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 and we-must-eat-everything-now mentality. It is the fear of iniquity & lawlessness which makes us clutch our bags a bit tighter and take on a supercilious tone when speaking to law enforcement officers. It is the fear of corruption. “How much will I need to give to the boys today?” It is the fear of gross unpredictability. “Will there be petrol scarcity this Christmas? Will another bomb blast happen?” In Nigeria, anything can happen and no one will save you from it. Even before you travel, you worry whether your bank card will work in foreign stores. When you return, you wonder why airport officials check your luggage tag against your bag. It’s the fear of theft.
As a Nigerian, when you return from a foreign trip, 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 then realise just how privileged you are. Some people are trapped and shut in. They can’t leave, even if they wanted to.
On holiday, I have free flowing discussions with God. I have ideas. I have high expectations of people. In Nigeria, instead I spend so much emotional energy addressing basic issues and praying for deliverance for those going through unnecessary pain. Nigeria has two recognised currencies – money & power. You will scarcely live well without one or the other (or both). People will do almost anything to get them. In my country, there is little expectation of justice, equity and fairness and so, we have become used to taking the law in our own hands.
As I returned from Abu Dhabi on a Nigerian airline, 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 none of the flight attendants said anything. We expect so much lawlessness in Nigeria, that we accept it when it’s meted out to us. On landing, many stood up before the flight came to a complete stop.
During the flight, I helped an elderly lady with her hand luggage. It was such a normal thing to do, having experienced such courtesy several times abroad. Isn’t that funny? Kindness is normal abroad but not normal in Nigeria. I waited to see if anyone else would help before I finally stepped in. How do people stand by while an older woman struggles with her bag? Where is our basic humanity as Nigerians?
I’ve decided that what I can commit to in Nigeria, is demonstrating kindness. I am under no illusion that it will change the world. But maybe it will change one person. Making one soul feel less lonely and traumatised in Nigeria is surely enough.Nigeria has two recognised currencies - money & power. You will scarcely live well without one or the other. Click To Tweet