What kind of country is ours?

I was commuting in a Bus Rapid Transit from the Lagos mainland to the Island on a busy Monday morning when I overheard two passengers discussing the antics of the Lagos State Transportation Management Authority or Agency ( LASTMA).

I normally mind my business when I am in a public transport because of my explosive anger at the mess Nigeria has become. But this particular discussion got to me. The conversation was between two apparently well to do individuals. They were lamenting the high handed behaviour of the officials of the agency. According to their gist, one of them had his car impounded and about N50,000 was extorted from him before his car was released to him.

The cause of the fine was that the traffic lights at his junction was malfunctioning. He crossed just when the light said red. The LASTMA officials were brought to control traffic but instead they would lie in wait to pounce on a supposed offender. It reminded me of the day I was driving with my cousin from Liverpool to Point road in Apapa. We had to take Randle through where the Amusement park used to be. Without warning, some hoodlums came out and barricaded the street. They started pronouncing us guilty. The road is a One-way drive, they said. But there was no sign to indicate that.

I was amazed. How can you punish someone for what you didn’t warn him of? This is done with the authority of the Lagos state government. The boys even threatened to take us to the psychiatric clinic at Ikorodu. I thought that’s barbaric. This is how many people get lost with no traces.

Some times they descend on the ‘lawbreakers’ and beat them black and blue, carting away valuable property. This is why so many people were rejoicing over the beating of LASTMA officials by some ratings of the Nigerian Navy in Lagos some weeks ago.

The same testimony abounds about our policemen. They wait for offences to be committed before pouncing on the offender to fleece them of their valuable property and money. Most times, Nigerians call a checkpoint an office.

The lawlessness and high handed behaviour of government officials trickle down from the government itself. For instance, how many LASTMA officials have been sacked for the hooliganism displayed on the roads? How many examples have been made of those who are found invading the privacy of law abiding people?

It appears to me that the barbaric acts are endorsed by higher authorities.  How can people do that kind of thing and no open sanctions are seen to be rightly meted out to them?

Anyways, a government that openly fleeced it’s people would not care a hoot when it’s people re treated like lower beings. Take a look at Kogi Stage, for instance. Are the citizens not treated worse than slaves of the 11th century? How can a man work for a whole 30 days and be paid 30% of his meagre salary? Who keeps the rest? Imagine you are earning N30,000 and your paid 30% of it. That’s N9,000. Oh God!

Yet we have a government and a state house of assembly that sits comfortably, watching disinterestedly. Is something wrong with our conscience as a people? This is why I got amazed when Nollywood actors and actresses started tripping to Lokoja. Even managers of clubs went too. But more shocking is the endorsement by Okocha and Kanu Nwankwo, two of Nigeria’s greatest sports experts. My question has been whether these guys haven’t heard what Bello is doing to the people of Kogi State. It is a reflection of how selfish we are as a peoole.

We need to start examining our personality.  Our avarice and lack of humanity as a people is becoming alarming. Nigeria can be better if we learned to be empathetic.

Alex Agbo is a writer and a researcher based in Lagos.

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