A lot happens in Nigeria, daily. People are surviving in every corner of the society you turn your attention. You don’t need to be very smart to observe. Just give a head-turn and you would see a woman who is peeling oranges, with the help of a rechargeable lamp. While she peels, her daughter lies on a wooden bench, intermediately trying to slap terrorist mosquitoes that won’t let her find rest, after a day without meal. She is a survivor. She has children in colleges around the nation. Her husband is either dead or dead: dead to death or dead to her, as a woman, since another ‘sharper’ woman has embraced his godforsaken loins.
In Nollywood, people have to survive. A 7D camera is bought. Light is hired to compliment the Canon camera. Makeshift actors are employed to save cost. Something that looks like a script is developed and then in 48 hours something is on a cable television, serving millions of people and some other people become richer; pay bills, attend to needs from children, family members and all there could be.
In politics, a man who has been given a political office takes a pen, draws out his problems and that of his many girlfriends. He places all of them side by side with the required projects of his constituencies. He picks his personal and very important needs above what the people deserve. They can go to hell. They are idiots, fat fowls. He had paid some money to certain people during elections. He had given wrappers to naked women. He owes no one. He is to be left alone. He must enjoy his hustle.
In the music industry, man must survive. It is not about sense or art. It is about committing your soul to a hustle that pays instead of crime. The studio is approached. You sell personal properties. Pay for studio time. A producer is hired. The generator is fuelled. Someone smiles. Steady beat is approved. Any rubbish spat is recorded. It is released online. It is a hit, because people can dance to it. Disc Jockeys download it. The radio becomes restless with its repetition. The young man goes on a nationwide tour. He calls a friend in Cyprus. She arranges some 50 students who are eager to see him, all tattooed. It is captured a ‘tour’. He goes viral, sings, makes money, drugs himself, gets a car, buys a house, buys a chieftaincy title, and buys his death. In few months someone more energetic replaces him. The circle goes on and on.
He is a writer. He has a fairly good story. His uncle knows someone who prints very well in Ibadan. He also has some money. His manuscript is printed and bound. It is sold amongst his family members. His tribesmen carry him on the shoulder. He is called the “asiwaju” of Nigerian literature. He is given a grant from his tribal bank. He goes abroad, does a fellowship. He is a hero. Everyone else is a bastard.
It doesn’t matter the means. It has never mattered. What has been important from time immemorial has been the final product. It doesn’t matter how a student passes. All that is important is his ability to come out with a miserable certificate, convince people, and get employment. He deserves it. His parents had sold landed properties to see him through school. If he is handsome, he had dated older women to see himself through school. He had paid a price. He had studied. He sure deserved whatever he got. It is survival. It is not important. The most vital thing is his final product.
People are doing many things to survive. People are living for the now. People are not minding what they are doing. It is not important. Maybe it had worked years ago. People are letting the many worries of life give them pressure. And this pressure is not just coming from home, from the extended family or peers. It is also coming from religious institutions.
In Nigeria, especially in modern churches, the young, classic pastors don’t come to church with hard copy bibles. They’d rather use devices. They use the iPad. One of such may cost at least N110, 000.00; such money could be earned in 4 months by an average Nigerian, who is a sales representative, a trader or tailor. He is psychologically challenged by the preacher to afford such luxury of a device. He saves. He ignores all that is around him and buys an iPad that he doesn’t need. He, maybe, learns how to take notes. Oh no, he doesn’t. He barely can read and write. He had dropped out of school; primary school, precisely, I mean, in order to meet up rising needs from home. He opens it in church so he can sit in the front row, so when the service is being recorded for a TV broadcast, he is duly captured so viewers would see that the church is actually a classic citadel, where people are rich and empowered as they come.
I am yet to see a modern church that encourages adult education aside many pledges and tithes and offerings and freewill donations, not to poor members who are seated in the audience, hungry, hoping God would send someone to them, but to the already reached pastors who are super rich, whose children go abroad to attend schools, and whose livelihood is so perfect, the same folks whose several luxury cars never go to the filling stations but are fuelled by benevolent hands.
The poor becomes poorer. He prays until he dies. If he had been baptised, the church would come to his burial, and lay him to rest with lots of prayers. They would sprinkle Holy Water on his casket. If only the water were available to him when he lived and died thirsty.
We are all hustlers, practicing our hustles in very divergent ways. Some of us don’t care about whatever we do, once it brings in some money and puts food on the table. So you would have parents who do not question expensive gifts possessed by children, because the children are now breadwinners. This night, on my way from Elekahia, a community where I have a temporal home, courtesy of my friend, Dum, to Ogbunabali in Port Harcourt, and looking through vehicles I saw very energetic youths, mainly females, with loud tattoos, with handbags flung over their shoulders. They are on their way to recover what they had, maybe, lost during the day, I presume.
I see a lot of ladies daily. I have enough time to see them. I am usually jobless. The quest to meet the need for the now has driven a lot of people to the extreme. People are doing all it takes to keep body and soul together. Just a few people have the luxury of doing what they actually wish to do and which pays them.
In Nigeria, a child has to grow up very fast. If he is male, he must inherit the burden of his parents as quick as possible. Often times, he abandons schooling and chases business. The girl is driven into marriage, of course not out of love but for social security. His husband becomes the one who is plagued with responsibilities of the in-laws. He doesn’t only fend for his family but the entire community. His dreams are drowned. He lives what a financial educator calls a rat-race.
It is sad that we may not have elders for tomorrow. Or maybe tomorrow’s elders won’t be old enough to be elders. We may eventually have those who at 30 must have lived all there can ever be. Life is becoming closer to us than our chasing it. We are becoming too conscious of what label we may bear when we get to a particular age without accomplishing certain expectations. We then hustle. We then gamble happiness. For what is happiness if one cannot confidently afford a bottle of beer without contempt for what may be a foregone item.
We are all hustlers through the wire. No one is being condemned. No one is righteous enough to do such. I am only appreciating our strides and encouraging our every step. Maybe we would all have it very interesting when death calls us home. It is sad to regret anything. Let it be that you are proud of what you do. Posterity is usually jobless, scripting our many actions in a bid to show it to us in a hurry, unedited.
Nwilo Bura-Bari Vincent