The Tale of the Sweater.

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pixabay.com

Based on true events.

Isimey had this beautiful lemon green sweater, with short sleeves and buttons down the front. It was given to her by her aunt who had come visiting from the abroad two years ago. She loved the sweater so much because it had journeyed over seven mountains and seven seas just to get to her was soft against the skin and was a perfect shield against the cold as well as pesky air conditioners at public places where you had no control over them and more recently, at work. Well, nobody cares if you are freezing.

Isimey recently moved to Lagos and it has been one huge culture shock that keeps smacking her in the face every time she visits another part of Lagos, so much so that even after being in Lagos for months, she still gets smacked in the face almost every time she steps out of the house.

So on this fateful day, she needed to go get some stuff from a friend at Ikotun but could only go after work. At 5pm, she picked up her backpack and draped her sweater across her neck and set out on the journey to Ikotun from Ikeja, where she works. An hour thirty minutes later, she was at the last bus stop at Ikotun. Someone should have prepared her mind for what she would meet at Ikotun. The place was packed with people, buses and kekes everywhere, people shoving their wares in your face, guys pulling your hand to come check out their shoes as if the shoes will save your life.

People. Everywhere. To say it was chaos would be the understatement of the century. For a few seconds, Isimey couldn’t figure out how to navigate through this throng of people. She just kept moving forward because she had to find where to take a keke to Cele egbe and she would still need to take a bike from Cele egbe to get to her final destination. Talk about going to the end of the world. So she braced herself, held on to her backpack and started walking briskly, warding off the hand pulling her towards “fine fine jeans for sale”.

She got to a point where there was a cluster of kekes and asked, “Where I go see Cele Egbe?”

“Cross to the other side you go see keke. No enter bus o, na keke you go enter.” The driver said as if he knew she was a JJC. Sometimes, Isimey feels like they can smell the JJC on you or maybe you give off some signal that screams, “JJC alert!” So, sweater still draped on the shoulder and backpack held tightly, she headed towards the road. She crossed the lane for the oncoming cars and while she was standing on the pavement in the middle of the road, she felt her shoulder bare, like something had slipped off. Oh, my sweater! She thought and in that split second, she looked back thinking the sweater had fallen to the ground. To her surprise, it wasn’t on the ground. It’s a green sweater, if it was on the ground, she was bound to see it. She retraced her steps and crossed back the way she had come thinking she would find it. The sweater was nowhere to be found. She stood and was looking around but no sweater and no suspicious looking person around. Everyone was going about their business.

To avoid looking like she was lost, she just crossed back and kept her eyes on the road, clutching her backpack ever so tightly.  She didn’t understand it, couldn’t explain the disappearance of the sweater. It just vanished! She had heard about Lagos and had been a victim of a stolen phone at Oshodi; they had carefully unzipped her bag and taken out the phone barely three weeks after she got to Lagos. Her friends said it was the official “welcome to Lagos” treatment. But a sweater? She couldn’t understand why anybody would want to steal a sweater. She couldn’t help thinking how ridiculous and weird the whole idea of it sounded.

Isimey was sad she had lost her sweater. Her precious sweater. But she made it to her friend’s and got back home in one piece. And like a friend pointed out, “thank God that was the worst that happened.”

 

Moral:

It’s a jungle out there.

 

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Who Do You Think You Are?

If I have a naira for every time that statement has been thrown around along with its elder brother, “Do you know who I am”, I would be lounging on a beach on some exotic island sipping tropical drinks or flying around in private jets. But you know what they say about wishes…

Anyway, I was at the bus park on Wednesday morning waiting for the bus to start moving, and I was already getting antsy because I was running a bit late. This young man was about to take the seat closest to the door when he was told that there was someone there, so he moved to the other seat. Then I overheard this policeman, let’s call him Mr cheap, telling the driver that he must “carry him”. Apparently the seat was reserved by the policeman who wanted to ride the bus for free. The driver then responded saying, “You can’t force me to carry you. Don’t think you can ride me. This is my property.” At this, Officer Cheap leapt out of the bus and started barking shouting, “who do you think you are! Who do you think you are!” the driver stood his ground and matched Officer cheap pitch for pitch, “It’s my property, you can’t force me. Don’t think you can come and ride me because you are wearing uniform.” Officer Cheap was getting really aggressive at this point, screaming and hitting the bus, “this bus will not move today!”

At this point, the passengers in the bus erupted, “what do you mean by this bus will not move? Na you buy the bus? Shameless man. All these policemen sef, be doing agidi on top meaningless things” etc. The other drivers and agberos had intervened at this point, trying to calm the driver down. Officer Cheap was already pushing the driver and the driver was pushing back, he wasn’t going to be anybody’s fool. Amidst all of the shouting and shoving, Office Cheap was about taking off his belt when the other drivers and agberos restrained him. Somehow, they were able to steer the driver into the bus and we zoomed off, leaving Officer Cheap being held back by an impressive number of drivers. My battery was low, I would have taken a picture or recorded a video or something.

It was a sorry sight: a policeman, well dressed in his uniform, fighting with a bus driver, being held back by other bus drivers and agberos, uniform all rumpled, at 6.45am on a Wednesday morning. Why? Simply because the driver refused to carry him for free? What was the driver thinking, he is a policeman, and therefore is entitled to the preferential treatment i.e. free bus ride, yes?

No.  News flash sir, it is not your God-given right to ride the bus for free. It is not an entitlement that automatically accrues to you because you are a police officer. There’s no written Law anywhere that stipulates that you ride the bus for free. In all fairness, the welfare package of Police officers leave little to be desired, but there’s such a thing as carrying one’s self with dignity. Even if the driver would carry you for free, it should be his call. He should want to do it out of a deep sense of regard for you and the uniform you are wearing. Not because you demand that he must. And if you, a police officer, have no respect for the uniform you wear, how are others supposed to have any regard for it?

Isn’t it one of the  responsibilities of an officer of the law to maintain peace and order? Instead, they are the ones caught in the middle of the chaos. We have heard so many stories about police brutality and how so many lives have been lost when a policeman murders in cold blood accidentally discharges his weapon (At least that’s the official term that is used) at the slightest provocation.

As a police officer, your duties do not include lording it over ordinary citizens who are just going about their way, trying to make a living and make do with the resources they have as best as they can. So what if you are wearing a uniform? What uniform anyway? The same one that has lost all significance and is synonymous with mediocrity, ineffectiveness and corruption. That uniform? I am not saying there are no good men in the force, but it is men like Officer Cheap that give the force a bad name. I couldn’t help thinking that if he had had a weapon on him, he would have used it and damned the consequences (if there would even be any).

If these are the types of lawless men who have been sworn to ensure peace and order in our society, then may God help us all.

 

Minimum Wage and Moving

Transportation is one of the major problems the average Nigerian living in Lagos faces. It is right up there with electricity. This informed my decision to move. I was living on the island and working at Ikeja. This meant that I had to leave my house super early (as early as 5.30 am) if I wanted to make it to work by 8 am.

Now, the sad part was the amount of money I had to part with as transport fare. Initially, I had to spend 400 naira to and 550 naira from work daily. That amounted to 950 naira; 50 naira shy of a thousand. In one day. On transport. Hian!

Then I started following a neighbor in the mornings. He would drop me off at Costain where I would take a bus for 200 naira to Ikeja. Although, I still had to pay 550 naira coming back which would then amount to 750 naira. That was still too much, to be honest. Not to mention the hours of mind numbing traffic I had to endure; I’m exhausted when I get to work and completely useless when I get back home. Now that’s no way to live, no? So I decided to move. And getting a place to stay in Lagos is no walk in the park. So I decided to move in with my friend and her mum at Ikotun, thus saving me money for rent that I could not afford. I had inquired about the route to Ikeja and if it was better because I really wanted to avoid a situation of “from frying pan to fire”. And luckily for me, it was. I could leave the house at 6.30 or 6 (because the road could be unpredictable) and still make it to work on time. Now you can NEVER try that if you have to leave from the island.

So I moved last weekend and on Monday, I left the house at 6.20 am and got to Ikeja along at 6.50 am. The road was so free, I couldn’t believe my luck. And the sweetest part? I spent 150 naira to get to work that day. How about that! Now I spend 250 naira to get back home and that’s a total of 400 naira. Comparing this to what I was paying two weeks ago, I was in heaven. It is such a relief, a breath of fresh air. I can hear my pocket thanking me. I am excited because I don’t get paid nearly enough to spend 950 naira on transportation. Speaking of which, I saw this tweet recently. I couldn’t help laughing at the irony of it.

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I recently came across this young lady who has decided to step out of her sheltered life, to live on the national minimum wage of 18,000 naira, for the next one month starting on June 20. She decided to take up this challenge as a way of creating awareness of the failing living standards in Nigeria.

You should see her analysis of what that 18,000 naira amounts to, just to give you a little perspective (feel free to draw up your own analysis as well, if that helps). And I can totally relate with her experiences because as someone who earns just a little (and when I say ‘a little’ I mean that as literally as it sounds) above 18000 naira, I understand the hardships of navigating day to day living on such meager earnings. Having to think twice about everything you do, everywhere you go or want to go, what you buy or don’t buy; not because you don’t need it, but because you have to cut your loses.

The sad thing is there are whole families who have to survive on 18,000 naira monthly. Monthly. For a whole family. This is supposed to cover feeding, transportation, health care, school fees and a myriad of other needs to be met. It is just ridiculous. Then you hear that crime rate increases (now I am not justifying it) and it’s not hard to see why. With the dire straits our economy has been plunged into, people are getting desperate and desperation causes people to do crazy things.

So I salute Ifeatu Nnaobi who has decided that rather than stay silent and turn her back, like we often do in this country especially when it doesn’t affect us directly, she would give a voice to a problem that has eaten deep into the fabric of this nation. People are already voicing out and hopefully more people do and it gets to the right ears, so we can start tackling our many problems.