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We have a Problem

HEADMASTER: how much is passport photograph for children?

PHOTOGRAPHER: the price for the passport is N100 per child

HEADMASTER: No, the pupils are 500 in number, so we are paying N50

PHOTOGRAPHER: ok no problem sir, you can pay N50 each since they are many


HEADMASTER: class teacher go & inform the pupils that they should bring N150 each tomorrow for the passports.

CLASS-TEACHER: ok sir, I will inform them right away


CLASS-TEACHER: Good day pupils, you are all to come with N200 tomorrow for passports.


PUPIL: Mummy we were asked to bring N300 for passport at school


MUMMY: Father, your son was asked to come to school with N500 passport fee tomorrow.

FATHER: OOH My God. Things are costly these days including education...


I got the above as a joke a few months ago. I kept going back to it for comic relief once in a while. Each time I look at it, I see the fact that we all are involved in breeding corruption. In a bid to make a little extra, inadvertently, we lay bricks and further entrench corruption. Everyone has been involved in the gradual decline of the country.  The journey to restoration and indeed, recovery must include our everyday conduct – from the least to the most important.

I’m having fun building up on the ‘joke’, let see.... father goes back to work starts a conversation on how tough things are, everyone chips in their experiences. The first client who walks in is held up. In order to get someone’s attention, client yells but really he does not get the attention he needs. Back home, he recounts his ordeal, he gets a barrage of advices and decides to work on one in particular. Client goes back to same office, this time bearing a gift!  Back at the office, gift works   but guess what, soon nearly all members of staff begin to bend over backwards to help him get what he wants.

The story does not end there. Enter client B who wants what client A gets, only that he needs to be a little more generous than client A. B gets even more ‘creative’, goes straight to the boss and wins him over. Boss does not know that a subordinate is right there spying on him and feeding Mr. B with the goings on in the office.

Suddenly, an otherwise modest (and pocket friendly) neighbourhood becomes too low for client B to live in. Moving to a more affluent neighbourhood comes with its pecks... better car, better school, better dresses, general shift in taste and appearance. By better i mean more expensive, how else does one show a change in status?  Client A sensing he’s lost some ground but not willing to admit, quickly moves to effect change in status. Moves out of neighbourhood to a somewhat affluent one. Enrols children in a private school, ups his game while minding his pocket... don't forget he’s got to measure up.

So, here’s my attempt to re-write the conversation:

FATHER: Here’s the 500 Naira for the passport photographs.

MUMMY: Won’t you add a little more? Did you see the dress that lady wore to the party? I want same.

FATHER: if only you know how the money came.

MUMMY: here’s the 300 for your passports. Tell your teacher it’s too expensive oo

PUPIL: thanks Mummy. Did you know Mr. A has enrolled his children in another school? I want leave too. They even bought a new car and moved out of the neighbourhood!

CLASS-TEACHER: good boy. Tell your parents you need a private teacher. I’ll be more than happy to tutor you. Don’t forget, your friends are now in a ‘better’ school

CLASS-TEACHER: ok sir, here’s the money for the pupil in my class. The way things are going i think we should get more from the students.

HEADMASTER: class teacher, I hope the loss of students is not caused by you. You better do your job well

PHOTOGRAPHER: sir, you told me 500 students, this money here is for 450 students

HEADMASTER: you better take this before more parents change their minds and withdraw their students.

PHOTOGRAPHER: ok sir, but next time we stick to the deal.

HEADMASTER: pray for me, by next session I should be opening my own school, you will be my chief photographer.

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Maureen Awulonuh