By KENNETH DARENG
NIGERIA is superficially a religious country going by the number of churches and mosques spread in every street corner. On every Friday of the week faithful troop in large numbers for Jumaat prayers to the extent that the mosques in most cases do not accommodate the volume of worshipers and in order to create space some worshipers take over some adjoining streets and roads.
Sundays for the Christians in this country is like the Jewish Sabbath which is observed with so much solemnity but with so much competition as to whose church has the loudest public address system or musical instruments. Sundays being work free days are generally observed as a period of rest but in Nigeria it has now become activated by activities such as meetings, weddings and other social engagements. Nigeria is also a nation with people that also belief in the traditional ancestral mode of worship taking leverage of rich customs and traditions of the nation diverse ethnic groups and nationalities who had prior to the advent of the western religion i.e Christianity had their customs and beliefs and taboos as their guiding principles.
But very few of its over 200 million population are presumably godly. This is a country where an average Nigerian claims to be a good practicing Christian, Muslim or atheist But translating the individuals faith into practice is either in short supply or completely absent as corruption, fraud, violence and gross indiscipline has continued to retard the progress of the nation at every fabric of its existence.
These days it is common to hear the common man on the street pushing every blame of the moral note on the government or on other individuals in the society.
According to a social commentator, Osondu Chimezie Nwosu. “How many Nigerians might have asked at one time or the other what is happening in this country? A country, where 95 percent of its news from all sources are terrifying. If it is not crime or violence, it could be massive fraud where drug barons settle their differences by destroying lives of innocent people right inside church. Or police can arrest a man for alleged robbery, and coerced him to make dubious statement. A country where hate speech is idolized in the social media and the rate of incessant killings, kidnapping and strange stories of deviance are the order of the day”.
Nwosu also stated that the process of socialization is today guided by norms and taught to us by those around us including our families, teachers, and authority figures from religion, politics, law and the popular culture.
He added that, “an average Nigerian finds it not convenient to abide by common laws of the land which is our major problem. While in the western world every activity is driven by the rule of law as a way of life, it is the contrary in Nigeria.
“For Nigerians to abandon the life style of rushing into or descending into buses, open defecation, driving on the wrong lane of the road, abuse of road signs, warning signs, dumping of refuse at wrong places, illegal parking, overloading of passengers, over speeding or reckless driving, misuse of public structures are among many other unpleasant habits which the military government of President Buhari was forced to in March 1984 to enact a legislation by decree, popularly known as War Against Indiscipline (WAI) just to instill discipline in the people”.
According to Nwosu; the respect for of the rule of law in all things has been the Achilles heel of Nigerians even from post independence to date. The very few Nigerian who occupied leadership positions, immediately after independence were quick in learning the colonial masters mentality of wealth acquisition for self-aggrandizement and self superiority instead of working to improve the lot of the country, they became colonial masters in a ‘black man’s skin’ neglecting moral ethics and rule of law.
Also sharing the same views with the SUNDAY STANDARD, Mr. Frank Usman lamented that, “It is unfortunate that Nigeria’s progress has always been dragged backward by continuous moral decadence which has formed part of our lifestyle.
“Imagine a country like Rwanda that just came out of civil war and today their transformation as a nation is a big surprise to the so-called giants of Africa. This is one country that has put the past behind them and have embraced peace and are proud of their new slogan. “I am a Rwandan” coupled with the spirit of determination, vision and focus. Can we as Nigerians compare the development going on in Rwanda with ours? It is a shame that even after 59 years of our Independence Nigerians are still struggling to catch up with our common neighbors like Niger, Cameroon and not to talk of other developed countries like Brazil or Singapore who were far behind us in the early 70s and 80s”.
Abdullahi Shehu, a Jos based businessman also pointed to the SUNDAY STANDARD that, “For Nigeria to realize its potentials, there must be total re-orientation of our minds as a people. We must obey the laws of our land just like we often do when we are in other countries. For instance, I traveled to Nairobi, Kenya some 2 years ago and in company of my host, we went down town Nairobi for shopping and we got to a Zebra crossing and he expected me to join him on the Zebra mark but I declined until I noticed all the vehicles had stopped then I joined him and we crossed. He asked me why I did not want to cross at first and my reaction was with a broad smile but I told myself that motorist in my country would have crushed him if it were in Nigeria. Because of our lack of adherence to traffic rules and regulations, many people have lost their lives while trying to use either pedestrian lane or Zebra crossings”.
Another respondent, Salamatu Ayuba who also shared her experience while on a visit to Accra –Ghana said, “We were in the heart of Accra and along with my colleagues from Nigeria flagged a taxi cab and asked him to take us to a place called Kwame Nkurmah circle but because we were five in number he said he wouldn’t take us except if he would carry only four of us. With our normal Nigerian attitude we pleaded with the guy to manage four at the back while one person shares the front seat. The taxi driver declined saying,’ “if I am caught by the police I may end up paying a heavy fine or end up in jail”. That is the rule of law for you even within the West African sub-region and not to talk of the western world where being caught driving without seat belt or driving above speed limit is a sure ticket to jail no matter your standing in that country.
In Nigeria and in Abuja to be precise, there was a reported case in the media of a sitting state governor from one of the southern states who along with his convoy drove on top speed along the Asokoro area of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) against traffic into a crash which saw the governor sustaining minor injuries. Despite the media hype nothing was heard on the offence and the man felt it was just one of those normal hick-ups.
Another scenario similar to the one above happened in Lagos during the tenure of Governor Raji Fashola where the governor had to personally undertake a man-chase of a high ranking military officer who in a bid to avoid traffic congestion diverted to an opposite side of the road. The Governor, unfortunately for the officer was coming from a different direction and sighted the man driving without minding whether he was endangering other people’s lives or not. The officer was caught at the end and had to be reprimanded but that was also the end of the story as far as Nigeria’s man know man attitude is concern. Perhaps ended with a pat on the wrist.
However, these are some of the things that encourage high level of impunity across the Nigerian society. Even the government itself does not seem to obey its own laws. Rufus Kwon in a chat with the SUNDAY STANDARD said, “If our government does not care or respect court judgements, what do you expect from the common man? Take a good look at the British parliament, how the Prime Minister is facing a difficult task in getting the BREXIT deal approved by the House of Commons even to the point of using judicial means to block the submission of the British Prime Minister. Do you think if it were in Nigeria, the Senate President or Speaker of the House of Representatives would have been on the saddle of the chambers? Until we understand that the system works better with absolute rule of law and other checks and balances, it will be business as usual,” Kwon noted.
“It is empirical to observe that corruption among other crimes in Nigeria is a monumental problem” says Chimezie Nwosu. Stressing that, “No one can narrow bribery and corruption to only the high and mighty in Nigeria. It is present at all levels of the society- from the low level civil servant who will bog you down in bureaucracy until you pay him or her certain bribe. Or the nurse in a public clinic who will insist there are no available hospital beds until you are ready to part with some cash.”
A cursory look at Nigerian airports at the point of entry tells you that corruption is at work as immigration officials will ransack your luggage if you don’t give them hand out.
The same story goes on our major highways where some corrupt officials either as police, Federal Road Safety Commission, or Vehicle Inspecting Officers (V.I.Os) are everywhere demanding for one thing or the other in case money does not change hands.
Even the journalism profession is not spared of quacks and shy-locks operating as reporters or publishers. Some even go to the extent of using blackmail as a means of getting financial favours or some form of Financial inducements thereby compromising their professional code of ethics. No wonder the society is now becoming like a jungle where “you have to eat or be eaten.” Imagine pastors, lawyers, doctors, politicians, lecturers etc. involved in one scandal or the other with thousands of instances and experiences that are part of the narratives of our Nigerian lifestyle.
Nwosu also quipped that corruption is widespread and it is of every sort within the anti-corruption agencies. White collar corruption and looting goes on, stealing of government funds is at its alarming scale, 419 companies, tax evasion, bunkering of oil and theft, Election fraud, political violence and so on have made Nigeria’s journey to greatness to be likened to a snail walk with no end in sight.
Perhaps it is also apt for every Nigerian to begin to think of the havoc we as a people we bring on ourselves. For instance, removing the psyche of the so-called Nigerian factor and greed is a serious problem that individuals must address.
It is common for an average Nigerian to abuse timeliness and easily give an excuse by referring to it as “African Time.” What about those who jump queues thinking it is just being smart and not minding how the other person feels.Such attitude happens daily on roads, banks, airports, railway stations even places of worship are not exempted.
Because some individuals are used to lawlessness, it does not matter where and when to exhibit such negative attitudes as long as they can get away with it.
Apart from such attitudes constituting a problem for the nation’s progress, it is easy for an average Nigerian to abuse the law. How do you explain the attitude of some people who will always blame government yet you find a Nigerian traveling to China or Malaysia to import sub-standard goods. Or how do you explain a thriving expired drugs business being operated in the open market in Kantin Kwari or Sabon Gari Markets in Kano or in Onitsha, Lagos and other illegal points across major cities of the country without being sanctioned or arrested. Yet the same Nigerians know the penalty of selling illegal or sub-standard products in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia or China or any western country. This is the height of wickedness.
It is only in Nigeria you will find people displaying total lawlessness to be precise around Bauchi Road axis and Dilimi area in Jos. Most residents don’t pay power or utility bills and any attempt to make power cuts results into mayhem, stopping officials from doing their legitimate duties. In those same areas even though government had banned the use of motorcycles in some designated areas, they have refused to comply with such orders, to such an extend that they disregard any form of regulations on any routes within the city centre.
In the case of the Jos metropolis for instance, it is a daily tug of war between security forces and traders of second hand clothing who prefer to sell their wares on top of the road pavements rather than secure shops at designated markets.
Such irregularities have resulted in dumping of refuse on the road. Apart from the operation of illegal parks even within the metropolis which constitute not only an eye sore but can be considered an act of lawlessness that is now part of the lifestyle of the people.
In fact, Leye Jokotoye rightly puts it in his commentary on ‘the problem with Nigeria’, where he described “Nigeria is one country where lawlessness is the order of the day. Where laws are bent, broken, disregarded, disobeyed and ignored with flagrant impunity from top to bottom, leaders to followers, old and young, male and female. Lawlessness has become our culture, our way of life, our modus operandi.”
However, the solution is for us all to retrace our steps and do the right thing just as it is done in other civilized countries where the rule of law drives the process of growth and societal development or else the end will not even be in sight.