“In a larger sense, they are victims too. Everyone is only robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Tales of policemen on Nigerian roads extorting money from both defaulting and non-defaulting users of the road has become a daily moonlight tales told by the media and all involved. It is not surprising when a friend narrated an experience last week as he saw meted out on a public transport driver. This made me go down hard on the practice, its causes and apparent solution.
Please do me a favor, please put yourself in the tight shoes of one of them and ask yourself these questions. Why do I need update my vehicular particulars that will probably cost me thousands of naira (plus bribe) when I could easily buy my way through with just a few hundreds? It’s strictly a survival business instinct I’m sure you must have used countless of times (minimize task to ensure maximum satisfaction/profit). Why do I need update the particulars the men in uniform don’t bother to check and yet extort from me my daily means of livelihood? Why do I need waste my time arguing with a legal goon in blue uniform who is hell-bent on siphoning out money from me while I pay the price because minutes or hours spent ‘maintaining and claiming their rights’ costs me lots of money? Note that their kids in school need their school fees paid, wives expect upkeep money, the society expects a certain standard of living from them, their extended families are expectant and even the six-feet nemesis is closer each day.
It is easy to sit around and decry the cruelties meted out on the roads by these men in uniform, but these drivers know something we don’t. They have experienced this decay first hand; they all have harrowing stories to tell. And as it is rightly said, “Only fools doubt fact”. Experience has taught them to know that it is futile to take them on their own.
|Image credit: anonymous
Private car owners might have different tales of woes from the hands of police officers turn road marshals and traffic wardens, but the grueling experiences of these drivers does not leave room for our bookish kind of understanding. They don’t understand human rights, constitutional provisions, or social media awareness. All they need know and unfortunately know is right before their oculars dressed in blue with battered AK47s strapped to their sides. As you can’t teach an old tiger new trick, so also can’t the leopard shed its skin. Unless it’s dead of course. Funny enough yet is the fact that these men of the Force are currently agitating for an increase in pay and improved standard of living. Just last week did they express disappointment in the Inspector General! Funny things that happen in Nigeria!
However, we must not be blinded to the fact that the Force comprises of ordinary citizens who are as ordinary as the drivers they extortionate from and the citizens they are charged with protecting. In a larger sense, they are victims too. Everyone is only robbing Peter to pay Paul.
The answer is simple but difficult. Nigeria needs a complete overhauling of the system. No single stratum can claim a monopoly of Nigeria’s messianic solution. You really cannot fault the ordinary citizen trying desperately to make ends meet when the government goons are daily stripping naked the country and emptying its coffers. It will be unfair. The constitution that provides for certain unalienable provisions to battle this decay is in itself decayed. Its legislators create back-holes of escape at the slightest fear of detection. The society is piled with minimum citizens (respect to Sam Omatseye) who are not afraid to do in smaller measures what their role-models in government does in out-of-the-world quantities.
So forgive me if I partly share the activists’ enthusiasm. We all know what goes on in the streets. We must not shy from it. A coordinated revolt from serfs and peasants with masterly overlords and greedy, bloated capitalists will only create the generic impetus needed to transform all sectors of the State. All hands – rich and poor – must be on deck.
Together, let’s hoist the green-white-green flag and keep it dancing shoki in the air. God bless Nigeria.