Though he could now be said to be a Londoner of some sort, he hasn’t yet gotten over his amazement at the British maintenance culture. He’s never yet come across a broken window or a bad door in any of the London buses on his way to school, unlike what is obtainable in Nigeria where bus doors routinely fall on the roads once the bus is violently jerked on the many bad roads, even in Nigeria’s “center of excellence”, Lagos. The irony is that former Governor Babatunde Fashola, a fan of the “unbroken windows theory” and “beautiful environment” proponent could not see the impact of broken windows and the aesthetic disaster that big buses that are disfigured pose to his beautification policy, enough to push for such to no longer be associated with Lagos, for the eight years he held sway as governor in Lagos. A classmate of his, in medical school had once shared his experience coming back into school on a rainy day. He’d rushed to board a kombi bus from Ilasa (on the Oshodi-Mile 2 corridor in Lagos) to Idi-Araba, where the College of Medicine, of the University of Lagos is located, just in time before the skies let out their liquid content, only to find out that the roof of the bus atop his head was more like a basket, such that for the fifteen minutes he was in the bus, he was completely drenched that he regretted the decision over just finding shade till the rain subsided.
There are dustbins in most places, such that there’s no need to litter, something that each time it was tried in Nigeria’s big cities always ended up been an eyesore, most times because waste disposal remains a challenge. In Imo State, the governor allowed a refuse bin in the middle of Douglas Road in Owerri, the state capital, to become a mountain of refuse, because he was angry
with the people, till members of the opposition representing Owerri in parliament organized to have the refuse cleared. Public toilets are also ubiquitous in London, and one is spared the sight of men and women doing “their thing” on the sides of the road, by open drainages (gutters), beside parked/abandoned vehicles, trees, sometimes even in the median of roads, besides one can walk into any building and ask for the rest room and would be obliged unlike in Nigeria, where even in cities some houses, though not in the highbrow parts do not have these conveniences.
Back in medical school in Nigeria, some lectures were dull but tolerable especially when beautiful female lecturers were handling them, but the class he found himself in one morning was intolerable, the female Caucasian lecturer’s voice wasn’t lively, just a dull monotone drone that left him somnolent just a few minutes into the start of her lecture. He allowed the distraction her physique provided and the thought it brought to his mind to ride roughshod over him, better that than having to intermittently nod off while the lecture lasted, it was one of those days he wished he was bespectacled, and could easily lay back on his seat eyes closed, and wander off to anywhere in dreamland of his choice. The lecturer reminded him of the dorsoventrally flattened creatures of biology and microbiology, it wasn’t the kind of figure one would mostly associate with Africans, as with the Caucasians. It was no wonder that going for “boob jobs” and “butt enhancements” were a thing in Europe or amongst whites generally than is a concern of most African females, and that’s not forgetting “lip augmentation” seeing that he’d come across many whose lips are but a horizontal line in the lower third of the face. Surely, the days are gone when African females captured and brought into white societies as slaves were paraded and exhibited for their unusual anatomy, notably for their massiveness in the buttock and bosom areas; now the ideal it appears is the variant in Kim Kardashian for the schmaltzy whites who can afford it. The one time he was privileged to see a rarity on campus, swinging hips right in front of him by a female Caucasian no less, he savoured the moment for a while before making a detour.
He should’ve known that he’d gain nothing from the lecture of that day, but having nothing else planned it was best he stuck it out. Though classes were important to him, what mattered most was the time he devoted to reading lecture materials afterwards. So while the lecture dragged on, he cast his mind back to the church he attended over the weekend. The cathedrals seemed more to be about mammon than God, of tourism than of and for spirituality, though he’d found a “prayer wall” filled with prayers by the side. Quite a number came to church on that Sunday, but it lacked the “spirituality” (or the pretence to it) that most African churches exude.
Away from the church, he’d found most Londoners and Europeans to be atheists. He presumed that people in the west could afford to be atheist because of how their society is structured. When one lives in societies where trains move on time, and everything is available, when one applies for something and gets it, when one tries a business and things work out, then one can afford to be an atheist, and rationalist. Unlike Africa(ns), and particularly Nigeria(ns) that he’s quite conversant with, what western nations have done in his estimation is to separate what they can do, and go ahead to do it, and not leave it to some Supreme Being or Almighty. Africans have taken religion to a superstitious level, just like their traditional religions before the advent of Islam and Christianity. For him it is quite plain, and much depends on how one sees his god, either as an excuse or insurance. Excuse says, ‘I can’t because God says so’, while insurance says, ‘I would go so far and any mistake, grace covers’. Interestingly, he has found and therefore thinks that Africans exhibit both attitudes in relation to God, especially applying the “grace” to corruption and stealing and other terrible things they (politicians in power) do in governance (as with every day life), which directly and indirectly affects negatively the populace.
For him, religion and relationship with God is about risk taking, his interpretation of the bible is more like, “here’s River Jordan, dip your feet into the river and the waters would recede for you”. That’s the way he sees it, all about risk taking, Paul in the New Testament was all about the many places he failed, David and the likes. Does the book of Proverbs not contain numerous advice on and about industry? And how one should never be afraid to muddy one’s hands, and so on? He has found that when it comes to good, Africans tend to move in fear, but when it comes to evil they move in fearlessly. For instance, parents don’t want their children swimming because of the fear that sea spirits would cause their children to drown, but they have no problem procuring “answers” for them to cheat in exams, or influencing their mandatory National Youth Service Corps, NYSC Program posting to areas they consider favorable and safe, or closer to them, against the tenet and idea of the program, the intent of which is to post them to distant parts of Nigeria with a culture alien to that with which they were conversant and grew up with, the aim been to make Nigerians appreciate diversity in order to boost unity and cohesion. The foregoing also explains why it is that in Africa, again in Nigeria in particular, it is mostly the children of the poor who usually participate in sports, especially contact sports, and they excel because neither they, nor their parents have nothing to lose, while the middle and upper class tend to shelter their kids from the “vagaries” of sports.
Another area he feels that Africans keep getting it wrong is in the area of commemoration. London’s edifices and environment is filled with them, whereas in Nigeria it appears there’s concerted effort to de-commemorate events, including those of international renown. Only very few Nigerians for instance know that the latex test for meningitis was developed in Nigeria, because there’s nothing, not even a plaque, anywhere except you’d gone to medical school like him to know. Even in things like real estate there’s no respect for history in Nigeria, he observed in utter amazement how in central London a building that will serve as Bloomberg’s European headquarters had work stopped at the foundation level, because a Roman temple was discovered during excavation
of the site with writing tablets and leather goods among the artefacts unearthed from the archeological site, with the construction now modified from the original design to accommodate a museum (according to builders, Forster + Partners) in a double height basement below the building where the ancient shrine will be replaced. The contrary is norm in Nigeria, where when people or government buys or acquires a building or “sacred” piece of land, rather than preserve it’s historical significance, even while going ahead to construct whatever it is that must be constructed, the usual thing that’s done is to demolish and level out the land, without any iota of respect for what is now lost. An unfortunate situation that is a metaphor for governance as well, in Nigeria.