Double whammy

Nothing gave me a hunch of the unsightly scenery that unfolded before me as I came out of the departure lounge of the Muritala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, last Thursday, October 3rd 2013, for a transaction. Since the authorities of the airport don’t give a damn about us, it has never occurred to them that seats should be made available for travelers as the case is in other places. It was therefore logical that I burnt some time roaming around especially as I needed some cash and the ATM I first attempted using failed in a way. I thought it was good to give it another attempt instead of standing at attention like hundreds of other air travellers.

Though the ATM card expires at the end of this month, I was told by the vending machines that it had expired. I had also arrived earlier than necessary at the airport because of the unpredictability of the Lagos traffic and I had four hours ahead of me. That was exactly what the Americans would call a double whammy, a situation in which two bad conditions occur at the same time: I had nowhere to sit for hours and I still could not get the money I needed at the time of need.

But the actual double whammy was the explosion that occurred me and the billow of smoke that enveloped the horizon as the aircraft that flew above hovered dangerously at a low altitude and crash-landed with a bang near the airport. Some of us were still shell-shocked when those who went to the scene came back to report to us that it was the plane conveying the body of the late Governor Olusegun Agagu and twenty passengers that crashed and went up in flames.

The plane was on its way to Akure for the burial of the former Governor. In an instant, news trickled into my phone as the on the unfolding event, from preliminary reports, Blackberry pings to Facebook status updates. It was disheartening that such a thing occurred, with the attendant losses in lives and property and it was heart-rending that the online comments of people, which need no rehash here, varied from indignation to condemnation with little pity. May God grant

As I followed up the reportage of the news that I saw happen, the reactions of Nigerians to it were depressing. Many queried the need for air travel from Lagos to Akure if our roads are good and treated well. Others blamed the airport authorities while some resorted to outright verbal assaults on everyone apart from themselves, including the late Governor who many were quick to recall was a Minister of Aviation not too long ago. All sorts of sense and nonsense filled the blogosphere within hours and it really hit me that the cultural value of not speaking ill of the dead is gradually being lost in our society.

The comments I read and that I heard directly from people at the airport were a serious indication that Nigerian leaders are in trouble. It is a double whammy: their efforts are not appreciated by the seemingly fastidious Nigerians and our people find it difficult to genuinely sympathise much with them when misfortunes befall them. This is a serious matter that should bother anyone that is someone somewhere in the political calculus. Why don’t Nigerians sympathise or empathise with their leaders and they violate all cultural and religious norms in venting anger and venom at the slightest opportunity as the comments under reference indicate? Three reasons come to mind.

First is the problem of perception. Many Nigerians perceive, rightly or wrongly, their leaders as a bunch of thieves that deserve whatever happens to them. For the fact that perception is everything, as people in advertising would emphasise, this image problem is compounded by the flamboyant lifestyle of many leaders. Nigerians believe that their collective suffering is directly proportional to the profligacy of their leaders. Therefore, instead of showing concern and human feelings, any untoward occurrence is attributed to the Law of Karma or law of retributive justice. It is the leaders who can change this perception themselves as there is no smoke without fire.

The second is the level of poverty in the country. It is now trite that more than seventy per cent of Nigerians live on less than two dollars per day. As a hungry man is an angry man, many Nigerians are angry. In his “The Republic”, Plato tells us, “the first and greatest of necessities is food” but millions of Nigerians cannot meet this basic necessity. Living in penury in the midst of the plenty that is displayed in palatial houses, trendy and private jets induces frustration, humiliation and hostility. The poor see the rich as the oppressive class responsible for the poor’s status and our poor therefore detest the rich, especially the selfish ones among them, with passion.

The third factor is the abuse of power through which elected or appointed leaders fail to discharge their duties as expected of them or use the privileges they enjoy to suppress and repress the masses. There are people whose houses are demolished without effective communication or appropriate compensation and there are people whose sources of livelihood are confiscated. There are also others whose rights are trampled upon with impunity just because they are weak and ordinary.

and elsewhere on the unfortunate tragedy that befell the nation, I still strongly felt that if the Nigerian leaders could change their negative image through a sort of rebranding, reduce poverty and be more circumspect in the use of temporary power, they would enjoy the goodwill of the people. But if they live as if there is no tomorrow or life after office, they will suffer condemnation while still doing what they think is good and still attract no sympathy whenever the unpleasant wheel of life rolls their way or they leave power.

Everyone of us is a leader as we all have our spheres of influence. We all owe ourselves a duty and that is avoiding double whammy situations. That is why it is good to be good as no good done will go unrewarded soon or later. The same thing applies for anything bad or evil done as both human beings and God will condemn and punish it.