The ‘Shoe-shiner’ (and the ‘Oga’) bellied in us all…

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

There is a very disturbing video that has gone viral within the e-shores of Nigeria. (Here)

It features a man dressed in suit, (reportedly an officer with the State Secret Service) cleaning the shoes of Mr. Dambazzau, the Minister for Interior. Mr. Dambazzau is engrossed in the activities of the event he is attending, oblivious to the dexterous efforts deployed by the SSS officer, in ensuring that there is no speck of dust left on the footwear. The SSS officer is part of the Security detail attached to the Minister.

The video has evoked anger over the Nigerian internetshphere. The general uproar: Why is an officer of the SSS cleaning the shoes of his ‘Oga’ (Boss)?

Let me tell you a story of another ‘Oga’. A true story.

In 2014, I paid a visit to a friend living in Garki Area 11 in Abuja. (If you’re not sure where that is, google it).

I parked around the front of her house, quenched my engine, and was about stepping out.

Immediately, I noticed three men, wearing military pants walking briskly towards me, with their Alsatian dog in tow. They came from a mansion-like house right beside my friend's house.

They told me I could not park there ... that I should drive my car right back to the beginning of the close (the street was a close), find a parking spot and park there.

I asked why. They said my (cute) car was a security risk to their ‘Oga's’ house.

I entered my car, reversed a little until I was squarely within the ‘circumference’ (or ‘square’. Or ‘area’… blame my mathematics teacher) of my friend's house, ending just before the fence demarcating my friend’s house from Oga’s house.

They came again. That I could not park anywhere outside… close to their ‘Oga's’ house.

(By the way, Oga was a Senator)

You see... I had received this kind of treatment when I had visited on an earlier occasion, with a taxi. The cab driver was almost assaulted for daring to drop me so close to the house.

The drama was not entirely unexpected.

So I embarked on a little Property Law lecture to ‘Oga's’ military guards, that when a person pays for a house, s/he paid for the appurtenances.

My friend had paid for the house. The space in front of her house therefore belonged to her, in the absence of any better title (of  ‘Oga’ had not displayed)

The men told me to tell that to their ‘Oga’ when I saw him, as he did not take lightly to people parking outside, close to his house. Their preoccupation was that I removed my car.

I asked them to remind ‘Oga’, that he was living in that house, thanks to the taxes paid by me and the other 149.9 million people (at the time, Nigeria’s population was about 150 million people) citizens. I cannot pay for his house, and still not be able to co-exist peacefully with my tiny automobile.

The men looked shocked. Not so much the grammar. But they appeared to have an ‘Aha!’ moment. Like no one had bothered to point out to them before now that ‘Oga’ was living off each of us.

Although they soft-pedalled… they insisted I remove my car, otherwise, they would be compelled to puncture my tires and break my glasses.

I asked them to do as they pleased. (At least, this ‘Oga's’ was easily identifiable. This would not be a case of unidentified government officials bullying citizens).

I left my car there. And went inside.

Truth be told, I was a tad bit scared.

Not so much for my life. There were a lot of onlookers. And I was well-dressed. They dared not (… or dared they?) Even if they did ... I could not be bothered.

I was scared that my tires would get punctured. That my windscreen would get destroyed. That I would be required to cough out funds to tow and fix the car. That is, before the legal remedies came through.

I was scared of how I would explain to my boss to give me some time off when pursuing my case against ‘Oga’. I could almost hear my boss's voice (again), in my head: "You have to decide whether you want to earn a living or pursue this your Human Rights thing".

But that day… that fear was overtaken by anger. A righteously-heated anger.

That I was being forced to inconvenience myself for the personal comfort of a being who, like me, was born with nothing and will die with nothing.

I was angry that the resources with which this being was intimidating me was the resources I handed over to him in trust.

I was angry that my fellow citizens had made it their life's purpose to intimidate into submission other humans for the sole enjoyment of this being.

That anger gave me temporary respite from all my fear, and emboldened me to leave my car there and walk away.

It is that same anger that bubbled like a volcano from inside me when I watched the video of this SSS officer spuriously wiping the shoes of his own ‘Oga’, while ‘Oga’ was seated in his throne, with all sense of entitlement.

It is easy to point fingers at the shoe-shinning SSS officer, and marvel at how low he has brought himself.

It is easier to point fingers at ‘Oga’. How does he get off making minions out of humans, with all sense of entitlement?

But we all are guilty of it.

We lot of over-zealous sycophants, who given the opportunity may even wipe his soiled behind. With or without toilet paper.

Our society has metamorphosed into one in which the ‘Ogas’ are pleased at all costs, while they remain oblivious of whose ox was gored… whose life was put at risk... who was actually killed. We have become a people who worship and revere our government officials, rather than hold them accountable to us.

This is why security detail attached to some Government Officials would run an ordinary citizen off a narrow road… in order to create room for ‘Oga’ to pass.

This is why drivers and aides will jump the queues… any queues at all. Because ‘Oga’ must be attended to first.

This is why we fawn at the feet of and squirm in the presence our representatives at the National Assemble… in hopes of recognition, for the greater aim of getting trickles of our own common wealth from them.

This is why the big-bellied Directors and Permanent Secretaries at Board meetings would not take their cups of tea or juice themselves, but must be served by the lesser mortals, fortunate enough to breathe the very same air as them.

Which is why when you speak out or attempt to complain… when your life is not threatened, you are labelled a 'trouble maker'.

(If you are a woman, and you are unmarried, that would be pointed out to you as the reason you cannot 'hold a man down').

One way or the other...we all are to blame for Dambazau's shoes being shined by that SSS Officer. Because it is either we have engaged in it, or we have encouraged it.

I do not know if it is Poverty that has done this to us. That has made us mentally subservient to our leaders, whilst trading our dignity and self-worth. In hopes for rewards and recognition from ‘Oga’. Or in gratitude to ‘Oga’ for giving us the privilege to be some mere feet away from his feet (all pun intended). The ‘Oga’ that we have actually funded his ‘Ogaship’.

If it is Poverty, Poverty is indeed a wicked thing.

We must find away to unshackle our minds from the throes of this Poverty, that has robbed us of our identity as Citizens, and our pride as human beings.

Until we the citizens learn to speak up, speak out, to demand to be served by the people we voted into power, to not treat one another as goats for the benefits of those whom we think we owe our lives to, we are no better than the SSS officer, or his 'Oga'.

Ours has just not been caught on tape. 



P.s. Nothing happened to my car. 

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  2. Nice work, Meg. We Nigerians need very thorough mind reconstruction. A lot of things are wrong with our corporate psyche.