Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Naija - Majoring in Minor

I recently went on a road trip to Ilorin Kwara state – a round trip journey of over 1400KM all in the name of felicitating with my boss on the occasion of her daughter’s wedding. I knew Ilorin had few if any flights on a good day, and with the joining of two “Rich Kids” all flights were fully booked. So I decided to hit the road. As you may have imagined, the journey was as terrible as hell, the road was worse than you can imagine – Hill and gully rides that saw as crawling at less than 60km/Hr for most part of the journey. The outward leg from Abuja – Okenne – Kabba – Ilorin took 7 hours 30mins, while the return leg via Ekitti took about 6 hours. So I spent more time sitting in the car than I spent at the Church and reception combined.

Throughout my journey and indeed, at the wedding ceremony, I couldn’t help but notice how diverse our cultures are, from subtle hints in the architecture in each village, I watched how straight lines made way for Islamic arches in great and small buildings... I watched how the dressing of the common villager changed to reflect Christian and Muslim values. On the several 2011 election posters that littered each community, I noticed the Yoruba names of aspirants in the middle of Kogi State (reminded me about one of my old blog articles on Igbo names and Ikwerres in the deep south). As we approached Ilorin, I noticed the strong Muslim presence and recalled that history of the Usman Dan-fodio led Jihad that brought Islam as far as the Ilorin in western Nigeria. All this gladdened my heart – to see how dynamic culture is, and how civilisation propelled by education and enlightenment can change a people, regardless of how remote their location. The expeditions of Usman Dan-fodio, Mungo Park, John & Richard Lander (the Lander brothers) and the early Christian missionaries have all added their unique hue to the kaleidoscope before me.

As expected, I must have seen something wrong, something odd, something most would ignore or not bother about. Yes indeed. I noticed how blinded the present Nigerian is about carving his own identity, distinct from the norm. I noticed that despite the evolution of things around us, that we have decided to chart our own course – even if it leads to nowhere... Before I am beheaded, let me outline the things I noticed.
  • That there were only a few modern buildings in each village I passed – probably belonged to the political elite in the community – ex Senators, Representatives, and local councillors
  • But there was always a (new) hotel, even in the midst of poverty – probably belongs to the politicians, built to accommodate his guests on the event of a country side getaway, funeral, turbaning, etc.
  • The ever increasing loot of the political elite is evidenced by the size of the houses they build – I saw forts, castles, not palaces and mansions as we are used to. No doubt this is fuelled by their unholy remuneration – something I have written about in the past.
To my mind, one obvious thing that was missing was standards. We lack standards, our yardstick for measuring success is not based on any firm globally acceptable benchmark, but on our ignorance and greed. I will elaborate on some of these issues in the months to come, but for now, I will concentrate on only one, standards on the road.

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