You walk into the admin unit of a department in a Nigerian university, softly, and your words follow the same rhythm but surprisingly, you get curses in return because the civil servant is in a bad mood. If you are lucky, you get silence, a frowning face accompanied by the loud silent message: Get Out! This is not the first time you have been humiliated by these people who were employed to serve you. This is not the second or third time they have insulted you with their rude silence.
You consider yourself lucky getting silence in return because in their glorious and extroverted form, you will have to tell why your parents raised up a man with a toddler’s brain. You will have to explain why a young fool should have a need. They insult you, belittle you, abuse you in every form and make you feel guilty of committing evil. Come back 12pm, says the cheery Civil Servant because the load of work on her desk is heavy.
On her table sits a pen and a group of similar and more aggressive friends surround her, asking why she has gone soft. These students, the other Civil Servant explains to her, deserve neither pity nor competence and been responsible to them is a room for internment. Responsibility was supposed to be understood as been responsible in your job so the system can move forward. Responsibility was supposed to be understood as working for the growth of the human race by growing virtue and fine attitudes.
The student returns by 12pm but unfortunately for him, the Civil Servant has gotten enough motivation to process his needs in a better way. She was still chatting with the other group of Civil Servants who inspired her and any attempt at softness will make her unevenly yoked with them and a traitor. “Are you blind”, she said, but the new student kept quiet. She repeated the question as though the stupid rhetoric it seeks to achieve was progressive. “Can’t you see I’m still talking”, she calmly and reasonably put, but the boy still stood by.
It was two days before documentation officially ends and an additional 5000 Naira included for lateness. The boy also wanted to put it aside and focus on his studies because he was missing too many lectures. The bulk of the work to do wasn’t even that of the Civil Servant’s. She was a clerk whose task was to document the file and take it to the Head of Department, the door opposite her, to sign and stamp. But instead, she choose to be a goddess of darkness, rude, proud and empty with so much garbage. Something touched one of her discussants and the traumatised boy was asked to return tomorrow.
This story is familiar and maybe, imperfectly painted. Where is the pain? You think you get it, no you don’t. Experience is the best explanation. But if you are a Nigerian living in Nigeria and above 18 years old, you will get it. We’ve all had our doze of the poor behavior of civil servants. The universities are just one out of many and the system does nothing to self purify. The Civil Servant in the lecture halls, the ones we call lecturers, are also on a dose of rudeness and pride.
The girl comes into the lecture hall and the lecturer is pissed. What for? She is too good looking and her make up invites and repudiates his idea of moral decency. He insults her, just like he does every other undergraduate he lectured before sending her out of the class. Or he may try the clash of egos and demand either she leaves the class or his uncultured self exits. Eventually she leaves. But this is the closest reason to logic a student ever leaves his class or gets insulted. This is unfortunately mild.
The colour of your inner wear can be a weapon to neutralize and humiliate you. Long finger nails is also a problem for some and asking you to eat the nails with your razor blade teeth wouldn’t be out of line. Since you asked for stupid, you will get it. The typical Nigerian lecturer is always frowning in the presence of the students and arrogance is a thing of virtue. The lecturer who smiles has lost it and doesn’t know what he is doing. Pride can be tolerated where it doesn’t affect the learning of learners but where it affects everything, disdains and destroys the intellectual fibre of the psyche, like we have in Nigerian tertiary institutions, it becomes unnecessary and retrogressive.
Last Monday, I walked into the Admin Unit of the MSc centre of a certain school in Nigeria and a man was trying too hard to be rude to me. His voice was harsh, his face was mean and his few good words have main and subordinate adjectives that tried to bully me. I’ve been bullied before like most Nigerian students but I looked him in the eye, gave a big smile and spoke like I didn’t hear his intentions. He still tried, asking irrelevant and contemptuous questions but I didn’t bulge. He gave me an envelope to sort out my file before he left me stranded. I made sure his colleagues heard me ask how rudeness will help the older man. He only had to tell me ‘keep it here once you are done’ but he walked out and started acting like Frederick Douglas’s boss the first time the slave fought him.
The truth is, any Civil Servant who behaves like this needs a lot of education. Take the lecturer for example. This Civil Servant is in charge of shaping minds and uplifting the people but finding one with these attributes is like finding a ship in the desert. It is that bad. The work of shaping minds shouldn’t be given to those whose minds are improperly shaped. Masters, Doctorate and Professorship, unfortunately, has not defined intelligence or good behavior. It is shameful that some people we call professors consider their harsh relationship with undergraduates as good relationship.
Education is supposed to make people better, smarter and see things in a more enlightened manner but the Don in Nigeria sees it differently and messes up himself and the system. The truest way of showing good intellect is attitudinal excellence and not paper works or some title. A bad attitude translates to poor intellectual capacity. The professor is not to be feared and he shouldn’t try to engineer fear in his actions but this Civil Servant who is one, has created a religion of fear and undergraduates know that being unafraid is an insult to his Royal Majesty.
The typical Nigerian Civil Servant is rude. He converts his personal problem to general problem and the unobtrusive observer must share in his problems. Money cannot eradicate these problems and even more money will not temporarily tamper with it. Increasing the minimum wage to 100k or 200k is not the solution when poor education is the problem. Stress in the job is not too. Maybe the Civil Servants in the various ministries across Nigeria, arguing all day, coming when they deem fit, is a testament to how stressful the really job is. And for the fact that Government jobs are often long term and permanent, it is easy for people with bad manners to always show it off. It is not a one man business where one dude slaps you before telling you “You are fired” and your low esteem self kneels and begs for more slaps instead.
I will not forget to blame Government. Over time, our race depressed behaviourally and laws were created. These laws weren’t just created for the sake of penning something down, they were also implemented so that others could see the result of going against them. People lost sense of good behavior and greed and selfishness reigned supreme over the collective good. We are the “Me, Myself and I” people and still operate out of our lower brain. We wouldn’t have needed laws if there was no sin, we wouldn’t have asked for good behavior if there was abundance of good behavior and because we have seen the new nature in display, we reached a conclusion that the heart of man will never cease to spring up evil and we created consequences for evil behavior—laws.
The human is too complex today and his intentions have gotten even technological grounds of concealment and our only option is to judge him, literally, by his actions. The Civil Servant in Nigeria also has laws in place that check his actions but Servicom is nowhere to be found. The people in Servicom whose job is to check Civil Servants coming late to work also come late to work. A civil servant who is supposed to checkmate bad behavior in civil service also has a bad behavior. A civil servant employed to make sure students are treated well also treats students with disdain just like our men in military uniforms created to protect us are killing us. The government has failed in that regard but…the government? Who is the government here?
Picture this: the government gets to find out that those in civil service are messing up the place and ask another set of Civil Servants to monitor those in civil service. These new Civil Servants mess up the place and begin to act like the bad Civil Servants they were employed to monitor in the first place. The government find out that the Civil Servants employed to monitor the Civil Servants are messing the place and so they task another set of Civil Servants to monitor the people monitoring the Civil Servants. These new Civil Servants get in and begin to act like those Civil Servants sent to monitor Civil Servants with bad behavior. The government find out that the new Civil Servants tasked with monitoring the Civil Servants tasked with monitoring the Civil Servants with bad behavior now have bad behavior and she tasks another group of Civil Servants to monitor the Civil Servants who monitor the Civil Servants that monitor the Civil Servants with bad behavior but the group also caught bad behavior. But who exactly is the government?