There’s a profound fear that lives in Nigeria. I felt it immediately I landed from a recent trip. It’s the fear of the unknown which creates an every-man-for-himself mentality. It is the fear of iniquity & lawlessness which makes us clutch our bags a bit tighter and take on a supercilious tone when when we speak to airport law enforcement officers. It is the fear of corruption. “How much will I need to give the “boys” today?” It is the fear of gross unpredictability – anything can happen and no one will save you from it. “Will there be petrol scarcity on my return? Will another bomb blast have happened?” Even before you travel, you worry whether your bank card will work in stores. When you return, you wonder why airport officials check your luggage tag against your bag. It’s the fear of theft.
You ask futile questions. “Why is our airport like this? Why can’t our country look as beautiful as the one I’m just returning from. Why can’t we have skyscrapers too?”
You realise just how privileged you are. Some people are trapped and shut in. They can’t leave, even if they want to.
On holiday, I have discussions with God. I have ideas. I have high expectations of people. In Nigeria, I spend so much emotional energy addressing issues and praying for deliverance for those going through horrific unnecessary pain. Nigeria has two recognised currencies – money & power (whether physical or spiritual). You will scarcely live without the two and people will do almost anything to get them. I have very little expectations of people here for there are few people to expect things from.
As I returned from Abu Dhabi, the gate for our Nigeria-bound Etihad flight was the only one that was rowdy. The flight boarded late and no one told us why. It sat on the tarmac for a long time before taking off and no one told us why. On landing, people stood up before the plane came to a complete stop. Lawlessness seems deeply embedded in Nigeria and it’s because we are used to taking the law into our own hands. There is little expectation of justice, equity and fairness.
I helped an elderly lady with her hand luggage on the plane and it was such a normal thing to do having experienced such courtesy several times abroad. Isn’t that funny? Kindness is normal abroad. I waited to see if anyone would help before I finally stepped in. How do people stand by while an older woman struggles with a bag? Where is our basic humanity as Nigerians?
What I can commit to in 2017 is to demonstrate kindness. I am under no illusion that it will change the world. But maybe it will change one person and every life is important. To make one person feel less alone and traumatised in Nigeria is surely enough.