Potholes as an indication of the state of the nation

By Kole Omotoso   |   19 February 2017   |   3:30 am

So many things make up the infrastructure of a nation, the infrastructure that makes it work. There is electricity without which nothing can be powered to go forward. For the first time in the history of Nigerians leaving the country for greener pastures, lack of electricity has been given by a Nigerian in India, for leaving the country! There is the means of communication without which a settlement is a mere sleeping space.

Communicate we must in a village or a town or a city. If the proper infrastructure does not exist or is shoddy and so does not work, all of us would be on the move, going to communicate. There is portable water without which it is impossible to remain clean. Lack of water to drink, to cook, to wash bodies and plates and places! No wonder there is laughter when Beauty and Bo cream their bodies without washing them! There are airports and motor parks and ports (!) for aeroplanes, motor vehicles and boats and ships. And there are railways for trains to go on forever as in the Orient Express from Istanbul to Paris, like the Russian rail journey from Moscow to Vladivostok and the railways of the sub continent of India. Japan has its maglev train that goes 375 miles per hour while China’s manages a mere 288 miles an hour. Imagination, choose your choice! But today it is about road works that do not work and the subsequent potholes in our heart and brains.

The city of Johannesburg promises motorists that if they report a pothole it would be repaired within twenty-four hours. Of course, if for any reason a motorist drives into a pothole and the vehicle tyre is injured, the owner of the vehicle can sue the city management for compensation. Tell this to a Nigerian and you are told that’s South Africa. It cannot happen here. Why can it not happen here? It cannot happen here because there are potholes in our hearts and in our brains. Such potholes of the heart and brain contain pitfalls in which we die a little everyday.

There is a story, perhaps it is mere gossip nobody knows, but a story it is. When Pothole was born, it was noted that its birth was an engineering mistake and something must be done to prevent the birth and upbringing of future Potholes. But, as we all know, whether we came into this world by mistake or by plan, we all wish to survive, to flourish and prosper and hand this world to our children. Same with Potholes. After all, when Wood Fire dies does it not cover itself with its ashes? When the Plantain tree dies, its young sprouts survive to carry on plantaining. Which natural desire drove Pothole to seek perpetuity in this life?

Wherever Pothole went, in Europe, in North America, even Asia, the response was always to fill it so it does not become a pitfall, to fix it and thereafter to get on with smooth roads. And naturally, Pothole would bolt and seek somewhere else. Where could Pothole find a lasting home? Pothole sought advise from pastors and prophets and prescient oracles. Ifa advised that Pothole should seek a place of poor tools and lazy workmen. Pothole must seek a place of shoddy work ethics where nothing works. There, he would find a permanent home. But Pothole wanted to know more. Why is it that world people did not like Pothole? Is it because Pothole is not good for roads and for people? But there are so many things on earth that are not good but still exist? And anyway nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so. If the world people could think differently, there would be space for Potholes. Well, where Pothole was going, there would be no thinking about Pothole, good or bad. There, they already have pothole brains and Pothole hearts. They just avoid Potholes and you can live your life as you like.

And so nothing works. Potholes are symbols of poverty. They are representations of irresponsibility. They are indications of our shamelessness. We feel shame when we see that we have betrayed our personal moral standards and fallen short of our own possibilities. We also feel shame when we have fallen short of our communal moral principles. And out of personal and communal shame, we hurriedly, quickly make amends. We fix what we had failed to fix and thereafter look on our amendment and than God there is something call shame to focus our hearts and brains on what needs to be done.

Men at work were furious to learn that they were being accused of bringing Pothole to life and nurturing potholes until they grew up to be pitfalls. Men at work said it was not so. They did not deplore second-rate tools, nor were they shoddy in carrying out their road building. Every day they trudged to work, tired and hungry and owed seven months’ salary. How would you want to care about potholes if you are nursing seven months of hunger? There were potholes in their stomachs. How would they fill the outside potholes when they have done nothing to fill the potholes inside? What happened was that men at work learnt to come to work without salaries and attempt to struggle against Potholes. In their war against Potholes road users started to kill them. Yes, they drove with such venom and such anger and such velocity that they crashed into men at work on a regular basis. For drivers who had no patience and no consideration for themselves and for one another where would they find the patience and the concern for men at work.

They put up new signs shouting “Men At Work! Don’t Kill Us!!” It did not work. Nothing works against maniacs behind vehicular wheels. Long haulage lorries hauled themselves on men at work. Danfo buses danced on the bodies of men at work. Pleasure cars took their pleasure at their lives. It was at this point that men at work refused to work and departed for their homes. When you are not paid for work done or undone, you at least live in hope. When you are killed at the work for which you are not paid, you finished. So, the men at work left and Potholes went to church for thanksgiving for surviving in this land. Alleluyah!!!


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