Nigerians are trying to survive in the best way that they can find and this might involve selling bits and pieces of themselves. It does not matter where we are; standing on Allen Avenue, with skirts shorter than the bridge between guilt and innocence, and shirts that do not need shoulders to stand firm, offering virtue at affordable prices, taking a peek at cars along Ikeja, or whether you are sitting in the only sofa in your home, typing through a fake foreigner’s profile account that you have created, peddling your innocence in order to escape a ghetto where dreams are killed. Or even those who are in the office where the sound of keyboards and phones that never stop singing are the ringtones your ears have wedded.
You still type in fake numbers and hide your guilt behind the shredded patch in your dustbin. Even the market woman, inflating prices so she can swallow the burden of her children’s responsibility is not left out of the equation or the people of faith who have orchestrated a new fate for themselves because they cannot afford not being able to afford it. For where a society’s development is ignored, morality will remain unchecked, what is morality in Nigeria and who defines it? Fortunately for us, the Nigerian economic and social situation does not require heavy funding from the FBI or the CIA to root out the source of the nation’s predicament. It is the only similarity that the managing director of a firm in Banana Island and a film pirate engineer in Alaba have in common: a bullying government. Every day, when we go out, we see various shades of people trying to survive even at the expense of their humanity. In 1959, the fascination of every youth was an educational qualification because of the assurance of employment that is guaranteed and the prestige that it brought. Back then, a minimum wage could crack the equation to defying hunger.
But today, chivalry is dead, and everyone is after heavy pockets rather than a double Ph.D. I do not think it is because we pick ignorance over wealth, it’s only because the means to survive in Nigeria does not require the four walls of a learning institution. In a country where the minimum wage cannot afford a meal for a month, people are quick not to keep num at the state of things, In a country where the new generations are blinded by the responsibilities of the failure of the past generations, one can be bullied into a new line of thoughts because of such responsibilities and peer pressure is basically a trigger to the ticking time bomb of compromise in these situations. And so, when we know how similar we all are, when then do we judge others for living differently than us? If there was a pyramid for the standard of living in Nigeria, even people in the low category will still try to climb their way into believing that they are higher than others.
For today, this is where my compromise begins, why do we judge others if we understand that Nigeria is a hard place to live in, a poisonous mix of negativity and pessimism thrives in the air and it is getting more difficult to breathe in Lagos because of the influx of immigrant and dream seekers coming here to relive their cats out of the bag of unanswered questions. Why are we so obsessed with little differences? Why do Protestants scowl at Catholics, and Politicians bedevil fraudsters? The feminist on Twitter has all the bullets for the housewife at home, keeping her legs and thoughts to her husband’s because her pockets do not run deep. Lecturers are offering students a forty-four-unit free load of depression per semester; Igbos still believe that the Yoruba are stubborn oil ring stains on the table of Nigeria’s unity and we take long judging looks at Fulani Almajiris whenever we see them begging on the sidewalks. And all the waves of anger that should be poured at our government are instead, redirected by us to us and for unknown reasons, we find more gratitude in shaming each other instead. Broke-shame, Fat-shame, Homo-shame, Wife-shame, Husband-shame, sons and-daughter-shame.
It’s why Nigerian’s gamble on blame, dancing fingers between the victims and the dead. For the same reason, we inhale Chidinma Ojukwu’s story with a pinch of doubt and judgment. If you live in a university environment like me, then you are no stranger to the range of Rangerovers that drive in at night and park around female hostels to pack ladies into the night. Often, some of them are the privileged students trying to inspire (Bully) the poor students who are still trekking around with their lovers and crushes and biting cheap chews in open locations around the school, and there are the others, often in their fifties and seventies. They never leave their cars; with their phones, they make some inaudible conversations and drive off immediately after the female or male student has crept into the car.
And if you are a student at the University of Lagos, like me, then you recognize the spot around campus where the spot-takes place and the students don’t really spot through these areas because they are trying to avoid getting spotted in compromising positions.
But this is a vivid dating system in the university environment, men with wives microwaving their untouched dinners, and fathers who recently attended their grandchildren’s naming celebrations, drive around the school to pick up ladies who should be curled up in their bed reading or bedridden because of the stress of reading, but instead we have a bandwagon of women, compromising to survive. And I do not blame them, maybe this is because I do not share the sentiment about opinions that people make for themselves, but I understand that Life is hard, and people make difficult choices to survive. From the orphans who are stranded in school, to the daughters who are growing a quick hunchback because they are carrying the burden of their family’s breakfast on their shoulders, to the lady who is growing tired of failing because she does not want the lecturer to score in her what he doesn’t want to score on her examination sheet.
Nigeria is responsible for a system of individuals and organizations that are dedicated to objectifying and sexualizing women. A system that grabs their ankles and breast whenever they decide to climb the social ladder. And so, I do not judge a lady who decides to breathe in the airconditioned car of an older man that will guarantee her the pockets to walk well, work well, or the recommendations to scale higher up the ladder of her career. rather than the heated long walks and therapeutic conversation with a younger person that often leads nowhere other than fleeting reprieve. How many chidinma’s have been killed by men and how many men have died in the hands of chidinma’s. People are quick to metaphorize the lady who stabbed a man with a wife and a child, and people have even pitied Usifo because his forceful attempt to sleep with a lady younger than half his age is hidden under the high libido that he possessed. Jokes have been said, sarcasm has been combated.
Everything except the steps to take so twenty-year-old women would not be quick to follow fifty-one-year-old men for sex. Everything has been said except how the increase in the cost of living in Nigeria affects students within the four walls of the university as well as if affects people outside the walls. Everybody has been shamed except the men breaking marital vows and taking advantage of student in the university. Chidinma has been apprehended but the search party that was dispersed to find the voices of the women killed during a domestic abuse incident has still not been found. These women have names, and before they became ‘whores’ of society, they were somebody’s daughters, sisters, and dreams. We might cloud under the stereotypes that women are materialistic and they are quick to sell themselves to the highest bidders as long as their virtue will guarantee them a roof over their heads. But at what point do we realize that we are all slowly becoming chidinma’s, compromising to survive, stealing bits to keep our intestines from slipping down our guts.
Nigerians are slowly unbuttoning the sleeves of their morality, running towards the shade of a future that money trees can guarantee them. In clubs and churches, we celebrate the best givers. In universities and interviews, we offer the same disappointment. Nigeria is turning her citizens into murderers. Some will use words; some will use kisses. But at some point, Nigeria will drive us so crazy, that more than compromise, we will become the worst version of ourselves, and desperation might become depression that will turn into bullets or a double sharp-edged sword. For where a society’s development is ignored, morality will remain unchecked, what becomes moral in Nigeria and who defines it?