Yes, I said torture. Just hear me out. Last week, I had an experience that underscores how difficult life in Nigeria can be. This experience was unique, not because it was the first time I found it difficult to withdraw cash, but because it highlighted how several negatives in this country can converge and affect many…
Yes, I said torture. Just hear me out.
Last week, I had an experience that underscores how difficult life in Nigeria can be. This experience was unique, not because it was the first time I found it difficult to withdraw cash, but because it highlighted how several negatives in this country can converge and affect many people simultaneously.
As a research centre, the office where I work is situated in the premises of one of Nigeria’s premier Federal Universities. Despite this, I could not use my Access bank online platform because for over a month. The networks of all the major service providers have been really appalling. Internet services were awful. Calls were either not connecting or services were epileptic. You could be on a call and all you get to hear would be half the conversation of the person on the other end. Then there was so much congestion on the university internet platform that buying their scratch card became a waste of time and money.
I took my slot behind a smallish girl in the long almost endless, crowded line of students that stretched into the scotching sun. After almost an hour wait, when it reached the turn of the girl, after like three trials, the machine debited her but didn’t remit the cash. The palpable look of frustration on her face blended with her tearful sigh. I didn’t need a soothsayer to tell me to seek another machine. It was then I realised surprisingly that all the other ATMs were not working. From GTB to Zenith the crowd of customers waiting to use ATMs was frightening, and yet the machines were not working all at the same time.
The crowd inside the banking hall was almost double the one outside. In front of the POS, the cashier ordered me to insert my card into the device. I punched in some digits. The word ‘receiving’ displayed on the screen for about five minutes and then changed to ‘received’. In a bid to vomit the receipt of the transaction, the machine jammed. I asked the cashier the way forward since the transaction had been concluded. She told me because I was a known face at the branch, she would pay me but not before putting down some info about myself like my phone number and stuff. I said to myself, you can take my birth certificate if you want just give me my money.
The point of this narrative is simple; why are basic things so difficult to get in this country? While serious nations are maximising the benefits of technology, can we say the same for Nigeria? I don’t think so. One does not have to look far or need a soothsayer to get confirmation of our technological backwardness. We cannot even utilise technology to manage basic communication needs. Today, one cannot place a call and get the lines to connect at one dial. As a matter of fact, it is when you are in an emergency situation that MTN will refuse to connect your calls. Every day, simple tasks like making a call, using the internet or getting cash from an ATM continually prove difficult in this country.
The reality is that living in today’s Nigeria under President Buhari’s APC government is torture. Or how else do I explain the fact that just to use an ATM I had to suffer for a whole three hours?! In a Federal University environment that prides itself as one of the best in Nigeria, for close to two months, there was no electricity, internet connection, mobile connection was epileptic and then banks were messed up too! This is added to the fact that infrastructure is at zero, laboratories equipment are outdated, lecturers are lazy and students lack focus. And this is not unique to this school alone. What sort of people punish themselves the way we do?
Now, we are hearing suggestions that this current recession could last until 2020. Inflation is at a biting peak and no commodity in the market is spared. The Naira is in a perpetual downward spiral against the dollar. It’s like the suffering we experience as Nigerians just keeps getting worse.
We know we can vote this government out in the next election come 2019. I believe their performance so far is unsatisfactory and warrants a change of leadership. But can we trust this government to give us a free and fair election? As sordid as former president Jonathan’s government was, at least he gave us a free and fair election. Can we trust President Buhari? Isn’t the postponement of the Edo State elections a disquieting hint of what to expect?
The really frustrating aspect of all this is the deafening silence of the intellectual class who should either be speaking up or offering suggestions to salvage the situation. I begin to wonder what APC government officials dream of when they rest their heads on the pillows at night. Nigerians are hardworking, resilient people. Yet, we are cursed with bad leaders who can’t think outside the box. Our problem, as the late literary icon Chinua Achebe rightly observed, is that of leadership. The government and the intellectual class who should provide leadership have failed us.
In a country with countless so called intellectuals, premier universities, countless dissertation papers, we cannot even invent the technology to purify our water or make water and electricity available to everyone. We still rely on foreign countries to manufacture drugs to treat illnesses. We cannot even grow our agricultural sector to self-sustenance levels and still import things we can easily produce at home. When will this end?
One truth is certain though; there is a limit to the blows a people can take. One day, respite will come from an angle neither the government nor the intellectual class expect.
God bless Nigeria.