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By Charles Adesiyan.   Published April 29th, 2009

I have leaved all my lives in Nigeria. Expectedly, I should have thoroughly imbibed the sprit and culture of Nigeria. Fortunately or I dare say unfortunately, (because the lesson from the following story has left a big burden on my mind) within the decade, I have had few opportunities to travel out of Nigeria. My first of such travels became for me, an eye opener- I have had to leave with the burden of the desire for us as a people to do things right.

Sometime ago, on my first visit to the United States, I was traveling on a bus from New Jersey to Maryland. At some point we had a stop over at a petrol station. As we approached the station, the driver of the bus announced to us that we would be stopping for five minutes. I thought within me, that, that was a good opportunity for me to get myself a light refreshment as I was beginning to get hungry. On getting down from the bus, I made for the small store within the petrol station; picked some snacks and drinks from the shelf. As I moved to the clerk to pay for these items, I found a number of people on a queue wanting to do the same. So I joined the queue. At some point, I realised that the time to get back to my bus was very near and I still had a few more people ahead of me. In my seemingly normal way of reasoning, I decided to move ahead of the queue to the clerk to try to hurry her up. I believe most of the people on the queue were not traveling. I remember saying words like "couldnít you see that people are many on the queue? Why donít you hurry up so we donít miss our bus, am on a journey and my bus is about to take off. Please answer me and let me leave this place" in my own opinion she was wasting too much time on every individual. If I was expecting the response I got to those statements it would have been a lot better for me. I was not. Almost in a split second, all eyes turned to me in a manner like "where on earth is this man from? Why is he so indecent and un-couth? And perhaps many more of such questions running through the minds of practically everyone present from the looks on their faces.

On her part, the lady clerk asked me just two questions. The first was "did the bus driver mention in his announcement that you have only five minutes to stay at this station? Second was "when you got into the store did you figure, that with the number of people you met on the queue, five minutes would be enough for you to get your turn? Sincerely, I just could not answer those questions because at that point I had realised my mistakes. That experience and the shame I felt has been for me un-forgettable.

I decided to share this experience for some reasons. Amongst them, the fact that from where I came, that behavior wouldnít have been viewed in any bad light, it would have been a normal thing to do in the face of the circumstance. Other people would have joined in raising their voices too. Today, when I look at our society, I realise how much we have lost in terms of simple etiquettes and mannerism, and thinking that these actually cuts across all the strata of society, regardless of status, makes me weep inside.

Have you witnessed an average customer service desk of a typical Nigerian bank? New and old generation banks, it doesnít mater, the way 10 or more people try to speak to the officer at the same time, or an average fast food restaurant, street corner supermarkets or store, petrol stations, name it. Everywhere you go, this is the norm. Sad enough, nobody seems to notice that something is wrong. I have witnessed situations where some so called mystery shoppers would approach a bankís customer service officer and put up this same show of shame as a way of trying to measure the officerís ability to handle such horrible situation. How well she handles it is the measure of how good she is at the job. In my opinion, these mystery shoppers should, rather than encourage people to behave this way, urge the bank to encourage their customers to behave decently. It would be a service to the nation.

Itís a common sight to see people roll down the windows of their expensive looking air-conditioned cars, to throw dirtís on the street. This does not mean anything to anybody. Itís the norm. Correct any wrong doing and hear peopleís response. Watch our children, the way they have religiously imbibed these spirits. Attempt to correct them and watch the expression of surprise on their faces. As if saying "whatís wrong with what I have done"

The question is do we have a future? If we do, then where do we begin from?

May God help us?
Charles Adesiyan.

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