A bad situation is poorly described than experienced. The Covid-19 lockdown had been eased within state and I took the time to work blue-collar on my farm and as an electrician. On one of these, I was sent on an errand to get supplies for an electric installation work. I should mention that I am a trained Electrician, often times I do journeyman for the love of the trade. We ran out of supplies while working in a different town. I was to deliver some supplies consisting most of conduit pipes on a motorbike, and had with me an apprentice for the man I worked. Midway we got stopped by the police who we didn’t meet at the spot while going to get the supplies. This is a developing country and having pipes on bike isn’t totally strange. It survival, we try to get thing done by fast and cheap means as far as the risk are considered moderate. However, what was strange is me. I greeted him in good English instead of the native dialect, for one reason he was police. Apparently he had considered me a threat. The young man I carried on the bike, wanted to speak to him but I told him to be quite and calm. Better than I, he understood what the policeman wanted, a bribe. Of which I was not ready to give.
This is Nigeria. A policeman is ready to leverage on his uniform and will always be right. He saw the nickname “Oba” (King) on the bike and had called me by it initially during the greetings and told him I wasn’t the owner. I explained to him I was sent to get supplies with the motorbike. He perceived I wasn’t ready to give a bribe, so he resolved to harass. He released other bikes at the spot after getting a 50naira. He asked I showed him the papers of the bike and request that the man that sent me must come before he released the bike. Though he was huge, I didn’t seem intimidated. I believe he felt insecure, because the whole time I spoke in English too good for a man that was working as an electrician and even more riding a motorcycle with pipes. I didn’t look it, not learned. He insulted me most along the lines of school, asking “Which school do you go to?”, “You don’t even know how to speak and don’t understand English” (a response to saying we were detained, while making a call), “Who do you think you are?” and telling me the young man I carried was much better than I. He was becoming more unreasonable, so I went to meet the other police man whom I supposed was his boss. The boss was not from this tribe, I could see from the mark on his face. He listen and said there is a reason his colleague stopped me which could have been one of many reasons, but I should beg him. So, I did. That swept him off, he had said earlier that I was proving “stubborn”, but here was I telling him sorry with a yet indifferent expression to his intimidation.
The situation had being too complex to narrate without been lengthy, but the truth was I had little to nothing to loss. The bike was not mine if taken to the police station, the work to be done would have being delayed. And, I would have ended up trying to prove my worth and in so doing achieve nothing. Going by a proverb; “quarreling is foolish, a man with good sense holds his tongue”. I bared the insult and harassment. It was yet a wise decision. He let us go without a bribe; I guess his ego was now inflated, atleast he had proved I was nobody.
This is not unique, I have being face with this several time during my apprenticeship (before my master’s degree) and at other times after. That’s the oppression a number of daily workers and blue-collar workers face every day. Slavery-like, most are often treated with disgust or insulted by persons they work for and those that could easily take advantage of them. People only respect you based on their knowledge of which they perceive you, and if you break the norm they will seek to prove they are superior. Unfortunately, everything is not as it seems on the surface. A blue-collar job though dirty is decent and honorable, than being too lazy to work and stealing. If at all there is dishonesty, it for reason of circumstance and unkindness that several are subjected to. Nevertheless, there are among blue-collar workers wealthy and important people that will remain unprovoked to insult and have learnt to pick their fight wisely. I have being on the both sides and have observed that; oppression and insult may continue, the empty barrels make the loudest of noise.