I sat quietly in a corner when the shop owner walked in. She did not see me. Her first salvo was at the youngest of her staff. You idiot, good for nothing girl. Bring the green lace and where is the white one. The poor lady moved from one isle to the other trying to please her madam.
Her madam had not seen me. You are a fool she said to her when she delivered the first of the laces. Where is the green one? She asked snatching the white one from her hand. The green one as far as I could see was not anywhere near the white one.
Confused the shop girl stood rooted to the spot while another staff scampered to get the green one far removed from both her madam and her confused colleague. Spotting me suddenly as she turned her gaze to scowl at another staff, she began to smile and hype me. My Aunty she shouted offering hug. All these girls enh Aunty, very stupid, very lazy. They know nothing. She laughed. An embarrassing guffaw.
I finished what took me there and left. But her character preceded her. I had come into the shop once to find the shop ladies wearing badly made cornrow hairstyles. Gone were the smart hairstyles, nicely laid back wigs, long braids that they used to wear. I was completely taken aback. What happened? They told me their madam had banned those and they were no longer able to wear any other kind of hairstyle other than corn rows.
They looked dowdy, like badly turned out secondary school students, only the uniform was missing. One of them said in a soft pained voice, I don’t know why she is always complaining that we are not smart when she insists we look like this. I said nothing and left. Abuse is abuse whether they are shop keepers or your children.
Those who spend years and years abusing their country cannot serve it well. Those who treat their staff like dirt have no business in public service
I thought to tell this story as we are still within the ambit of democracy day. I am telling this story because I wonder if this shop owner can lead within a bigger space, make sacrifices and treat people with empathy. Is it possible that if we asked her to be a minister, she would turn all her staff to slaves and her ministry her fiefdom? I have seen her around her children whom she treats well, while treating her staff like dirt.
As we think nationhood, who are those being considered for positions? What is their interpersonal relationship with others? How are they within their families? How do they treat their domestic staff? What do they say about Nigeria? Those who spend years and years abusing their country cannot serve it well.
Those who treat their staff like dirt have no business in public service. What about those who spend their time jumping queues and being a pain everywhere they go. Rude and disrespectful of constituted authority. Jumping traffic lights, hiding files and showing utter nepotism.
There is something about character that make the human beings. Those things we were told when we were young which most of us have thrown away now copying all manners of things unrelated to who we were as a country.
Today we see all manners of characters in places we do not expect to see them. Meritocracy is now no longer the general norm for being ahead of anyone. It’s sad.
But let us examine the character of the man who brought us to democracy day. Most heroes do not set out to become heroes. Certainly Chief Abiola did not go out to commit suicide. He just wanted to serve and held on to his mandate. He was a people’s person and created many businesses where he spotted talent and put them in his businesses while grooming them. But we also knew he was resilient and refused to let go of his mandate.
In the end he died in the struggle. Sacrifice, resilience, but today as we speak of him, how many Nigerians can even go the extra mile for nationhood? No nation which is successful has been built on a platform of citizens who do not keep the rule, who have no empathy for their fellow citizens and who would rather break your leg than slow for you to cross as a pedestrian.
No nation can grow if we have no consideration for our fellow citizens, driving like maniacs and acting pretty contrary to all the rules in the national books. No nation can grow when lots of people collect salaries for not coming to work while a number of smart people languish in a no job zone.
No nation can grow if we choose to sell jobs in some offices when smart people who can do the jobs can’t afford it. No nation can move higher if everything is for the highest bidder and everything seems up in the air a lot of times.
I love my country. I have no intention of leaving it. I love the people the food the culture and the community. But there is so much to clean up from cults now growing in secondary schools to service delivery, to inefficiency across board and importantly the insecurity as well as the groups of persons who hold Nigeria by the jugular.
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Values need to return to our schools. Social studies, history and other related subjects. Character building avails much, interpersonal relationship is everything. If we cannot handle the small unit of society…the family…then we cannot handle public service.
Last week on my way to Bwari in Abuja, my driver and I encountered a tragic accident. Someone had been knocked down. But worse still there were body parts on the road, a winding go slow and some traffic officers directing traffic. The sight for early morning ruined my entire day. We have lost some sense of humanity. It took a call to friend to evacuate the body. This was someone’s father. It took all of several hours.
To build Nigeria back, we need men and women of courage. People who are ready for the sacrifice, the resilience and the passion and patriotism to build us better. A combination of democracy, character, relationships and nationhood. No nation built back better without the sacrifice. Let’s all put our hands on the plough. It is well! Happy belated democracy day!