Wednesday 28 May 2014

Which Way, Nigeria?

Nigeria is a country where nothing works. It is oft-said that every man is his own government here, providing himself with water, power, security, education, healthcare; grateful if an elected leader fixes some roads while he loots the state, unsurprised if he doesn't even bother with the pretense of government. It is a testament to the average Nigerian's resourcefulness and resilience that any of us survive at all, let alone find a way to make some sort of happy life, but we do. We fold our tongues into the corners of our mouths when confronted with our country's many mind-boggling failures: navigating the madness of arriving at the international airport in Lagos and having to walk, rain or shine, lifetime's worth of luggage or no, to a shuttle bus station a kilometer away. Or delivering your first child in what is purportedly a private specialist hospital, only to be told when you go into active labour to 'hold on, don't push, the doctor is attending to another person now'. And this after running from another private maternity hospital when you discovered your doctor was lying about your child being breech so he could charge you the extra N500,000 for a Caesarean section. Or attempting to sue one of the many service providers who fleece you and deliver nothing, and being told not to waste your time because they have enough money to bribe judges. The frustration, the powerlessness, settles on you and you keep quiet, find a way to pull through, turn the knot of anger into an anecdote, laugh at it with people you love, remind yourself, this is Nigeria. E go beta.

E go beta. But when, my people? How? I recount the small things because I can, if I try, wrap my mind around them. And if I can't wrap my mind around them, I can tuck them neatly into a pile of Things I Can't Afford To Forget when navigating my survival in this country that continues to exist in spite of itself. Small things like the police is not your friend, civil servants require bribes to do their jobs, your mechanic is ripping you off, your gateman thinks he can make passes because you are unmarried and living alone. But the big things, like my friend dying because NEPA wires started a fire that the fire service arrived too late to put out, like my mother's death from a misdiagnosis, like being blamed for my rape, those ones I can't tuck away. Those ones refuse to be spun into small talk or cookie-cut into conversation fillers. And the insane things - planes dropping out of the sky like rain, the slaughter of schoolboys by terrorists and soldiers alike, the weaponized rape and abduction of schoolgirls, the unchecked looting of sums of money so fantastic that the poor it should have gone to can't understand what they have lost - those ones remind me that little drops make an ocean. And this one is poised to drown us.

How much more will we take before it is enough? I don't know. But I am afraid to continue to be in this country. I march, write, sing, protest, but who is listening? #BringBackOurGirls has shown me that Nigeria is where it is, not just because our leaders are greedy, shortsighted and selfish, but also because they are actually incapable of being anything other than what they are. And I am afraid. We are in trouble and I can see no way that it will be fixed because those in power are too thick with corruption to let it happen. I want to have hope, but I don't see what I will base this hope on. And, in case you missed it, this scares me.

Which way, Nigeria?