A close friend shared one of those seemingly innocuous stories in a WhatsApp group I’m in. The story went something like this:
HEADMASTER: how much is passport photograph for children?
PHOTOGRAPHER: the price for the passport is N100 per child
HEADMASTER: class teacher go & inform the pupils that they should bring N150 each tomorrow for the passports.
CLASS-TEACHER: Good day pupils, you are all to come with N200 tomorrow for passports.
PUPIL: Mummy we were asked to bring N300 for passport at school
MUMMY: Father, your son was asked to come to school with N500 passport fee tomorrow.
FATHER: OOH My God. Buhari has made everything expensive, including education. We’ve said it, this man is wicked.
Moral lesson: ‘LET THE CHANGE BEGIN WITH YOU AND I’. Honesty and sincerity are all that we need (seriously?) to make this country a better place!
Pls forward this to all your friends, colleagues, groups & all Nigerians. Think about it. Change begin with YOU, change your motives and your thought.
Thanks for being a Nigerian
And that’s it! We’ve found the solution to all of Nigeria’s problems. Everyone can go about their day now…
Everyone but me, of course.
You see, there are two key reasons why I intensely dislike posts like this:
First, while it seems to be preaching a good moral, it actually perpetuates the false narrative that all Nigerians are crooked and corrupt. This kind of thinking actually does more harm than good as some people start to truly believe that “Ole ni everybody” [“We are all thieves anyway”] and there’s no need for them to “dull” or “carry last” since this is what others would do in the same position. That’s why you often hear things like, “You will do the same and worse when you get there.” “There” being in political office or any position of influence.
Rather than continue to push this dated opinion, perhaps I’d rather share examples of everyday Nigerians being honest. Like the guy who returned 1.8 million Naira accidentally left in a carton of Indomie sold to him. People are more likely to emulate good behaviour if they believe it’s what others would do.
Also, while it’s easy to accuse Nigerians of being dishonest, the citizens are not the ones constantly undermining the rule of law and weakening our legal systems by consistently ignoring court orders, arresting judges in the dead of the night and generally turning a blind eye to corrupt government officials so long as they stay partisan.
The second reason this moralizing anecdote is insincere is that it cleverly absolves the Nigerian government of any blame for the current economic situation, specifically, the steady rising double-digit inflation Nigerians have been suffering from since last year.
The undeniable fact is that Nigeria’s inflation rate was on a decline in the first half of 2019, before the Federal government decided that the solution to the country’s smuggling problem (rice in, petrol out) was sealing off the nation’s land borders. The government chose to ignore its ineffective land border patrol agencies or the fact that, thanks to its continued funding of expensive fuel subsidies, petrol prices in Nigeria were much lower than any of the neighbouring countries. Once the land borders were abruptly closed in August 2019, the inflation trend changed and prices began to rise.
The most painful part of this saga was that the land border closure only affected legitimate businesses. There were multiple accounts of smuggling activities still carried out via illegal routes (which were not “closed” because they were illegal, duh!) Just a few weeks ago, some American was kidnapped in Niger and smuggled into Nigeria… by road.
So while I agree that change starts from the individual, that was not the “Change” Buhari promised in 2015. I didn’t vote him into the role of a pastor, to be sharing moral parables about honesty. He has a job to do and I have mine. Let’s both face our responsibilities and hold each other accountable honestly, then things will improve.