A typical suya seller

By Austin Isikhuemen:


Leo, well done. That guy will never forget this positive reinforcement. Let me share my own story:

A friend and his family came to Benin from Yola for Xmas. They decided they would come and spend a night in my house. They were four in number. I had closed late from office, was in Guinness then, and went to pick them a bit late. As a bachelor, I didn’t have much at home and decided to buy ram suya (mutton kebab) from a mallam along Akpakpava road by Mouka Foam (now opposite GTbank). I had asked for sufficient suya for 5 of us and as the guy started to prepare it, I checked my pockets only to realize I had left my money back in the office at Ikpoba Hill and it was about 8 pm already.

I told him to stop as I had nothing on me. To my utmost surprise, he told me not to worry and that I should bring him the money the next evening! I had never met him before so I asked him why he would trust me to return the next day. He simply smiled and said he knew I would but that even if I didn’t life would go on for him! I was positively shocked, if there is any expression like that.

I wrote several reminders, including the one I stuck on my windshield, to make sure I didn’t forget to go there the next evening. I surprised him in turn by a bit of generosity and since then, I have never bought suya elsewhere in Benin City. Sometimes I just buy even when I don’t really need it and take it home. I have also introduced some friends to him and he knows my wife and kids. We don’t haggle with him. We just say, “give me 2k suya” and give him the money and he goes and prepares it. His good turn was done in Dec 1995. I still visit his shop any time I am in Benin. Your post has just reminded me to buy his Xmas present!

But, seriously, why can’t we have majority of Nigerians take “goodness” and morality and integrity and being your brothers’ keeper as core values knowing it will benefit all in the long run? Why do Southerners write off all Northerners and Northerners hold Southerners in suspicion? These testimonial posts are from two Southerners and the two exceptional, considerate and trusting guys are of Northern extraction. Yet, the Nigerian political elite have created fissures of mistrust so they can divide and rule us.

But they unite across ethnic and religious divides when sharing our money earmarked for the defence of our homeland. Those billions are blind to such differences! They use sectionalism and when that is not potent enough, they use religion to keep us at each other’s throats so we can’t see what they are doing! But let me paraphrase Chinua Achebe:
“The Nigerian political elite is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion and politics. We were amused at his foolishness and we welcomed him with open arms. Now he has converted our brothers to his side and our nation is no longer acting as one. He has put a knife into the things that held us together and we have fallen apart”.

The hoi polloi in Nigeria don’t care about these divisive divides. They are good people who just want to be allowed to live their lives without the thieving elite getting in their way. A poor woman returned thousands of dollars she found at Murtala Mohammed Airport. On her own volition even when she probably didn’t have enough for transport home same day.
Have we forgotten the case of a Naval rating, who, while on his way to Ibadan, saw an accidented bullion van carrying millions of naira and risked his life to guard it till help came at night? Has any of them been awarded national honours so as to encourage other compatriots to be patriotic and to shun greed? Why do Nigerian presidents get GCFR on being sworn in and not at end of tenure to thank them for job well done or withhold it if they worsen our condition? A young House of Reps fellow that was pushed by fate, godfathers and zoning to become a Speaker almost rejected his national honour simply because it was lower than that of the Senate President even though both of them were undeserving! How many national honours have we retrieved from the thieving elite even when they have been convicted of shameful crimes against the nation and stole our commonwealth blind?


The only nationalist and patriot who has had the courage to throw away the medal on finding it was a valueless totem is Wole Soyinka. Who else? He who used our common wealth to pursue 3rd term agenda in 2006/7 and pretends he never did, while the “briber” and “bribee” smiled to the banks keeps his GCFR “honour”. And today pontificates about corruption and is called “compass” and “patriot” by anti-corruption crusaders unwilling to widen the net to catch this big fish. Is it not surprising, indeed ludicrous, that no youth corper who died while on NATIONAL Service ever gets a national honour?

Surely, the examples from the downtrodden ought to prick our conscience and tell us it is wrong and morally crooked to be paid 2.1 billion naira for spiritual services (whatever that means) or political campaign media and publicity services without a political party involvement? The suya seller in Benin and the water melon guy know it is wrong – and amoral. How come our political elite don’t know? Or better, don’t care? Gen Danbazzau needs to expand the prisons and build a quota of crops to be planted and harvested by these rogues into the 2016 GDP calculation. Anyone who stole our ammunition funds must, if convicted, spend his jail term in Bama prison, close to the theatre of war and given hard labour in the reconstruction of the North East. An appropriate way to detain them is to keep them in the same “awaiting trial” cells with the BH guys.

There is hope for Nigeria yet . Let the change begin with you. And me. I will post my photo with my suya man when I travel for Xmas. Have a corruption-free Christmas. No official should take money from the public till to buy rams in exchange this Christmas. Christ hates it. And it’s His birthday!


Austin Isikhuemen is a manufacturing consultant and public affairs analyst.


Leo Demudia Ugheighele












Below is Leo Ugheighele’s post that motivated mine. Read on:

Hello. This picture tells my Nigerian story today. I have just had a breakfast snack of water melon fruit which I bought on my way to work for N300.00. Now the story is, I had all one thousand Naira notes in my wallet and the seller had no change. I searched all the spaces in the car and found no small denominations to pay. This guy, who is definitely of Northern Origin doing business in Ibadan and a total stranger to me, just said to me, “You can go and bring the money to me later in the day before 5pm, becos I dont see properly when it is dark.” I left with the fruit and satisfied my delight.


Now in Nigeria today, we are so polarized and divided along ethnic lines without mutual trust. We suspect one another and are just this thin from going after each other’s throat. In this whole scenario, you can understand my state of mind over the show of TRUST and human consideration from this road side water melon seller to me riding to work in my airconditioned sedan car! There is love among Nigerians, God has made it so. We tolerate each other but the politicians are killing us with their hate preachings. Please tell me what I should do for this guy later today to show my appreciation.


And then Leo’s excellent positive reinforcement gesture; Read on:
…going to bed happy! Made good on your advice and gave N5,000 to my water melon guy. His name is Mohammed Zaayan (hope the spelling is right) this evening. He was so surprised and could not believe it. He asked repeatedly if I was sure I said he should take the whole money. I confirmed and he was full of prayers. He insisted that I must take one melon home to my kids and he would feel offended if I refused. Lesson for me is to continue to do good to all. It always comes back.


NP: This piece by Austin Isikhuemen attracted interesting comments on Facebook. You may add yours here in the comments (Reply) section. Thank you.



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