Laws are a vital part of society. Without the rule of law, and the respect for it, society becomes a free for all – a wild west country with people usurping each other’s rights, and people converting their neighbors properties. No one would be safe, and there would be psychos strapping C4s and dynamites to themselves and going on murdering sprees blowing innocent people to bits, and greedy Gregs misappropriating public funds. Sounds familiar? Happens already? Nigeria much?
Well most people would complain that we have a lame-duck government. Some would hiss if you said that the government is there to serve the people. This same people swear that our country is a lawless nation with the characteristics of Mad Max country. The truth is that laws have been formulated since time memorial, and if people followed them, things would be much different. Someone once told me, that Nigerians do not break the law, they just bend it, till it becomes their intended. Splendid.
I prefer to look at the following laws recently passed by the various levels of government, and say my fair bit. Enjoy:
- A Tenancy Law has been passed by the Lagos State Legislature banning 2 years rent. Why this hasn’t been done since is beyond me, but it is a welcome development. Landlords of face me I face you tenements demand 3 years rent at a go, and disappear into thin air without ever doing anything to improve or maintain the structure of the lettings.
When I was in college (sounds better than University), there was these fuji landlord who let out a house which had not even been plastered! It was just a structure of blocks and rods, and barely had any electrical fittings. Students were desperate for accommodation, and rushed in droves. The landlord collected security deposits as well as one years’ rents from each tenant, and then took all the time in completing the house one plaster of cement at a time. The house didn’t have doors or windows, so it looked like Pan’s Labyrinth. The tenants saw the landlord driving past in a newer model Toyota Camry, and he did as if it wasn’t him who owned the building. When they tried to approach him, to come and finish the house up, he got very aggressive and evasive.
- Spring Bank, Afribank and Bank PHB went down under some weeks ago. Despite all the CBN’s rhetoric and theories, one thing is sure – people will be out of jobs, and customers may lose out. The CBN’s plan is to transfer asset, debts and liabilities of each institution to a bridge bank to administer in the interim.
This may work out but most stakeholders have adopted a siddon-look stance. My father lost millions in life savings in the mid -90s when one of the quack banks of the time went bust.
It was us kids and those who relied on him for upkeep who suffered. And boy were we many. Nigeria has that umbrella effect, especially Igbos. If your father came upon hard times, it wasn’t just his nuclear family that suffered socio-economic hardship. You had cousins who even cried more than the bereaved, and villagers who drank panadol for your family sickness.
In my house, things changed overnight. Meals were the most affected. We used to have 1-1-1-1. Which is a nice breakie, a huge sumptuous lunch, a mid-day snack and then a light dinner. Then it became 1-1-0. Then 0-1-0 finally. No wonder some people do 4-1-9 to survive. From Satis beef sausages and hot rolls from Big Treat for breakfast to akamu (pap) without milk and plenty lumps in it at 11am. We became vegetarians involuntarily – rice without meat. Have you had stew without tomato or a sandwich without bread? Well I did. The infamous food of champions, Benji (beans and yam in Igbo) became a staple in our house. If I was lucky and had spare change, I could upgrade to Benjamin (beans, yam and mineral). Glory be to God, none of us dropped out of school due to fees. One day I would talk about this phase of my life more in detail. Stay tuned, or buy the book when it is up for sale.
My cousins were worse for it since they depended on me dad for their upkeep. They used to add water to egg whites and whisk the mixture so that it could go round a family of 4. The whole family shared a bedroom to cut costs. One night while they were asleep, Arinze one of the kids felt someone tugging on him. He thought it was his brother Emmanuel, so he said ‘Emma, please leave me alone, I want to sleep. I am tired.”
Emma replied ‘It is not me o.”
Arinze opened his eyes and saw a huge rat (rabbit) chewing on his fingers. He had gone to bed after eating a dinner of fufu, without washing his hands. The rat had also given him a Tyson hair-cut. It had eaten lumps out of his hair.
Nigeria, eh! Please let us join the B.A.N.K.S (Banks Are Not Kind SMT) movement to save our economy and jobs.
- Still on the Lagos State government, I heard something about a proposed Lagos State Ban on flogging which would make it unlawful for parents or teachers to discipline their kids, with a 3 year sentence if found guilty. I know some people who would be doing 25 to Life if that law were passed years back. I mean there are parents who seem to get a kick out of disciplining or chastising their kids in public. Back in Form 1 (JSS 1) in secondary school, it was the final day of a term, and parents were waiting near the school gates to collect their children who were boarders.
As I managed to escape the attentions of a prefect in my dorm who wanted to send me on an errand, I packed my box and dashed to the gate area. Ah, alas utopia – there was my old earth (mum) waiting to take me home. As I dragged my box to where she was standing, another student a fellow JSS 1 student, a really scruffy dude called Gozie was pulling his own belongings – in a wee Jimtex travelling bag. His father had come to get him and was looking irritated when he spotted him (Gozie).
Mother hugged me, and we were about to leave when Papa Gozie started laying into Gozie.
As he was abusing Gozie, he was looking at my mother as if to report his erring son: “This idiot boy is always in the habit of misplacing all his belongings in the boarding house? All he has left is a 2 shirts, his books, and the clothes on his back, all packed into this travelling bag. What have I not done? I even labeled all his things with his name including his uniform and boarding wear. He has lost his mattress, his bucket, his soap dish, his school uniform, some of his textbooks, his iron, his cutlery, but unfortunately he has not lost his head…” and Papa Gozie slapped Gozie venomously on his head as he said the last bit. Gozie (Headmaster was his nickname) did have a massive head that would put Timaya and Noble to shame but that was beside the point. The sound of the slap echoed around the school, and people turned to look.
I and my mum opened our mouths in disbelief. It wasn’t like my mum was a saint. It was just that she did her flogging in private. In fact my mum didn’t always have to flog me or anyone of my siblings. Sometimes she would throw her Jaguar slippers at you if you tried to escape punishment. Anybody who grew up in the 80s would know Jaguar slippers – the shoe of choice won by most Nigerian women. It looked like a cross breed between a Scholl and a Mary Jane pump, and came in all sorts of colors including blood red.
My mum’s own was like a boomerang when she threw it. You would run away from the room as you tried to escape, and bolt down the corridor, and turn left into your room, and the Jaguar slippers will make a left and right turn, and hit you. That should be child abuse now, abi? Then it was discipline and I have turned out okay. Yeah, I was flogged and disciplined as a child, and I turned out alright. I am not dysfunctional or bi-polar as some child psychologists would have you believe about recipients of corporal punishment. Balance is key, of course.
- I am sure some of you would have heard of a recent Lagos law that if you get a lady preggers and abandon her, you would go to jail. There was an uproar when this law was first announced as critics feel that it is a moral issue which the law should have no part of. Proponents of the law have argued that the law is there to checkmate irresponsible behavior by those who would want to take advantage of young women. While the law itself aims to do too much in my opinion, I am all for any law that prevents the wanton exploitation of innocent girls.
I mean there are dirty agbaya men in Nigeria who make passes at orange or groundnut hawkers, sometimes even in their early teens by making this sexual innuendo –laced indecent proposal “ If you agree for me, I go buy all your gra-nut but I no go collect any.”
Or “how much na this your 2 oranges”, as the pervy imp looks down from the tray of oranges to the teen hawker’s cleavage. Imprison them all, I say.
As regards the pregnancy law, trust me the rich and powerful in our society have more to fear as they are ones sowing their wild oats about. On the flipside this may be a lucrative time to be a D & C (abortion) doctor, as this is what this law may promote.
I remember when I was in secondary school, there was this kid whose mum was one of the concubines of a very popular billionaire politician, so the kid took the politicians surname. This politician had fathered children all over the place, but he still provided for his concubines and mistresses and their kids even if they lived all over the country The man must have had over 30 children.
For Inter-house sports Day, the politician was asked to chair the event, and arrived with his huge entourage. The kid escaped the attentions of the security detail, and ran up to the politician greeting “Daddy! Daddy, good afternoon.”
The politician drew back from his embrace, rather embarrassed and confused as he failed to recognize the kid. He whispered as he inquired “Eh, which one is your mummy again?”
Live like the Kennedy’s, above the law/
Big Pun (Boomerang, 1998)