Sunday 17 June 2007

As Nigerian as WaZoBia - Time-wasting courtesy calls

Angelic crowning

A couple of weeks ago, Funmi Iyanda posted a congratulatory advertisement where the newly sworn-in president was being crowned in some sort of celestial glory by some angel.

So silly was the picture, the diadem being placed over a fula (traditional Hausa cap), both the crown and hat would have fallen off the moment the hands were lifted from the crown - ironic.

The madness that overcomes Nigerians in this kind of show through advertisement is at times comical but is a cultural malaise that eats into the core of what is Nigerian.

Tasking tasks tasked tasker (sic)

Along with this the pages of Nigerian newspapers with the unusual contexts of tasks and tasking - it should be a rarity to use tasks as a verb or tasking in the present continuous - the context being conveyed is akin to thinking about a subject and doing something about it. So, agency, vested interests or patrons task the president with some ideal and the President tasks others with other ideals.

Unfortunately, the President does not have time to do any of the tasks, generally, when you win an election well-wishers and allies pick up the phone and send their congratulations - In Nigeria, that is too technologically advanced for many to comprehend, just last week, the President had to entertain a 300-strong delegation of people from Kaduna State including the governor who had left their posts to seeking presidential patronage in the name of goodwill.

I doubt if more purposeful state visits carry entourages this large.

Attending to the wrong crowd

So, in this rather hopefully crowded schedule of running Nigeria, he had to make time to acknowledge and entertain these time-wasting mendicants whose main goal was nothing to do with the matters of state, but a jolly at the expense of Nigeria to achieve nothing for Nigerians. It would appear these delegations would expect the Federal Government to pick up the tab for this unwarranted junket.

The man is beginning to impress me, breaking with tradition and taking a laudable stance, he acknowledged them and then upbraided them saying "While I appreciate this great outpouring of affection and the pledges of support for which I feel humbled, I must say that there is so much work to do in our country today and I will like to concentrate on the crucial task of repositioning our country for peace, sustainable development and prosperity."

That is as good a put down as anyone would give in a very sympathetic and diplomatic way. It transpires, he had warned off delegations from his state. You can expect people to accuse him of being parsimonious rather than smart and frugal with a sense of responsiblity - it does not feed into the Nigerian hedonistic complex and inordinate quest for all things free at other people's expense, especially the treasury looting and largesse sharing part.

The President himself has offered to visit all Nigerians, meaning he would chose his time and make it purposeful, that is not to say the states would not go overboard in outdoing each other when entertaining the President. Can't we just do this through email, SMS, video conferencing, radio, television or smoke signals?

As Nigerian as WaZoBia

However, this endemic time-wasting activity is as Nigerian as WaZoBia (WaZoBia is a concatenation of the Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo translations of come), most of the time we receive guests unannounced and it is a matter of courtesy to accommodate and entertain these guests, the logistics of handling 300 guests are hard enough for a country that cannot conduct free and fair elections.

In official parlance, this abuse of other people's private space is called a courtesy call - Yes, how can I massage the ego of a self-important person? By aimlessly visiting for a useless photo-opportunity whilst pretending to discuss immaterial issues and thereby killing time, wasting time and squandering money.


Enough congratulations, says President

Please, I've got a job to do

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