by Yomi Kazeem
I enjoyed the most unbelievable conversation with a seemingly random cab driver who drove me home after a late night of editorial work on Victoria Island on Thursday. I normally like to chat just so the drive is not boring and we were having a simple chat when, as is inevitable with me, we veered off into talk of politics and development of Nigeria.
I like to hear different views but more importantly discern general levels of awareness and depth of political knowledge of random folks. I don’t claim to know all but I think that debates drive development and more critically, interactions aid in increasing my field of knowledge.
So when my cabbie mentioned that Nigeria had ‘multi-dimensional problems’ I knew I was in for more than a ride.
‘Our people are to blame, its not just the government’
Mr Cabman believes that we get the government we deserve as corruption cuts across all levels. He believes that PDP will win the next elections, not just because they will obviously manipulate the results but also because the people are not smart enough to place national interests above partisanship. ‘Them go vote for person wey come from them town but if e enter finish them go start to dey complain’ said Mr Cabman, switching from impeccable English to pidgin. Is he right? Pretty much.
Think about it, we live in a country where people voted ‘for the man, not the party’. How can Mr Cabman be wrong?
‘Unless they will make money from a project, they won’t do anything’
Mr Cabman thinks most projects undertaken by the government are dicely doused with large sprinkles of bribes that will go into private accounts. But that’s not news is it?
What we don’t know is that Mr Cabman worked in an auditing firm and at a point in time, worked on vetting some projects handled by certain firms on behalf of various government agencies. Cabman had facts and he also had figures to back up his claims. My jaws had dropped by the time he was done.
‘The police in this country are a disgrace’
According to Mr Cabman, his younger brother is an Assistant Superintendent of Police who has a first degree in Law and a Masters degree in same but despite the close ties with the men in black, his despise of the police is absolute.
He told me tales of how they have extorted him at various parts of town – in one instance, a policeman tore his shirt over the refusal to give a N500 naira bribe.
As if like clockwork, while Cabman was telling his story, we got pulled over by the police. Who was I? Where did I work? Where is my ID card? Can they search me? They did what they had to and after several minutes of fiddling with my phone and getting lost in an editorial app that helps me with synchronizing files, the policeman gave up and said we were free to go. ‘If to say he ask for bribe, God know say I fit slap’, Cabman concluded.
‘Vision 2020 will need to be renamed vision 2100’
As we enjoyed the traffic-free roads, Cabman mentioned that the traffic situation in the city borders on insanity.
‘The population increases every day but they will not provide better road networks. Since they built 3rd Mainland Bridge, they have not done any road project that is as big, yet the population is growing. By now, we should have a bridge that connects Island with Ikorodu and another that joins Island with Apapa’ said Cabman.
His punchline? ‘We have a very long way to go and e go tey before we reach. They should change Vision 2020 to vision 2100 because they are all crooks’ he concluded.
And the President? I asked. His reply was terse and brutal: ‘He is a stupid animal’.
I don’t know if I’ll find another cabman as knowledgeable as this one. His range of awareness touched on major issues and he probably would have had an opinion on North Korea’s nuclear threats if I had asked him. I asked why a smart fellow like him was driving a cab and his reply was a familiar one – no jobs.
It is funny how Nigeria is ruled by inefficient people with protruding tummies while our smarter citizens struggle to get by. Cabman dropped me at home but not without a parting shot at corrupt government officials. ‘God will punish them’, he said. ‘God will punish them all’.