I believe the change we so desperately seek in Nigeria will not be served until we start asking questions. Asking the right people the right and open ended questions. Questions like, why, what, where, when and how? Why is very more like it and in my opinion, most important.
Two weeks ago, I was at the registry to legalize my union with my wife and although it was on a Wednesday (because we were informed Thursdays are mostly crowded and expensive.) it was still crazily packed. Typical of me, I started asking questions. Why Ikoyi Registry? Why can’t I just get it over with in Surulere where I’m from and go back to my house in peace? Mum and few other people said people use Ikoyi because it’s the only internationally recognized registry in Nigeria. My jaw dropped. In case you’ve not been to ikoyi registry, let me give you a short description.
Ikoyi registry is an obstinate building that lacks the capacity to house the number of people it houses by any standard. Very old. Lack of adequate ventilation. No ACs. Poor illumination and no clear waiting list. Worst of all, nothing in Ikoyi registry is digital. None of the forms were filled online or computerized. Everything is on paper and filed for record purposes on a very old dusty-rusty shelf. God forbid, in case of fire, all the files would be destroyed in split seconds and all records gone. To think this is the only internationally recognized registry in Nigeria is shameful and I think that building and the registry has outlived it’s purpose. There is need for a complete renovation and overhaul of staffs.
Talking about staffs, everyone you meet and for every signature, you have to pay. Payment that has no records whatsoever. I paid the first woman and asked for a receipt, she gave me this ‘dey there’ look and I understood immediately. The next guy asked me to ‘bless this table’, I can’t really say how I got away with him but I did. Thankfully, he didn’t force me. He directed me to a room and I saw the worst thing ever in the history of incompetence from civil servants.
First of all, they were all dressed casually. Everyone wore slippers. Eating on the same table where people’s file were kept, never minding if the form gets soiled or not. One was sleeping. The other one was chewing gum so annoyingly and loudly. The only available woman in the room, the one that was supposed to attend to us, was on a call. She took another five minutes to realize we were waiting on her so she gestured towards us to sit and we did. She won’t end the call until ten minutes later and when she did one of her colleagues came to have a chit chat that lasted another five to ten minutes. By now, if you know me, you can imagine my rage already but I kept my cool. Everyone says it’s a day of joy and I shouldn’t let anyone destroy it.
Eventually she remembered us and guided us through a form that me and my wife both filled. Afterwards, she told us with the highest confidence that I’ve seen to ‘wash’ it for her. ‘Wash’ is a way Yoruba people ask you to give them money when you’re celebrating an achievement. You’re not compelled. It’s freewill and you may decide to give or not. Before I decide on whether to give her something or not (honestly, I wasn’t going to give her a dime because I didn’t think she deserves it), I tried to take this document and scan through when she snapped and snatched it from me. She told me I’m acting smart and all and that was when I started my questions. Questions that got my wife so embarrassed and she said why am I the only one different among other couples? She’s an enabler and she doesn’t know. She was vexed and tried to pay the woman from her pocket but by this time the official we so embarrassed she couldn’t collect it. She threatened to minute something on the wedding certificate and I dared her to do so! ‘Shebi you too have children’ I blackmailed her.
Outside the building, while we were waiting to get called into the next room, rain started. My family had rented chairs and were all seated. We spotted a shade and everyone took their seats to hide from the rain when another woman who obviously has masters in harassing people, showed up and started shouting at us to leave the shade. Again, I asked, why? The magical thing about asking why is you easily know If there are any justifiable reasons for those absurd instructions. You know if some stupid persons just assume power and decide to use it however they please. Of course, she wouldn’t answer and my family stayed under the shade but after plenty shoutings!
Now, assuming the brides are carried away by the euphoria of the moment, imagine every single groom (We were number 65 and still had a lot of people behind us) asked the same question I asked. A simple ‘why?’ Imagine we all stood our ground and never rewarded incompetence with one thousand Naira we consider inconsequential because it’s our day of joy. I think Kanye was really foolish to make slavery look like a choice but in Nigeria, our hardship is actually our own making because we don’t ask the right questions.
Someone asks you to vote for him, ask why.
Government increases pump price, ask why.
School increases tuition, ask why.
You’re the next in line on a queue but the waiter for whatever reasons attends to the person that just came, ask why.
Today, wherever you go, whatever policy or instructions you find difficult to understand, ask why. It does the magic. Every time!