Any suggestions?

2012-07-14 09:14

The domestic terminal of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in the Nigerian port city of ­Lagos is abuzz with travellers.

It is ­Friday morning, the day of Jummah for a large number of Muslims in this populous nation.

Most flights are heading to the north of Lagos, a mainly Muslim ­region. Three flights have already departed for Kano, Jos and Kaduna.

But Lagos and her airport are the epitome of everything ­African.

The travellers’ waiting hall has a suggestion box. On top of it is an old and ­disconnected telephone.

Its colour has changed to brownish, showing neglect. The dust and other flying articles in the hall have induced some kind of colour metamorphoses.

This suggestion box is prominent and of good-quality wood.

But it is awkwardly positioned. Anyone wishing to drop their suggestion has to squeeze their hand through a gap between the seated travellers.

Occupying the benches as well are the vendors, who roam the hall anticipating the next buy of their goods.

Like many in Nigeria, the box waits desperately for its fodder – suggestions from the travellers.

Travellers are expected to feed the box with their impressions of the airport in general and the ­waiting hall.

At the entrance to the male rest rooms, there are several women of impressive sizes.

They give a warm smile as men enter. Their mere ­presence means most men cannot comfortably conduct their private businesses, lest these women ­wonder what delayed them.

Like many on the ­continent, the Murtala Muhammed Airport is awash with retailers and vendors.

There is this music retailer who plays his best collection to attract patrons.

The music, although not bad, is competing with the much-important flight ­announcements.

Occasionally, when he is not occupied by a potential sale, he lowers the ­volume whenever he detects the broadcast of a flight announcement.

The walls of the waiting hall are adorned by an array of hanging ­power-supply cables. Most of these aren’t properly joined, while some show bare, loose ends.

Clearly there is sufficient fodder for the suggestion box. The impressively sized women, the music chap and the power cables are among many that form part of that fodder.

But why then is the box lying ­empty and neglected? Perhaps it is constipated and is unable to consume further suggestions.

Such is the reality in Africa. Many institutions that are ­supposed to be the conduits to power have become like the ­suggestion box at the airport.

Like the suggestion box, these ­institutions will wait until someonebrings forward a grievance.

That is how the relationship ­between the two is characterised in many African nations.

And those who do receive the suggestions let them ­compound without remedy and the box with the disconnected phone on top of it will stay like that for a long time.

As for the impressively sized women, the music retailer and the loose power cables, they will also remain there for some time.

»Fakude is the Al Jazeera bureau chief in SA

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