by Pius Adesanmi
Oyinbo and wahala sha. I passed by this same overhead bridge connecting two campus buildings yesterday. Nothing dey happun dat time yesterday o. Then I pass by the same place today, heavy equipment everywhere, tearing things down. I asked some of the construction workers wetin dey happen: scheduled maintenance. They said I could visit so and so website for more maintenance information or call so and so number.
Bridges, roads, gadas, elevators, buildings, etc, na so Oyinbo go dey treat heavy infrastructure like merecine wey get expiry date. No matter how new a road or a bridge or anything looks, Oyinbo will tear it down once the date of scheduled maintenance don reach.
When they have torn it down, that is when a “business delegation” led by Governor Lagbaja, Senator Tamedun, and Minister Lakasegbe will arrive from Nigeria, ship them home for our people, tie tape and ribbon around them, and launch metal fatigued garbage at ten times the price of the one oyinbo has just installed to replace the garbage they bought.
I looked at this bridge that they are tearing down for scheduled maintenance today – bridge wen no spoil fa – and I thought about the new Oshodi interchange we just launched and celebrated with fanfare. It has improved the quality of life of our people. It is a great project.
However, do you know that the said project has no website run by the owner, the government of Lagos state? That is where the names of the agencies and departments responsible for it ought to be displayed. That is where projected scheduled maintenance dates, at least for the next ten to fifteen years, ought to be.
Many of you travel abroad. Take a look at a simple elevator when next you are abroad. It will have details of maintenance records and scheduled future maintenance. Above all, it will have phone numbers to call if you have questions.
Do you understand why? In this business of citizenship, somebody must be answerable to you at all times. Whenever your tax money is put into something, information about safety and maintenance should be available to you at all times. There must be phone numbers.
Of course, it is easy for you to laugh and dismiss “these little things” as the madness of another oversabi diasporan who “is not realistic about our local context”. But you see, “these little things” that you keep dismissing as not realistic for Nigeria are the minimal requirements for membership of the 21st-century human family and civilisation. If you don’t have them, you have to insist on such things to qualify for human civilisation. Not laugh and dismiss and lash out at those who insist that you must have these things.
Some people are calling you hyenas and lions and you are angry. Although they are actually deploying figures of speech and should not be read literally, I have elected to join you in reading them literally this time because this is no time to be deploying animal imagery.
If they are calling you hyenas and lions and weaker animals, it is because they travel to places where people do not joke with their entitlement to information about how they are governed; about the safety of the infrastructure provided by their tax. Every coach of a train has detailed info and phone numbers. These people calling you hyenas and lions see these things. Then they see you constantly justify the absence of the same basic foundations of human agency in your lives. They see and hear you constantly defend them for not providing these things. They see you thank and overcelebrate them for the second-hand token they deign to provide you with your own money. Do you understand why they start to traffic in animal imagery?
They see you support them and shout down people who insist that they must provide these things. For saying that Ambode and his agencies owe you websites, phone numbers, and a 20-year maintenance schedule of the interchange they just built, you will soon see some abobakus descend on me like a tonne of bricks. They will abuse my father and my mother. Luckily I am used to it. Who is this diasporan to be talking? At least Ambode even built it. What if he did not build it nko?
When these people see you constantly justify the absence of little 21st-century fundamentals they owe you, they start to think of you in terms of animal metaphors. Nothing justifies animal metaphors by the leadership on account of the people. Senator Shehu Sani is foolish for his unconscionable use of language. It has an added rub of insult given the fact that he started off his mandate by donating empowerment camels and donkeys to his constituents. Then, a First Lady who should know better latches on to all the animal imagery and her defenders are saying it is Senator Sani’s fault. Mba, ko jo rara. It is Mrs Buhari’s fault.
However, I insist that if you had acquired the habit of insisting on little 21st-century things from the establishment represented by Senator Sani and Mrs Buhari, they wouldn’t be trafficking in animal metaphors.
Mrs Buhari owes you a lot of information about her husband because he is your President and, more importantly, you are helping her out by paying for her husband’s very expensive treatment. She should go on live TV to even kneel down and thank you sef. You have tried for her and husband. It is not a privilege for you to be treated the way I am recommending.
Ambode too owes you information about safety and maintenance plans for all the gadas he is building upandan. Each gada needs a website section on the site of the relevant departments and government agencies. It is not a privilege.
When you insist on these things, the subsconscious of your leadership will no longer be invaded by animal imagery.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Pius Adesanmi, a professor of English, is Director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada