Both are oil producing nations. One is exquisite, top flight, first rate, pristine and unequalled while the other is corrupt, devilish, criminal, vile and simply wicked. Both occupy different end of the continuum. While Norway is swimming in an ocean of affluence and opulence, Nigeria her opposite end is choked in kindergarten glee by pandemic and grinding poverty with the grip of an industrial vice.
Norway is roughly 5 million in population with Oslo the largest city with about 550,000 people. The country is very rich and things are pretty organized. The GDP stands at $261 billion while the GDP is at $47,000. Crime rate is very low and many folks I spoke to do not know the direction of the police station. There are about 11,000 policemen in the country and their military are well trained. They are predominantly Christians with about 2 per cent of the population of Muslim faith. I saw an Ethiopian orthodox church beside where a Chinese man was making my silhouette just at the centre of the city behind the train station.
Trains are neat and on time. Passengers obtain tickets after paying cash or use their credit cards to swipe before entering the pleasure machine. The major export earners are crude oil and stock fish. Few people in Norway hardly know what the later is all about and they call it Turr-fish. It comes from the northern part unknown to them that traditional marriage rites in Igboland are incomplete without stock decorating the table.
Norwegians are either independent people or they are well contented because it is not a member of EU and may not join soon. They do not use Euros but prefer Norwegian Kroner which exchanges for about 6.2 to a dollar. The environment is so clean that you want to bottle the free air and export it to Lagos. Vehicles seemed to out number human beings. For the two hours that we drove to the nuclear shelter from Starum Mjosa Ostre Toten (from Sivilforsvtrets school) to Grovjik, we never met any police check point nor a patrol team. Only construction companies mending the roads where possible and there can never be an end to what they can do to be better.
Upon arrival to Oslo airport, there were no ceremonies of endless formalities - no visa or singling one away from the line for a more thorough search or screening. Passengers just grabbed their baggage and filed out. There was nobody to holler at you to pay N200 for trolley. The immigration people were absent because we have been stamped at Frankfurt, the first port of entry to the EU. Custom officials did not abandon their beat to go and pray and chatter away. There was no lone wolf offender acting to carry out one mischief or the other.
The airport looked like a well swept and maintained garden, void of careless garbage and rubbish. The surrounding lush verdant vegetation was soothing even though we had to wait 3-hrs for the driver sent to pick us up. It was a sharp contrast of the Libyan Desert that we saw before crossing the Red Sea. The camp we were taken to was 70 minutes dive away from the airport. The rooms looked like 5-star hotel, you felt like having your dinner while sitting on the toilet seat. The bathroom is another thing. You can see yourself on the walls even though the walls were not made of mirror.
Crime level is very low and when it occurs, it is petty theft, burglary or shop lifting. The police station is located 20kms away from where we stayed and response time depends on the location of the motorized patrol at a given time.
Unemployment rate is 4% and the last time they had power outage was one year ago and that lasted for 16 minutes and some areas never witnessed that at all and so young people don’t know what black out means. The average policeman earns between 3000-4000 Euros and the minimum wage is about 2000 Euros.
There was pool table and a bar plus a place for barbecue. The largest lake in Norway surrounded us and gave us the ambience and alluring sea view. There was no other noise except that of the birds chirping away and the water pumping machines humming. Life seemed perfectly tailored in this place. I did not notice any act of progressive dehumanization of the people or any kind of government policy that subjugate the people.
Like the Jewish State of Israel, Norway has compulsory military service from the ages of 18 - 44 and it is done 544 days paid at 15 Euros per day. You get paid 1500 Euros if you don’t have job and migrants take language lessons for about 06 months to 2 yrs where they also learn other skills.
Their weather varies from autumn to snow and from summer to winter and the temperature can get as low as minus 27C and 30C. Rainy season is from April to June or so.
I love the calm serene blue lakes, the clear blue sky. It looks as if the blue lakes have photocopied the blue sky. There is no clear line between day and night - the night life seems endless. Above all, the scintillating and sumptuous dishes are enough to make you seek asylum in that beautiful country.
Sadly Nigeria has been shamelessly left behind as other countries combine brain and brawn to build strong and virile nations. Norway as a nation (and an equally petroleum exporting country like Nigeria) is a poster-boy in this regard and yet offers another reason why Nigeria past leaders should all be lined up and clobbered to death with spiked clubs. While we are busy debating the retirement package of past leaders, I ask you to take a look at how other leaders improved the lot of the common man in their countries. Nigeria is lacking both in context and content.
The wheels of globalization has since abandoned us far too behind for us to retrace our centre of gravity. We are lost in the radar and wondering like rudderless ship. The trials that lie ahead are enormous with a section of the country almost on the verge of declaring independence through armed struggle under the watchful eyes of a sick and dozing president; whose only claim to governance is that he tended birds and chickens in his late elder brother’s poultry farm. Countries don’t just fall in one full swing. First there must be a crack and then the rot and disintegration will start from there. Niger Delta region represents that crack.
As a nation we only excel and persevere when it comes to plotting against one another. All we do is to pretend that all is well and move around with forced laughter on their face whereas we are grinning inwards. Right now the mice in feeding frenzy in the urban cities feed better than the some Nigerians who hardly scourge three square meals per day. All we do in that country is to wriggle our waist in the midst of want and turn around to blame others. Refuse and dirt have both combined to take over its former capital city called Lagos and inhabiting in it is like living in a pit latrine of a city.
Nigerians who are fixated on obtaining expensive possessions and known for voracious taste in buying up pricey vanity projects have not discovered Oslo as I wasn’t shown any building belonging to a Nigerian. That does not mean that they do not exist. Wrong headed approach will only lead to wrong destination. We know the price of everything but know the value of nothing. Is this part of the wider chaos and rot in the system or a promise of growth and upward mobility?
The Nigerian political lexicon is littered with clueless, copycat governors that know next to nothing. If a smart one (and it is rare) initiates one programme like urban taxi scheme, same is replicated by another governor. If another bans the use of Okada, another governor copies the exact same. Ideas are scarce commodity in Nigerian political arena.
Nigeria is not only a nation trapped in its past but a forgotten woodwork and very soon the choking and suffocating stench will start emerging. An average minister and other top state officials spot the physique of a successful butcher, while the physique of an average lecturer is that of a pipe!
Where use of best judgment and practice is needed we display arrogance. The end result is that people keep running around like headless chicken or frightened antelopes. Everyone is simply is relevant, including the old retired but recycled civil servants and no one is in charge and nobody gets punished for complacency eventually. The hatred feeds the system and the system feeds the hatred and the circle continues.
One man was fretting while talking on top of his voice with his cell phone as soon as I alighted from the bus at the central station. He wore jeans and had dreadlocks and the way he ran around with kindergarten glee simply gives him out as a Nigerian. This is simply a Nigeria patented mannerism. I had wanted to ask him the direction of my hotel but that could be as dangerous as disturbing a jaguar in its lair because he was speaking Pidgin English with full and noticeable Nigerian accent.
The world is just a global village. The internet is the biggest factor and the main change agent. Everything and everybody is just a click away from one another. Nothing seems to be too far anymore. Where will Nigeria be during the new world order; when Brazil, India and China will rule the world?
Oslo resembled Lagos on one aspect. The fast food, beer and other consumable items sold at the airport were out of this world. I bought a glass of beer for $9 at the exchange of 6.2 kroner to the dollar. They love fast and luxury cars too.
Sadly we are in for a long night. We should stop sloganeering and get back to work. When you appoint or create leaders, tell them that they can be changed tomorrow. This is not the case in Nigeria. We are the giant of Africa because of the population and with the rate we are increasing; we will need two earths by year 2015. All they do in Nigeria multiple with little or no lesson on population control.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and that is what we have in Nigeria. Shortly, China, India or Japan will manufacture mobile phones equipped with calling positions and we are still busy in Nigeria arguing about resource control and federal character because the architects of Nigeria suffered from conception error. Sadly, Nigeria is big but the bigger you are the bigger the fall. Big structures can withstand small cracks but earthquakes and landslides sweep the big things like Tsunami.
Nigeria’s leadership problem is like a fart in the air by a stray dog – when will this mature adult abandon her adolescent ways and turn a new leaf? We excel when it comes to racing backwards. Is there is any other country in the world today that has frittered away her golden chances the way Nigeria did?
Norway has since breasted a destination many countries aspire to get but few have attained. Norway is not to be blamed for the lack of depth in Nigerian leadership. Nor is Norway responsible for the latest cancer called kidnapping that has moored the nation into comatose.
All we do now is to sulk, seethe, whine, jibe and mull and hope that miracle that will happen one day. If a leader wants to doze off, he tells his countrymen to exercise patience. Very soon, this president given to dozing will charm the nation and lull her to sleep. We may never know more!
[email protected] sent this piece from the Great Lakes Region and has just returned from a ten-day trip to Norway.