Monday, 13 January 2014

Stuck in ice

I started writing this piece at a most unusual place; the licensing of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) at Ikeja, Lagos. No I did go there to interview the Sector Commander neither did I have the privilege of sitting in a cosy office. I sat right under a makeshift tent with over 50 other driving licence applicants waiting to be called in for the capture of my photograph and biometric data. I have actually been at it for about eight months and I am nowhere near the finish line. Eight months to obtain a driving licence! And it is all in the hands of our public officers; all Nigerians. If foreign companies had been contracted to handle the licence issuance, we would have shouted ourselves hoarse but there we were, all of us, sitting quietly like caged animals. A lady sitting next to me said I was lucky. She started processing hers in February last year; a period of 18 months. And the entire environment was a mess, definitely not a comfortable place to work from. After this, I won’t ever visit that place again, I told myself. But then, I was wrong. The man in charge came out to meet us under the tent with the bad news.


The only available capturing machine has kaput, he said. Someone asked him the meaning of kaput.
“E don break down. You no dey hear English?” the man in charge replied impatiently. We all had to come back again on 24th January. Oh my God! What a country!
That is by the way. Now to a more serious matter. I don’t know if you watched CNN during the holiday. Did you see those spectacular displays used to usher in the New Year in other countries? Oh my God! That was mind blowing. I had wanted to go to Dubai for Christmas and New Year with my family but somehow we couldn’t make the trip but I saw the Dubai wonder on TV. To celebrate the New Year, Dubai decided to break the Guinness World Record for world’s largest fireworks show. Because of course the world’s largest fireworks show would be in Dubai. They put the best show on every year. Might as well put on the biggest too. Dubai exploded over 500,000 fireworks in just 6 minutes centered mostly around the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest structure, for a spectacle that even surpassed Dubai’s ridiculous standards. It was amazing.
Can you imagine? Almost 100,000 fireworks were going off every single minute! If you were there, your ears would probably go numb and your eyes might even suffer from temporary blindness but it would so worth it. Excess is what Dubai does and it does it so fantastically well.
UAE has again demonstrated that man can indeed recreate his world. With the right mindset at good leadership, there is no limit to what man can achieve.
You probably would have also seen the story of the Russian ship which got stuck in ice in Antarctica. 52 scientists and tourists with 22 crew on the MV Akademik Shokalskiy got stuck in the ice on Christmas Eve and remained there for two weeks. A Chinese ice breaker, Xue Long, which was sent to rescue the passengers also got stuck. I could not but marvel at the way the oyinbo people responded to the situation.
Imagine if it had been a Nigerian ship that got stuck in the ice! The Federal Government would probably not have been aware of it until someone writes a stinker. The government will then respond by setting up a committee to determine how to respond to the issue. There will be a lot of agitation and lobby by various ethnic groups to be represented on the committee. After the committee is eventually inaugurated, it will most likely start off by raising funds and then organise a seminar to ‘get the views of Nigerians’ on how to rescue the trapped ship. The seminar will end with a communique recommending that Mr. President sets up another committee of stakeholders to travel to London or US to study how to respond to a situation like that. And another round of lobbying will definitely start; this time around it will be on the composition of the committee that will be travelling abroad. Be sure that the delegation will be made up of politicians, members of the national assembly, state lawmakers, a couple of state governors, ministers and directors. One marine engineer and a doctor will be lucky to be included on the team.
Eventually, it will all end up an exercise in futility with several millions of oil money down the drain. And of course, the trapped ship, crew and passengers will be left to their own fate. That is the irony of our country. I pray that your ship of progress will not get stuck this year because you don’t have a government that can come to your rescue.

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