By Paul Chika Emekwulu
It was a little sunny on a Tuesday morning, a day after the usual Sit-At-Home on Mondays ordered by IPOB, the Indigenous People of Biafra. I decided to go to one of the MTN offices to submit my virtual national identification number abbreviated as vNIN for one of my phones. Our vehicle (Keke, the popular tricycle) came to a bend corner near Agụata Local Government Headquarters in Anambra State. Vehicles were lining up waiting for their turns to pass through a check point mounted by a combined effort of a local vigilante group and the army.
Our driver jumped the queue and double crossed the other vehicles in front of us. His intention was to reduce his waiting time to the barest minimum.
“Not a good idea,” I thought.
“Go back,” a soldier ordered him.
Doesn’t it serve him right?
“Of course, it does.” I said within myself.
That was a good lesson on taking turns.
Without excuses our driver immediately made a U turn, drove towards the opposite direction, initiated a detour and made a right turn after less than what looked like one eight of a mile. The other drivers didn’t complain because, should they find themselves in a similar situation their attitude wouldn’t be different.
“This is not a bank,” our driver reacted to a statement.
I had earlier told him that what he did is exactly what is witnessed at the banks and some other public places on a daily basis throughout the country.
Immediately that reminded me of an experience I had at an MTN office years back.
Here is the story.
Sometime in 2019, I went to one of the cellular phone carrier services to get a new service turned on, having lost my phone a day earlier. I was there for more than 40 minutes long before the opening time. The opening and closing times weren’t specified on the door. These should have been clearly and boldly posted on the front entrance to make things easier for the customers.
The facility eventually opened for business.
Of course I entered while a second customer followed behind me. I didn’t know it was conventional to have one’s name written down at the front desk. Information is still power. Without this knowledge I sat down as I walked in but the second customer walked straight to the front desk. Immediately, the front desk attendant started writing down his name. He was stopped by a co -worker (Let’s call him Mr. Albert) who was watching everything from a distance. Mr. Albert instructed the front desk attendant to write down my name first. My name was written. Please help me commend Mr. Albert for respecting “first come, first served” policy.
The front desk attendant gave me a registration form to fill out. I did that and handed it over to Mr. Albert who told me to wait for the computers to be ready. Shortly after, I was called to be served. Mr. Albert was friendly and attended to me without wasting unnecessary time. I appreciated everything going on at this office at this point. No problem.
My problem started as I left him and sat down waiting for more instructions of what to do next.
At this time it was another customer’s turn to be served. After he was attended to by Mr. Albert, I saw this customer slip some naira notes into the palm of Mr. Albert. This was all done in silence.
As I continued to wait, there was another exchange of naira notes by another customer. At this point I have seen what looked like a pattern. In mathematics, it is usually said that it takes two points to determine a specific straight line. With the second customer I can now draw the straight line. What that means is that I can now draw the conclusion that greasing palms is conventional, if not at this facility at least with Mr. Albert.
Then minutes after, another customer breezed in and immediately started chatting with a member of staff. I’m not saying you don’t have to be friendly with staff members. That’s not what I:m saying.
What I’m saying is that such attitude in the office isn’t necessary. Such can be done after hours. Such chatting as we all know is a preliminary step towards getting a faster service. Such attitude corrupts the system. Such attitude, though may look healthy on the inside to those involved, may not look healthy on the outside because other people are involved.
What else am I saying?
I’m also saying that some people frown at “first come, first served” policy because they are so impatient to wait for their turn just like our driver who double crossed other drivers in order to cut down his waiting time at the check point.
Now, because some people are so impatient, they want everybody to do them a favour and they are ready to bribe their way through if that is what it will take.
You’ll agree with me that bribery and corruption is now a tradition in Nigeria.
There is one clear fact we have to note about “first come, first served.” The policy of serving those who come first is not a crime and it is one of those things we Nigerians take for granted. There is no pretense about it. It is a daily occurrence. It happens at the banks, it happens at the hospitals, it happens at airline check-in counters at our airports, it happens at the various motor parks around the country etc.
.Like haters of African time, advocates of “first come, first served” policy aren’t many. They are in the minority. They are in the minority because our society hates orderliness.
We give raasons to explain away our impatience, we give reasons to explain away our laissez faire attitude towards certain things, some we take for granted, we give reasons to explain away our disobedience at the lights, we give reasons to explain away our dishonesty and disrespect towards the Igbo Language, we give reasons to explain away our hatred for orderliness and love for disorderliness in traffic and disorderliness in general, we give reasons to explain away jumping the queue at banks and other public institutions etc.
We give reasons to explain away everything we do wrong that we should be doing right.
Now when it comes to the advocates of “first come, first served”, their demand is simple. Their demand is simple because they are not asking for even a near perfect society, let alone a perfect one. There has never been a perfect society and there will never be a perfect society unless by definition. Moreover, no society in any generation had ever sought for a perfect society.
We can only seek for a perfect society in pretense for it encourages a continuous steady effort towards a better society.
In conclusion therefore, the advocates of “first come, first served” are asking for a better society which can come if we can both individually and collectively work towards it. Let’s do just that.