Weekend Arena - In Nigeria You Need Connection Or Corruption To Survive...


For those brimming with optimism about a change in our system from the youths, the story of Fatai Salami and Mohammed Bouazizi should strum a comparative chord. Both deceased, Fatai Salami, was a Nigerian from Ogun State, while Mohammed Bouazizi was a Tunisian.


In December 2010, Bouzazizi, a street vendor in a Tunisian city, fed up with the vicissitudes of life, occasioned by an inept government, which neither provided for him, nor protected him, protested against the oppressive system. He set himself on fire in front of his governor’s office over the seizure of his wares by corrupt state officials.


 The state officials were always exploiting him, demanding bribes in spite of his lean income from a tasking hustle. This incident resonated amongst the youths of Tunisia, prompting a new consciousness about social issues eating them up as a people: unemployment, human rights violation, inflation, political corruption, kleptocracy, poverty.

This catalysed what is today known by historians as the ‘Jasmine Revolution’; it not only led to the fall of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian President at the time, but also snowballed into Egypt, setting the stage for the ouster of Hosni Mubarak and other leaders in the neighbouring countries of the Middle East in what later became the ‘Arab Spring’.


History is fond of repeating itself… somehow.


Last week in Ogun State, Nigeria, Fatai Salami, a fleet manager in a trucking company had one of his trucks seized by state authorities, TRACE, for violating the COVID-19 rules on the use of face masks and social distancing. This allegedly attracted a fine of N215k (in a country with a national minimum wage of 30k a month) out of which Salami, after four days, was able to raise N150k, following the threats by his employer to fire him if he failed to regain control of the truck. For days, Salami slept at the premises of the agency with the hope that the truck would be released to him to no avail.


Reports revealed that he got so frustrated that he threatened to take his life over the issue, but this warning was ignored until he took out a bottle of Sniper, an insecticide and emptied it in his mouth, leading to his death.


The spokesman of the agency,confirmed the death of Salami with a hint that life was not sacred in Nigeria from his apathetic response: “The man was neither a truck driver nor a truck owner. We only saw him there, he sat on the floor and the people asked him to stand up and as he stood up he brought out something from his pocket and drank it. We later discovered that it was Sniper that he drank. He was rushed to the General Hospital, where he gave up the ghost. The case has been reported to the police.”


While Mohammed Bouzazizi’s case enraged the Tunisian youths, Salami’s to the Nigerian youths, was just his business; everyone has carried on as if nothing happened. As far as Nigerians are concerned, it is Salami’s cup of tea, yet some of us, get subjected to the same kinds of indignations that Salami suffered.



Of course, they have called the Nigerian youths ‘lazy’, and know very well that the only place they fight effectively is on the social media, when it has to do with comparing the jollof rice cooked in Lagos and Accra; or when it has to do with debates about housemates in ‘Big Brother Africa’ and ‘Big Sister Nigeria’.

They know the youths are consumed with the utopian dreams of becoming overnight billionaires from sports betting with which they would dazzle on Instagram.


In reality, this false hope is not unfounded; it has made Nigerians one of the most docile people in the world. Everyone believes tomorrow will be better. The mosques, the churches preach it and the events around them prove it. They see fellow citizens who could not afford to feed themselves yesterday, becoming millionaires the next day due to a political office or contract or some kind of sham.


Once in Abia State, a woman selling fish in the local market by virtue of her position as the women’s leader in the Local Government got announced as the Caretaker Chairman of the Local Government Council and after a ten month stint in office, which was run by proxy through her son (who had the privilege of a school certificate unlike the mother) she became a millionaire with houses where she never dreamt of. So who says the God of Nigerians is not a God that makes the impossible possible? With the hope of ‘picking a white man’s bag’ tomorrow, how do you expect anyone to worry about Salami?


In spite of the uproar about the massive fraud perpetrated at the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, which the various militant groups have kept mute about, ‘everyone’ is also silently wishing he was at the centre of the cake, so he could have a bite of the largesse, which Budg-IT puts at N15tr since 2000. Forget the hypocrisy in Nigeria; it is corruption when one is not involved and connection, when one gets a bite.

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