By Oludayo Tade
From queueing to buy premium motor spirit (PMS) at inflated prices while the Minister of Petroleum resources, President Muhammadu Buhari pretends as if all is well, to queueing up at Automated Teller Machine (ATM) gallery to collect the scarce newly redesigned naira notes, Nigerians are unique set of people to study in terms of their resilience and adaptation to oddities. Suffering is getting normalized while whoever protests against the system that is programmed to enslave people is ferociously attacked to silence. In this season of anomie, civil society structures have either collapsed or intermingled with the structures of oppression. Blind loyalty has masked the faces of the enslaved not to see that their oppressors, which they fight themselves over, are not suffering to queue to get fuel or access the new naira notes. Their ‘banks’ supply them the new naira notes and they spray it at social events. The politicians among them get the redesigned currency to pay the crowd mobilized to their campaign grounds and keep the rest for vote transaction on election days.
Afrobeat legend, Eedris Abdulkareem in 2004 released Jaga Jaga where he queried the disruptive nature of the Nigerian society. Jaga Jaga speaks to systemic chaos and Nigeria’s malfunctioning system which births poverty, suffering and high-level criminality. Late Fela Anikulapo Kuti in 1978 captured this in ‘shuffering and Shmiling’. In it, Fela descended heavily on religion as one of the instruments of enslaving people. He wondered why people were hesitant to challenge the status quo despite their suffering and found that religion was at the root of this docility. Weaponised hardship is deployed by the ruling class to divide, rule and suppress any resistance. They pick one person or persons from each ethnic group to nail their people to servitude. The parasitic ruling elite are united against the oppressed but the oppressed are divided against themselves. A divided oppressed group cannot mobilize to challenge their oppressors. This piece attempts to agitate the readers’ mind to situate their lived experiences while taking decisions on who to cast their votes for on February 25, 2023 presidential and National Assembly elections and March 11, 2023 Governorship and Assembly polls.
Eníkànlómò captures the lived ‘negative’ experiences of people in relation to policy, life event, or political actions and inactions. Aptly captured as he who wears the shoes know where it pinches, eníkànlómò explains the pains of 133 million Nigerians experiencing multi-dimensional poverty. It touches on the plights of the unemployed, the agony of bad governance, and the tyranny of silence from seemingly incapacitated trade Unions struggling on the appropriate strategies to deploy, if any at all, to liberate their members from anti-labour governments.
I had gone to buy medications and was returning when I saw not up to 20 people on the queue at a bank near Oyo state government secretariat. I decided to join the queue. It was the shortest queue along that axis. Tension was high at the ATM gallery as everyone tried to get the scarce new notes. The discussions which ensued at the gallery did not show a people ready to challenge any bad governance. One of those at the ATM said, “where are the Unions who should be fighting for Nigerians?” and he spotted me adorned in the shirt of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and said “see people who should be fighting for us”. I replied, “you people will have to fight for yourselves since you support the ruling class against anyone trying to fight for their rights”. That discussion ended and what I read was the aggression of the oppressed against another oppressed. The oppressed wants people to fight their battles but don’t want to own the war. Still waiting for my turn to withdraw, one man in his 60s shared with me how Nigeria happens to many, frustrating human lives and their livelihoods. He was pessimistic of any positive turnaround from those that will be elected in the February and March elections.
He said: “Do we have options again? There are some things you will want to be crying about in Nigeria. Is it Buhari that does not know where Olódó is or Seyi Makinde that will not remember the road to my house? I have told people that this is not a matter of PDP or APC. Just give us the basic amenities. That is all. We are not asking for too much. Give us good roads. Give us light. We are the one drilling our boreholes, we buy generators. It’s that bad. It’s not easy at all. If we queue to vote for one person now with expectation that things will be better, na lie! None of them can do anything. I will just vote to fulfil righteousness. Are these not the same people who can’t fix roads within the metropolis? Can you use a brand-new car on Nigeria roads for five years? I have high blood pressure but anytime I travel out, I may not use my drugs for days and when I check my BP it is normal. So, I am not sick, it is the location (Nigeria). Once you get into Nigerian Airspace, its darkness that will welcome you. You can’t drive on roads without fear of being kidnapped. When you get home, heat will welcome you because there is no light”
The Enikanlomos are those whose relatives have been kidnapped and those killed in our poorly-equipped hospitals. They are commercial drivers who have to queue for hours to get fuel to survive daily. They are passengers who pay excess for transportation because their government cannot solve the problem of refining petroleum in Nigeria which they had promised to do for more than seven years. Yet, people must survive. Private businesses must make ends meet in this difficult economic climate. The consumers will bear the brunt of it all. Civil servants’ minimum wage has become poverty wage. Power holders of Nigeria wont supply power to homes, so people have to queue to purchase fuel to power their generating sets and their vehicles. The masses, the poor, the weak, the talakawas, the working class, the students in public tertiary institutions who will soon start to pay new fees regime across the country and their parents are also among the enikanlomos feeling the pains of a dysfunctional system. But the victims of a bad system may also contribute to the making of a dysfunctional system by being fanatical on variables like religion, ethnicity and political party affiliation to determine who should be voted next (Talókàn) to lead and govern them.
Unlike enikanlomo, Emilokan (I am next in line) assumes the right to rise to societally valued or desired roles and status. It was popularized by the candidate of the All-Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu when he thundered that he was the next in line to become the ‘king’ having worked as ‘kingmaker’ for many years. However, emilokan only elevates the person above the people and not necessarily showing how self-hood embodies altruism.
Apart from Tinubu, all contestants are saying it is their turn to rule but it is hard to see substance in their quest to serve the people other than realizing lifelong ambition. Talókàn (who should be next to lead?) is a question which voters must answer by trying as much as possible to scrutinize those contesting and ask themselves, who among these top contenders to the position of President, State Governor and legislature would I employ if Nigeria or my State were to be my private company facing the current challenges?
Dr Tade, a sociologist and media consultant write via [email protected]