The Average Nigerian and His Precious Well

The average Nigerian is the eternal optimist; longsuffering and deeply religious often engaging the divine in a conversation albeit negotiation for a change of story. His God should not be joked with, his place of worship is sacred never mind that he may or may not care about the tenets or laws of his religion in his daily hassle. On his day of worship, he is serious about his prayers or his ‘breakthrough’, if you like.
At the turn of the year, he proclaims: “This year is my year!” and he is sure of it, after all the ‘crossover’ night between the 31st of December and 1st of January is the one night year round when a vigil is not only compulsory but mandated. After a long meeting with his maker, he is only assured that This year is his year!!! The eternal optimist!
The average Nigerian is a ‘coper’. He figures a way around a difficult situation as he has always done now for many years. He has coped with power failure for many years with worn out lanterns and near-death experiences with candles proof of his resilience, and when NEPA became PHCN without any significant difference, he wasn’t surprised; he just coped like he has always done.
Gather round, and he will tell you a story: a precious but sad tale, a tragedy-in-progress, a classic example of an anticlimax. The story of the man and his well, it’s a story he knows like the back of his palm for he is the man in the story. The well is his well, located in his own backyard. He watches everyday as tanks from other towns come and take the ‘water’ from his well shoving a bundle of notes into his landlord’s greedy palms. Yet the landlord sells the ‘water’ to him for a fortune. Once upon a time the ‘water’ per ‘bucket’ was paid for in kobo, and then the price rose till it was 11 naira, then 35 naira, 50 naira and finally 65 naira.
Every time the price rose, the landlord said to him: “it’s for the best. Trust me, I’ve called the oyibo man. He says he’s on his way. When he comes he’ll lay pipes to your kitchen, toilet, bathroom, and your room if you like. The oyibo man would build tanks overhead in this compound and then you would pay little or nothing for ‘water’ just be patient.” The average Nigerian, an eternal optimist has always believed in spite of his many questions. Deep down inside however he has always known that Baba Landlord a liar, never to be trusted.
Then on his favourite day of the year, 01st of January, the one day he feels most optimistic and forgets about his trouble for a moment to move ahead assured of goodwill approaching, the landlord sent the water caretaker:
“Una well done o!” the short potbellied man in glasses said storming into the room of The Average Nigerian invading his privacy.
“Who are you?” The optimist asked.
“I am The Water Caretaker. From today Baba Landlord no longer pays a dime for the production of water in this compound. Therefore the price may go up, it may come down. But be calm, the water is still good and this change is for your own good believe it or not. Good day!” The potbellied man said reading the announcement from his folder.
The water caretaker stormed out of the room the same way he entered with questions unanswered and a party ruined. The average Nigerian covered his plate of fried rice and shoved his bottle of coke under his bed. In a flash, he stormed out with his big 50-bucket keg to the tap where the little girl that sold water stood in awaiting his arrival.
“H-How mu-u-uch is a b-b-bucket?”
“150 naira!!!” the sales girl replied calmly.
“What? What nonsense! How can you change the price like that? What kind of compound is this?” The Average Nigerian replied trading his optimism for rage, having a fit.
“Order from above.” She replied.
The sales girl was unmoved by his gesticulation and waited for him to finish displaying like a young lady auditioning for the sitcom Tinsel, and she silently asked: “How many buckets are you buying?”
“Fill the keg.” The Optimist-now-cantankerous replied.
As the keg was being filled, The Average Nigerian looked up and there stood Baba Landlord dressed in his white agbada.
“Happy New Year, the change in price is for your own good.” Baba landlord said suppressing a grin which was now obvious.
“Baba Landlord you have always deceived me with those words but not this time.” The Optimist-turned- Cantankerous replied with anger in his voice.
“We’ll see.” Said Baba Landlord said seeming unmoved by the fact he just heard.


One Christmas in Kirikiri

For the umpteenth time, Jason Emokphai wondered why he was on his way to Kirikiri maximum prison on Christmas Eve. As he sat in the taxi that hot Saturday afternoon in the standstill traffic synonymous to the Lagos metropolis, his mind travelled back to the moment he heard that his brother had been convicted and he felt the shame and anguish all over again.


 Osagie Emokphai had been slammed a three-year jail term for raping a seventeen year old female student of his. The family of the girl called it a slap on the wrist. Osagie’s lawyer had been smart enough to appeal to his client to plead guilty, had it been the other way round, Osagie might have landed a bigger sentence.  

Jason arrived just in time for the visiting hour. Osagie was soon before him. Osagie looked horrible, he smelt of dust and sweat, his beards were overgrown, his jaw was swollen and when he smiled at his brother, the swollen jaw made his face look like a Halloween mask.

Jason had planned to begin by wishing his younger brother a merry Christmas but immediately discarded it. Surely there was nothing merry about being in prison.

Both men stared at each other; it was the first time they were face to face in five years as the older Emokphai had been studying at University of Pretoria for a Ph.D. in vertinary medicine.

“You look good…” Osagie began “…South Africa has been good to you.”

“Yes it has, I just returned last week. I’m done with the programme.”

“Congratulations, Dr. Jason Osagie.  I’m proud of you.” Jason nodded without emotion.

Osagie was delighted when his brother placed a plate of fried rice with the largest chicken he had seen in six months before him, he began to eat as quickly as he could, tearing the chicken with bare hands.

“So…how do you feel……honestly?” asked Jason prepared for an outburst of anger as a response.

Osagie dropped the spoon for a moment, “how does a man feel in this jungle? Anger, disappointment, low self-esteem all creep on you and tie you down. This is hell on earth and I deserve every day I get. My life is over……”      

“No it’s not. I don’t believe it is and that’s why I am here.” Jason cut in.

Osagie laughed hard, his blood stained teeth in full view, he opened his mouth to reply but stopped and shook his head.

“They can inflict pain on your body, hurt your emotions but they can’t mess with your mind or take hope away from you. That’s the message of Christmas: hope!”

Osagie laughed even harder, “You come with your Phd and nice clothes to talk about hope, you’ve never spent a day in a police cell. You’ve never had a moment of insanity that brings a lifetime consequence and you’ve never had to face the fact that you are a pevert and there is nothing you can do about it….” osagie paused a moment, then continued: “Jason thank you, but please go home and have a merry Christmas with Folake and your kids. There is no Christmas here and injecting hope in kirikiri is like trying to make a Muslim out of The Pope. Go home.”

Jason grabbed his brother’s hand in a split second and leaned across the table, “Everyone in our family including your wife has cut you off except me, and it has taken me courage to come here. Please listen to me.”

Osagie nodded and Jason continued: “Your life may seem over but it’s not and Christmas is not just for the happy people, it is especially for places like this. God resurrected hope at Christmas when Jesus came and he came to become sin for us so we become righteousness of God as though we’ve never sinned, he became a curse for us, so we can be blessed not because of anything we’ve done or would do but because we believe and accept his grace…..”

“….Jesus is no longer on earth and I don’t believe your religious rant.” Osagie replied in anger.

“Jesus is in heaven, yes. But he left us with The Spirit of God, the comforter who understands what you are going through more than anyone else can. I’m not asking you to believe right now just think about it.”

The visitation hour was over, “Oya e don do. Make una come dey go.” a warder shouted. Jason slipped a paper across to Osagie which read:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Both men shook hands. “I’d see you next week.” Jason said.

Osagie strolled away with a lot in his mind to think about.




What Would You do If You Got Fired Today?

What would you do if today you got fired from the organization you work for?

In the 2009 movie: “Up in the Air”, Ryan Bingham (played by George Clooney) is hired by different organizations to meet with downsized employees face to face and tell them they had been fired. Of course none of the employees took it well. They often had questions like: “What do I tell my family?” “How can I afford to pay my bills, I have a wife and three kids?” “What do I do with my life now?”

We all never think or ever prepare for being fired from our jobs, you know. That’s understandable considering the fact that we all consider ourselves great employees, even those of us who suck at what we do but never admit it. Secondly, the longer we stay in an organization, the more secure we consider our jobs. “How can they fire me after five years of active service?” oh yes they can! Actually there are a number of reasons why you can be downsized and none of these are personal:

  • The workflow of your organization changes, and your job becomes unnecessary
  • Your organization is acquired by another firm in a merger, and the parent organization chooses to downsize
  • Your company discovers a new machine or software that can do your job better and faster i.e. bank tellers replaced by ATMs
  • A freakish accident leaves you paralyzed and incompetent

Some people wake up one morning employed and by noon they are unemployed. Anyone can get fired from new recruits to veterans. Therefore, it’s smart for employees to wake up and develop a plan or prepare for such an event. It’s not faithlessness, it’s just being smart

Suddenly finding yourself out of work attacks three main aspects of your life: your relationships, your finances and your self -worth.

Relationships: most people with very demanding jobs often pay so much attention to work that they neglect family and friends. The once important people are relegated into the background and family members now become strangers. It’s really an unconscious transition. You only realize when you’re fired, you retire or you resign how bad things have become.

To avoid this, go out of your way to connect with the important people in your life. Facebook and twitter don’t count. Call them, visit as often and as much as you can, when you can’t, genuinely apologize and make up for it as soon as possible.

Finances: many of us are financially illiterate and corporate world employees are often big spenders without control. The assumption that in another 28-30 days, our accounts would be credited is the common excuse. When you are out of work, the plunge in lifestyle can become embarrassing and depressing.

Saving is good but really not enough, set up an Investment plan, talk to financial gurus and get some advice as to investment vehicles where you have money working for you apart from the one you saved, and be disciplined to set aside a good percentage to this cause, you won’t regret it.

Self-Worth: Wake up! Your work is not you! Many employees laid off often cry that they cannot do anything else. “Accounting is all I’ve ever done. That’s all I know, what do I do with my life now?” moving from active workaholic to unproductive couch-potato even if for a little while can be both horrific and depressing at the same time.

This is why it is good to have a hobby apart from your job. Now for hobbies, cinemas, watching football or endless hours on the Internet, do not count! Not that they aren’t advisable but it’s best to do something productive like gardening, writing, photography, catering, volunteering to a worthy cause, etc. these hobbies can easily be converted to a career in the event of a lay-off or early retirement. The further the hobby is from your career, the better.

Being fired is not the worst thing in the world, it’s a setback. But if handled correctly, can turn out to be a blessing of some sort.