wardens. You might not believe me if I tell you that there was no reason for this traffic jam except that every driver wanted to be the first to cross a T-junction. We all wanted to get to our destinations in time and so everybody nosed his car into the road, hoping that the ones coming from the other directions will wait for him. But when everybody is in a hurry, no one gets to his destination on time. And so, we stayed on the road, cursing and abusing one another until military men from the 84 Division came to the rescue.
That moment I was stuck in the gridlock reminded me of the importance of law and order. I was not only afraid of being crushed by trailers struggling on the road with us but also scared that someone might reach out through the window and make away with my belongings. There was no police officer in sight and there was no one that would have stopped something sinister from happening. It was all man to himself. Everybody was on his own. The strong suppressed the weak and the big sat on the small. Nigerians really showcased their “talents” at that moment.
But gridlock is just one of the happenings in Nigeria today. Have you gone to market after the violence and looting that rocked the country? What can you say about the sudden surge in the prices of goods? Have you noticed something about certain food items becoming scarce all of a sudden? What can you say about onions, tomato puree (aka tin and sachet tomato), rice, meat, among others? Can we survive this one so?
What about obtaining cash? Have you noticed how POS centres are springing up left and right and centre within this past week? How much did you pay to withdraw money from POS? Here in Enugu we pay five to ten percent of the amount you are about to withdraw. It is more like buying cash these days. As for the ATM, we all know how they were vandalised. The ones that were still left standing were either not operational or loaded with little cash. It is so bad that by the end of the day, you might stay an hour on ATM queue and be told “Temporarily unable to dispense cash” when it comes to your turn.
The essence of stating these is just to reveal some of the aftermath of the violence and looting the country experienced the past week. The hoodlums and the looters first destabilised the security system in the country to make sure they will not be “bothered” as they carried out their operations. But the majority of us clapped for them and encouraged them. We thought they were dealing with the “government” forgetting that nobody’s name is “government” and that those things that were destroyed will be repaired with “our money”. Someone told me that those in authority will use the money they would have looted to fix the damages but she forgot that no one will force the government to fix them on time. Hence, we are going to “enjoy” the mess caused by our children until god knows when.
But the looting and damages on private properties is what many of us did not envisage. Like the Igbos say, “Onye nna ya ziri ori na-eji ukwu agbawa uzo”, meaning that when you encourage a person to do what is wrong, he will go the extra mile. Hence, while we clapped for and fanned the flame of destruction in the “youths”, we never knew that the fire we helped to create will locate us. So here we are, finally paying for all those things in different forms – scarcity of food, scarcity of cash, lawlessness, loss of lives and properties, loss of jobs, mental and psychological disturbances, and insecurity.
I am happy the IGP of police, Adamu Mohammed, has enjoined the police officers to go back to duty, even though I am worried that he asked them to start defending themselves whenever they feel threatened. Hopefully, the return of the police will bring in some sanity. Maybe when they come back to work, the scarcity of cash as a result of non-working ATMs will be a thing of the past. Maybe distributors and traders will feel more at ease with moving their goods around the country. Maybe I will not be stuck in a gridlock for hours again.