While we should by all means continue to blame the president and our political leadership for our woes, it is important to, from time to time, take a look at the mirror. We do more harm to one another than what our politicians do to us, which is why I believe something is inherently wrong with our humanity.
Nigeria is the way it is today because of some fundamental problems that we have as a people. While I believe that the change most of us crave has to come from the top through exemplary and exceptional leadership that would radically turn things around and ignite a values reorientation among the people, the possibility of being able to produce such a leadership keeps thinning out on a daily basis.
So many factors and causes have been put forward as reasons for our backwardness and inability to set the country on the path of economic growth and development. Some of these include corruption, nepotism, ethnic diversity, mediocrity, bad leadership, etc. While a number of these factors are interrelated, different people would argue differently with regard to the contribution of each to the present pitiable state of our country.
Without discountenancing the factors listed above, I am starting to think that there is a fundamental problem with our humanity, which is at the root of the more obvious problems. There is no doubt that our economy has remained in a critical condition since 2015 due to a recession we are yet to fully recover from, as well as the poor economic management decisions of this administration. The desperation for money at the end of every year has always been a part of us as a people, and this is not limited to any social class, as everyone is usually caught up in the craze. This is a period during hich the majority of our people become really desperate and would do all manners of things to satisfy that desperation. This, I think is one of the fundamental flaws in our humanity.
The ongoing fuel crisis we are experiencing right now is nothing but a strategy to satisfy that desperation by a few people. This has become a recurring decimal in Nigeria. As much as we can blame this on the government and rightly so, I am turning my gaze to the people at all levels who would usually want to create artificial scarcity in order to raise the pump price of fuel in order to make a fortune out of the misery of other Nigerians. Although NNPC has admitted that there was a problem in their distribution process, they however also accused some marketers of sabotage and hoarding. This is a typical Nigerian thing. We never fail to seize every opportunity to take advantage of one another, particularly during crisis situations. This is a fundamental problem with our humanity.
How do we explain a fuel attendant in Abuja requesting for an extra N1,500 to sell a full tank to a customer after queuing for hours? Or an NNPC outlet that deliberately hoards the product, while its attendants ask motorists for a bribe before selling more because they had been instructed not to sell beyond a particular number of litres to each and everyone per day?
How do we explain a fuel attendant in Abuja requesting for an extra N1,500 to sell a full tank to a customer after queuing for hours? Or an NNPC outlet that deliberately hoards the product, while its attendants ask motorists for a bribe before selling more because they had been instructed not to sell beyond a particular number of litres to each and everyone per day? Under this situation, you would have petroleum tanker drivers who would agree to divert the product for extra cash. And this could go on to the very top of the supply and distribution chain. This is very much a case of everyone in the decision making process twisting the hands of the next person to get a little more. The result is the majority of Nigerians buying from the black market at the rate of N350/litre for a product that is meant to sell officially at N145/litre. This is simply the end of the year craze for money.
In some other parts of the world, this is the time of the year when retail shops would declare sales, slash prices in order for people to have access to products they otherwise would not have easily been able to buy. Even though this is usually done for a number of reasons such as reducing the stress of end of the year inventory, getting rid of products that are about to become stale, or making room for new and more trendy products, the fact remains that everyone, especially the poor, gets access to basic necessities needed for the festive season. The complete opposite is what we have here in Nigeria. Rather than slash or even keep prices stable, this is the period when prices of basic needs skyrocket just because people want to make that obnoxious extra income.
I remember during my National Youth service in one of the South-East states a couple of years ago. Corps members would usually go to the market trying to disguise as indigenes in order to avoid the inflated prices of food. We would keep a straight face as we approached sellers, but somehow before one starts the negotiation, s/he would hear, “Corper welcome ooooo”. At that point one realises his or her cover had been blown and must instantly get ready to drive a hard bargain to forestall being ripped off. It’s even worse for everyone during the end of the year festive period, as I was told that sachet water that was selling for N5 each at that time could get to as much as N20 per one. That is about a 300 percent price increase! When I asked some of the people why they do that, they replied that it was their way of collecting their share of national resources from those coming to their state to make money. This is the typical Nigerian mindset and it is a fundamental problem.
The majority of those complaining about this administration today were part of the monumental corruption of the last administration and would certainly stop complaining when they get another opportunity to ‘chop’ from the ‘National Cake’. The way I see it now is that our situation is not so much about the quality of our political leadership as it is about our very humanity as a people.
Public and civil servants are not left out of the craze. This is the period when enforcement officers of public corporations like the water board troll all over the place. Some of them even ask the people to pay to them directly, instead of into the relevant public accounts. In Abuja, for instance, one hardly sees a Vehicle Inspection Officer or Road Safety official within the city centre during weekends, hence it was shocking for me to see them park their vehicles in unsuspecting areas flagging down cars and asking for ‘documentation’. A public works official last week brought a phony bill and started harassing me to pay ‘something’ to him. He did not stop until I reported him to his superiors as a way of sorting out the issue officially. I can only imagine what other Nigerians are experiencing.
Some members of the public who don’t have such avenues to satisfy their end of the year desperation for money usually resort to crime. That is why the rate of criminal activities in the country is usually high during this period. For instance, Abuja used to be the safest city in Nigeria due to the presence of security operatives. This is no longer the case. No part of Abuja is safe during the holidays anymore. The economic situation has certainly worsened the situation. And it is the common man that suffers this the most. With all this craze for money in December, by January everyone would be crying for money, as all these earnings (both legitimate and illegitimate) would have been spent on frivolities.
While we should by all means continue to blame the president and our political leadership for our woes, it is important to, from time to time, take a look at the mirror. We do more harm to one another than what our politicians do to us, which is why I believe something is inherently wrong with our humanity. This is the very reason we cannot form a consensus and demand for good governance from our leaders. The majority of those complaining about this administration today were part of the monumental corruption of the last administration and would certainly stop complaining when they get another opportunity to ‘chop’ from the ‘National Cake’. The way I see it now is that our situation is not so much about the quality of our political leadership as it is about our very humanity as a people.
Fred Adetiba, a HR Practitioner, Researcher and good governance advocate, is Head of HR/Administration/Finance at Premium Times. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org and @fredor4c on twitter.