When I was in secondary school, something interesting happened.
There were two sisters and their best friend who shared the same room and did most things together.
At the start of one school term, the sisters’ school fees, pocket money and provision money was stolen.
It was shocking to everyone because it was a lot of money. The school conducted searches immediately and nothing was found.
Luckily for the sisters, their best friend stood in the gap for them. While other friends said they cared, they were not to be found when the sisters had needs.
The best friend was a real best friend. If she was buying snacks at break time, she would buy for the three of them.
One lazy Sunday afternoon like that, the Vice Principal came to the hostel and asked one of the classmates of the sisters to take her to the classroom.
This was not a school day but they still went.
Right there, she asked for the lockers of various students and if they were locked, they would be broken open and she would carry out a check.
Eventually, she found a wad of cash in one of the lockers. She had caught the thief.
To everyone’s shock, it was the best friend who had stolen the money from the very start. It was from this money that her generosity stemmed from.
Imagine someone who watched you weep, comforted you when you wondered how your parents would put the money back together.
The person even bought things for you that you couldn’t buy for yourself, knowing all along that they had placed you in the predicament you were in.
Imagine the sisters thanking this girl over and over again, being glad they had her as a friend.
Meanwhile, she was the one responsible for their predicament.
Do you know what reminded me of this story?
Last week, I was somewhere and a government official was ‘dashing’ some junior workers cash.
They surrounded him just like my mother’s turkeys and chickens followed her in the morning when she came out with a bowl of grains to feed them.
He gave each of them tiny wads of cash and they bent at the waist thanking him profusely for his ‘generosity’.
As I stood aside and watched the scenario, I heard them call him a ‘good man’ as they smiled from ear to ear, disappearing with the money folded in their fists.
“Where did this money come from?”
This is one question I always ask when I see this sort of ‘magnanimity’.
Who brings out wads and wads of honest cash and doles them out like that, much less a civil servant?
Money in any government establishment is not released frivolously. There are some tags to the money.
Is it money for some allowance?
Is it money to buy computers?
What overhead was it supposed to take care of?
Was it meant for a yet-to-be executed project?
Was it money budgeted for the development of staff?
This is money allotted and disbursed via checks or transfers.
Money that is traceable and accounted for rarely end up with a circle of staff members prostrating and collecting with outstretched hands without signing or acknowledging receipt.
By the way, who does table payments these days?
There is also no such thing as a generous civil servant. Certainly not from their earnings. Very few civil servants earn lavishly. If an ‘oga’ is throwing cash around, then that cash is not his salary.
I stood, watching people being grateful for crumbs from the food they should be eating.
I saw them collect money that should replace the well-worn tyres from staff buses.
And I saw them collect from money that should have been channelled to improving their welfare or even send them on trainings.
They collected, probably, less than 5% of an amount that was probably budgeted to make their workplace more functional.
But this is not what hurt me.
I saw them bend in gratitude. I saw them lift their fists in the air, hailing the ‘oga’. And I saw them scamper around like chickens picking grains from the floor.
I saw them truly appreciate this gesture. I heard them speak about how good the ‘oga’ was.
They did not see this as their due. They saw this as an act of kindness.
It wasn’t something they deserved but a benevolence they took with both hands cupped.
That was what hurt me.
That they were too happy about the 5% they forgot to remember that a 95% was somewhere sending ‘oga’s’ children abroad to complete their education.
They did not think of their own kids that stood a chance of dying just because there was no emergency funds to take care of the removal of an appendix.
They were too happy to receive the leftover change of money that could improve their lives.
It got me angry.
But do I want them to reject this money?
I am of the opinion that when faced with ‘polithiefcians’ and ‘civil robbers’, we should collect whatever we can from them without guilt.
It is our due.
There is nothing wrong in recovering bits of funds meant to grow the nation from these guys.
This does not make you a thief or even mean that you are part of the problem. It is simply a matter of taking what you can. It is called taking what is available.
See it as monetization of the things that should have been done to improve your life.
This does not mean that you prefer 5k to a road without potholes. No.
This just means that a road with potholes with 5k is better than a road with potholes and no money.
Take what you can when they offer you.
It is your due.
It is your right.
Na your money!
Just do me one small favour.
When you say ‘thank you’ and hail them, hate them from the bottom of your heart. Curse them and their children. Do not ever call them good people. Do not even be grateful within you.
How can you be grateful to someone who steals from you and throws crumbs at you to console you?