With Ijeoma Umeh
IT’S nor dementia. No. The masses, and those who by reason of circumstances would devise a close affinity with them would no more lose their minds more than they already have, with austerity measures’ whirling, with the drones of insecurity’s armoury blaring’s and driven to the labyrinths by the changing vicissitudes of life. No. It couldn’t be dementia.
But could someone help us adduce reasons why within only a few days the entire 36 states of the Federation and Abuja snowballed into a bedlam where commuters seem to run in endless circles, criss-crossing the precincts and adjuncts, over-shooting their bounds, ignoring traffic rules, traversing Apian ways, plunging into and navigating hazardous terrains, areas hitherto abandoned, plunging in and out of potholes and the familiar water logs, pulling out with vehicle bumpers dangling and hitting the nearest exit? Why, dare tell?
Now, what is the driving force? What’s making people hyperactive and giving rise to this helter-skelter way of life? What is pushing vehicles off the roads and converting human limbs to roller-coasters? Just the other day, a tuke-tuke (commercial bus) driver rammed into a transformer!
Thank God, the BEDC was slumbering at that time! Why has the bus-stops metamorphosed into a club where all classes of people congregate – from top company executives (friends of the masses) to up-beat young bankers who had luckily reached the outrageous head-below water targets set for them by their employers? We hear the transport welfare unions are driving commuters crazy with outrageous levies!
It’s not dementia, neither could it be the mad rush to beat the yuletide’s money-spinning deadline; of course the underlying factor could be part of it, but the anxiety by commuters to fix up a twelve month financial lacuna in a few weeks before Santa Claus left the South-Pole is not what makes then head for different directions at a go, like one who had suddenly chanced upon a phantom raging spirit being!
There is yet another kind of chase in town …what … what is it?
Hmph! Aha! It has struck now! It’s the men in black! They are ahead! No wonder! members of the Nigerian Police, friends of the masses, they are everywhere now, across the length and breadth of the country; heard they’re conducting the popular annual checks, one of the tell-tale signs that Santa claus is coming to town, a significant indication that not all people at the steering wheels of vehicles should be there and … the best time to ‘donate’ charity to the police through your own short-comings.
Everyday, more check-points spring up, there could be up to eleven on a twenty-two pole road, no defaulter would go untapped; something must drop, depending on the height of your offense, your offense is your kind of automobile – how foreign, how expensive, how fairly used, how marketable, how demure the man at the steering looked and how vulnerable he is – without a driver’s licence.
This annual police check exposes also, how in a hurry Nigerians are, both the extreme poor, the average and the very rich. The poor man is in a haste to make ends met, driven hard by hunger, a nagging wife and by watching his neighbour climb steadily up he leaves home, scampers about the city, even meanders through the interiors of the rural areas until he finds someone who is ready to give him a bike or taxi-cab, even a tuke-tuke on a balance and carry basis or on a daily or weekly balance … he comes home, purchases several shots of ogogoro and hurray! The next day off he goes, an employed man, a ‘professional’ driver or rider, that is the standard, the demarcating yardstick; he is in a hurry to show off his prize to envious eyes; he is amassing more wealth, his fleet of cars is expanding, straight from dealer shops to the garage at home. He has no experience, no driver’s licence, he won’t give a hoot. It’s easy to part with N200 or more at the normal check-points. That’s nothing at all.
Now, it’s gone beyond the normal N20. The police means business. New cars are flocking the country; depending on how ‘fairly’ used yours is, you could pay dearly. Now the rich and the poor are congregating at the bus stops. The police is scouting for them.