Slapped In The Face

I arrived in Nigeria on the 27th of June and not more than two days had I been in this country and already, the state of unemployment and corruption had slapped me in the face.

I stepped down from the plane in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria and I was really exhausted. I had the longest day ever. Flying from London to Paris to Abuja and then to Port-Harcourt. Of course, I was out of breath and the last thing I needed was anyone to stress me.

So, I did my best to behave like a model citizen so that things could go smoothly. So I went through immigration and I was waiting for my luggages to arrive. As I was standing there, watching to see if any of my luggages had arrived, the light went off as if to remind me that I wasn’t in the UK no more.

I wasn’t actually upset at that time. At first, I was a bit confused because I hadn’t experienced this in over a year. Then, I kind of just accepted it and soon after the light came back on.

Normally, when I leave Nigeria, I always take at least #500(£2) with me because when I come back I want to be able to pay the porter or pay for my trolley. This time, however, I forgot my money in school. It was when I got to the airport in London that I remembered and I hit myself in the head for being so stupid.

So, my mum had already told me that the porter should cost about #500. She told me I could borrow some money from my aunty to pay for it but I didn’t really want to bother her so I was going to do it myself. However, when a porter offered to help me out when my luggages arrived, I realised that I did sort of need help, so I agreed.

I got to the point where some officers check your bags to make sure you didn’t bring in anything illegal. They told me to place my boxes on the table which I did. Then this conversation ensued between a female officer and I:

F.O: Oya, give me some biscuit(money) and I’ll let you go.

Me: (laughs) I’m Sorry Ma. I’m a student.

F.O: (laughs) but even students too have some biscuit

Me: (smiles) Ahh, we eat all of our biscuit before we come home.

F.O: (Taps my bag) (Smiles) Okay, you can go.

Me: Thank you very much.

I might have been smiling but I really wasn’t finding it funny. It made me want to weep for what my country has turned into. Now, mind you, this woman didn’t even do her job. She was waiting for the next tired passenger so she could extort money from them. (I wish her name was on her uniform. Darn!)

Okay, so unto the next. As the porter and I were getting out of the airport, he kept on reminding me that I had to pay him his money. I told him not to worry that my aunt will do so and even if we didn’t find her in time, I’ll make sure he gets his money.

Fortunately, we got out and my aunt was right there. After hugging her, I asked her to pls pay the porter because I didn’t have Naira on me. She said she would. Now this is where things went left. My aunt asked him how much his money was and this man opened the litterbox he calls a mouth and said ‘#2000(£8-£10)’. At first. it was like we weren’t sure of what he said. So my aunt asked again and sure enough, that was actually what he said. This man actually said it without the fear of God in him.

My aunt called him a liar and told him that #2000 cannot be the case. He kept on insisting and she said to him: ‘I am one of the Shell Protocol Officers in this airport and I know how much you are paid and it isn’t #2000.’ Hearing that, he reduced it to #1500 which is still a damn lie. She looked at me and in our language she said: ‘That’s how they cheat people.’ She told him she was going to give him what she owed him which was #500. He kept on insisting and she kept on insisting and she paid him what he was owed and we left. In Nigeria, you need to know how to stand your ground because Nigerians are hustlers. They will hustle you if you are not careful.

On the way back to the guest house where I was going to spend a night, we got to a place where there was a bit of traffic. It was just nasty – different cars just jam-packed on one spot. It looked like a bunch of chickens trying to get the last bit of grain. Then, passing by, this police officer raised his gun up in the air and for a moment there, I thought he was going to shoot. He didn’t but guess what? He could have and someone could have died and worse still, this man could have gone scot-free.

The next day, I was travelling from Port-harcourt to Lagos and yet again, I got to experience the stupid mentality and laziness of some Nigerians.

My uncle and I took the Shell Bus to the airport to take Arik airline to Lagos. I have to commend the government on the renovation of the airport. It looks so much more better than it used to look in the past.

The lady attending to me to check in looked like she wasn’t even interested in what she was doing. She looked so pissed and so annoyed. I had to pay for my luggage being overweight so she told me to go and pay for that and come back.

I went to pay and as I came back, she was leaving her desk. Now, trust me, she SAW me coming to meet her but she deliberately ignored me and went to talk to her colleague. My uncle, the shell staff helping us out and I were waiting for this woman to come back. I even gave her the benefit of the doubt that maybe she was talking about my ticket or asking a question on how to help us.

We waited for about a good 15 mins before the shell staff got impatient and went to meet another person to help us. Only for this woman to come back and what was she doing? She was eating meat. That is what she wasted our time to go and do. I was just really upset with her and I just didn’t have any words for her.

We got everything and as we were about to go through security to get to our seats, another employee asked us for some money. I actually felt a little bit bad for this one.

Now see, sometimes I don’t blame these people. I blame the current state of unemployment in this country and it doesn’t even seem to improve daily. Even those that get employment are paid well below the minimum wage in the country and that is absolutely terrible and unfair.

However, it also all starts with us. Martin Luther King said “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great sweet sweeper who did his job well.”

No one ever said it better. Listen, sometimes life could be cruel. However, we should learn to make the best of it. I watched a movie recently called ‘The Butler’ which is based on a true life story. This man focused on his job as being a butler so well that eventually he became a butler in the white house and served a lot of presidents. At a time when black people didn’t have it good, he struggled to make the best out of a bad situation. He is famous for being a butler and a damn good one.

Many people do not even have a source of income at all. Any job we are lucky to have in this crazy country called Nigeria, we should take it and do the best we can. I can’t say I know what a lot of people go through because I am still a student in school but at least, I know a thing or two about commitment. It will be nice to see people committed to what they do.

With corruption, it starts with us. You don’t have to take to the streets and protest. All you have to do is decide within yourself the values you want to live by. Change your perspective on things. Choose to live a life based on honest principles. To be honest with you, I was one of those that didn’t give a damn. However, the things I saw within those two days changed my perspective on things and I am trying to be better.

We all should. It starts with us!.

the Butler is available on http://www.amazon.com for $9.99 and on amazon.co.uk for £7.00. It’s available in DVD and Blu-Ray. This movie will make you see things from a Whole new perspective.

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