Re-branding the Area Boy

Re-branding the Area Boy

I wonder what happened to the (seventh) sense of responsibility in most of us in this society. The average Nigerian believes the Government is responsible for all his woes and thus he owes her nothing. He also believes that his role in the development of the society is minimal if not non-existent. He is here on his own and for his own. As long as he is satisfied, every other person can as well go to blazes, or wherever else they choose to go to.

I want to discuss an entirely different type of average Nigerian. He is popularly known as the “Area Boy”. I encountered this overgrown boy, funny enough, in the course of my duties as a lawyer. When, a few years ago, I said “I do” to my profession behind closed doors in a room filled with ugly wigs and baggy gowns, I knew I was faced with a future of meeting all kinds of people. Never did I include in that long list of potential clients and individuals the name “Area Boy”.

I hate to burst the bubble of students of law but at one point or the other in your career, you would have to do some dirty work for clients. Such was my predicament when one of my clients, a telecoms company, asked me, little me, to hold a pre-emptive meeting with one of the “leaders” of the Obalende (yes, you heard right, Obalende) Area Boys. The purpose of the meeting was to plead with them not to hinder, by their known means, the installation of a new mast on the rooftop of a popular building in the area.

I called the Area Boy Chief (Boys can be Chiefs in Nigeria) and we arranged to meet at the proposed site. He went straight to business and ensured me that once the Boys had N1.5 million cash in their kitty (as full and final payment for unknown services), things would run smoothly and no disturbance of whatever nature would come from his “boys”. I thought of asking him if they intended to erect a new Area Boy Government House with the money but I thought better of it.

The Chief was just “weighing” me (my slight abdominal protrusion often deceives people) and I quickly told him off with a mean look. He took some money with him and I was later to take a lesson from the experience. I must have been silly to have trusted this Chief to honour his words. Not only did he and his boys come to harass my expatriate clients each time they visited the site, they came in factions.

That brings me to the real topic. The problem with these boys is that they have never known what it means to work for money in their lives. Reaping where they have not sowed is probably a family business for them. Responsibility is an alien concept to them. That is why, when it is time for them to grow up, they simply can’t do so because growing up entails being responsible. Many people, young and old, in our society would jump at the opportunity be irresponsible too. They think earning money without sweating for it is “cool”.

Recently, I got into an argument with a new acquaintance about politics and money and he was convinced beyond doubt that it was impossible to make money without some form of government connections. I tried to explain to him that there were many people in this country who were making good money and whose dealings with the Government were limited to paying taxes and complying with laws.

Of course, he wasn’t convinced. I came to the simple conclusion that his opinion was informed by what the society told him-wealth that is not garish is no wealth. If I’d mentioned names, he wouldn’t have known them anyway. He went on to reel out a list of politicians and businessmen whose only claim to fame is treasury looting and unconventional business dealings. I could only come to the conclusion in my mind that this acquaintance, as well as those who inspire him, was another kind of Area Boy. If you want wealth without the responsibility that comes with it (hard work), then you are an Area Boy.

The truth is that the person who acquires wealth without sweating legitimately for it would never feel the kind of satisfaction that the man who sweats and relaxes to eat of the fruit of his labour feels. They are two different feelings.

Let’s examine another variety of the Area Boy. Many of us will fall into this category. Have you ever dropped litter on the floor, either on the streets or in the bus? If you have, then you are a classic Area Boy. A Neanderthal! The inane excuse most people give for doing that is that there are people paid to sweep the streets of Lagos and If no one dropped litter on the floor, these people would not have any work to do! By Jove! That is not the worst I have heard. I was sitting with a learned colleague a few metres away from a dust-bin when he suddenly threw an empty wrapper on the floor, right in front of us! When I asked him why he couldn’t just make an attempt to use the dust-bin, he replied glibly “This is Nigeria”. He simply broke my heart.

Do you drive recklessly? Do you mutilate public property? Urinate and defeacate anywhere that is cosy enough for you? Then you should be knighted as an Area Boy with a ceremony held in your honour at Obalende Central! Do you litter canals thereby contributing to floods? Do you harass every neighbour with loud music? Are you an Internet fraudster? Do you park anywhere you deem fit or go through one-way streets to avoid traffic?

Are you a police officer and you have never been caught dead protecting the public but rather extorting all and sundry? Are you in the Civil Service and you are demand for bribes to “speed up” otherwise simple tasks?

I am of the strong opinion that the present “Re-branding Nigeria” project should be preceded by a re-orientation campaign for everyone. What is the essence of re-branding when no brand exists in the first place? The emphasis should be on moulding our people into model men, created in God’s own image. We can then talk about branding after a successful moulding exercise. Rebranding is indeed, the last process.

Are you bent on tarnishing the nation’s image in any other way? You are as guilty as those people in Government and the society that you blame everyday for putting you in poverty and misery. As long as you refuse to act responsibly, don’t be offended by Area Boys when you see them. They are your blood brothers.


t said...

Yeah, the wigs ARE ugly. Blonde mess.

I love your writing sha and hope you won't mind my rush to analyze: you are a tad consistent in judging people that appear to be ruffians, i would like you better if you'd free your mind, really, you're not so old that you should be so conservative.

I do like your writing :)

Unknown said...

Yes, T, I understand you...well, I'm still struggling to understand a lot of things..and I do jump to conclusions when my mind has wandered too much...I'll try to be less conservative, with the help of people like you. Thank you for liking my the rest and see If you still think I am conservative...

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