Throughout the day, Chidi’s words continued to haunt me. Although I knew there were problems in my country, I looked at them as minor challenges in the process of National development. My father is an engineer in a multinational oil company that pays well, my mother is a senior accountant in an auditing firm. My parents built a house in Victoria Island where we lived. I went to expensive private nursery and primary schools run by rich companies. My secondary education was the same. I went to a boarding school, fully owned and managed by foreigners. I had escaped the horrors of the terrible Nigerian educational system. I met children from very wealthy families and other ones from families that were just as rich as mine. Due to my upbringing and non-exposure to the horrible side of my country, I had come to think of my family as the normal Nigerian family. Never did I know that my family was just one of the 30% that could be said to be living above poverty level.
When I first got to the University, my ideological basis was shaken. I saw students who were more miserable than I had ever imagined. I saw some of my friends like Chidi, struggling to pay our meagre school fees. I couldn’t understand it anytime Government increased the fees and students cried out. Throughout my childhood I had never felt special or privileged. I thought my life was the life of the average Nigerian kid. I never considered my parents rich because everybody around me was like me or even living better than me. Perhaps my parents had deliberately sent me to a federal government university so that I could see the true face of Nigeria. For the first time, I had to drive through some of the densest parts of the Lagos mainland from my home on the island to get to school at the beginning of the semester. On those rare times, I had a glimpse of the degradation and hopelessness that pervaded the land. Often I got stuck in a traffic jam before getting to school. I drove through shanties and ghettoes; landscapes so horrible in their ugly state that you wanted to cry for the people who live there. Yet you remember that they are people; men and women like you who have dreams, hopes and aspirations. They are not animals. I drove past kids hawking water in sachets while they were supposed to be in school. I witnessed police brutality and corruption; a man slapped repeatedly for about twenty times just because he did not have money to bribe one officer with ugly tribal marks on his face. Yet it was always the poor that were being victimized. I felt ashamed when they allowed my car go, seeing that I looked like someone whose parents would be connected to some powerful people and then stopped the driver of the ragged car behind me just because he looked like someone that could not muster the connection or resources to fight back. The police extort and brutalize the weakest people in the society. These were glaring realities in a city where some people live in mansions behind high walls, separating themselves from the misery outside. The elite rich have insulated themselves from the hardships imposed by their own irresponsible leadership. Many poor, like Chidi’s father are suffering because the government is making them pay for the greediness of the elite.
That day, after Chidi’s outburst, I went to the classroom and sat down staring at my book, but my mind was in tumult. I was pondering over the issues troubling my mind when I heard a solemn, feminine voice behind me.
“So the rich also feel sad.”
To be continued—