3 years
There Is No Change
By Odera Okakpu
Nigeria and Nigerians have a long list of peculiarities. Particularly annoying peculiarities. You walk into a shop, patronize public transportation bus, keke, okada or cab- or even patronize an independent seller, a hustler, if you may, and they tell you "I don‘t have change." This is so irritating that I literally feel my skin crawl when I hear it.

I can‘t stand it and I can‘t help snapping at anyone who tells me such rubbish. How in the world does anyone participating in a business have the gall to tell a customer that there is no change? Please correct me if I‘m wrong, but businesses are built on capital and are run on money, they have many transactions with banks- why should they not stock up on change?! In my language the only way I can properly express how it makes me feel is "it bites my ear/body". It really does.

Somehow my experience and the incredibly high rate at which this happens in businesses around the country (this has happened in every geopolitical zone!) has caused me to want to defend our president. May 29th marked his first year anniversary in office and the public was less than pleased. I heard the many admonishments on how his ministerial list was not in line with the change mantra he campaigned with. Nigerians lament daily over the rapid turn of events since his election and all the failed promises. He doesn‘t have change. And it‘s not his fault. Like the shop sellers and the cab guy, he has just started business for the "day" and he has not raked in any change. If the people in business have not realized by now that change is necessary to run a business how dare any of us believe that there is change for Nigeria? What change have we raked in for ourselves?

Slightly after his election, in Abuja almost every junction had a traffic light erected on it. Whoosh! Change has come. However I still witnessed well to do, seemingly educated, Nigerians zooming past red lights as if the traffic lights are not intended for them at all. Is that how Nigerians want to embrace change? Do we realize that if we have a working system, enacted on change, like the rest of the developed world, when you break a rule there are repercussions? No more begging or bribing policemen, oh no! If you commit an offense you will go though the tiresome process of sorting it out according to law.

In all honesty our president can only offer a certain degree of change, God willing he knows where to amass it from. For that change to be truly effective that we can call our country a changed one each and every individual has to be ready to embrace it all. Nigeria has been working around bad practices put in place as a result of the way government operates. Can you imagine a Nigeria where every citizen, big man or not will line up by himself to renew passports and drivers licenses?

This means that students in universities will have to actually study for exams and do their courseworks rather than offering Professors bribes. Professors in tune will have to stop accepting bribes and for that to happen they will have to be paid well. We aren‘t even serious about our taxes, are Nigerians ready to pay taxes? Those in Lagos who are more than familiar with taxes complain enough as it is.

When we no longer kiss ass of people celebrated for being the “smartest” kind of criminal, when we no longer hope in our hearts for politicians to show us favor and let us hit, when we FINALLY have meaningful discussions, about our prejudices against one another, the horrors committed during Biafra and Nigeria as a whole, when we truly come to terms with the hardship that comes with any real, lasting change, then and only then, will we begin to see any change.

Contrary to popular belief the Federal Government is not the only one doing us bad, it’s the politicians closest to you that really exhibit the wickedness. You see, a senator or member of the house of representatives can sit in Abuja and deliberate on how much your village or constituency deserves for whatever project, but it is left to the house of assembly and local government chairmen to disseminate (whatever is left!) to the masses deep within villages. Change will come when the average Nigerian knows that in a true democracy, they, the individual, the masses, the people, hold the power! Change can come when we no longer see government positions as the ultimate blessing and the path to wealth but as a tireless, hard pressed task that deserves utmost integrity.

Nigerians, the president, just like the one before him, is not a magician and will not be pulling change out his ass in the next couple of years. Even if the government builds up all the infrastructure of Dubai, if the Nigerians that throw rubbish by the roadside have not changed mentally, all that will degenerate fast.

In the change debacle that typically happens between any provider of goods and service in Nigeria, the two parties must come together and find a way of resolving change. A lot of the times one party loses out, the customer ends up leaving part of his change or the business person ends up letting money go, whatever the case progress is made and things move forward.

Change can come when we realize that moving change is not necessarily large scale and certainly does not have to come from just the government. JFK said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. Nobody has change available for you if you don’t make change available for yourself.


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