Convenience – Life without difficulties
It all started with Alaba also known as Child-Wiser-Than-Parents. He asked Mr. Dafida Trouble if he remembered the story about the doctor who had never left Nigeria, who had never found the need to check out of the country. Of course Trouble remembered. He had never forgotten the reason the man gave. He had said that Nigeria “gba mi laye” literally Nigeria “affords me space”. No day passes without Trouble ruminating on that phrase. What did the doctor mean? That Nigeria allows him to do whatever he likes? But everybody in his class complains that they feel restricted in Nigeria, that they cannot enjoy their money in Nigeria.
Do not worry any more, said Alaba. I know and understand what the stayee doctor means. In fact, the man could simply have said in English that Nigeria provides him with “Convenience”, “Convenience” with capital “C.” “Convenience” is the reason for the best of Nigeria. And “Convenience” is also the reason for the worst of Nigeria.
All human beings want things done easily, quickly, conveniently. Our personal policy as humans is ‘easier better, easiest best’. It begins with labour-saving devices such as slaves, whom we don’t have to pay, we don’t have to feed well or often, who save us the rigours of physical labour. We also have labour saving household devices such as washing machines, freezers, microwaves. And very soon robots to do everything. According to Tim Wu, professor of Law at Columbia University, Convenience has taken over our lives. He says in a recent essay: “Convenience is all destination and no journey.” We have become addicted to what a dictionary calls “an easy and effortless way of life.” The trajectory of such a life is one of meaninglessness of life, a life devoid of human experience, a life we then fill with hobbies, charity work and long spells in gyms. At this stage the question then arises: “what happens to human experience when so many obstacles and impediments and requirements and preparations have been removed?”
At this point Alaba stops the flow of thought, insisting that the flow was going the way of normal societies, not the way of Nigeria. In normal societies the thought stream follows that there must be difficulties in life, there must be obstacles to overcome to make us human and to make us achieve. Nigeria, according to Alaba, is not normal. In fact, it is the abnormal that has been normalised. This is a place where “gbaranmi deleru” meaning that a one night stand becomes the basis for wedding preparations!
Convenience in Nigeria is when, as a cashier, so much money is passing through your hands and it is so convenient to keep some of it to yourself. It is when you are operating a point of sale machine and it is so easy to arrange for your own POS machine into which your employer’s money could go directly. Convenience it is for you to overtake a vehicle on the right which has stopped for a moment. And for another vehicle to overtake the same vehicle on the left. And before you know it, there are now three lanes where there was only one before. In front there is gridlock. Those coming cannot come and you going, you cannot go. And there is no ‘law and order’ to unlock the grid.
While Convenience links to the value of human experience in normal societies, in Nigeria Convenience links to answered prayers, miracle performances and magical incantations. The old magic formula of KUNFAYAKUN – BEANDITIS!
The greatest and most wished for convenience is material convenience. Money is the greatest convenience and it is money that we want by prayers, by miracles, by the magic of be and it is.
Convenience is the excuse for all the criminalities of Nigeria. You are in charge of contract worth million million naira. It is convenient to award some to friends, then to award some to family and finally to award some to yourself. You are in charge of birthing babies and it is so convenient to give one to that lady who has been married for ten years without conceiving. Or even set up a place to produce babies for sale. Who can make it inconvenient for you?
Convenient because it is inconvenient to go through the rigours, the difficulties and the processes of saving to make money, getting treated to conceive and give birth. It is difficult to count somebody else’s money all day long without wishing that some of it ends in our pockets. To be ethical is inconvenient. To be truthful, diligent in our duties is inconvenient.
In normal societies, there are persons and institutions which aid and support us to bear the inconvenience, make possible for us to go against the obstacles that being truthful and law abiding push to us. These persons and institutions are there when we arrive at the end of our journey. They join us to celebrate our victory over difficulties, over impediments and boulders in our way to achieve justice and equity. In normal societies.
Here we celebrate Convenience. We dance and sing about the arrival of miracles. We compose poems about our magic solutions. The ease of convenience makes generation after generation commit the same criminal offences of stealing public money. It is not difficult to do. It is not inconvenient to steal public money. The persons – police, prosecutors, judges, prison officials – who should make it inconvenient, find it convenient not to do their jobs. The political leadership that should, by example, face difficulties in their lives and overcome them, do not live by example. The religious leadership that should preach the advantages of an ethical life here on earth to gain eternal rest in the life after, have changed to preaching Convenience here on earth. Forget about a life of thrift and self-denial, a life of helping others. How, Convenience wants to know, how can you help others when you yourself need help?
And the institutions of justice and fair play, where are they? The institutions that give respite to the desperate and the hopeless and the helpless, where are they to be found? Where are the churches and the mosques and the places of worship and consolation for our slaves, our household labour saving devices and our robots?
We see nothing, we learn zero between departure and arrival. No wonder we arrive empty handed, without any human experience.