2015: Conversation With Usman

Posted: April 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

By Prince Charles Dickson

Laifi’n babba, rowa, laiii’n yaro, kiwuya. (The boy complains that his master is stingy, the master that his boy is lazy.)

Usman, that’s his name, he is responsible for the yam we eat in my house, we all call him mai doya (yam seller).

He doesn’t possess your typical classroom education, but he’s well versed in the yam business, the seasons, costs, and types of yam.

He’s equally a jolly good fellow, you wouldn’t know that he’s brother was killed by miscreants fighting for ‘god’ in one of those ethno-religious skirmishes.

We are both of different faith and educational status, but you can’t take away from Usman mai doya, the common sense that iya Yemisi who sells amala and Uche that we buy cooking gas from have in common. They all are aware and from them often I have picked life lessons regarding why the Nigerian conglomeration has refused to run fairly smooth.

So what was my conversation with Usman that I want to share with us. Recently after our yam transaction I asked Usman jokingly what he thought about the current administration and if he would vote GEJ come 2015, and indeed a few allied questions and his answers romped home the reality of the Nigerian state.

On voting Jonathan, Usman said to me “Oga Charlie, hmmmmmmm, do I really care, I am from Gombe, I am Fulani, Buhari stopped Shagari, IBB did me no good, Abacha wasn’t any better and Obasanjo just came like a wind and was gone, leaving us with Yar’adua. At least these ones I know very well sir…”

He continued “I dey think of school fees, house rent, money to send to village in Dukul for Gombe, no be when I survive today, I go plan for tomorrow. If business is good I plan for one week or a month. But politicians, they live on lies that’s why we never finish 2013 sef and they are killing themselves for 2015”.

I jokingly asked him but “Northerners don’t want Jonathan…”. He quickly asked me, “sir, have you refused to eat the yam I sell because I am Fulani?

To which I answered, no. He continued “…on most occasions the tubers come from Benue or the East. Sir, Northerners have failed the North, Ibos have failed Ibos, and Yorubas same thing too, minorities have failed, we have failed ourselves and he added, sir, to an extent nobody slaps you without your consent, we are our own problem”.

I nodded as he spoke–“Oga Charlie me I no go makaranta (school) but I understand small. This Boko Haram for example, is business for some, and though I want peace, did you notice that all the big men want amnesty now because the killings are affecting them”.

I listened as he gesticulated, inherently it is not a case of a people that hate each other but that of a people used by their politicians/leaders.

Usman continued, “all of them are liars, the North had power and did nothing other than steal for most of it, and today the South are doing same, sir, Jonathan has not done much because taba ta banbanta da gari’n gero meaning (Tobacco and the flour of millet are very different things)”.

He added and the ABC as he calls it instead of APC are the same difference. I smiled at his crude but native intelligence. Idan gora tana rawwah, ba chikka ne ba. (If the bottle is shaking it will not be filled). The problem is the Nigerian mind, it is unstable, Usman added.

To the ordinary man, its about the basics, not free things, but available things. Usman mai doya buys water, has a small ‘I pass my neighbor power generating set’. Add that to the quasi-private school his children go to, the money he pays on healthcare, yet he pays some tax to government and he still is a government on his own, having to provide security through payment of some sort to some vigilante.

Usman is my friend, he’s the yam seller but in a system like ours he’s easily open to manipulation by religion or faith. Some of us openly joke calling him Boko Haram and he jokes back, the bomb is with him. I am equally unable to defend him. But he’s no different for those that voted Jonathan and not PDP.

We are on a blame-game golf course while the architects of our un-palatial circumstances feed fat on us with our subtle approval.

Usman told me that in his small village in Dukul, the governor promised them pipe borne water, the local government caretaker chairman promised same and his councilor too.

The same pipe borne water was campaign promise of the Senator representing them and the house of rep man collected constituency grant for pipe borne water. The state legislator promised same. He then revealed his village is not so far from a big cement factory that also promised same but in 11 years no pipe, no borne and no water.

I then asked him, so what did you community do, to which he said I will tell you a short story.

Once upon a time in a village, a man appeared and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10.

The villagers seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them.

The man bought thousands at $10 and as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort. He
further announced that he would now buy at $20.

This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again.

Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer rate increased to $25 and the supply of monkeys became so little that it was an effort to even see a monkey, let alone catch it!

The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $100!

However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his servant would now buy on behalf of him. In the absence of the man, the servant told the villagers. Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at $75 and when the man returns from the city, you can sell it to him for$100 .”

The villagers squeezed up with all their savings and bought all the monkeys. After they did, they never saw the man nor his servant, only monkeys everywhere!

From Sokoto-Abeokuta, Onitsha-Minna, Jos-Uyo, Yola-Abakaliki, Ibadan-Dutse, the boy complains that his master is stingy, the master that his boy is lazy. These are the two faults which masters and servants respectively find most objectionable. It’s monkeys everywhere we go and we are talking 2015 when the men and their servants have left us the deficit–only time will tell.

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