By Tony Afejuku
I do not know if I am right to entitle this piece as I have entitled it. Perhaps I should call it coronavirus border-men. Or perhaps I should call it coronavirus gatemen. Or maybe I should it coronavirus bribe-takers. Or simply coronavirus rogues. Or some other name in consonance with the deadly spirit of the deadly time. It would be rash to choose or to pick a name or a title that is out of tune with the ruthless spirit of the ruthless times of our ruthless experiences as compatriots of our country whose leaders have not, have never treated charmingly. Am I speculating? Of course not, as it is impossible for me to lie about our country as it presently is, at least.
Certainly, we are in an unusual time when some of us tend to react to an uncommon transformation in excess or in surplus of the prevailing stimulus of impressions of pain everywhere about us. I am not speaking Greek or communicating in Greek. Our country is in a really perilous peril and in serious and dangerous danger. And the ironical irony and paradoxical paradox we see in the actions and activities of our governments, the federal government in particular, that suffer from defects of vitality that the conceivers and planners of the actions and activities never imagined cannot but discomfit us. Maybe they imagined the defects in their plans and thought that they could alter them at some point of execution without necessarily giving aesthetic thoughts to differences in impulses of conception and in those of construction that would lead to the realization of the objects that were expected to come to fruition. Good thoughts and good intentions also miscarry and are always miscarried. They always abort themselves and are always aborted by circumstances and by untoward events.
In this time of coronavirus our political leaders at the federal level especially can please themselves with their own pictures and impressions of the people, the personnel and characters that they are relying on to help wrest and wrench our country and suffering compatriots from the clutches of the one-woman Mafia called Corona the Virus of Wuhan. Our federal political leaders can as well please themselves with their own emotions relating to what they have put in place and are putting in place, but they will always be disappointed at the attitude of the majority of our compatriots who will always diabolize the intentions and activities of the central political leaders. As a matter of fact, since the beginning of our confinement which is witnessing a new transformation, many, many Nigerians from our different geographical, geo-economic, geo-business, geo-medical and geo-political regions, have little or no faith at all in the federal government. They are rejecting what they perceive as the federal government’s political diablerie.
Was it not the federal government that allowed Corona the Witch to jet into our country’s space? Was it not the federal government that created the tragic disturbances everywhere about us now? Was it not the federal government that allowed the big men and big women in its circle and employment to import the horror that is as many as many imaginable horrors to us? And all the big, big monies the federal government’s disturbances and horrors have generated, what has become of them? What percentage of the monies has gone into rehabilitating the injured psyches of the people, including the security personnel, the policemen at the borders of all our states that must obey the presidential law banning inter-states travels until further notice? If we are allowed to accept certain remarks coming from the borders, or better put, coming from some of the borders, we must believe that the new or temporary “law” is merely permitting the policemen manning the borders to be enriching themselves through vast accumulations of corona wealth. The coronavirus policemen – if you will give me the permission to so label them – see and accept the inter-states ban as an opportunity of a good professional time to equip, roof and protect their huge corrupt impulses and appetites. They claim to those who they let into the respective states that no palliative will ever come to them at the borders. From dawn to dusk and beyond, and in the rain or under the sun, anytime of the day, they would remain at the check-points hungry and worn-out. Were they the introducers of corona to our people? Coronavirus or no coronavirus, “man must wack,” “olokpa must chop.” “Pandemik or no pandemik, throw and pass. Touch the palm and pass.” “Abuja deychop. We too go chop here. Kano man want fifteen billions. Na awa Abuja be dis. Na awa Kano be this. If I nor fit build three houses now, before I retire, I be mumu, big mumu, proper mumu.” Different border policemen uttered these words to different passengers and their drivers who were only too glad to be allowed to do their inter-state(s) travels after paying the prescribed bribes of at times three to five thousand naira per trip. The travellers, passengers, humourously styled corona travellers and passengers, collectively pay the coronavirus collections. Those who travel in the day-time pay more because it is riskier and more daring to slip into one state from another in the glare of day-light. Like the coronavirus policemen, the transporters and passengers – who are popularly known as coronavirus drivers and coronavirus passengers respectively, as already indicated – play down the harm they are doing to our country and themselves. One public transport driver I accosted accidentally, as we maintained physical distancing, told me bluntly: “You be big man.
Na you and Abuja dey chop our money. Wey di palliawetin una don give me? Make me, my pickin, my wife die for hunger? Ebetter make corona kill us o. For we to die for hunger na bad thing, na curse. If we die for corona nobody go laugh us. Abi you nor say hunger na poverty and poverty na curse wey big pass corona”? I was going to interrupt him. He denied me the chance. He zoomed off, but not before yelling thus: “Big man, see your shining body for your fine body. Fine man, corona nor go kill you. Hunger won’t kill you. But tell Buhari say we dey die-o!”But I managed to holler: ‘’Coronavirus is real!’’Another man replied me instead: ‘’Hunger is real!’’
How did I really meet the public transport driver – and the other man? And where did we meet? We met at a gas-station at about 5:30 p.m. The driver, who clearly cannot be called a stark illiterate, was filling the tank of his Toyota bus to the brim in readiness for his inter-state journey that night when we got talking. The next day in the afternoon not too far from curfew-time, I went to one of the borders – forget where – to interact, as a busy-body columnist, with some border policemen who moved me with their arid cleverness. Nigeria is in trouble. Our country is up to the hilt in trouble. You better believe me. But may I be proved wrong. In any case, whether I am proved wrong or not our country is a strange place, a strange place that is far, far stranger than fiction. You better believe me.