Opinion: The Christmas that could have been

by Oseiwe Ibhagui

We need to have a network and support of relevant authorities so that we are not at the mercy of these champions of Nigerian backwardness.

My Christmas day started as my other days start: I went out for a morning walk. Problem is, this day was going to be slightly different. Just as I got to the vicinity of the soon-to-be-completed Tejuoso market site, I saw a small crowd gathered by two cars, apparently one trying to tow the other. As I looked further, I discovered that the one to be towed was badly damaged on one side to the extent that the tyre on that side was mangled along with the headlights, fender, and all those front, right-hand parts. I stopped to witness the scene.

As I looked further, I saw that the damaged car, a Toyota Camry, shiny, recent model, was being attempted to be towed by a nylon rope suitable for hanging clothes on to dry. Of course as the towing vehicle moved, the rope snapped. After another attempt, I just laughed at the attempt and mumbled to the closest person to me how a car driver didn’t know what would be suitable to tow a car, and that a seat belt would be needed if a chain could not be found. It then seemed to me they were just a confused bunch and so, to do my public duty, I decided to move further to have a chat with the driver, coming out of the car, who happened to be a young man. As I moved to gain access to him, I noticed he was unstable and seemed to be in a world of his own. I called on him and he just looked dazed and walked away. As an experienced “guy man” myself, I immediately knew what was up. I didn’t know when my thoughts immediately came out “dis one don drunk”.

Immediately I said that, come and see backlash! EVERYBODY turned on me; why would you say such a thing? Of course they also had an attack dog who was supposed to be a beast of burden to see “something” from the rich “oga”. Now he had a new and more appealing job. He towered over them, pushed me with his dirtied hands and was spoiling for a fight. Now, note that my contribution in life comes from my brain and none by muscles. I then knew this could really be a special Christmas like no other; I had to think fast so as to survive the fiasco. I reminded them I wanted to come and tell them to use a seatbelt and that I had experience with cars. As all this was going on, one of the people who must gain a special advantage with “oga” had already told him and so buoyed by the hostility seen around me, he then reappeared determined to come and “fight” still babbling rather incoherently. He even picked a stone and hurled at me while being restrained by his “good Samaritans” not to come and “deal with” me. As Tupac would say, I saw it was me against the world so as I saw the little window I had, I took it and made a run for it!  I cannot go into my personal circumstances now and why I should be the last person to get into trouble at this point in time. Once again the Nigerian system prevailed over a potential new order. Progress took to its heels and left Nigeria to continue in its way.

Now, a couple of things. I fully understand that many a reader will find no issue with what transpired. Indeed some would say it served me right but now, let’s reason together. We have laws in this country against drunk driving just as they do in just about any country in the world. Drunk driving is dangerous because it turns the vehicle into a potential missile and the safest person is the one inside the car. It could lead to life-changing injuries and even death of innocent passersby. Indeed I myself have been in a drunk driving situation back in the day in Ibadan which resulted in the death of a fowl on the dirt roads of Apete. I was perfectly compliant with the N500 fine imposed on me (hey, it was 2004 okay).

In reasonable countries where they have a culture of obedience to laws, what happens is that when a group goes out for a night out, there’s always one person designated to be the driver and that person isn’t allowed to take alcohol on that occasion so that they might obey the law while still having a good time. If someone is ever caught drunk on the wheels, they feel a sense of guilt at their offence just as I did and certainly do not attack who discovers them. They certainly wouldn’t have the army of volunteers who instantly attacked me on hearing that word “drunk”.

If people are encouraged to run the laws into the ground in the small way they’ve been given, how dare they complain about some other person in a position to do even more? What happens to the good Nigerian trying to call anyone to order when he has no backing from society? Do you know how it feels when I am mocked at petrol stations because I question why they would not sell petrol at the official pump price when I buy in a jerry-can or when I refuse to allow someone jump the queue at that filling station or when waiting for a BRT bus? Once when I prevented a woman from jumping the queue to stay in front of me while waiting for a bus, a man behind me gladly let her in just behind me and she declared to the guy that I was going mad because I was a “good Nigerian.” How can I function if I am the only one in a sea of Nigerians? This is why to effect change in the country, activists cannot be left each to his own. We need to have a network and support of relevant authorities so that we are not at the mercy of these champions of Nigerian backwardness. There are a few Nigerians willing to do what is right but they hide in the shadows so as not to be called out. But there is also me who is ready to also speak out.

I have always and will always say: the problem with Nigeria is the Nigerian people themselves, a few of whom are in government. Their attitudes, values, traditional practices, all have a negative effect on the prospects of development of the nation. You dare to be different? You will be destroyed: you will be hated, pressured, rendered destitute and your life will be made untenable unless you comply with prevailing wisdom. On my part, I was so glad I escaped a Christmas morning of beatings and serious trouble to be inspired enough to write this. Merry Christmas.

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Oseiwe Ibhagui tweets from @OIbhagui

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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