by bimbo amole
In my university days of classes of philosophy, there were times you got so annoyed and pent up when you hear European claims about Africans, like Levy Bruhl’s reference to Africans as being “pre-logical” (at its best meaning uncritical). It is ironical now, when I look back at those days, how not only I am no longer quite annoyed at those claims any more, as a matter of fact I do ask myself if some of those claims do not have some taint of truth.
Now I am a Nationalist, and much more, one that would sing “I’m black and proud” anyday, in unison with that famous erstwhile juju music veteran, Ebenezer Fabiyi popularly called Obey. Thus there is no feeling of some inferiority complex or anything of that sort here. The fact here is what makes itself evident from what one sees, what we all witness, what a conscious mind could not possibly ignore without asking pertinent questions.
Some instances, though there are several that one could possibly present, would suffice to make the reader understand the perturbed state-of-mind of this African author. Take for example the state of our national airports in Nigeria, particularly that of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MM1A) Lagos, which is the most prominent and busiest of them all. The only thing prominent about that airport for now is the word itself. In other words, nothing. MMIA was commissioned by Obasanjo in March 15, 1979 as a model of Amsterdam Airport, Schiphol. It was built to take care of about a million travellers per year. Yet, now that it accounts for over 10 million travellers per annum, no significant change or infrastructural development is in place. Anyone who has been in that airport of recent (especially if you are unfortunate to have travelled out of the country recently too) will let down his head in shame and embarrassment: the level of disorder, non-functioning air-conditionals, inappropriate and unsuitable furniture (tens of people, all crowded together for lack of space, are nudging themselves almost to a point of pain), generally unkempt structure. You cannot but notice the look of stark shame in the face of foreigners who are struggling to keep up with the long queue at check-in, of course with unbearable level of heat.
Now an airport is the first point of call for any foreigner, for any investor. So much is being done to sing the glory of Nigeria, yet from the very first step into the country all you see is suffering and poverty. Or worse still (since poverty is not quite our problem for those who understand the world of economics and the immense resources that Nigeria as a country has compared to several countries, developed ones included), all one sees at the foremost point of entry into Nigeria is mismanagement and backwardness. It surely would not take much effort for such a visitor or possible investor to understand the scenario he is entering into. Yet there are individuals responsible for these structures like the MMIA. The more intriguing thing is that such individuals saddled with this responsibility also travel out, they enjoy facilities which are borne from good sense and simple planning. Services like good environment, aesthetic and befitting representation of the country, organized waiting and departure lounges, simple calling machines, an environment of cleanliness that already speaks to you of the soundness of people around there, reasonable space in relation to the traffic of people that frequent such an airport, adequate security by men decently dressed(not in gowns and slippers), itself a straight message of the honour of the country and of its people.
How much could one say. The point remains that there is bad-faith somewhere: either residing and feeding fat in a government which does not see it as important to improve such a crucial infrastructure as the MMIA. Or in the individuals, be it Transport ministers, managing director of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria or other designated authorities who equally pretend to us that they do not see the disgraceful state of the institutions that they are managing. Such authorities cannot argue for lack of funds or the like since the appropriations made to institutions like airports are verifiable. And if they argue that such appropriations do not sieve down to its intended end, the question is why have they not spoken out and resigned? The fact that they remain and pretend all is well makes them accomplices with superiors who probably are holding the already-allocated national funds to ransom.
Let us consider another instance. A lot of friends have complained in the past of the indecent and disgraceful state of our embassies abroad. Again, I used to argue to the contrary. I stopped the denial when I saw for myself how true these claims could be. Our embassies in Europe are glaring examples. You come into about any Nigerian embassy in Europe and you begin to wonder if you are in one. Furniture in disrepair(like back at home and even worse), general disorder, unkempt environment. There are organized touts outside making their extorting business. The crowd inside cannot even have a decent tally system with which order and tranquility could be achieved. It is worse still in such places abroad, because such unruly atmosphere strikes a sickening contrast with the several embassies around. You ask the question: what is it that is wrong with us? With respect to thousands of Nigerian men and women who are sensible and would never tolerate these situations here portrayed, you cannot but ask yourself if there is not something fundamentally wrong with the Nigerian person as to permit such situations, not only at home but also abroad?
Not to nauseate ourselves further with these unpleasant realities, we better stop the examples. The point to affront however remains that nobody would come into Nigeria to create some miracle or turn the country around. No IMF would give such aid to make the country better. (Those ones are interested in the interest of their patrons by the way, and that is natural, I would say). It behooves us to rise up in our different capacities and defend our honour. We are rational beings and created in the image of God, that I would defend any day. However we need to use that rationality and stop this national, continental embarrassment. It does not take too much money to create a situation of honour and efficiency. It would not take many billions of the country’s naira (which are being rolled into tens of private accounts all the same) to turn our international airports into befitting places that could really be called airports, first-point of call for visitors, investors and Nigerians. It would not take a fortune to make an embassy look a little bit like what it is set up to be. It would not take too much to make the FRSC begin to see that the Okada man who does not obey the traffic light (in the very few places that we have it in the country, shame in this age) commits as big an infringement as cars that do the same! (I mean the Okada man goes straight on at red and it is as if everything is normal for the yellow-fever¬ who languidly looks on!!). It is my position that our problem in this country is indiscipline. It is inefficiency of laws. That is what would permit a contractor to get funds and patch roads and claim vehemently that he has constructed one. That is what would make an Airport director see that air conditionals are not working in the terminal and he turns away as if it does not quite matter. That is what would make one who is giving the function as head of an institution dodge his obligations and refuse to take responsibility. It is the very same inefficiency of law that allows a government functionary steal millions of dollars (while his people wallows in poverty and misery) that makes an Okada rider not give a hoot for a red stop at the traffic light, that is if it functions at all! No efficient law to deal with him, full stop.
We need to ask ourselves questions. We need to stand up and prove that opinions like that of Levy Bruhl are wrong. Or are they?