The longed-for change has finally arrived in Nigeria but that means adjusting to a life where rules cannot be bypassed with money and connections
On the 29th of May 2015, General Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as the President of Nigeria. The international media hailed us on what they crowned a ‘largely peaceful and orderly election’, and so it began, the change that Nigerians voted for was imminent. According to Attahiru Jega, the President of the Independent Commission of the Nigerian Electoral Commission (INEC), Buhari won the election by a total of 2.9 million votes. The rapture that followed was visible on Twitter and Instagram. People hailed ‘Sai Buhari!’ on his big victory! And it was evident that he was the popular vote.
Naturally, the upper class, were amongst those desperately craving this ‘change’. They were tired of all the suffering involved in driving their expensive cars back to their gated houses with pools and tennis courts. They were tired of bribing officials at the airport to let them take the obscure ‘panla’ and ‘ofada stew’, back to university. No more of mummy’s frozen jollof rice??( Disaster! ) No more plantain harvested in the motherland?? (I can’t bear it!! ) Are we really ready to give up these perks?? The unspoken truth is that there is a lot of hypocrisy going on.
Twitter is never shy of young people from upper-class families championing for change and equality for all. They advocate for a clampdown on corrupt officials. However, in practice, I don’t think daddy or daddy’s friend going to jail for stealing money from the government would be welcomed with such open arms.
The upper class talks about ‘change’ and even voted for it, but from the looks of things, they voted merely to appease their own conscience. In practice they would be stripped of the habitual advantages that come with a system that truly benefits those at the top.
Just recently, I was talking to one of my friends about National Youth Service. It is something that many people dread. The horror stories you hear about overcrowded living conditions and rats in bedrooms overshadow those you hear about the delightful life-long bonds formed at camp. Thus, when I spoke to my friend and found out she was posted to Taraba (a state in the middle of Nigeria,) my immediate response was to say that she was not going. I say this because too often it is the case that one can pay one’s way out of one’s assigned posting. However, this year, it was harder than usual and many will have to go to their assigned postings. People will have to start learning to adhere to the norms of a society that is truly equal for all. This means that the fact that your daddy has more money than the next man won’t matter anymore. You will have to abide by the rules that apply to the rest of the population.
For the longest time, we have complained as a population. We have complained about the inequity present in the legal system. However, how would one feel if someone they knew and was close to got, shock, horror, jailed for corruption? These are the real indicators of whether one is truly ready for change and all that it comes with. You cannot just accept the parts of change that benefit yourself and jettison the parts that don’t.
So, the next time one decides to champion for change, one has to make sure they truly mean it. Not halfheartedly, but in its totality — even if it leads to sacrificing mummy’s jollof rice for a cheeky Nandos!
And so, it is time to pose our question again: Are upper class Nigerians really happy that change is here? Only time will tell.
*Panla — stock fish that has a very strong smell
* Ofada stew — a stew using fried peppers