Government: According to Wikipedia, government is ‘the means by which state policy is enforced, as well as the mechanism for determining the policy of the state.’ It is ‘the political direction and control exercised over the actions of the members, citizens, or inhabitants of communities, societies, and states; direction of the affairs of a state, community, etc’ (Dictionary.com)
Men: The plural form of man – the male specie of human being as created by God.
Manimals: The plural form of man with acquired attributes of animals that shape man into something worse than an animal and more of a monster. (According to Dr Paddy Njoku)
Sometimes, one cannot help wondering whether there has ever been a government in Nigeria in the true sense of the definition above. Otherwise, how come some people can brazenly flout laws and state policies under the very noses of those charged with enforcing such?
Take Tuesday December 23, 2014 for instance. I woke up at 5.30 a.m. just so I could get to a fuel station early and be among the first to be served if there was any. The previous night I had intended to buy some on my way home from work only to find that some stations were locked up while those that were selling had queues of unimaginable shapes and sizes.
I skipped breakfast, jumped into my car and zoomed off; humming a prayer under my breath that the fuel already blinking the amber reserve light in the gauge should take me to the nearest filling station. So it was that the FRCN 7 O’clock network news met me on a queue on Cadastral Street Abuja. Now, there is no filling station on Cadastral Street. The nearest one, the one I was aiming at, the Total Filling Station opposite NNPC Corporate Headquarters, is some one-and-a-half kilometres from where I found myself. It took over two hours to get to the end of Cadastral Street and turn to face NNPC. By then, all sorts of thoughts were swirling around in my head.
Didn’t the government, or at least its agents, promise us that there was going to be more than enough fuel during the yuletide season? Why would the tanks at the filling stations suddenly dry up a few days to Xmas? After making the bogus promise what steps were taken to ensure that the plan, if there was any, would not be sabotaged? If there is no fuel, where do the abokis (street boys) hawking the product at cut-throat prices, get it from? How could they so brazenly peddle illegality even within the precincts of the headquarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, if they were not being protected by some rotten men at the top? If these men, known to be members of devious cabals persist in gaining from the pain of fellow citizens, why is the government incapable of exercising control over their activities (one of the core functions of government, according to our definition)?
My thoughts were interrupted by a shadow on my door side. It was a newspaper vendor flashing his papers to attract my attention. My eyes caught two headlines in two of the papers. One was screaming on the front page of the Daily Sun: Rain of Bombs. The other, in Leadership newspaper was more explicit: Blasts kill 25 in Gombe. Both headlines sent jitters down my spine – not for the heinous nature of the crimes but at the realization that the ineptitude of government and/or its agents was inadvertently providing soft targets for the merchants of death across the FCT.
I’ve often wondered how intelligent our Intelligence Service is. Imagine a misguided suicide bomber detonating an IED at the site of any of these mammoth queues! After the carnage you would hear the security and so-called intelligence agencies saying they are on top of the situation when they could have worked to prevent the act by, for instance, fishing out the perpetrators of artificial scarcity and enforcing extant sanctions on them.
All the while, I was listening to Nigeria Info 95.1 FM on my car radio. I was fascinated by a quote attributed to Dr Paddy Njoku in “Words on Marble” in which he described men who have lost the basic instincts of decency and acquired the predator instincts of animals, as Manimals.
Eventually, we made it to the head of the bridge and turned right at the traffic lights to face Total Filling Station. But lo and behold, some errant motorists had formed two extra lanes close to the entrance to the station thus creating a gridlock that kept our single-lane queue on one spot for another one hour. These were people driving by who suddenly decided that those who woke up early to come stay on the regular queue were mumus (not smart) and decided to jump the queue by forming their own lanes.
By now I was boiling with anger and decided to take action. I know you want to know what kind of action I took. I violently took out my pen and paper and started jotting down the points that culminated in the story you are reading now! I also took out my tab and snapped a couple of shots of the scene. Some others decided to leave their cars to engage in a shouting match and hurling of insulting missiles at the manimals. But all that only compounded the problem.
My mind switched into analytic mode. Between the government on one hand and men and manimals on the other, who creates more problems for this nation? Do you know any manimal? Don’t look too far; simply look in a mirror and you might see one staring back at you! But in the unlikely event that you don’t, let me assure you that they are all over the place. They are there in the markets, selling fake and adulterated goods for the price of genuine ones not minding the fatal effect such goods have on consumers. They are among petrol attendants, smiling at you or chatting you up to distract your attention while selling half-tank to you for the price of a full one having decided not to wipe off the previous sale from the meter. They are in the health service looting state hospitals to stock their private clinics and spending more of their paid hours at their private clinics. They are on university campuses as lecturers, forcing hapless students to buy handouts and making them to hand out unprintable favours if they are to pass their courses or get their projects approved. Manimals are also among the students hacking off the limbs of fellow students in the name of secret cult.
They are in government, in the federal and state cabinets, dispensing the commonwealth to themselves and their cronies with reckless abandon. They are among the governors, serving and retired, appropriating or who appropriated public property for their private benefit. Manimals are in the different parliamentary committees extorting un-receipted hundreds of millions of naira from heads of ministries and government agencies to get their budgets approved. They are among ‘sinators’ and ‘legislooters’ denying members of their constituencies access to education and self improvement opportunities just to keep them in perpetual servitude. They are among the chairmen, councilors and traditional rulers of local government areas who use monthly allocations meant for capital projects on frivolous personal projects such as marrying new wives, sending girlfriends on shopping sprees abroad and building exotic mansions they will never occupy while their subjects are homeless and die at ill-equipped clinics and hospitals. Many are they among sycophants and acolytes of office holders who sell their birthrights for a piece of point-and-kill.You will find them among pen pushers who paint falsehood in beautiful colours to adulate their paymasters.
Manimals populate the opposition, sabotaging the programmes of the ruling party just to make it look bad in the eyes of the electorate. They are among the fair weather politicians jumping from one party to the other. They recline in comfort among former top government functionaries building private monuments, including universities, that children of the ordinary tax-paying Nigerians cannot afford.They are the subtle subsidy thieves,claiming billions of naira for millions of tons of petroleum products neither delivered nor imported.
Manimals are everywhere. They are in religious houses selling miracles and fake prophecies to the highest bidders. They are among your neighbours who have no electricity meters, pay no bills but complain the loudest when there is no electricity in the neighbourhood. What about those civil servants bunking work for frivolous reasons and complaining bitterly when salaries are late in coming? They are also manimals.
Just then, I had a lucky break. The Con Oil Filling Station which had been under renovation after it was gutted by fire earlier in the year suddenly began selling and I was right by the entrance. To make my luck luckier I overheard the supervisor speak Esan (my language) to somebody and I greeted him in the language. That simple courtesy immediately opened the gate for me and I drove to the nearest pump.
“Oga, na fill up?” That was the pump attendant asking and more or less expecting that I would need to fill up the tank. I rummaged in my pocket and came up with three weather-beaten one thousand naira notes. No, I didn’t need a full tank or more accurately, I couldn’t afford a full tank because my December salary was yet to be paid even though the government had promised that salaries in major festival months would be paid by the 15th of the month. Government again! Or men refusing to carry out the orders of government?
By the time I got to the office it was well past 11 am. Not the office exactly but the office premises, as it took another 45 minutes to actually get to the office – having first branched at the mama-put food canteen to spend the miserable change remaining in my pocket on brunch. Remember I skipped breakfast?
Final result? Some four good hours wasted on the fuel queue. Add that to the fact that I was too exhausted, physically and psychologically, to do anything meaningful for the rest of the day and you will understand why Nigeria will continue to progress at the snail pace of a long fuel queue.
Now, do you know any manimal?